Other names: Mal, Mally
The Alaskan Malamute was conceived for the hauling of heavy sleds, but the latter have since become an obsolete tool in the modern world: contemporary sled dog competitions are above all else a test of speed, which is better suited to more agile and flexible dogs (such as the Malamute’s nordic cousin, the Siberian Husky). Overtime, the Alaskan Malamute has therefore simply become a companion and show dog. Certain individuals- but by no means all of them- have a good watchdog capacity, but an authentic Malamute should never be vicious. The Malamute is extremely gentle and affectionate towards his family.
Key facts about the Alaskan Malamute
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Origins and history
Originally from the Alaskan High North, he was bred by the Mahlemut people, where he gets his name from. The Mahlemut used to hunt for caribous- animals that have become extinct shortly prior to the gold rush, leaving the people without resources. The first Americans who arrived in the High North only found a few specimens of this breed. Luckily, they brought them back to the United States and further developed the breed as we know it today. The FCI officially recognised the breed in 1963.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 1 : Nordic Sledge Dogs
Physical characteristics of the Alaskan Malamute
Female : Between 23 and 25 in
Male : Between 23 and 25 in
Female : Between 75 and 84 lb
Male : Between 75 and 84 lb
All colours ranging from grey to black are admissible, but always with some white patching on the paws, legs, and lower body. The head can be of a variety of masks, and they should always be symmetrical.
Type of coat
The coat is medium-long.
The coat is thick and coarse, with an abundant undercoat.
The eyes are brown, and should be as dark as possible. Blue eyes are considered a defect.
The Alaskan Malamute is a classical nordic dog, with pronounced characteristics typical of Spitz dogs. He has a strong and compact frame, yet not overly stocky; straight and powerful limbs; a brush-like tail, carried over the back like a "waving plume", but never actually touching the back. The head is adorned by upright ears, quite far apart and directed towards the front. The muzzle is elongated but not pointy. The almond-shaped eyes have a typical nordic expression and are obliquely set. Even if he resembles the Husky in many aspects, the Malamute is mightier, more big-boned, and stubborn. The Siberian Husky is faster and more slender, while the Malamute is more enduring and can haul heavier freight for longer.
Do note that there also exists the Alaskan Giant Malamute, that can weigh up to 187 pounds for males, and 154 pounds for females. The latter is the result of a cross between the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, the Newfoundland, and the Saint Bernard. This particular variety is sooner considered to be a large companion dog rather than a sled dog, since the crossing has distanced it from the ‘nordic’ aspect of the authentic Malamute.
Good to know
During the gold rush, these dogs were in extremely high demand, as the hopeful prospectors used them to transport enormous quantities of food and supplies over the mountain tops.
The Alaskan Malamutes have been used during the Second World War, to sniff out mines, carry firearms and serve as search and rescue dogs.
With regards to the Alaskan Giant Malamute, it was considered a separate breed in its own right and not a ‘kind of malamute’. He is, however, considered to be an outsized dog in Europe and is therefore rarely seen there. He is more often taken into account and bred in Canada and the United States.
The Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate dog, very loyal to his social group, even if he has a very proud side which might make him seem distant at times.
If he is invited to play, this nordic dog will rarely refuse and is rather playful, especially when still a pup. Once an adult, this might not always be his favorite activity.
Although calm, the Alaskan Malamute has a very determined personality. He is both strong and tranquil at the same time- ‘quiet strength’ is what one might most appropriately use to describe him.
He demonstrates a variety of skills at work- in day-to-day life, his intelligence mostly shines through the many tricks and deceptions he will pull out of his sleeve to avoid carrying out his master’s orders.
Like many primitive dogs (breeds that haven’t interfered much with men), the predatory instinct is still very present in the Alaskan Malamute. He was in fact originally employed as both a sled and hunting dog.
Currently, however, the Alaskan Malamute is not used by hunters as he can tend not to be the best of assistants. He prefers to hunt for himself, in fact, rather than for humans.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Alaskan Malamute is a very sociable dog that readily welcomes all guests, even those he does not yet know. Only those dogs that have not been properly socialised from a young age tend to be reserved and wary towards strangers.
Like all nordic dogs, the Alaskan Malamute is independent and resourceful. Relatively unmodified by Man, this breed retains a certain autonomy which, all the while, doesn’t stop it from being very loyal to his social group.
Behaviour of the Alaskan Malamute
Despite his undeniable independence, this dog does not enjoy loneliness in the least, in part because of the nordic breed’s strong need for a pack. These particular dogs do indeed need to feel surrounded by their kin in order to fully feel at ease.
Easy to train / obedience
On account of his independent character and his nordic roots, this dog can tend to be difficult to train if the training process does not start as soon as he integrates the home.
Brutality should not be applied in any shape or form, at risk of forever compromising the master-dog relationship. A certain dose of rigor is necessary however, in order to consolidate mutual respect.
These dogs are, generally speaking, not the top of their class in terms of obedience, it would therefore be futile to try and turn them into circus monkeys. The basics of discipline (hailing, walking on a leash, holding position) will be enough to forge a functional life with this dog.
The intelligence and joviality of this dog make training sessions pleasant, though they must be held regularly, and carried out in a coherent, fair, and positive manner.
The Alaskan Malamute is practically incapable of barking, since it sooner communicates the way his wolf ancestors do- by howling. It is usually when he is alone and bored that he lets himself be heard.
Tendency to run away
If resides outside most of the time, the garden must be properly enclosed since the Alaskan Malamute has a tireless appetite for freedom. In combination with his independence and strong predatory instinct, this dog will often venture out in total autonomy whenever he gets the opportunity.
Since he generally doesn’t tolerate loneliness and isolation well, the Alaskan Malamute can become very destructive, and especially so if he is left alone in a confined space, like a flat.
Greedy / Gluttony
Perhaps not a voracious eater, the Malamute is still very keen on snacks which could embellish training sessions. It is a very good way of motivating this occasionally pig-headed dog.
His innate friendliness towards Man makes him a rather slim watchdog. However, by virtue of his imposing appearance alone, he could be successful in dissuading intruders oblivious of the breed’s traits, thereby potentially protecting the household. This should never be his primary function though.
Other than that, if he feels that his social group is in danger, inasmuch as he will never go against his nature and attack, he will attempt in every possible way to help and rescue them.
Despite his good nature, cheerfulness, and other great qualities, the Alaskan Malamute cannot be placed in everybody’s hands. In fact, rarely still and at times very stubborn, if he feels that his master is not fully in control, he will quickly resort to doing only as he pleases.
With a dog of this size, mistakes are not really permissible, even if aggressivity is not part of his default temperament. This nordic dog is best suited to experienced, active and, above all else, available owners, who will be able to meet all of his needs.
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Alaskan Malamute in a flat
Even if he could adapt to life in an urban environment, in a flat, and even if his owners were available enough to take him out several times a day and have him practice canine sports regularly, his ideal environment would still remain the countryside.
His robustness allows him to reside outdoors, even in the most challenging weather conditions. A house with a garden would be a perfect solution for him.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Being the biggest and strongest of sled dogs, the Alaskan Malamute requires a lot of exercise to remain fully content, be it physically or psychologically.
If he lives in the city, basic walks around the neighbourhood will not suffice. Neither will staying out in the garden all day.
Though not particularly submissive, he can practice agility sports, musical freestyle and, above all else, traction sports (canicross, dog scootering, bikejoring, etc.). He will also be very enthusiastic in all disciplines involving tracking or trailing.
Be sure, to have him start with sports only once he is a fully grown dog, to avoid any complications during the dog’s physical development, which is something to be mindful of for all dogs of this size.
Travelling / easy to transport
The massive size of this dog renders travel somewhat difficult, and requires being well organised on the one hand, and having properly trained and socialised the dog on the other hand.
Alaskan Malamute and cats
Unfortunately, cohabitating with small pets, such as cats, is challenging for this dog, given his very pronounced hunting instinct.
Alaskan Malamute and dogs
On paper, the Alaskan Malamute is meant to be sociable with his fellow canines, owing to his origins as a sled and therefore pack dog.
In practice, however, having two dogs of the same sex get along tends to be tricky, especially if they haven’t grown up together. For strong-headed dogs, it is advised to sterilise them before they reach puberty in order to minimise damage and prevent potential conflicts.
Alaskan Malamute and children
This dog is patient with children, even if he is not necessarily always keen on playing with them. If he is accustomed to living with them, no major issues should arise, but it is necessary to keep an eye on the little ones as they can tend to inadvertently be careless with the dog.
Alaskan Malamute and the elderly
The strength, strong personality, and many expenditure needs this dog has does not make him compatible at all with sedentary life.
The price of an Alaskan Malamute varies depending on its origins, age, and gender. You have to count an average of £685 for dogs registered at the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog this size, you have to estimate an average of £55 per month.
Naturally clean, this primitive dog does not require bathing. On the flipside, however, he does require many brushes (two a week, on average) in order to preserve the aesthetic and protective properties of his beautiful, impressive coat.
Since this dog has a very abundant coat, he does experience significant hair loss during moulting seasons. Daily brushes must therefore be carried out to eliminate as much residual dead hairs as possible.
Nutrition of the Alaskan Malamute
This primitive dog is better off with a human diet, that is to say homemade meals made of raw meat, carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables. The quality and quantity should be proportional to the dog’s physical activity, age and weight.
It is advised to validate the menus by a vet in order to avoid either under or over-feeding the dog. Moreover, the development of the Alaskan Malamute pup must be supervised since nutrition often determines the future state of bone structure in dogs of this size.
Two meals a day can be provided: a light one in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening to encourage better digestion and prevent the dog from ingesting too much in one go.
Health of the Alaskan Malamute
Life expectancy is estimated at 13 years.
Strong / robust
The Alaskan Malamute is a primitive, extremely robust dog.
Even if he sheds a big part of his heavy undercoat in the summer, the Alaskan Malamute does not tolerate heat well. You must therefore always make sure that he has fresh water at his disposal, and a cool spot in the shade to retreat to.
His thick undercoat and topcoat allow him to live in the most challenging of weather conditions without a problem.
Tendency to put on weight
Very active and athletic, there is no reason for this primitive dog to gain weight if he is well nourished and gets the appropriate amount of exercise.
- Hip dysplasia
- Lipoma (benign tumor of the fatty tissues)
- Achondroplasia (dwarfism, malformation of the long bones)
- Alopecia X (skin condition)
- Polyneuropathy (neurological condition)