Alaskan Malamute (Dog Breed Information)

Alaskan Malamute-The Freight Train of Dogs

The Alaskan Malamute is an extremely strong, heavy-boned large dog.  They are affectionate, playful and quite fond of people, a characteristic that makes them a very well sought-after family dog.  These guys tend not to bark, so they wouldn’t make very good guard dogs, they do however make wonderful family dogs.

Malamutes are not known to bark much and are usually quiet,  but when they do decide they want to be heard, you will hear what sounds like a woo woo almost like talking and maybe a howl or two like the coyote or grey wolf.  How neat would that be?!.

These guys are pack animals and love snuggling with their pack.  You must be the leader of this pack. If the Malamute does not believe or respect that you are the leader, then well this dog will take over as the leader and will end up owning you.  Firm but friendly training should start at a young age. A well-trained malamute equals a wonderful family dog that is great with children.

At A Glance

  • Breed: Alaskan Malamute
  • Breed Group: Working
  • Temperament: Affectionate, Loyal, Playful
  • D.H.T. Outdoor Ranking: 5/10 For Temperate Climates
  • Worldwide Popularity: Low
  • Breed Origin: Alaska

Breed History

The Malamute is one of the oldest sled dogs of the Arctic.  It is said they are a descendant of the domesticated wolf-dog who had come over to North America with hunters approximately 4000 years ago!  Wow, that is a long time.

The name Malamute comes from the nomadic Inuit tribe called the Mahemuit that took up land in Kotzebue Sound located in northwestern Alaska.  During the winter months, these dogs would be responsible for pulling heavy sleds that the tribe could not move on their own. They would pull very heavy loads for long distances at slow speeds.  The malamute is not a very fast dog, this is why they would travel at slow speeds.  

When summer came, the malamute would carry packs for the tribe, locate seal breathing holes in the ice so that the tribe could catch fish. The malamute is also a great hunter with extraordinary hunting abilities such as being able to hunt and take down large bears. 

There are other sled dogs like the Siberian husky that would pull lighter loads and run quite faster than the malamute.  Malamutes are known as the freights of the sled breeds, and huskies are the racers. Two very different types of sled dogs. 

More History

 The breed came close to extinction after WWII with only 30 registered breeds in 1947.  So a man named Robert J Zoller decided to combine M, Loot and Hinman/Irwin dogs with selected Zotzebues.  All modern Malamutes come from this strain.

They played a role in the Gold Rush of 1846 by adding miners who entered into Alaska.  They also played a role in WWII as search and rescue dogs in Greenland, and also assisted Rear Admiral Byrd to the South Pole.  My My, what working dog!

In the year 2010, the Alaskan Malamute was named the official dog of Alaska.

General Appearance

The Mal is one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs.  They are a tank with a deep chest and a strong muscled body that is used for pulling very heavy loads for long distances.   They have a beautiful coarse thick guard coat, that is short and soft. There is an undercoat that is thick, about two inches deep, wolly and oily.   The Malamute stands at 25 inches and can weigh up to 85 lbs. That is a whole lot of dog!

Body

This large-sized dog stands at 24 inches with a strong muscular body that is made for pulling large loads.     Their head is broad and deep in proportion with the size of the canine. The muzzle is very large, eyes are almond-shaped somewhat large, brown in color.  Ears are medium and triangular with slightly rounded tips.

Coat

Malamutes have a double coat.  One is an undercoat that is oily with a wolly texture and up to two inches thick.  The second coat is the outer guard coat that is pretty coarse. The coat is short to medium along the side of their body, and it increases in length at the shoulders and neck, down its back and turning into a beautiful plume at the tail.

During the summer months, the malamute’s coat is less dense and shorter. There are a few colors that this coat comes in and those colors are gray and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white.  

Legs & Feet

The legs of a Malamute are forelegs heavily boned and muscled, and their feet are quite large, toes are tight, deep and well arched.  They have extra protective growth of hair between their toes, and the pads are thick and tough that help get them through long hauls in the winter.

Tail & Hindquarters

The rear legs of a Malamute are strong and very muscular through to their thighs. The legs stand and move in line with the front legs, neither too close or too wide. The tail is carried over the back and very bushy.

General Statistics

  • Life Expectancy: 10-14 years
  • Height (at the withers): 
  • Male: 25 inches
  • Female: 23 inches
  • Male Weight: 85 lbs
  • Female Weight: 75 lbs

Recommended Dog House Dimensions

The recommended dog house dimensions can be found on the dog house dimensions charts for 440 recognized breeds which includes this dog breed that looks like a wolf.  But to save you time, here are our dog house minimum size recommendations:

  • Door Height: 27.5 inches
  • Door Width: 17.5 inches
  • Inside Ceiling Height: 33.8 inches
  • Interior House Length: 55 inches
  • Interior House Width: 35 inches

Expected Costs

Breed Average Puppy Cost: $1,000 USD

Starter Costs: $2,500

This is our estimate for initial purchase, shots and a few things like food, a bed, leash, that sort of thing.  Basically, this will get you set up but the costs will be greater once the dog is old enough to get spayed or neutered.

Anticipated Annual Care Cost: $500 – $1,000

How The Alaskan Malamute Reacts To

Babies/Children: 

The malamute loves children all the attention they get from them.  Since this is a very strong and patient dog, it can deal with all the games that children want to play with them.  This breed is a well sought out family dog.  

Always remember to never leave a young child and dog alone unsupervised.  Not that they would intentionally hurt each other, but accidents do happen and we don’t want a child or dog injured.

Other Dogs:   

Malamutes are good with other dogs, they were bred for pulling sleds with other dogs, and they along just fine. But early socialization plays a big part. Slow introductions are recommended if you have another dog in the house especially if you adopt an adult Malamute.

Cats: 

Malamutes have a strong prey drive, so if you have a cat then it may just want to hunt it.  If you have a cat and want to get a Malamute, it is best to get a puppy so that it can be trained to be friends with the cat.  They will end up being friends even the cat doesn’t think so!

Other Animals:

Malamutes get along with just about anyone and anything.  However, they do have a prey drive which will make them want to give chase to any small pets you may have.   The best way for everyone to get along is socialization and training. Once you have this down, there should be no problems with other pets you have in the house. A good recommendation is to not leave smaller animals and the dog unsupervised just like you would not leave a child and a dog alone together

Care Requirements

Exercise 

The Malamute is a working dog, so he wants to work, and wants lots of physical activity.  They have a great amount of endurance that enables them to carry heavy loads for long distances. These dogs enjoy hiking, swimming, running just to name a few.  An owner should be just as active as this dog, otherwise, this is not the dog for you. Malamutes excel in dog sports like agility, obedience trials, competitive sledding, weight-pulling competitions and even skijoring, yes that is right skijoring- this is where the dog pulls a person that is on skis.  Sounds kinda fun, doesn’t it?

Grooming & Coat Info

A beautiful waterproof thick double coat of the Malamute requires ALOT of upkeep.  This dog should be brushed every day with a pin brush AND metal comb. Yup, a brush, and a comb!.  While brushing and combing the dog, you need to be on the look-out for any mats as they can cause the skin to become infected and the mats can harbor fungus, yikes!  

These guys have two shedding seasons where they shed a lot so an undercoat rake is highly recommended.  Six to eight weeks max for the time between baths. Nails should be trimmed frequently.

Health & Nutrition

Generally a healthy dog, the malamute has a few health issues and they are cataracts, chondrodysplasia, hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia.  

This dog will do well on high-quality dog food that has been approved by your veterinarian.  If you are going to feed your dog human food, make sure to know what is safe and what isn’t. If you are unsure contact your veterinarian. As always clean water should be readily available to your dog at all times.

Training

When it comes to training a Malamute, obedience training and socialization are required in order to prevent them from becoming a bully around children, other pets and adults they do not necessarily respect. 

These creatures are extremely intelligent and more often than not stubborn. For example, if you have your Malamute out in the backyard and they decide they are going to dig, then there is no training in the world that will get this dog to stop digging.  They just love to dig. These dogs are friendly with everyone so training them to be a guard dog is not ideal.

Once this dog has completed its obedience training and socialization you will have the perfect family dog. And isn’t that what every family is looking for?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Malamutes aggressive?

No, Malamutes are not aggressive. Malamutes are very calm dogs, especially when children are around. They absolutely love children which makes them a great family dog. The Mal may become aggressive towards other animals if they have not been socialized at an early stage.

They are very careful with people they do not know, but will not go on an attack rampage. If you are looking for a dog that will keep your house safe then this is not the right dog for you. The Malamute may scare someone away with its big size, but that is far as this breed goes with being a guard dog.

Do Alaskan Malamutes shed?

Alaskan Malamutes shed heavily twice a year. By heavily I mean they shed their entire coat. So for at least three weeks during shedding season be prepared to find hair all over the place. Keep that vacuum handy, you are going to need it! Hey, who said having a family dog was going to be easy right?

Do Malamutes Like Cold Weather?

This family dog loves the cold weather! They were born for the cold. Malamutes come from Alaska and have been used for freighting around Alaska. Their thick coarse coat keeps them very warm. Now warm weather is another story. They cannot take the heat due to their thick double coat. If you live somewhere where the temp hits over 80 degrees (26.6 Celcius) then this breed is not recommended for you.

Bibliography

  1. Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds- D. Caroline Coile Ph. D.
  2. American Kennel Club – https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/alaskan-malamute/
  3. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Malamute
  4. Canadian Kennel Club – https://www.ckc.ca/en/Choosing-a-Dog/Choosing-a-Breed/Working-Dogs/Alaskan-Malamute
  5. Alaskan Malamute Club of America – http://alaskanmalamute.org/

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