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
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.