Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute

Because he was the first breed used as a sled dog, it's not surprising that the Alaskan Malamute can pull massive amounts of weight—some dogs may be able to pull as many as 3,000 pounds. Alaskan Malamutes have a beautiful, thick double coat and jolly dispositions. This powerful breed requires early and continued training so the large adult Alaskan Malamute minds his manners. Mals are energetic and need plenty of exercise, socialization, and stimulating brain games. This working group dog takes a lot of work to live with, but they reward the attention with loyalty and love. They make ideal companions for active families and experienced dog owners.


Other Names

The Alaskan Malamute may be referred to as Mal or Mally.

Physical Description

Coat

The Alaskan Malamute has a thick, tough double coat that sheds throughout the year, and more heavily when he 'blows' his undercoat twice a year. The outer coat is short to medium length over most of the body, and gets longer around the shoulders, neck and rump. The undercoat is dense, woolly, and oily. Coat colors include a mix of light gray, black, sable, and red, though it is always white at the underbody, legs, and facial markings. Some Mals are solid white.


Height

Average Height: 23-25 inches


Weight

Male: 85 pounds

Female: 75 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Malamutes are a 'basal breed,' a type so old it predates modern breeds and is closely related to wolves. They are the descendants of dogs who worked and lived with the Mahlemuts, an ancient Inuit tribe from the coastal region of northwestern Alaska. They were used to help hunt seals, ward off polar bears, and pull heavy supplies. Malamutes were so important in daily life, they were treated as beloved members of the village family.


In the late 1800s, many native Alaskan dogs were crossbred with dogs brought north by prospectors during the Gold Rush. Because the Malamute was in a remote region, they remained relatively pure compared to other native spitz-type dogs. In the 1920s, Arthur T. Walden brought Malamutes to New Hampshire and began a breeding program, which resulted in sled dogs that were used during expeditions to Antarctica. The power of the breed was also harnessed to carry supplies during World War I and II.


AKC Breed Category

Working Group

Personality

General Temperament

Malamutes are friendly and don't choose favorites; they are welcoming with everyone in their pack and beyond. They often 'talk' with their family members using a distinctive "woo woo" noise, or an ongoing howl. They thrive when kept active with work and play. Without enough exercise throughout the day, they may become destructive and howl excessively. They have a strong, dominating personality that needs to be managed through patient training so they don't become difficult to live with.


Family Life

Are Malamutes Good with Kids? Malamutes love spending time with kids, especially if that means extra playtime and attention. They are a large dog, however, and are not an optimal choice for household with small children.


(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)


Are Malamutes Good with Other Pets? Mals have a strong prey drive and aren't always a good match for a house with cats or small animals. They can also try to dominate other dogs of the same sex, so keep that in mind if you have another dog at home.


Protective

Malamutes are not naturally protective.


Are Malamutes Good Guard Dogs? Malamutes can be intimidating in size, but that's about it. They love people, and that includes people who are to no good.


Energy Levels

This large dog isn't a boisterous breed, but they do require plenty of activity to keep them healthy and engaged. Without 'work' to do, Mallys may get frustrated and act out with unwelcome behaviors such as howling, digging, and destructive chewing.


Specific Concerns

  • Malamutes require a lot of exercise.
  • They will develop destructive behaviors when they aren't given enough exercise and activity to burn off excess energy and combat boredom.
  • Not ideal for first-time dog owners because of their size and dominant personalities.
  • Will vie for 'leader of the pack' at home, so they require consistent training to ensure their owner holds that position.
  • Prone to digging.
  • Strong prey drive makes them dangerous to small animals.
  • Prone to overheating in hot conditions.
  • Shed heavily.

Requirements

Indoor

Malamutes are attached to their families and want to live indoors with their pack. They shed abundantly, so the vacuum is an important tool with this breed as a housemate. Because of their size, it's best to keep the breakables up high and provide a securely fenced yard for exercise. Apartment living is possible, as long as you can get your Mal outside for hours on end.


Outdoor

Mals are winter-ready with their thick, double coat. They shouldn't be left outside alone for long stretches, however, because they are crafty and will find a way out of the yard in search of adventure. Their hearty coat also makes them prone to overheating in warm weather. If you live in a hot climate, give your Mally most of his exercise early in the morning and the evening when it's cooler. During the heat of the day, he should be in an air-conditioned room.


Exercise

Alaskan Malamutes need more than an hour of vigorous exercise daily. Two 45-minute walks, with playtime or dog-sport training in the yard will keep them healthy and prevent boredom.


Endurance

Malamutes have the stamina and strength to pull heavy sleds laden with supplies over many miles. This means they can participate in dog sports and activities for hours on end without tiring out. If you don't live in a cold climate, schedule exercise and play for the early morning or evening so your Malamute doesn't overheat.


Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Healthy Alaskan Malamutes make great long-distance running partners for people who love to run in winter or live in a cold climate. They can run 10 miles and more, depending up on their fitness. Mals are prone to overheating, so should not run long distances in hot or humid conditions.
  • Hiking Miles: Mals can easily manage day-long hikes, or multi-day hikes. If you have a dog backpack, they'd love to carry it for you. They shouldn't hike in hot or humid weather, because they overheat easily.


Food

This large, active breed requires approximately 5 to 6 cups of high-quality dry dog food each day over two meals. Because activity levels can vary significantly between dogs depending on their age and health, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about the best amount of food for your Malamute.


Alone Time

Malamutes don't relish being left alone, and will become destructive if you leave them for half a day or a full day. They can be alone for a few hours as long as they are well exercised beforehand. Never leave your Mal in the yard unattended—they are escape artists and will find a way to dig under or jump over the fence if unsupervised.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

10-14 years


Grooming

Despite their copious coat, Malamutes don't require constant grooming—most of your cleanup will involve following them around with a vacuum. To keep their coat healthy, brush it three to four days a week to remove fallen fur and to condition the coat with the natural oils from their skin. A bath once every month, or whenever they get dirty, is all they need. Clean their ears with a gentle, dog-safe cleanser when they appear dirty. Their toenails should be clipped once a month to prevent cracking.


Common Health Issues

Some breed-specific health concerns that may affect the Alaskan Malamute include:


  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Gastric torsion
  • Seizures
  • Hemeralopia, a form of blindness that occurs in bright sunlight and goes away at night.
  • Inherited polyneuropathy, which can cause falling, coordination issues, or an unstable gait, depending on its severity.

You can minimize serious health concerns in an Alaskan Malamute by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.

Trainability

Basics

Basic commands are a breeze for the Malamute. Because they are also independent, stubborn, and sensitive to harsh reprimands, they learn best with plenty of positive feedback and rewards of dog treats.


Advanced Training

Mals are excellent candidates for advanced training and dog sports, including agility, rally, and dog sledding. Another option is skijoring—in which a dog pulls a person on skis.


Sporting Dog Training

Though they are natural hunters and will stalk birds and squirrels in your yard, Mallys are not known as skilled gundogs.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Alaskan Malamutes.

Explore Other Breeds

No. Mallys shed excessively. As a result, they will leave a lot of pet dander in your home, which is the cause of most pet-related allergies. There will be mountains of fur in the corners of your home just hours after you've vacuumed. Embrace it as one of the few downsides of owning this large, charming dog.

Mals are not part wolf, but there is good reason for the confusion. All dogs are the domesticated descendants of ancient wolves and Malamutes diverged from wolves at the same time as other breeds around the world. However, Mals were an isolated breed up until the late 1800s and, as such, are considered a 'basal breed.' This means Malamutes' genetics are less mixed than most other breeds. As a result, they've maintained some wolf characteristics, such as their appearance, and their strong pack and prey instincts.

Some Mallys love swimming, others will only like wading, while others will take a pass at plunging into the water. Introduce your Mal to swimming slowly. If your Malamute enjoys swimming, it's a great way to get them exercise in hot weather.