Alaskan Malamute

By helloBARK!
Updated on 11 August 2021
Fact Checked

Alaskan Malamute are one of the oldest of the sled dog breeds.

These majestic canines are thought to be distant relatives of domesticated wolf dogs who accompanied Paleolithic hunters over 4,000 years ago.

Malamutes are closely associated with Alaska given their name is derived from a nomadic Inuit tribe that resided in northwestern Alaska.

They were used to carry heavy loads in packs at low speeds over long distances unlike Siberian Huskies who carried light loads at faster speeds.

Nowadays, you can find Alaskan Malamutes around the world.

The American Kennel Club list the Alaskan Malamute as the 58th most popular breed in the United States of America.

In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the Alaskan Malamute.

So without further ado, let’s get down to business and take a closer look at the Alaskan Malamute.

What is Alaskan Malamute?

An Alaskan Malamute is a Spitz dog that are renowned as a heavy-duty worker.

Aptly, the breed is a member of the American Kennel Club’s working group after their induction before World War II.

Often given the nickname Malamute or Mal for short, these sled dogs have powerful and muscular frames.

Alaskan Malamutes share similarities with other Arctic and Spitz breeds, such as the Greenland Dog, Canadian Eskimo Dog, the Siberian Husky, and the Samoyed.

Where are Alaskan Malamute from?

Alaskan Malamute outdoors on a sunny day (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Alaskan Malamute outdoors on a sunny day (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Malamutes are descended from ancient domesticated wolves that ran with the Paleolithic hunters around 12,000 years ago.

They arrived in the Americas around 4,000 years ago with the Paleo-Eskimo people after crossing the land bridges of the Bering Strait.

The Thule people have an association with these dogs too after they settled 1,000 years ago, having originated from Siberia.

But it’s the Mahlemuit Inupiaq people who are thought to be responsible for breeding these dogs. The word Malamute is derived from the nomadic Mahlemiut tribe who resided in in Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska.

Moving forward a couple of thousand years, the Alaskan Malamute breed became extremely valuable during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Settlers availed of these dogs.

World War II almost eradicated the Alaskan Malamutes registered with the American Kennel Club. With 30 dogs left, the stud book was reopened.

There are three different strains of Alaskan Malamute. The AKC recongised the original Kotzebue strain in 1935 but opened the studbook to the M’Loot and Hinmamn strains after their number plummeted following WWII.

The AKC write:

The Malamute’s gene pool is made up of all three of these strains, with Ch. Toro of Bras Coupe being the first dog to unite them.

As of 2019, the Alaskan Malamute is the 58th most popular breed in the USA.

Is an Alaskan Malamute a wolf?

As we’ve touched upon above, the Alaskan Malamute is thought to be a descendant of domesticated wolves that ran with Paleolithic hunters.

A study in 2012 listed Alaskan Malamutes as one of 13 Basal breeds.

It found that there was a deep genetic split between old-world and new-world wolves. These breeds exhibited genetic divergence but not all of them were historically considered to be “ancient breeds”.

Is a Malamute and a Husky the same thing?

Siberian Husky (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Siberian Husky (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies are different breeds.

Although both sled dogs can trace their history back to the north western region of Asia, Malamutes and Siberian Huskies served different purposes.

Alaskan Malamutes were bred to pull heavy loads at slow speeds over long distances. Siberian Huskies were used to pull lighter loads at fast speeds over long distances.

The Alaskan Husky isn’t recognised as a breed by the American Kennel Club.

Alaskan Malamute breed standard

The American Kennel Club outline the breed standard for Alaskan Malamutes on their website:

The Alaskan Malamute, one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, is a powerful and substantially built dog with a deep chest and strong, well-muscled body. The Malamute stands well over the pads, and this stance gives the appearance of much activity and a proud carriage, with head erect and eyes alert showing interest and curiosity.

Alaskan Malamute size

Alaskan Malamutes are large, working dogs.

Males are usually around 25 inches (64 cm) tall and can weigh as much as 85 pounds (39 kg). Females ware slightly smaller and lighter at 23 inches (58 cm) tall and 75 pounds (34 kg).

Some Alaskan Malamutes can grow to be even heavier than these size parimaters.

When do Alaskan Malamutes stop growing?

Alaskan Malamutes will usually stop growing around the 18-month to 24-month mark as they approach adulthood.

What does Alaskan Malamute look like?

Alaskan Malamutes pulling a sled (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Alaskan Malamutes pulling a sled (Photo: Adobe Stock)

One of the reasons you’ll often hear Alaskan Malamutes compared to Wolves is because of their appearance.

Alaskan Malamutes have a double coat designed to protect them against the harsh Alaskan and Arctic weather conditions.

These northern dogs are usually gray and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white or solid white.

Markings can appear on their face, nape of the neck, on the collar or half collar.

White is usually the dominant color on their body, including the legs and face.

Alaskan Malamutes should have almond-shaped eyes like Siberian Huskies. Their eye colors are usually different shades of brown.

With regards to their head and body shape, the American Kennel Club write:

The head is broad. Ears are triangular and erect when alerted. The muzzle is bulky, only slight diminishing in width from root to nose. The muzzle is not pointed or long, yet not stubby. The coat is thick with a coarse guard coat of sufficient length to protect a woolly undercoat… Face markings are a distinguishing feature. These consist of a cap over the head, the face either all white or marked with a bar and/or mask.

Alaskan Malamutes should have a tail that is well furred, carried over the back and has the appearance of a waving plume.

Are Malamutes good pets?

Given the relatives of Alaskan Malamutes served an important function in nomadic tribes over 4,000 years ago, it’s a safe assertion that these dogs are used to human company, interaction and socialization.

These northern dogs like to be involved in family life as a part of the house’s pack. They’re usually playful and curious dogs, especially as puppies. Malamutes tend to be patient.

As with all puppies, it’s a good idea to socialize an Alaskan Malamute from a young age to get them used to meeting new people and other dogs. The Alaskan dogs can be shy around strangers.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good with kids?

Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Adobe Stock)

We never recommend leaving a dog along with a child unsupervised no matter what breed you’ve got. So it would be irresponsible to leave an infant with an Alaskan Malamute without adult supervision.

Alaskan Malamutes are patients dogs, which makes them suited to family life. Their patient nature coupled with their robust physiques should mean they can tolerate and withstand interactions with children.

Are Alaskan Malamute dogs aggressive?

Some northern and Spitz breeds have a reputation for being ‘dangerous’.

However, it’s more to do with the upbringing of each individual dog rather than stereotyping certain breeds.

If you socialise your Malamute from a young age, coupled with puppy manners and training classes, you’ll enhance your chances of having a balanced, friendly and obedient dog.

Do Malamutes like other dogs?

Alaskan Malamutes were bred by nomadic people to pull heavy loads on sleds as part of a pack. Therefore, they’re used to being around other dogs.

However, some Malamutes can be shy around new people or new dogs. As we’ve already mentioned above, it’s a wise move to socialise one of these Alaskan dogs as much as possible from a young age to get them used to different situations, people and pets.

Are Malamutes cuddly?

For those considering a Malamute as a pet, you’ll want to know whether the breed are usually affectionate or cuddly dogs that will curl up with their owners after a long day at work.

All dogs are different but they’re usually pretty affectionate, friendly and loyal. In fact, their friendliness means they probably won’t make a great guard dog.

The American Kennel Club adds:

Their almond-shaped brown eyes have an affectionate sparkle, suggesting Mals enjoy snuggling with their humans when the workday is done.

Are Malamutes stubborn?

Spitz breeds are often stereotyped as stubborn dogs.

The Alaskan Malamute is often branded a difficult or stubborn dog when it comes to training.

The sled dogs can have a unique mindset and aren’t as eager to please as other breed such as Labradors.

These type of dogs were bred to be independent thinkers given they’d have to pick the best route for a sled to go through.

Alaskan Malamutes, like Siberian Huskies, are often accused of trying to outthink or manipulate their owners to get their own way.

The American Kennel Club say:

Mals are pack animals. And in your family “pack,” the leader must be you. If a Mal doesn’t respect you, he will wind up owning you instead of the other way around.

This so-called stubborn streak will vary from dog to dog. Training from a young age can help pet parents get a handle on this potential issue.

Are Alaskan Malamutes smart?

The Alaskan Malamute was ranked 95th out of 138 breeds in Stanley Coren’s Intelligence of Dogs.

What that means is that Malamutes need 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command and will obey the first command 50 per cent of the time (or better).

Alaskan Malamutes appear to suffer from boredom or lack of interest rather than low levels of intelligence.

Are Malamutes hard to train?

As you’ve probably gathered already, Alaskan Malamutes aren’t necessarily the easiest dogs to train. However, every breed can present their own unique set of issues.

Like we’ve mentioned above, you’ll want to enroll an Alaskan Malamute puppy in puppy manners and puppy training classes to help give you a head start on training.

The American Kennel Club recommend “firm but loving training should begin in early puppyhood”.

Can Malamutes bark?

Alaskan Malamutes have a reputation for being relatively quiet dogs that don’t bark a lot.

But that’s not to say the working group breed can’t or won’t bark in certain situations.

Why Alaskan Malamutes howl?

Alaskan Malamutes, like other northern breeds such as Siberian Huskies, are associated with a howling sound rather than the more traditional bark.

They’ll produce a wolf-like howl rather than short, sharp barks. A howl could be used to communicate a variety of different emotions to their owners, other dogs or a situation.

Are Alaskan malamutes good for first time owners?

Given their temperament and size, Alaskan Malamutes aren’t the best fit for first-time dog owners.

They’ll require a good amount of training (as well as patience from their pet parent).

Given their sheer power and size, you may find an Alaskan Malamute difficult to handle.

How much exercise do Malamutes need?

Alaskan Malamutes were bred to work rather than race like the Alaskan Husky or Siberian Husky. Their endurance levels are the stuff of legend.

As you can imagine, these athletic, strong dogs will need quite a bit of exercise to deplete their energy levels.

WagWalking suggest around 90 minutes of exercise every day – the length of a soccer match! They suggest racking up at least 10 miles of walking every week.

Some of the activities that Mals will enjoy include hiking, running and swimming.

If you’re unable to give a Malamute sufficient time to exercise on a daily basis, this may not be the breed for you.

Typically, Spitz dogs like Alaskan Malamutes that don’t get enough exercise could resort to destructive behaviors inside the home.

Are Alaskan Malamute hypoallergenic?

A hypoallergenic dog is one that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. The American Kennel Club say there’s no such thing as a 100 per cent hypoallergenic dog but they do recommend 19 breeds that have hypoallergenic qualities. The Alaskan Malamute is not one of these!

Do Alaskan Malamute shed?

Alaskan Malamutes have a double coat that is designed to protect them from the harsh weather conditions that they would have faced in Alaska.

The undercoat is oily and wooly in texture and can grow to two inches in thickness. Their outer coat is coarse and stands off the body.

Alaskan Malamutes shed their coat twice a year, typically at the changing of the seasons. Their waterproof coat will require a lot of maintenance.

Be prepared to brush your Mal at least twice a week if you’re thinking about one of these dogs as a pet.

It’s important to maintain a grooming routine so you can check for any matted hair, which can become a breeding ground for fungus and hot spots that can lead to infection.

The American Kennel Club recommend an undercoat rake during shedding season.

You’ll need to bathe your Alaskan Malamute every six to eight weeks.

Can Alaskan malamutes live in warm weather?

Alaskan Malamutes are adaptable dog that can live in warm weather. Their coats won’t grow as thick in hotter climes.

However, common sense is required from pet owners to make sure their Mal isn’t exposed to hot temperatures, has access to fresh water and is walked during cooler times of the day.

So Alaskan Malamutes can live in India, for example. You’ll just need to ensure that your Mal has access to a cool spot to avoid the midday heat.

Do Malamutes get cold?

Alaskan Malamutes were bred by nomadic tribes people in north eastern region of Asia to pull heavy loads on sleds. So they’re able to withstand cold temperatures.

However, common sense should apply, especially if your Mal has recently swapped a warm climate for a cold climate.

Alaskan Malamute lifespan

Alaskan Malamutes will typically live between 10 and 12 years.

Of course, a Mal, just like any dog, could have longer or shorter lives depending on their diet, environmental conditions and health.

Alaskan Malamute health problems

You should educate yourself on the potential health problems that an Alaskan Malamute could encounter if you’re thinking about getting one of these dogs.

These include but are not limited to health conditions such as:

• Hip dysplasia: Hip dysplasia in dogs is a disease of the hip in which the ball and socket joint is malformed. This malformation means that the ball portion and its socket don’t properly meet one another, resulting in a joint that rubs and grinds instead of sliding smoothly.

• Chondrodysplasia: Chondrodysplasia is abnormal development of a dog’s bone and cartilage.

• Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a clinical condition resulting from a lowered production and release of T4 and T3 hormones by the thyroid gland.

• Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD): vWD is a blood disease caused by a deficiency of von Willebrand Factor (vWF), an adhesive glycoprotein in the blood required for normal platelet binding (i.e., clotting) at the sites of small blood vessel injuries.

Other health conditions to look our for include inherited polyneuropathy, day blindness, ear and dental issues.

How much is a Malamute?

Alaskan Malmautes are large dogs with a big price.

They usually cost between $1000 and $2000 from a reputable Malamute breeder.

There are additional costs that you’ll need to consider, such as vaccinations and vet checks in their first year, yearly boosters, pet insurance and dog food.

These sled dogs have a big appetite so their diet can be quite expensive.

Other potential costs include dog food, pet insurance, grooming, vet trips and much more. You can check out the best pet insurance options in the USA and the UK.

Alaskan Malamute breeders

If you’re thinking about getting an Alaskan Malamute, we recommend contacting a reputable breeder. We don’t advise buying a Mal or any puppy from a pet store or third party breeder.

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America provide a list of breeders that is a good starting point for anyone considering one of these dogs as a pet.

Alaskan Malamute to adopt

You may prefer to give an Alaskan Malamute a forever home rather than buying a puppy.

The Alaskan Malamute Club of American suggest checking out Alaskan Malamute Assistance League or looking for your local state Malamute rescue affiliate.

Alternatively, there are a number of rescue organisation dedicated to rehoming sled dogs such as Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds.

Famous Alaskan Malamute on Instagram

If you’re looking to find out more information about Alaskan Malamutes, you could find some famous Mals on social media.

In our experience, dog owners on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are forthcoming with information.

Here are three Alaskan Malamutes that you can check out on Instagram:

1) Kenzo the Friendly Malamute (@kenzothemalamute)

2) Phil, Niko and Milo (@lifewithmalamutes)

3) The Malamute Of New York City (@themanhattanmalamute)

Anything else to consider?

If you decide that an Alaskan Malamute is the right dog for you, don’t forget to consider both the pet insurance costs and future vet bills. Like other breeds, Mals come with their own unique set of health problems.

You may want to consider rescuing an Alaskan Malamute rather than buying a puppy. Typically, northern breeds and Spitz breeds are given up due to some of the challenges that come with these type of dogs.

In conclusion

Alaskan Malamute sled dog on the grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Alaskan Malamute sled dog on the grass (Photo: Adobe Stock)

So there you have it, we’ve reached the end of our Alaskan Malamute feature.

These Spitz dogs are powerful canines bred to pull heavy loads over long distances as opposed to racing dogs.

They’re affectionate and friendly but Malamutes can prove challenging to train due to their independent mindset.

Mals will cost between $1000 and $2000 initially before you consider the cost of food, insurance and vet bills.

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