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Alaskan Malamute

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The Alaskan Malamute is a large purebred dog and is one of the oldest purebred dogs who still look much like they did from the start. It is a powerful dog with lots of stamina and because of its wolf like looks is often used to play wolves in movies or on TV, but in fact they are not part wolf, they are all dog. He was bred to help hunt polar bear and seal as well as pull sleds with heavy loads over a long distance. Now more a companion dog it does well at weight pulling, obedience competitions, skijoring, sled racing, carting and search and rescue.

Here is the Alaskan Malamute at a Glance
Name Alaskan Malamute
Other Names None
Nicknames Maly, Mal, Mally, Malamute
Origin United States (Alaska)
Average size Large
Average weight 75 to 100 pounds
Average height 23 to 25 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Harsh, rough outer coat, soft inner
Hypoallergenic No
Color Grey, black, sable, red, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 54th by the AKC
Intelligence Fairly intelligent though it can be mistakenly thought of as less so
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good in warm or hot climates
Tolerance to cold Excellent – great in even extreme freezing conditions
Shedding Very high – sheds often and has large blow outs
Drooling Low – not a dog known to slobber
Obesity Average – just keep an eye on what it eats and that it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Daily brushing needed
Barking Very vocal and can howl too
Exercise needs Very high – will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation
Trainability Moderately easy
Friendliness Very good – social dog
Good first dog Low – needs to have experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate – needs socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization – can have high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent – approachable
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Generally quite healthy but can be prone to some issues including eye problems, inherited polyneuropathy, hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism
Medical expenses $485 a year for basics and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year at least for toys, license, basic training and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1200
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 15 Maimings: 5 Child Victims: 12 Deaths: 6

The Alaskan Malamute's Beginnings

The Alaskan Malamute's ancestors came across from Siberia to Alaska with native people several thousand years ago. The Mahlemut tribe settled in the in the north of the Seward Peninsula and it is with them that the Malamute was developed. They needed dogs who were strong enough and had the endurance for pulling sleds packed with heavy loads, and who could help with hunting seal and if needed polar bear.

The natives placed a lot of value on the dogs. When in the late 19th century the gold rush brought in lots of people and dogs to Alaska, many native dogs became mixed and the purebreds were lost. This was not the case though for the Malamute, because it was fairly isolated up north it was able to survive.

A kennel was established by Walden in New Hampshire and that went on to provide dogs to the Byrd Antarctic 1930s expeditions. There were a couple of different strains being bred in the early 1900s. Two well known ones are the Kotzebue strain and the M'Loot strain. The latter were used during world war one and two. In 1935 the Alaskan Malamute Club of America was started and the AKC recognized the breed that year too.

New Lease on Life

During the second world war there was a high demand for sled dogs though sadly many died after serving. The breed almost disappeared with an estimated 30 dogs left in 1947. Thankfully it was rescued by combining lines. All Malamutes today can trace their lines back to those dogs in the 1940s. In 2010 it was made Alaska's official state dog. Today it is ranked 54th most popular registered dog breed by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

It is a large dog weighing 75 to 100 pounds and standing 23 to 25 inches tall. It has a double coat, the undercoat is about 2 inches deep and is soft, and the outer coat is about an inch long, coarse, thick and rough. The coat length is a little longer around the rump, back, neck and shoulders. Common colors are greys, sable, red, black and white.

It has a tail with a plume and some are cork screw to cover their face and keep it warm in extreme cold temperatures. Its ears are erect and small, its eyes are brown and almond shaped. It has a powerful body, compact, strong and well built. It has snowshoe type large feet better for walking on the snow.

The Inner Alaskan Malamute


Mals are very social and friendly and outgoing dogs. Everyone is a friend, even strangers so they are are not great watchdogs. Being a pack dog they will need to spend a lot of time with the family and be a part of things. It is very playful and very loyal. It has a lot of affection to give but can have an independent side and can also be aggressive.

For those reasons and its need to be kept mental and physically active it needs experienced owners and socialization and training are very important. While it is not a constant barker, it will bark and it does also howl and makes a woo woo sound characteristic to this breed. While some mistakenly think this is at best a dog of average intelligence in fact it is quite clever.


It is resourceful and with the right care can be mellow and calm. However without its needs being met it can be very destructive, hard to control and more aggressive. It needs a firm pack leader and males especially can be more dominant. It can be challenging to live with if you are less than confident and experienced with this breed. It is known to chew threw dry wall, destroy sofas and dig up entire yards when it is bored.

Living with a Alaskan Malamute

What will training look like?

The Mal is moderate to train for people with experience and a lot harder for those without it as it is independent, it does not like a lot of repetition and it will try to be the dominant one. Make sure you are firm and consistently the one in charge. As a pack animal it is vital it knows where it comes in the pecking order. This means if there are more people in the home than just you they too need to be a part of the process. Keep sessions interesting and engaging for it and avoid using too much repetition. It can be stubborn so be ready for that.

A good approach is to use every day activities as part of your approach to training sessions. Teach it how to wait before it gets to eat, teach it to to sit when it comes in from outside. When it wants something have it obey you first. Early socialization too will be of high importance for this breed.

How active is the Alaskan Malamute ?

The Malamute comes from being a hard working dog with a lot of stamina and endurance. It therefore needs a lot of physical activity and opportunities for mental challenge. It needs committed owners who enjoy being active daily and will not have issues with going out for two long walks a day, and then have it come along for hikes, jogging, opportunities to run off leash and so on. It is vital it gets to wear itself out, it can become bored and very destructive otherwise.

It does like to dig so give it a place in the yard where this is allowed. It is not a dog suited to apartment living, it needs room and it needs that yard. That yard should have a high fence as well as a buried base as it can jump high and it can dig its way out! It does well in a lot of doggy sports like weight pulling, skijoring, sledding, canicross, bikejoring and carting.

Caring for the Alaskan Malamute

Grooming needs

If you are interested in having an Alaskan Malamute be prepared for a lot of shedding which means a lot of vacuuming to do and a lot of brushing. Daily brushing will help keep up with the loose hair, and also remove some debris and get the healthy oils moving around the coat. As well as frequent shedding it also has a couple of blow outs a year where it falls out in clumps. It is quite important to only give it a bath as it really needs one to protect the natural oils in its skin.

On the plus side this breed likes to be clean, they are practically odorless and are cat like in their own need to be clean. Its teeth needs to be brushed at least two to three times a week, the ears should be checked for infection and wiped clean once a week and its nails clipped when they get too long. Take care with the latter though, dog's nails should not be cut too low down.

Feeding Time

Feed it at least 3 to 5 cups of a good quality dry dog food split into at least two meals a day. How much it needs exactly will depend on its size, age, metabolism and level of activity. Mals actually need less food than you might think but will happily gulp down whatever you give it so can easily overeat and gain too much weight. This also makes it at risk of problems with bloat.


Alaskan Malamute with children and other animals

The Mally is actually quite good with children with socialization and it does help if raised with them. However it is energetic and large so can be too much for young children. Make sure then if there are young children that they are supervised and also teach the children how to properly touch and play nicely with the dog.

With socialization and training it can learn to get along with other dogs but it will have dominance issues with them, especially when it is the same sex, male with male and female with female. When this dog gets aggressive the fights can get very serious. With other animals it tends to have a high prey drive so will want to chase small animals like cats unless it has been raised with them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Alaskan Malamutes live for 12 to 15 years. It is a breed that can tolerate very cold temperatures and living outdoors if it has too but prefers to be indoors and part of the pack. It does not do well though in warm or hot climates and can overheat if not given opportunities to cool down and plenty of fresh water. In general it is a healthy dog but it can be prone to issues such as eye problems, joint dysplasia, hypothyroidism, Von Willebrands, Chondrodysplasia, day blindness, inherited polyneuropathy and cancer.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports over the last 34 years of dog attacks against people in Canada and the US it can be found to be involved in 15 attacks. 5 of those were maimings, where the victims were left with permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb. 12 of the 15 victims were children and sadly 6 of the 15 did die.

While some dogs do tend to be more aggressive than others, dog attacks really are not a common problem, 15 attacks over 34 years averages at just 1 attack every 2 years. The Mal ranks in the top 20% of dog attacks against people but with the right socialization, training and care it is not a dog to be worried about more than any other dog.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Alaskan Malamute from a good breeder of pet quality standards is going to cost around $1200, up to $2000. For something of AKC standard or show standards from top breeders you can expect to pay $3000 to $5000. Sadly a lot of people are attracted by its wolfish looks and then when they realize it is a lot of work to handle they either abandon it or leave it at a shelter. If you are willing to re-home a dog, likely to be adult rather than puppy age you can pay less, something around $200 to $300. Backyard breeders might be more affordable but these are not places to fund and you have no guarantees on health and lines.


When you have your puppy you will need to have it examined by a vet, have blood tests done, dewormed, vaccinated, micro chipped and spayed or neutered. You will also need a crate, bowls, bedding, leash and collar for it. These initial costs come to about $450.

There are also annual costs to consider. Food and treats for a Mal are going to be at least $270 a year. Basic medical needs like vaccinations, tick and flea prevention, pet insurance and check ups come to another $485 a year. Other costs like license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous things are about $245 a year. This is an annual cost for the Malamute of $1000.


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There is a lot to prepare for when considering whether the Mal is the dog for you. It makes some interesting vocal noises, it will garbage and counter surf for food, dig up your yard, leave hair everywhere and take a lot of time with its exercise needs. It does have a stubborn nature and it needs to be kept mentally challenged too. If you are ready for that this dog will be extremely loyal, loving, friendly and will certainly keep you busy! With it you have years of energy and playfulness to enjoy.

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