All About Alaskan Malamutes

Alaskan malamute dog smiling with his tongue hanging out

Alaskan Malamutes are a sight to see. These large and powerful dogs have a wolf-like appearance but a friendly demeanor—they are always looking to make a new friend. This ancient breed is rather prominent in northern regions, and it’s little wonder why—Malamutes are built for the cold.

About the Breed

Soon after meeting an Alaskan Malamute, you’ll quickly notice how much they enjoy being around people—these dogs do not make good guard dogs. Instead of warding off unwanted people, your Malamute will most likely greet them with a tail wag and invite them inside to hang out.

A naturally social dog, Malamutes rarely do well if they are left alone for long periods. When you need to leave your dog at home by themselves, keeping them in their crate is highly recommended.

A prominent characteristic of many Malamutes is their independence. These canines have a sturdy build, and they have a strong will to match. If left untrained, these characteristics can become a significant issue, and it will become increasingly difficult to control your canine. To help reign in these bold behaviors, it will be essential that you begin training and socialization as early as possible.

Alaskan Malamutes vs. Siberian Huskies

There’s no doubt about it—Malamutes and Huskies have uncanny similarities. Even though it can be relatively easy to mix up these two dog breeds, there are some differences between the two that you can learn. Chances are, once you know what to look for, it’ll be far easier to identify the two distinct breeds.

Malamutes are, on average, larger than Huskies, both in height and weight. They are broad dogs built for strength, while Huskies are typically slimmer, shorter, and designed more for speed. Another giveaway is that Huskies can have different colored eyes, particularly the famous, mesmerizing blue shade. Malamutes, on the other hand, will only ever have brown eyes.

Although this distinction is more situational, you will notice that Huskies are overall more adaptable to warmer and more humid climates. Malamutes do not adapt well to higher temperatures, and some pet parents have even seen a change in behavior and health when a Malamute moves from a cold climate.

Unlike the notoriously talkative Husky, Malamutes are a much quieter dog who scarcely barks. Instead, Malamutes communicate with a “woo-woo” sound and the occasional howl.

Did You Know?

Malamutes can appear in the colors of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white. The various shades of these colors and the specific marking for a Malamute can vary between dogs.

Breed History

The Alaskan Malamute is an ancient breed—they may even be one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs. Thousands of years ago, the Malamute’s ancestors journeyed with various native tribes across the Bering Strait, from Siberia to Alaska. One of these tribes, the Mahlemuts, settled in northwest Alaska near Norton Sound, and people believe that the modern-day Malamute was derived from this tribe’s dogs.

In the harsh conditions of northern Alaska, tribes utilized Malamutes for many tasks. These canines helped with seal hunting, protected their family by chasing away polar bears, pulled heavy sleds full of supplies, and helped transport big game back from hunting excursions. The Mahlemut people highly valued their dogs, and they were treated just like family.

During the gold rush in 1896, there was a large influx of people going to Alaska, and as a result, the demand for sled dogs increased. Although many people began utilizing the powerful Malamute, others brought their own dogs into Alaska.

To help keep up with the high demand for dogs, people began breeding native Alaskan dogs with these other dogs. Thankfully, the Mahlemuts were a relatively isolated tribe, so their Alaskan Malamutes remained rather unaffected. Plus, the Malamute genes proved to be mainly dominant, so even these new mixed breed dogs still had many Malamute traits.

Around the 1920s, a small group of dog-racing enthusiasts who resided in the New England region took an interest in breeding and reviving the Alaskan Malamute breed. This strain of the breed became known as the “Kotzebue” strain, and many of these dogs were used during the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions during the 1930s. Another strain of Alaskan Malamutes, which were from a different breeder, became known as the “M’Loot” strain, and they were given jobs in World War II and on another one of Byrd’s expeditions.

Unfortunately, after wars and expeditions, the Malamute population was quickly decreasing. Although it isn’t always easy tracking the detailed history of the Alaskan Malamute breed, people often agree that if it wasn’t for a few breeding efforts, it is likely that the Malamute would not still be around today.

Alaskan malamute dog sniffing an apple

Attributes

Alaskan Malamutes are a fascinating and unique dog breed, and there’s a plethora of information to learn about their history, personality, and behaviors. Before adopting a Malamute, many dog parents first have questions about the breed that they want to be answered. Common questions include:

Where Did Alaskan Malamutes Originate?

Like their name states, Malamutes originated in Alaska, specifically in the more northern regions of the state.

Do Alaskan Malamutes Shed?

The Malamute’s thick, double coat does shed at a constant rate. Having this type of fur means they will need brushed multiple times every week, and you should be prepared to run your sweeper just as often.

Twice a year, typically around the time of spring and autumn, a Malamute will blow their coat. In other words, they will experience heavy shedding where they lose most of their undercoat. When it is shedding season, your arctic friend will most likely need brushing every single day, and your vacuum and lint rollers will be working into overtime.

How Big Do Alaskan Malamutes Get?

These canines typically measure around 23-25 inches in height, with males usually standing taller than females.

What’s the Average Alaskan Malamute Weight?

Malamutes sit comfortably in the large to extra-large dog category. These sizable canines have an average weight ranging from 75-85 pounds, but it is not unusual for a Malamute to tip the scale at 100 pounds or more.

How Long Do Alaskan Malamutes Live?

An Alaskan Malamute’s average lifespan is 12-15 years—a relatively high number for such a large dog. Although this is the average, every dog is unique, and they can have a shorter or longer life. Not to mention, a dog’s life expectancy can be affected by many factors, including their diet, activity level, living conditions, and overall health.

Even though Malamutes are known to get along well with children, it is still essential to monitor your dog’s interactions with children, especially those of a younger age. Because of their boisterous personality and broad stature, a Malamute can easily knock kids, and adults for that matter, over. Be sure to teach kids how to respect your dog and their space.

When it comes to having other pets in the house, it’s vital first to consider your Malamute’s temperament, training, and socialization. For the most part, Malamutes seem to do better in a multi-pet household when they can grow up with the other dogs or cats already around them. However, Malamute parents need to recognize their dog’s instinct to hunt small prey. It is crucial that you do not leave your pal alone with cats or other small dogs until you are certain there will be no confrontation.

Some people believe that this hunting instinct can be trained out of a Malamute so that they can cohabitate with smaller pets. While this may work with pets in your house, keep in mind that any small animal your Malamute finds outside will be fair game to them.

With proper care, training, and knowledge of what to expect from an Alaskan Malamute, dog parents can learn how to raise a loyal family member, best friend, and overall lovely companion. However, these dogs may not be a wise choice for first-time or inexperienced pet parents.

Grooming

With such a dense coat, you may be hesitant that the grooming needs for a Malamute will be quite extensive, but that is surprisingly not the case.

Don’t be mistaken. These curly-tailed dogs do need brushed multiple times a week, but they do not require frequent baths. Malamutes are not known to carry that “dog smell,” and they even prefer to keep themselves well-maintained. Unless your dog has a run-in with some mud puddles, you could easily go multiple months in between doggy baths.

About once a month, or sometimes more frequently, your dog’s nails will need to be trimmed. On a weekly basis, you should check your dog’s ears for signs of redness or a bad odor, which could be the sign of an infection. To help reduce the chance of ear infections, be sure to clean your dog’s ears regularly—monthly will often suffice.

At least once a week, you should brush your dog’s teeth—multiple times a week is even better. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth can help prevent dental-related health issues, plus it can keep that stinky dog breath at bay.

Alaskan malamute dog on a walk

How to Care for an Alaskan Malamute

Before adopting your own Alaskan Malamute, it’s essential first to understand all that goes into taking care of one. These dogs are large, powerful, and active, and they are not conducive to living in all types of households.

The pivotal part of being a Malamute parent is exercise, exercise, and more exercise. Malamutes were bred to work hard and do tough jobs, so being active and staying busy comes naturally. If your busy-bee of a friend isn’t allowed to burn off their extra energy, then they will most likely become disruptive and destructive.

Thankfully, there are many outlets for your dog to get their needed exercise. Walking and hiking are excellent options available for practically any dog parent. Malamutes also appreciate the opportunity to run around outside, as long as they are in a securely fenced-in area. If you leave them unattended, don’t be surprised if you come back to a few new excavation sites.

To help keep your pal active, you can also take advantage of your dog’s natural abilities. Many people to this day still use Malamutes to pull sleds either with people or items on them. These working dogs can also be used in recreational sports such as skijoring, bikejoring, carting, and canicross. Although these arctic dogs are not the fastest, their endurance is impressive.

Before adopting a Malamute, you will also need to keep in mind where you and your dog will be living. These dogs thrive in cold climates, and they do not adapt well to hotter, more humid conditions. An ideal location for a Malamute is someplace that does not average high temperatures. If this location gets frequent snowfall, that’s even a bonus for this breed.

Even though Alaskan Malamutes prefer a colder climate, they still cannot be left outside for endless hours. To keep your dog safe in the snow and cold, read about our cold weather tips.

Training

As a Malamute parent, providing proper training is a must. Due to their large size, these canines can very quickly become a handful. For instance, these dogs were bred to pull heavy sleds, so you can imagine what it would be like trying to walk an untrained Malamute on a leash—you’d be in for a ride.

Training should begin the very day you bring your dog home, no matter their age. Commands to work on can include sit, stay, down, off, come, and heel. You may also quickly discover how valuable it is to crate train your dog. Putting your dog in a crate when they are left alone not only protects your items from being chewed up but also makes sure that your dog will not consume something harmful while you are away.

Going hand-in-hand with training is socialization. Socialization is a crucial part of raising a well-rounded Malamute. It should also begin as early as possible (young puppies should wait until they are up to date with shots) and should continue throughout your dog’s entire life—this should help decrease your dog’s chances of becoming antisocial.

Opportunities for socialization and training are all around us, but sometimes you may have to get a little creative. Great items to begin with include,

As you can imagine, the list of socialization and training options can be nearly endless.

Common Health Issues

Even though Malamutes are an overall sturdy and healthy dog breed, they are still susceptible to health conditions. According to our claims data,^ here are the top 5 issues that affect this breed:

Despite these being the most common conditions among the Malamute breed, there is no guarantee that your pup will develop any or all of these health problems.

One of the best ways to ensure that your dog stays in tip-top shape is to take them for a yearly checkup with their veterinarian. Even if your Malamute appears to be completely healthy, it is vital that you do not skip these routine appointments. As the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

^Internal Claims Data, 2015-20
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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