Alaskan Malamute

Want to learn all about the National Dog of Alaska? Don’t miss these Alaskan Malamute facts in our latest breed guide!¬†

alaskan malamute on snow

Height: Male 25 inches, female 23 inches
Alaskan Malamute Weight: Male 38.5 kilos, female 34 kilos
Malamute Lifespan: 10-14 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives & Negatives

Below are the positive and negatives of the Alaskan Malamute:

Pros:

  • Great watchdog
  • Easy to train
  • Family-friendly pet
  • Low level of drooling

Cons:

  • Not suitable for first-time owners
  • High grooming needs and a heavy shedder
  • May wander off on an exploration
  • Likes to bark and howl

alaskan malamute running in park

Overview

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the biggest members of the Spitz family. They were raised in packs, working in the cold and harsh Arctic climates.

The breed is often confused with the Siberian Husky due to their strong resemblance. The main difference between the pair is the Malamutes much larger size.

Malamutes get along with everybody as opposed to just one person. These large pooches have a distinct way of communicating with humans.

A variety of barks will represent different emotions that owners can quickly pick up on. These intelligent dogs can even learn how to sing!

Despite their large, and to some, intimidating size, Malamute dogs are actually very sociable.

They make terrible guard dogs due to their friendly personality but are great watchdogs.

By nature, the breed is fairly sociable getting along well with both children and dogs. Given the right training and socialization, the Malamute can make an excellent family pet.

alaskan malamute lying on dried grass

History

Alaskan Malamutes are one of the oldest sledge dogs still in existence today!

They originate from Alaska and are believed to have landed there via land bridges of Bering Strait more than 4,000 years ago.

The breed gets its name from the Mahlemut tribe, which had settled in the Northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula. They were responsible for the development of the breed.

Alaskan Malamutes filled a variety of job roles. Hunting was one of the most important. Their scent tracking abilities helped identify seal blowholes.

Malamutes were also known to fend off polar bears! The breed’s powerful build was also used for sledge pulling helping explorers such as Rear Admiral Richard Byrd, reach the most remote areas.

In World War II these brave canines were used to sniff out mines, carry weaponry, and undertake search and rescue missions.

During this period, Malamutes almost became extinct! To this day, the breed is still used as a SAR dog in the Arctic regions.

Nowadays, the Malamute is popular as a family dog, though they are still actively used for work in the Arctic regions.

Malamutes can be seen in the show ring but they still haven’t received a Best in Show title from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show or Crufts. In 2010, the breed was proudly titled the National Dog of Alaska!

Personality

The Alaskan Malamute size can be an immediate put off for some but despite this, they are very friendly! These canines need an outdoorsy owner that can keep up with their athletic, energetic, and playful nature. Malamutes do have a dominant side and can quickly run rings around an inexperienced owner.

alaskan malamute on green grass

Despite their sociability, Malamutes have strong prey drives and may initiate a chase on a smaller animal.

Another trait is independence which explains their high wanderlust potential. To avoid any issues exercise the breed in enclosed spaces or on a leash.

As these canines like to dig, ensure fences are deep enough to prevent an escape.

Recommended: The Japanese Akita is extremely loyal, loving and devoted towards its family.

Are Alaskan Malamutes Good with Strangers?

Yes, this breed is known to be friendly towards every human they meet. Malamutes do make good watchdogs but fail when it comes to guarding.

They will happily introduce themselves to humans they don’t know, happily welcoming first-time visitors into their home.

Dogs that haven’t been socialized could become anxious and fearful of those they don’t know. Ensure an Alaskan Malamute pup is introduced to a variety of people, dogs, places, and sounds.

Are Alaskan Malamutes Good with Children?

Yes, Malamutes are excellent with children and make fantastic playmates. Growing up, they may be mouthy, chewing and nipping on whatever they set their sights on.

This behaviour should be corrected immediately. Due to their size, this pooch is better suited to older children but they would never intentionally harm a child.

Are Alaskan Malamutes Ok with Other Dogs?

Yes, these canines get along well with other dogs. After all, they were raised to be pack animals. Some Malamutes can display dominant behaviour towards those of the same sex.

For this reason, intensive socialization will be needed.

Malamutes can live with other dogs but those of the same sex should be avoided. They can learn to live with cats in their puppy years.

Exercise

The Malamute dog will need over 2 hours of exercise each day. Prospective owners must be able to dedicate a considerable amount of time each week to the dog’s activity and grooming needs.

Set aside 30 minutes daily for vigorous activity. These independent canines are used to tough work and long days!

Whilst the Malamute dog breed is tolerant to cold weather, it isn’t so much the case in the Summer.

Owners must take care to avoid heatstroke during the warmer months by exercising the dog in the morning or evening.

Show dogs excel in agility, weight pulling, and packing. To this day, some Malamutes can still be found pulling sledges in the Arctic regions.

If their activity needs aren’t being met, the Malamute could resort to destructive behaviours.

alaskan malamute lying on carpet on snow

Recommended next: Owning a Japanese Spitz dog, you can expect to get a small dog with a big heart that will live well with your family. Check our guide to learn more about them.

Health

Check out the health issues of the Alaskan Malamute below:

  • Hip Dysplasia- The ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together correctly. As they rub against each other symptoms such as pain, inflammation, and swelling will occur. Arthritis will follow.
  • Chondrodysplasia- This genetic condition affects bone and cartilage growth resulting in dwarfism.
  • Hypothyroidism- An abnormal thyroid gland will lead to issues with the dog’s metabolism. Hair loss, weight gain, lethargy, and flaky skin are some common symptoms.
  • Idiopathic Polyneuropathy- This health issue consists of multiple abnormalities that affect the peripheral nerves. It will affect a dog’s movements, sometimes severely.
  • Cataracts- The lens develops an abnormal cloud which if large enough could interfere with vision. Over time, blindness will occur.
  • Day Blindness- This condition is also known as Cone Degenerative Disease. Cells in the shape of cones allow a dog to see in bright light. If these deteriorate, it will affect a dog’s vision in daylight.
  • Thrombopathia- An excessive bleeding disorder affecting the blood cells (platelets). The disease is known to affect Spitz breeds.
  • Von Willebrands Disease- The platelets (blood cells) aren’t receiving enough protein for production. Excessive bleeding will occur. as the platelets are unable to clot the blood efficiently.

Intelligence & Training

Alaskan Malamutes are known to be intelligent and easy to train but are not recommended for first-time owners.

An experienced and firm leader that has the available time to give, should consider this breed. To prevent dominant behaviours, socialize a Malamute puppy immediately upon their arrival.

Access to a garden is a must as this canine isn’t suitable for apartment living.

Digging is embedded into the Alaskan Malamute and some owners find that despite training, their instinct is too strong to override.

It’s a trait they used frequently in the Arctic, digging holes to keep cool in the Summer.

alaskan malamute with frisby disk in his mouth

Unlike their cousins, the Siberian Husky, Malamutes aren’t as stubborn making them the easier breed to train.

Occasionally, they may be defiant, especially if they become bored of training. These intelligent canines only need around ten minutes of learning per session.

Barking and howling is a form of communication and expression for the breed.

All Malamute puppies should be taught the Quiet command to prevent excessive barking in their later years. Positive reinforcement is the most constructive way to progress training.

This breed is moderately affected by weight gain so replace food rewards for affection wherever possible.

Recommended: The Alaskan Klee Kai is essentially what many describe as a mini Alaskan Husky. Read our guide to learn more about this breed.

Grooming

Alaskan Malamutes have high groomings needs so it’s recommended they visit a professional groomer every 6 weeks.

Some dogs have longer fur than others, thus requiring more frequent brushing. The double-layered coat needs a thorough brush once or twice a week with a rake, pin or slicker brush.

Get the vacuum out because this breed is a heavy shedder!

The water-resistant coat can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Fur should be checked regularly to prevent fungus and hot spots.

Typically, the breed is odourless unless the Malamute is suffering from a yeast infection.

alaskan malamute playing on snow

Baths should be given every 6 weeks. These canines get dirty rather quickly so if necessary, a bath can be given sooner.

Show dogs are washed weekly. Their thick coat grips onto the shampoo so it must be washed from the fur thoroughly.

Many owners notice how much slimmer the Malamute looks when its fur is wet!

Ears can be prone to infection so it’s important to clean them once a week. Nails can grow thick quickly so a trim will be needed fortnightly.

Gum disease is an issue that can affect any dog. Vets recommend teeth are brushed daily so aim to do this at least three times a week.

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