Alaskan Malamute

Table of Contents

alaskan malamute portrait
Get ready to meet the Alaskan Malamute, a majestic and powerful canine that will steal your heart with their wolf-like appearance and friendly disposition! These fluffy giants are known for their incredible strength, intelligence, and loyalty, making them the ultimate adventure companion.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Alaskan Malamute is perfect for active individuals or families who have ample time and energy to dedicate to their furry companion. This breed thrives in environments where they can engage in regular physical activity and mental stimulation.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEAlaskan Malamute
ORIGINAlaska
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT22-26 inches
WEIGHT70-100 lbs
LIFESPAN10-14 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERHigh
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYModerate
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK67th
alaskan malamute in the snow
Photo: Liliya Kulianionak/Getty Images

Appearance

The Alaskan Malamute is a strikingly beautiful breed that’s known for its strong, muscular build and wolf-like features. With an imposing presence, these dogs are hard to miss, and their distinctive appearance is sure to turn heads wherever they go.

In terms of height, male Alaskan Malamutes typically stand between 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder, while females measure slightly smaller at 22 to 24 inches. As for weight, males can range from 85 to 100 pounds, and females from 70 to 85 pounds. However, some individuals may exceed these ranges, further showcasing their powerful stature.

The body of an Alaskan Malamute is well-balanced and solid, with a deep chest and straight, strong back. Their broad shoulders and sturdy legs are built for power and endurance, ideal for the breed’s original purpose as sled dogs in the harsh Alaskan terrain.

Malamutes possess a bushy, plume-like tail that typically curls over their back, creating a graceful arch. This distinct feature not only adds to their stunning appearance but also serves a practical purpose, as it helps to keep their faces warm when they curl up in cold weather.

Their heads are broad and somewhat rounded, with a gentle taper towards a strong, medium-length muzzle. The ears of an Alaskan Malamute are triangular and erect, set wide apart on the head. They have a slight rounding at the tips, giving them an alert and curious expression.

The eyes of this breed are one of their most captivating features. Alaskan Malamutes have medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes that come in various shades of brown, ranging from light amber to dark brown. Their intelligent gaze exudes warmth and friendliness, making it impossible not to fall in love with these gentle giants.

The coat of an Alaskan Malamute is another distinguishing characteristic. These dogs boast a thick, double coat that is designed to protect them from extreme weather conditions. The outer coat is coarse and stands out from the body, while the undercoat is dense, oily, and woolly, providing insulation against the cold.

The breed comes in a variety of colors, including black, gray, sable, red, and white, often with captivating facial markings that accentuate their expressive features.

Overall, the Alaskan Malamute’s appearance is a harmonious blend of strength, beauty, and functionality. Their impressive physical characteristics are not only stunning to behold but also serve as a testament to their resilience and adaptability in challenging environments.

alaskan malamute in the park
Photo: LiuMeiLi/Getty Images Pro

Temperament

The Alaskan Malamute is a breed with a delightful temperament and personality that has captured the hearts of many dog enthusiasts. These gentle giants are known for their friendly, affectionate, and outgoing nature, making them wonderful companions for those who appreciate their unique charm.

With people, Alaskan Malamutes are exceptionally devoted and loving. They form strong bonds with their human family members and enjoy spending time with them, whether it’s cuddling on the couch or participating in outdoor activities. Their loyalty and protective instincts make them excellent watchdogs, always looking out for the well-being of their loved ones.

When it comes to children, Alaskan Malamutes are generally patient and gentle, making them great playmates for kids who understand how to interact respectfully with dogs.

However, due to their large size and exuberant nature, it is essential to supervise interactions between Malamutes and young children to prevent accidental injuries. Teaching both the child and the dog appropriate boundaries will ensure a harmonious relationship.

Alaskan Malamutes are usually friendly towards strangers, greeting them with a wagging tail and an eager-to-please demeanor. However, early socialization is crucial in shaping a well-rounded and confident adult dog. Exposing your Malamute to various people, places, and situations from a young age will help them become more adaptable and comfortable in different environments.

As pack animals, Alaskan Malamutes can typically coexist peacefully with other dogs, especially when properly socialized. They may enjoy the company of canine companions, particularly those that match their energy levels and play styles.

However, it is essential to be aware of their high prey drive. This breed was originally used for hunting, so they may instinctively chase smaller animals like cats, squirrels, or rabbits.

One of the unique personality perks of this breed is their remarkable intelligence. Alaskan Malamutes are quick learners and have an innate problem-solving ability, which was essential for their survival in harsh environments.

This intelligence, combined with their curious nature, means they can become easily bored if not mentally stimulated. Providing them with puzzle toys, interactive games, and regular mental challenges will keep them engaged and happy.

Alaskan Malamutes are also known for their independence and strong-willed nature. While they are eager to please their humans, they may exhibit a stubborn streak at times. This trait can be both endearing and challenging, requiring patience and consistency from their owner. Establishing a strong bond based on mutual trust and respect will help in managing their independent spirit.

It’s worth mentioning that Malamutes are quite vocal dogs. They may “talk” to their owners through a range of sounds, from howls to grumbles and even “woo-woos.” This unique form of communication can be entertaining and endearing, but it’s essential to be prepared for a chatty companion.

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

Alaskan Malamutes do best in homes with ample space, both indoors and outdoors. A house with a securely fenced yard is preferable, as it provides a safe area for them to play and expend their energy. Apartment living can be challenging for this large, active breed unless their exercise and mental stimulation needs are consistently met through daily walks and activities.

Climate Adaptability

They are highly adaptable to cold climates, thanks to their thick double coat, which provides insulation against frigid temperatures. They love playing in the snow and engaging in winter sports, such as skijoring or dog sledding.

However, they can have difficulty coping with hot weather, making it crucial for pet parents to provide adequate shade, fresh water, and proper grooming during warmer months. Additionally, it’s essential to avoid strenuous exercise in extreme heat and to be mindful of the risk of heat exhaustion.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for an Alaskan Malamute is someone who is active, patient, and experienced in handling large, intelligent breeds. Malamutes require consistent training, socialization, and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and behavioral issues. A dedicated owner who is willing to invest time and effort into meeting these needs will help their Malamute thrive.

Other Pets

As for other pets, Alaskan Malamutes can coexist well with other dogs, especially if they are raised together and properly socialized. However, due to their high prey drive, they may not be suitable for households with smaller animals, such as cats or rabbits, unless they have been raised with them from a young age and are closely supervised.

alaskan malamute running in the snow
Photo: Amir Basimamovic/Getty Images

Grooming

The Alaskan Malamute is a stunning breed with a thick double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it healthy, clean, and looking its best. Proper grooming not only helps maintain their beautiful appearance but also promotes good hygiene and prevents potential health issues.

Coat Care

Alaskan Malamutes have a dense double coat consisting of a coarse outer layer and a soft, insulating undercoat. This luxurious fur requires consistent grooming to prevent matting, remove loose hair, and distribute natural oils throughout the coat. It’s recommended to brush your Malamute at least twice a week using a slicker brush or an undercoat rake.

During shedding season, which typically occurs twice a year, Malamutes will “blow” their undercoat, resulting in a significant amount of loose hair. During these periods, daily brushing is essential to manage the shedding and prevent excessive hair buildup in your home. A deshedding tool, such as the Furminator, can be particularly helpful in removing loose undercoat during this time.

Bathing your Alaskan Malamute is generally not necessary more than once every two to three months, unless they get dirty or have a specific skin condition requiring more frequent baths. Over-bathing can strip the coat of its natural oils, leading to dry skin and a dull appearance.

When bathing your Malamute, use a mild dog shampoo and ensure you rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue from their thick coat.

Dental Care

Just like any other dog breed, Alaskan Malamutes require regular dental care to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent issues such as bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. Ideally, you should brush your Malamute’s teeth daily using canine toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. However, if daily brushing isn’t feasible, aim for at least two to three times per week.

In addition to brushing, providing dental chews and toys can help reduce plaque buildup and stimulate the gums. Regular checkups with your veterinarian will ensure any dental issues are promptly addressed, keeping your Malamute’s mouth healthy and fresh.

Nail Maintenance

Alaskan Malamutes have strong, sturdy nails that require regular trimming to prevent overgrowth, which can lead to discomfort and potential injury. On average, you should trim your Malamute’s nails every three to four weeks, depending on their activity level and the surface they walk on, as these factors can naturally wear down their nails.

Using a guillotine-style or scissor-type nail clipper designed for large breeds, carefully trim the nails, avoiding the quick, which is the blood vessel within the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, consult with a professional groomer or your veterinarian for guidance.

two alaskan malamutes in a backyard
Photo: SteveOehlenschlager/Getty Images

Exercise

The Alaskan Malamute is a highly energetic and athletic breed with a strong work ethic, making regular exercise an essential part of their routine. Meeting their exercise needs not only keeps them physically fit but also helps prevent boredom and the development of behavioral issues.

Exercise Amount & Types

As a general guideline, adult Alaskan Malamutes require at least one to two hours of daily exercise. This can include long walks, hikes, jogs, or play sessions in a securely fenced area. Keep in mind that these dogs were bred for endurance and strength, so they may enjoy activities that involve pulling or carrying weight, such as sled-pulling, carting, or backpacking with a doggy backpack.

In addition to physical exercise, Alaskan Malamutes benefit from regular mental stimulation. Engaging in activities that challenge their intelligence and problem-solving skills, such as obedience training, agility courses, or nose work, will keep their minds sharp and satisfied.

Dog Sports

Alaskan Malamutes are well-suited for various dog sports and competitions, thanks to their strength, agility, and intelligence. They excel in activities like weight pulling, skijoring, and canicross, where they can showcase their incredible power and endurance. Participating in these events not only provides an outlet for their energy but also strengthens the bond between you and your Malamute.

Exercise Precautions

It’s important to remember that Alaskan Malamutes are prone to hip dysplasia, a genetic condition affecting the hip joint. To minimize the risk of injury, avoid high-impact exercises, such as jumping or running on hard surfaces, especially during their growth phase.

Regular checkups with your veterinarian will help monitor their joint health and ensure they can continue participating in their favorite activities safely.

While exercising your Malamute, be mindful of weather conditions, particularly in hot climates. Their thick double coat makes them more susceptible to overheating, so it’s essential to provide plenty of water, shade, and rest during warm weather. Schedule exercise sessions for early mornings or evenings when temperatures are cooler, and avoid strenuous activities during the hottest part of the day.

Training

Alaskan Malamutes are highly intelligent and quick learners, which means they can grasp new commands and concepts relatively easily. However, their independence and strong-willed demeanor can sometimes make them appear less trainable than other breeds. Patience, consistency, and persistence are key when working with a Malamute.

Positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play, are the most effective ways to train an Alaskan Malamute. They respond well to rewards and encouragement, which helps build a strong bond between you and your dog. Avoid using harsh or punitive methods, as these can damage your relationship and potentially exacerbate unwanted behaviors.

Socialization is a critical aspect of training for Alaskan Malamutes. Exposing your Malamute to various people, animals, and environments from a young age will help them become well-adjusted, confident adults. Regular outings to dog parks, busy streets, and pet-friendly stores can provide valuable socialization opportunities and reinforce good manners.

Obedience training should begin early in your Malamute’s life, focusing on basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. As they master these foundational skills, you can progress to more advanced training, including agility, nose work, or even participation in dog sports like weight pulling or skijoring.

Due to their high prey drive, it’s essential to teach your Alaskan Malamute reliable recall and impulse control. This will help ensure their safety and prevent them from chasing after smaller animals during walks or outdoor activities.

It’s worth noting that Alaskan Malamutes are known for their digging instincts, which can be challenging to curb. Providing designated digging areas in your yard or offering alternative enrichment activities, such as puzzle toys or interactive games, can help redirect this natural behavior.

alaskan malamute on an open field
Photo: iTobi/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

A well-balanced diet is crucial for the health and well-being of your Alaskan Malamute. Providing the proper nutrition will support their muscular build, high energy levels, and overall health.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting dog food, look for high-quality options that follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements necessary for your dog’s optimal health.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw diets. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to choose the one that best suits your Malamute’s needs and your preferences.

The amount of food you feed your Alaskan Malamute depends on their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. As a general guideline, an adult Malamute requires approximately 1,300 to 2,100 calories per day, depending on their size and activity level.

Puppies and younger dogs may need more calories to support their growth and development, while senior or less active dogs may require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.

It’s recommended to feed your Malamute two smaller meals per day rather than one large meal, as this can help prevent gastric torsion, a condition to which deep-chested breeds like the Malamute are prone. Be sure to consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate portion sizes and feeding frequency for your individual dog.

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian will allow for monitoring of your Malamute’s weight and overall health, as well as any necessary adjustments to their diet. By providing a balanced, nutritious diet and monitoring their weight, you’ll help your Alaskan Malamute maintain optimal health and enjoy a long, happy life.

Treats & Water

Treats can be a useful tool for training and rewarding good behavior, but it’s crucial to use them in moderation to avoid excessive weight gain. Opt for healthy treats, such as small pieces of lean meat, fruits, or vegetables. Treats should not exceed 10% of your Malamute’s daily caloric intake.

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Alaskan Malamute. Ensure that their water bowl is clean and filled with fresh water at all times, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

Health

The Alaskan Malamute is a generally healthy and robust breed with a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. However, like all breeds, they can be predisposed to certain health issues. To keep your Malamute in optimal health, it’s essential to provide a balanced diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and up-to-date vaccinations.

Here are common health issues associated with the Alaskan Malamute breed:

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition affects the hip joint, leading to arthritis and mobility issues. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce the risk, but it’s crucial to ensure your Malamute maintains a healthy weight and receives regular veterinary care to manage the condition if it arises.

Cataracts: Alaskan Malamutes can be prone to developing cataracts, which cause cloudiness in the lens of the eye and can lead to vision impairment. Regular eye exams by a veterinarian can help detect cataracts early, and surgical intervention may be an option in some cases.

Chondrodysplasia: This is a genetic disorder affecting the development of the cartilage and bones, leading to dwarfism in affected dogs. Responsible breeding practices can help minimize the occurrence of this condition in the breed.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, leading to weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. Hypothyroidism can be managed through medication and regular monitoring by a veterinarian.

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis: Some Alaskan Malamutes may have difficulty absorbing zinc, resulting in skin issues such as hair loss and crusty lesions. This condition can be managed through dietary supplementation under the guidance of a veterinarian.

To promote overall health and well-being, it’s crucial to provide your Alaskan Malamute with a nutritious diet that meets their specific needs. High-quality dog food formulated for large breeds and following AAFCO guidelines will help support their muscular build and energy levels.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring your Malamute’s health and addressing any potential issues early. Your veterinarian will guide you on the appropriate vaccination schedule to protect your dog from common canine diseases.

alaskan malamute's face
Photo: format35/Getty Images

History

The Alaskan Malamute is an ancient breed with a rich history, tracing its roots back thousands of years to the Arctic region. These powerful and resilient dogs were bred by the Mahlemut tribe, an indigenous Inuit people living in the northwest coastal region of what is now Alaska.

The Mahlemut people relied on these hardworking canines for survival, utilizing them as sled dogs for transportation, hunting companions, and even protectors against polar bears.

The name “Malamute” comes from the Mahlemut tribe, and their dogs were highly valued by these people for their strength, endurance, and ability to withstand harsh Arctic conditions. The bond between the Mahlemut tribe and their dogs was one of mutual respect and interdependence, which was essential for their survival in the challenging environment they inhabited.

The Alaskan Malamute breed we know today is the result of centuries of careful breeding and selection for specific traits. These dogs were bred not for speed, like some other sled dog breeds, but for their incredible power and ability to pull heavy loads over long distances. They played a vital role in the lives of the Inuit people, allowing them to travel, hunt, and trade across vast expanses of frozen terrain.

The Alaskan Malamute’s history took a significant turn during the late 19th century with the onset of the Klondike Gold Rush. Prospectors and settlers who arrived in Alaska during this time quickly recognized the Malamute’s prowess as a sled dog and began using them for transportation and hauling supplies.

Unfortunately, the influx of people also led to crossbreeding with other dog breeds, causing the pure Alaskan Malamute bloodlines to become increasingly rare.

In the early 20th century, efforts to preserve and standardize the Alaskan Malamute breed began in earnest. Breed enthusiasts worked diligently to reestablish the breed’s purity and promote its recognition as a distinct breed. Their efforts paid off in 1935 when the Alaskan Malamute was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The Alaskan Malamute’s reputation as a loyal, hardworking, and powerful breed made them valuable assets during both World War II and the Korean War. They were utilized for various tasks, including search and rescue missions, transportation of supplies, and communication lines maintenance.

Their contributions to these efforts further solidified their place in history as a versatile and indispensable working breed.

Today, the Alaskan Malamute continues to be cherished for its strength, resilience, and striking appearance. While they are no longer primarily used as working sled dogs, they still excel in various dog sports and activities that showcase their incredible power and endurance, such as weight pulling, skijoring, and canicross.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Alaskan Malamute in the United States is the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA). Founded in 1953, the AMCA is dedicated to promoting the welfare, health, and responsible breeding of the Alaskan Malamute.

The club provides valuable resources for Malamute owners, enthusiasts, and breeders, including information on breed standards, health, training, and events.

The official website for the Alaskan Malamute Club of America can be accessed here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Alaskan Malamute’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

alaskan malamute puppy with its tongue out
Photo: vovaklak/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring an Alaskan Malamute, it’s essential to prepare for their specific needs, such as exercise, grooming, and training. Research the breed thoroughly and evaluate if it suits your lifestyle and living situation.

Instead of buying a puppy, consider rescuing an Alaskan Malamute in need of a loving home. Many Malamutes end up in shelters or rescue organizations due to their high energy levels and exercise requirements.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Alaskan Malamute Club of America (AMCA) can help connect you with reputable rescue organizations specializing in this breed. Rescuing a Malamute not only provides them with a second chance at a happy life but also allows you to experience the joys of sharing your life with a loyal and powerful companion.

FAQs

Are Alaskan Malamutes the same as Siberian Huskies?

No, Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are two distinct breeds. Although they both have Arctic origins and share some physical similarities, they differ in size, temperament, and appearance. Malamutes are generally larger and more muscular, while Huskies are smaller and built for speed.

Are Alaskan Malamutes bigger than Siberian Huskies?

Yes, Alaskan Malamutes are typically larger and heavier than Siberian Huskies. Adult male Malamutes can weigh between 85-100 pounds, while female Malamutes weigh 75-85 pounds. In contrast, male Siberian Huskies usually weigh 45-60 pounds, and females weigh 35-50 pounds.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good family dogs?

Alaskan Malamutes can make excellent family dogs when properly trained and socialized. They are known for their loyalty, affection, and playfulness. However, their high energy levels, exercise requirements, and independent nature mean they may not be suitable for all families, particularly those with very young children or limited time for training and exercise.

How much exercise do Alaskan Malamutes need?

Alaskan Malamutes require 1-2 hours of regular, vigorous exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Daily walks, hikes, or runs, along with activities like weight pulling or skijoring, can help meet their exercise needs. A well-exercised Malamute is less likely to develop behavioral issues due to boredom or pent-up energy.

Are Alaskan Malamutes hypoallergenic?

No, Alaskan Malamutes are not hypoallergenic. They have a thick double coat that sheds seasonally, which can trigger allergies in sensitive individuals. Regular grooming can help manage shedding, but those with severe allergies should consider a different breed.

How much do Alaskan Malamutes shed?

Alaskan Malamutes have a dense double coat that sheds moderately throughout the year and more heavily during seasonal shedding periods, usually twice a year. Regular brushing can help minimize shedding and keep their coat healthy.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good with other pets?

Alaskan Malamutes can get along with other pets, particularly if they are raised together. However, their high prey drive may make them more likely to chase smaller animals, such as cats or small dogs. Early socialization and consistent training are essential to ensure a harmonious relationship between your Malamute and other pets.

Fun Facts

  • Alaskan Malamutes are known for their vocalizations. They don’t just bark; they also ‘talk’ by making a range of vocal sounds. Some owners even say their Malamutes ‘woo’ during conversations!
  • The Alaskan Malamute is so integral to Alaskan heritage that it was named the official state dog of Alaska in 2010. This recognition underscores the breed’s significant role in the region’s history and culture.

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