The movie set trainers of Alaskan Malamutes have their work cut out for them. Though they have plenty of desirable characteristics that make them wonderful pets, playmates, and companions, they have a few drawbacks. Malamutes can be difficult to train, and benefit from an owner or trainer who is firm and consistent, and able to establish clear boundaries and "alpha" status. A Malamute might test those boundaries on a regular basis. In addition, Malamutes have fairly high exercise requirement and need a very secure, fenced yard and space to play. But, if you're an experienced owner and are attracted to the breed, you will be pleased to know that they are friendly and loyal companions. They bark very little but prefer to communicate vocally with their unique "woo-woo" sound. Malamutes love people, both their family and strangers, and are wonderfully social pets who enjoy nothing more than spending time with their humans.
Key Breed Stats
Alternative names: The Alaskan Malamute breed is also commonly known by the names Mal, Mally.
Popularity: Moderately popular
Life expectancy: 10 - 12 years
|Height||25 - 28 in||23 - 26 in|
|Weight||82 - 110 lbs||77 - 104 lbs|
Colors: Black, Gray, Red, White
Key Breed Facts
Shedding: Very heavy shedder
Grooming requirements: Very high
Good with children: Average
Good with other pets: Not really
Intelligence / Trainability: High
Exercise needs: Very high
Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not
Hunting drive: High
Suited as Guard dog: Average
Sensitivity: Very sensitive
Good for novice owners: No
Hypoallergenic breed: No
Drooling: Very low
Barking: Very frequent
General health: Good
Cost to keep: High
Alaskan Malamutes are considered to be a "basal breed" which means the breed was in existence before modern dogs (dog breeds that emerged in the 1800s). They share a similar history to the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan husky, and all three breeds were related to Chukotka sled dogs from Siberia.
Malamutes can be traced back to the Mahlemut tribe, which settled in the northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula. Their dogs were used to hunt seals, chase away polar bears, and pull heavy sleds loaded with food or camp supplies. When the Gold Rush 1896 encouraged the breeding of a greater variety of dogs that could work and withstand the climate and terrain, the Mahlemut tribe remained isolated, and the Alaskan Malamute dog was able to remain relatively pure.
Breeding of the Alaskan Malamute in the lower portion of the United States began with Arthur T. Walden's Chinook Kennel in New Hampshire. Walden supplied many dogs for the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions in the 1930s. Walden's successors, Milton and Eva Seeley, laid the foundation for the "Kotzebue" strain of Alaskan Malamutes. Paul Voelker, Sr is credited with establishing the "M'Loot" strain of dogs used in World War I and II and by Admiral Byrd's second expedition.
The Alaskan Malamute Club of America was formed in 1935 and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed that same year. During World War II, most of the registered Alaskan Malamutes were requisitioned for military duty because there was a great demand for sled dogs. Sadly, a large number of those dogs were destroyed after participating in an expedition to Antarctica during World War II.
Alaskan Malamutes are proud and powerful, with a long history as sled dogs.
Typical characteristics are:
- Broad head with dark eyes, a soft, afffectionate, and friendly expression, and medium-sized, triangular ears.
- A strong, well-muscled body body.
- A furry, plumed tail is carried over the back.
- A thick, coarse double coat.
- Colors: shades of light gray to black, sable, and shadings of sable to red. Pure white is also acceptable.
Alaskan Malamutes are intelligent dogs, quick to learn, but they are not considered easy to train. They will challenge their owners' authority and benefit from a firm, kind, and consistent hand. It is important to establish yourself as the leader of the pack. They do not respond well to harsh training methods and training will be most successful if you establish clear boundaries. Malamutes are not generally a good fit for novice dog owners.
As with all intelligent breeds, Alaskan Malamutes require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.
Malamutes are very high-energy dogs that require a lot of exercise and a large time commitment. 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise, twice a day will keep your dog happy and healthy. Dogs that do not have adequate physical and mental stimulation will engage in destructive behaviors, and bored Malamutes are especially prone to digging.
Malamutes are susceptible to certain bone disorders like hip dysplasia. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.
Alaskan Malamutes are highly social dogs who love to be near their "pack". They do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. Isolation can create negative and destructive behaviors.
Malamutes are not protective at all. They don't bark, are friendly with strangers, and are likely to happily greet an intruder.
Because of their need for exercise, Malamutes generally do not make good apartment dogs. They do best in a home with a yard to run and play. However, Malamutes are prone to digging, so you may want to give your dog an "approved" place to dig. Finally, because they are diggers, they can escape their yard by digging under the fence. If you plan on leaving your dog unattended in the yard, the fence will need to be buried to prevent this. They are also jumpers, so your yard fence will need to be at least six feet high.
Alaskan Malamutes originated in cold climates and while they tolerate cold weather fairly well, they will need air-conditioned shelter when living in warmer climates.
Children and Other Pets
Malamutes are friendly, tolerant dogs and do well with children. They are large, playful dogs, so caution should be taken around small children (under the age of 6) as they could easily knock over a child while playing.
- Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.
- Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.
- Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.
Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.
Some Malamutes have a strong prey drive and will chase cats and other small, furry animals. Proper socialization from an early age is important for multi-pet households.
HealthThe average life expectancy of a Alaskan Malamute is between 10 - 12 years. Like all breeds, the Alaskan Malamute is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Alaskan Malamute is prone to these diseases:
- Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
- Chondrodysplasia (hereditary)
- Inherited Polyneuropathy (hereditary)
- Hemeralopia (Day Blindness) (hereditary)
Alaskan Malamutes have a dense double coat that sheds a lot. You should be prepared for a fair amount of dog hair around your house and on your clothes, especially in the spring and fall. Huskies living in colder climates tend to shed slightly less.
In spite of their heavy shedding, Alaskan Malamutes are fairly easy to groom. Weekly (more during heavy shedding months) brushing will help to remove excess hair. They are relatively clean dogs, often cleaning themselves like cats, and do not have a "doggy" smell. When they need the occasional bath, use a pH balanced shampoo designed for dogs.
Teeth brushing two or three times per week (daily is best) helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems.
Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.
Your dog's ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad smell and the outer ear should be cleaned with a cotton ball and an ear cleaner designed specifically for dogs. Additionally, any time they get wet, ears should be checked and cleaned.
All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.
Recommended amount: 4-5 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.
Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.
Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.
When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.
Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).