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Kalamals Kennel is a family-run show kennel in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where Eric and Julie Kalamaja have been cherishing and sharing their lives with their beautiful Alaskan Malamutes since 1988. Their focus is on health, temperament, longevity and total well-being, producing happy and affectionate companions, as well as champion show dogs.

AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?

Julie: Our love for Alaskan Malamutes started when we bought our first in 1988. Ten years later, we still had our four pet Alaskan Malamutes when we started looking for our fifth. The breeder we found was an AKC show breeder and asked us if we would try showing this puppy in conformation as she was show quality. At the time I did not know what that meant but I told her I would try. We started learning everything we could about the breed standard, researching pedigrees, taking conformation classes, and then entering our first show seven months later. I finished her novice owner-handled before she turned 2. Then we bought a show quality male of the same line and finished him novice owner-handled. After required health testing was done, we bred them, and they became our foundation. In the past 20 years we have finished more than 30 champions from the bred-by-exhibitor class, also earning the AKC Breeder of Merit designation.

AKC: What is the most important thing to know about Alaskan Malamutes?

Julie: Alaskan Malamutes are truly an incredible breed to be part of and to live with. Independent, loving, and loyal, this beautiful dog wants nothing more than to be a part of his family. They enjoy an interactive relationship with their human family. They are, by nature, working animals, but they are frequently trained for the show ring, obedience, agility, rally, barn hunt, fast cat , sledding, and weight pull.

AKC: How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?

Julie: The AKC Marketplace is a great tool for searching for puppies of a preferred breed. Providing information about each breed, the Marketplace makes it easy for people to research the breeds all in one place. I do have an extensive process for deciding who will be joining our puppy family. The AKC Marketplace is just the first step, but it is a great resource for helping to find future forever homes for our pups. It’s an excellent resource for both breeders and prospective puppy buyers.

AKC: What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?

Julie: Describe a typical day for your family. How much time can you give to a dog? I want to make sure that someone is home most of the time, so that the pup is not left alone. I always ask if they have a fenced area and if they are familiar with the breed in any way, and if they know how much they shed.

AKC: What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?

Julie: At Kalamals, it is not about mass-producing puppies or finishing the largest number of champions. It is about breeding healthy, quality representatives of the breed and placing them in loving, permanent homes. Overall, my main priority is that the dog is loved. I want them to have the best possible life. A breeder’s greatest responsibility is making sure that every single pup they bring into this world goes to the safest and most excellent home possible.

AKC: What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?

Julie: We believe it is breeders’ responsibility to maintain the breed’s unique characteristics and natural qualities. We strongly encourage and adhere to ethical breeding practices and strive for quality Alaskan Malamutes in health, structure, and temperament. Health screening of potential sires and dams and extensive pedigree research should be utilized when making breeding decisions. Find the very best example of the breed standard that you can to start your breeding program. Do your homework on health issues and do all the required health testing. Make sure you have the time, dedication and commitment to the puppies you produce. As an ethical AKC breeder, you are responsible for each puppy you produce during their entire lives. You do need thick skin; don’t be discouraged by people telling you that you can’t do this unless you’ve been in it for 20 years.

AKC: Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?

Julie: Our main focus is conformation, but several dogs from our breeding program excel in performance events such as agility, obedience, barn hunt , sledding , weight pull and Fast CAT.

AKC: What do you like best about breeding dogs?
 I am constantly working to improve my bloodline; I love putting pedigrees together. It’s really nice to have that work validated when judges and fellow breeders comment and acknowledge the quality and nice temperament of my malamutes. I also enjoy developing friendships with breeders and puppy owners. I love seeing my puppies grow from babies to adults and watch how they impact a family’s life.

AKC: Do you have a favorite breeding story?
I don’t really have a favorite as whelping time is always a very exciting time here, also a busy one. Considering I have had THREE litters of 14 pups, it’s always a big undertaking, and many people underestimate the time and effort that will go into the process – especially if you have big litters. But there is truly nothing more fun than watching 14 gorgeous, little fluffy puppy malamutes running around.

Learn more about Kalamals Alaskan Malamutes here.