Every owner’s ultimate guide to the Alaskan Malamute breed

Affectionately called Mals, the Alaskan Malamute is an imposing breed and is the largest spitz-type Arctic canine.

They have wolf-like features and are heavy-duty working dogs made to go the distance. But does the family-oriented Malamute belong in your pack? Keep scrolling giaand find out.

Meet the Alaskan Malamute

History: Where are Alaskan Malamutes from?

Being one of the oldest dog breeds, it’s believed that Alaskan Malamutes originated from the Paleolithic age. That’s at least 10,000 years ago!

Their name is derivative of a nomadic Inuit tribe called “Mahlemiut.” They developed the breed to hunt seals and polar bears, aside from being sled dogs meant to pull heavy cargo.

They were also a warm blanket at night.

Despite their size, this loyal and gentle fido live closely with their human families. Unfortunately, they almost went extinct during the gold rush of 1896.

Dog racing was in vogue, and Alaskan Malamutes were crossed with other breeds to create a faster canine. This led to diluting the Malamute bloodline.

Alaskan Malamutes pulling a sleigh

The breed was saved by a man named Arthur Walden, who started developing Kotzebue Malamutes. This specific strain was passed to a Mrs. Ava Seely, and then two other strains appeared – the M’Loot and Hinman.

During World War II, Mals were employed to haul freight and used in search-and-rescue. Due to political conflict during an expedition to Antarctica, those dogs were destroyed.

Following their destruction, the American Kennel Club (AKC) – which only recognized the “Kotzebue” strain up to that point – reopened registrations for all three strains.

Malamutes have proved its resilience and the test of time. Today, all Mals are descended from Ch Toro of Bras Coupe, a unification of all three strains.

What does an Alaskan Malamute look like?

Most of the time, Malamutes are often mistaken as its Siberian Husky cousin, but they’re different breeds.

As per AKC’s breed standard, Alaskan Malamutes are well-muscled and deep-chested dogs with a proud stance. On their broad head are triangular ears and a large, bulky muzzle.

If you’re wondering if they can also have blue eyes, it’s considered a “disqualifying fault.” Their almond-shaped eyes should be brown or darker.

This is something to keep in mind if you’re planning to get a Mal for dog shows.

At the end of their body is a furry tail that looks like a waving plume.

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The average height & weight of an Alaskan Malamute

Giant Alaskan Malamute dogWhen you see a full-grown Malamute standing next to a person, it’s enough to make anyone feel intimidated. Like with other breeds, this pooch is sexually dimorphic – females are slightly smaller than males.

Standard-sized Malamutes stand between 23 and 25 inches (58 and 63.5 cm) at the shoulder and weigh 75 to 85 pounds (34 to 39 kg).

They also come in a bigger size. You may have seen a Giant Alaskan Malamute on Facebook or Instagram, but they can grow up to 35 inches (89 cm) with a weight of over 190 pounds (86 kg).

How about Miniature Alaskan Malamutes? Alaskan Klee Kais have been marketed as mini versions, but they’re actually a mix of two different Huskies.

Whether you go for the standard or giant Malamute, this doggo wouldn’t be happy with apartments. They should live in a spacious home where they can work and play freely.

Coat & Color: Are Alaskan Malamutes hypoallergenic?

No, they’re not allergy-friendly. Mals shed moderately all-year-round and blow their coats seasonally.

They have a double coat made up of a thick and excessively long topcoat, and a wooly, water repellant undercoat that’s described as oily.

Alaskan Malamutes have glamorous fur that comes in various colors and combinations of light gray with black, red, and sable shades, with white face markings. For conformation events, the only solid color allowed is white.

Don’t miss: What you need to know about the rare White Malamute

Are Alaskan Malamutes good family dogs?

Don’t let this canine’s traits of being powerful and durable scare you. Many owners of this purebred will tell you that it’s an excellent pet to have for families with experience taking care of a large dog.

Also, please take into consideration they’re intelligence and wolf ancestry. So they’ll need to be with humans who have a firm but loving hand to train them.

One that they can consider as the alpha of the pack.

Are Alaskan Malamutes dangerous?

Any pet that has a hunting background tends to be unpredictable or even aggressive. But so far, proper training and early socialization seem to solve this issue.

The most that they can be is willful.

Surprisingly, you can’t depend on an Alaskan Malamute to be a guard dog because they’re very friendly.

Some people consider Alaskan Malamute to be gentle giants who can even foster kittens. Watch this video at how Niko and Phil interact with Milo, the kitten.

They still have a naturally high prey drive, so make sure to ALWAYS supervise interactions between your fur buddy with other dogs, smaller pets, and especially with kids.

Mals generally prefer human companionship to furry playmates, making them better for a one-pet household where they can monopolize all the attention.

If you let your pet entertain herself, ensure that your home is safely enclosed with a fence that’s 6 feet tall and buried to the ground.

Alaskan Malamutes are diggers and can climb very well. It’s an instinct that’s hard-wired into them, so you have to live with the fact that you can train this behavior out of them.

What you can do is teach your pup to dig in a designated spot.

Do Alaskan Malamutes bark a lot?

If you’re planning to get your own Alaskan Malamute, it’s best to know that they’re like wolves who prefer to talk or be vocal by howling, not much on the barking.

Be prepared for howling sessions as anything can set them off – sirens, other dogs barking, or when simply talking to you.

To give you an idea of what that will be like, take a look at this video of Cedar howling with his little human friend.

It would be best if you didn’t leave this breed alone. They don’t relish spending time on their own for half a day, especially for a whole day, or else, they’ll become destructive.

We recommend them to households where there will always be someone to accompany them.

Taking care of your Alaskan Malamute

Besides grooming, exercise, and diet, you should know that Alaskan Malamutes are high maintenance and can’t live comfortably in a warm place.

Because they’re bred to stand freezing weather, and they have a dense coat, anything above 80 degrees (26.6 ℃) is considered too hot for them.

They’re indoor pets and would even require an air-conditioned home. It’s best to avoid the sun and have access to clean water at all times.

An Alaskan Malamute’s grooming needs

Alaskan Malamute coat

Usually, Mals have to be brushed two to three times a week, but since they molt biannually – spring and autumn – brushing should be done daily using a slicker brush or an undercoat rake to minimize shedding.

Malamutes that join conformation events are bathed weekly, but as pets, it doesn’t have to be done often. If you’re wondering whether Malamutes stink, they don’t, thanks to their special odorless, self-cleaning coat.

If you live in a cold or clean environment, bathing your dog one to two times a year is enough.

You can also wash your fur buddy when necessary, like when she gets dirty while working or playing, but try to stretch it out to 6 to 8 weeks apart to prevent her coat from drying.

Teeth brushing should be done thrice a week, while ears should be checked weekly for mites and signs of infection.

Clip her nails regularly to keep it from wearing down and cracking, which is painful for the dog.

Start these grooming routines regularly so your Mal pup will get used to it. You wouldn’t want to be wrestling a big dog to get a hold of her paws or brush her teeth.

Diet: What do Alaskan Malamutes eat?

An Alaskan Malamute eating a bone in the snow

The amount and kind of dog food you feed your pet should be based on your pet’s weight, age, metabolism, and health.

High-quality dry kibbles are an excellent option, but you can also try a raw diet. The catch – it’s expensive, complex to prepare, and time-consuming.

You should also know which human foods are safe and unsafe for canines.

Mals are known as “easy feeders” and can survive on very little. About 2 cups of dog food should do, but they probably need less than what you’re offering, so try to cut down on treats, avoid overfeeding, and divide meals into two servings.

Dealing with your Malamute’s zoomies

They have as much energy as their size, which means they’ll need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Aim for at least 1 ½ to 2 hours of exercise a day.

But if you have an Alaskan Malamute puppy, don’t overdo in her first two years of life. Allow her body to mature, especially her bones before you take her running or hiking.

This can also prevent illnesses such as dysplasia.

If you want to try different activities that are good for your fur baby, go swimming. It has a low impact on her young body and helps get shedding under control.

Do you need someone to help you with tasks? Malamutes love having a purpose! Not only will they be happy sledding or skijoring, but also doing a job.

Health: How long does an Alaskan Malamute live?

Alaskan Malamute in the snow

Malamutes are sturdy dogs that have an average life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. A good thing about pedigree lines is that they have an established record of what they’re predisposed to.

This knowledge can help you take preventative measures.

It’s quite an extensive list, but it doesn’t mean that your Mal will be guaranteed to develop one or more of these disorders.

It will always depend on the breeding and the kind of care their owners give them.

Dental health and oral problems

Alaskan Malamutes have a higher chance of developing decay along their teeth and gums, so oral hygiene is vital.

Infection can cause secondary problems to their heart, liver, kidney, and joints. It can even shorten their life by 1 to 3 years.

They’re also prone to puppy teeth retention – when puppy teeth don’t fall out. Depending on the severity, it might need to be removed.

Infectious diseases

Something about this breed makes it susceptible to infectious and fatal diseases like parvo, rabies, and distemper.

As long as you’re up to date with her shots, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Skin problems

Alopecia X is a skin disease that only affects dogs with hair loss – it isn’t itchy or painful. It’s caused by a malfunctioning hormone gland that can easily be fixed with sterilization.

Any canine who is diagnosed with this condition shouldn’t be bred.

Zinc-responsive dermatosis can cause your Mal’s coat to look poorly due to zinc deficiency and is treated with zinc supplements.

Mange is similar to eczema, but it’s a condition exclusive to dogs. You will notice dry, scaly patches and can develop secondary infections, which will itch.

Your dog might grow out of it or remain a lifelong problem.

Obesity

Being overweight is a common concern with many large breed dogs, which can lead to joint problems. This can easily be dealt with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle.

Refrain from feeding your pet table scraps. Not only is this unhealthy, but it will also encourage undesirable behaviors like begging.

Hip Dysplasia

Elbow and hip dysplasia is another illness that most large breeds have. It can also be caused due to growing too quickly.

That’s why we recommend that pups stick with mild yet fun activities to avoid straining their joints before they’re fully developed.

No matter the age, obesity can exacerbate the symptoms like struggling to walk. Early detection is better because, in some cases, surgery might be needed.

Dwarfism

This genetic defect is caused by abnormal growth, and since it can be inherited, most professionals don’t recommend them from being bred.

Malamutes with dwarfism will be shorter than expected. Although they don’t experience any pain, they will look deformed.

Bloat

Barrel-chested dogs like Alaskan Malamutes are predisposed to bloat or stomach twist. This can be fatal because your dog cannot burp out excess air.

If you see your pooch retching with nothing coming up, or in a prayer position for an extended period, bring her to the vet immediately. Surgery is likely needed.

Peripheral Neuropathy

This nerve disorder is fatal to dogs, and those who survive it often require assistive devices to lead normal lives. It’s difficult to diagnose as symptoms like weakness, poor reflexes, loss of balance, usually manifest when the pup’s around eight weeks old.

Watch out for Polyneuropathy, as well. It results in clumsiness that can be mild to severe, but never fatal.

Hypothyroidism

If you can’t find an explanation of why your dog’s gaining weight or her coat is thinning, it might be a thyroid problem that causes hormonal imbalance.

Behavioral issues like aggression or fearfulness can sometimes manifest.

Your trusted vet will be able to give your pet a pill to get through it.

Eye disorders

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and cataracts are also common in Alaskan Malamutes. While the latter can be fixed with surgery, PRA is non-reversible and will cause blindness.

Reputable breeders make sure that their breeding stock goes through genetic testing for PRA to make sure they’re clear of this disease.

Another common eye disorder is called VKH Syndrome. Made worse by sunlight, one of its symptoms is turning the black pigmentation on your Mal into pink.

It can be painful and can cause blindness.

There’s also day blindness or Hemeralopia. It’s characterized by your pet’s reluctance to go into the sun and having problems only during the day. This often manifests around the age of eight weeks.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Seizures are usually inherited and manifests between the age of six months and three years.

If your Malamute shows signs of a seizure, start treatment as soon as possible to keep it under control.

Diabetes

Diabetic dogs need regular insulin injections as their bodies cannot metabolize the sugar in their blood.

Schedule a visit to the vet if you notice your Malamute eating, drinking, and urinating more frequently, coupled with weight loss.

Cancer

Mals have quite a long lifespan, and this health issue is common in older dogs, so the chances of this breed contracting cancer are slightly higher.

Thanks to technology, it’s usually treatable with surgery or chemotherapy.

Hemophilia

This blood disorder causes abnormal clotting in dogs, and Malamutes are often diagnosed with it when they get an injury.

Some only find out that their pet has hemophilia before going to surgery, as vets will have to do a test before going through with the procedure.

Canines who suffer from this condition shouldn’t be bred as it can be passed through genetically.

Heart problems

One more thing that affects larger dogs is heart diseases. Keep your Mal in check by letting her have an annual test.

How much does an Alaskan Malamute cost?

cute Alaskan Malamute puppies

An Alaskan Malamute puppy can cost anywhere between $2,200 and $6,500. The price depends on the parents’ lineage, the breeder’s location and popularity, and the number of available pups.

You can expect 6 to 8 puppies in a litter, but there have been records of up to 12 pups.

Those who come from a line of show dogs are more expensive than those bred from Malamute pets and working canines.

Before paying for a puppy or signing a contract, get to meet its parents and littermates first. This will give you an idea of the puppy’s temperament and looks.

You can also ask the breeder for the dogs’ medical records and other essential documents to ensure that they’re healthy from breeding up to when the pups are born.

It would be best if you also asked whether they would take the puppy back if you’re unable to care for it anymore. A reputable breeder will be more than happy to offer their pups a forever home.

Alaskan Malamute breeders & kennels

If you feel like you’re ready to buy your very own Alaskan Malamute puppy, here are a few websites that have available Mals for sale.

  1. Northern Lites Alaskan Malamutes (Burton, OH)
  2. Ghost Dance Alaskan Malamutes (Alpine, TX)
  3. Illusion Malamutes (Palmyra, MI)
  4. Kaviak Malamutes (Basehor, KS)

We can’t vouch for these puppy sellers, but we advise you to do your research and prepare a questionnaire to be sure that you’re dealing with a responsible breeder. While you’re online, you can also check out Mals at AKC’s Marketplace.

Alaskan Malamute dogs to adopt

Most of the time, crossbreeds end up in shelters, but even purebreds get unfortunate.

Owners have different reasons, what’s sad is others get dogs like Malamutes because they thought it would be cool to have a wolf-like dog, yet they’re not ready to handle and own this kind of breed.

That’s why we highly recommend adoption for anyone looking for a pet. Especially if you’re a seasoned dog owner who’s aware of what this breed is like, you can give abandoned fur angels a second chance.

Take a look at these rescue sites for Mals. Some of them even cater to Alaskan Malamute mixes that you might find cute and with a personality that fits your lifestyle:

  1. Moonsong Malamute Rescue (Boise, ID)
  2. Illinois Alaskan Malamute Rescue Association (Mt. Prospect, IL)
  3. Alaskan Malamute Rescue of North Carolina (Creedmoor, NC)
  4. Chesapeake Area Alaskan Malamute Protection (Berryville, VA)

Facts & Highlights about the Alaskan Malamute

  • Alaskan Malamutes are in the top 10 strongest dog breeds. They can pull loads up to 3,300 lbs (1,500 kilograms).
  • Though they’re slower than other sled dogs, Malamutes can travel longer distances because of their strength and stamina.
  • The Malamute breed is Alaska’s official state dog.

Breaking down the Pros & Cons of Alaskan Malamutes

Young Alaskan Malamute dog in Thailand

If you’re a first-time dog owner, you might find the Alaskan Malamute breed to be needy and challenging to handle.

That’s why we recommend them for experienced owners and families who are used to having a large dog as a pet.

Furthermore, they have thick coats and are bred for cold environments, so they won’t be able to stand hot weather conditions. If you live in a tropical country, this could mean high electricity bills.

Aside from having high energy levels and rigorous grooming needs, any Alaskan Malamute who’s socialized early and appropriately trained, they’re hard-working dogs who are loyal cuddle bears.

What do you think about this breed? Any story you want to share about your Mal? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment below.

Further Reading: Alaskan Malamute Mixes

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