Often confused with the Siberian husky, the Alaskan malamute is a large breed of domestic dog and also one of the oldest Arctic sled canines. They are heavy boned, with a deep chest, and powerful shoulders, which make them ideal for working in rough, cold environments. On top of that, they are quite friendly and affectionate and make great companions.
The Alaskan malamute possesses great endurance and strength. Even though they are not built to race, they are still able to carry heavy loads over long distances, demonstrating a highly athletic ability and are capable of enjoying weight-pulling, jogging, swimming, sledding, and backpacking with their owners.
History of the Alaskan Malamute
The ancestry of the Alaskan malamute goes back to Siberia, from where they migrated to Alaska with the natives several thousand of years ago. The tribe of Mahlemut settled in the northern Seward Peninsula along with the Malamutes. The people were in need of dogs that were strong and enduring for the purpose of pulling heavily loaded sleds and also hunting seals and polar bear.
The natives valued these dogs highly. In the 19th century, Alaska experienced an influx of people and dogs, where many original dogs became mixed and the native purebreds were lost. However, the Malamute was not one of them since they were pretty aloof in the north and thus were able to survive.
A kennel was founded by Walden in New Hampshire, which started to offer dogs to the Byrd Antarctic expeditions in the 1930s. In 1935, the Alaskan Malamute Club of America was established and the breed was also recognized by the AKC.
The Alaskan malamute is a big dog weighing anywhere from 75 to 100 pounds and standing 23 to 25 inches tall. He has a double coat, with an undercoat that is soft and measures up to 2” deep, and an outer coat that is thick, rough, coarse, and 1” long. The length of the coat is a little longer near the back, rump, shoulders, and neck. Common coat colors include gray, black, sable, and white.
His tail is thick and has a plume, which helps him cover his face and keep it warm during extreme cold. His eyes are almond shaped and brown, and the ears are small and erect. He also has a compact yet powerful body, which is strong and well-built.
Malamutes are very friendly and social dogs that love to hang outdoors. They are highly approachable, which makes them good with strangers. Since they make friends easily, Mals do not make good watchdogs. Being a pack dog, they need to spend quite a lot of time with their family and be part of different activities. Even though they are very loyal and playful, Alaskan Malamutes do tend to have a rather independent side that can spark aggression at times.
To prevent the dog from getting aggressive, he needs to be stimulated on daily basis, both physically and mentally. For all these reasons, Mals don’t do well with owners who lack experience, since they heavily rely on training and socialization to remain on their best behavior. While he is not a consistent barker, he likes to bark often and also howls once in a while. This dog breed is also a very intelligent, a quality people generally aren’t aware of.
With the right amount of care and training, Alaskan Malamutes can be calm and mellow. However, they also tend to get very unmanageable, destructive, and aggressive if their needs are not properly met. Male Mals can be pretty dominant and therefore need an owner who is firm and authoritative, not a novice dog owner who isn’t confident with the breed. When they are bored, they are known to destroy sofas, chew on walls and dig deep holes in the yard.
Fortunately, Alaskan Malamutes are not that hard to train, provided that they are handled by people who know what they are doing. In absence of proper leadership by the owner, this dog will become independent, dominant, and even aggressive, so make sure you let him know who the boss is.
Since he is a pack dog, the Alaskan malamute needs to be reminded where he stands in the hierarchy. This means if there are more members living in the house, they too will need to get involved and assert their dominance on the dog before things get out of hand. It is important to keep training sessions entertaining and engaging, and not repetitive. You will have to deal with a stubborn attitude at first so be prepared for that.
A good idea is to use daily activities as part of your training approach. Teach him how to be patient, how to obey commands and how to act outdoors. Early training and socialization is key to dealing smoothly with this breed.
Need for exercise
The Malamute is quite an active dog with lots of endurance, strength, and stamina. He therefore requires plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation, which can only be offered by owners who are committed, who themselves enjoy being active daily and don’t have issues with going out for long walks more than once in a day, and partaking often in other demanding activities such as hiking, jogging, and backpacking. If the Mal is not given his daily dose of exercise, he will become aggressive and bored.
Since he loves to dig, Alaskan Malamutes are not best suited for apartments and small houses without a yard. Furthermore, they love to jump high and can easily dig their way out, which is why they need to play in a yard that is properly fenced.
If you have decided to bring a Mal home, you better be prepared for tons of shedding and lots of blow outs. You should also make time for lots of vacuuming, daily brushing, and frequent hair trimming. Regular brushing will help get rid of any debris present in the fur, get rid of loose hair and promote healthy blood circulation. You will also need to bathe the dog in order to preserve all his healthy oils on the skin.
Fortunately, this breed is a very clean one, odorless and similar to cats when it comes to self-cleanliness. You will need to brush their teeth a minimum of 2 to 3 times in a week, clip their nails when they get long enough, and also check their ears to detect any signs of infection. When trimming their nails, be very cautious and avoid going deep.
An Alaskan malamute will need a minimum of three to five cups of high-quality dry canine food divided into at least 2 meals every day. His exact feeding needs will depend on his age, size, activity and metabolism levels. Even though they are big dogs, Mals actually need less food than people think. However, if they are given something to munch on, they will happily gobble it down, can easily overeat and pack on extra pounds.
Mals with Children and other animals
Alaskan malamutes are actually pretty good with children since they are friendly and approachable, but they definitely need to be socialized first. With other animals however, they can be a little aggressive due to their high prey drive, unless they are raised with them. With training and sufficient socialization, Mals can learn to behave nicely with other dogs, but will have some dominance issues from time to time, especially with the same sex. When this dog becomes aggressive, the fights can get very gruesome, so try to detect early signs of hostility and steer your dog away before he creates a really bad mess.
The Alaskan Malamutes can live up to 15 years. This breed is very tolerant to colder environments and enjoys spending time both outdoors and indoors. Warmer climates are a no-no, and if you are planning to bring him in a warm or hot climate, be sure to give him plenty of cold water and other opportunities to cool down before he gets overheated.
The Mal is generally a very healthy dog but can become prone to concerns like joint dysplasia, eye problems, day blindness, hypothyroidism, chondrodysplasia, Von Willebrand’s, cancer, and inherited polyneuropathy.
A qualified vet can help you identify some of these issues by conducting thyroid and eye exams on the breed, along with tests for osteochondrodysplasia.
A Mal from a reputable breeder with high-quality standards will cost you anywhere from $1200 to $2000. If you are going for something of show standards or American Kennel Club standards for topnotch breeders, then you should be prepared to pay around $3000 to up to $5000.
A lot of people easily get swayed by the Alaskan malamute’s striking wolfish looks, but they later realize that the breed calls for a lot of work, which is why they either leave them at a shelter or abandon them completely. If you are willing to bring home a sheltered dog, more likely a grown dog than a puppy, then you can easily get him for a much cheaper rate, costing you somewhere around $200 to $300. Another option is backyard breeders, where you will be able to find some competitive price tags, but has no assurance on health and background.
When you get your puppy, make sure to have him thoroughly examined by a reputable vet, have him vaccinated, dewormed, micro chipped and neutered or spayed. Also invest in good quality bowls, crates, bedding, collar and leash. All this will total up to $500, so make sure you have that kind of money on hand. Other yearly costs will cover basic medical needs, food, pet insurance, and vaccination, and all this can cost you around $1000.
The Alaskan Malamute – Highlights At a Glance
Indeed, the Alaskan malamute is one of the most beautiful, strong and adventurous dog breeds. If you are planning to bring home a Mal, it is important you keep the following features in mind before adoption.
- Nicknames: Mal, Maly, Mally
- Average Height: 23-25 inches
- Average Weight: 75 to 100 pounds
- Major Health Concerns: Generally quite healthy, but can be prone to some health issues such as eye problems, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and inherited polyneuropathy.
- Coat Type: Rough, harsh exterior coat, and soft interior coat
- Coat Appearance: Double coated
- Coat Colors: black, gray, sable, white, red
- Grooming Needs: Moderate to high
- Safe for Children: With proper training and socialization, yes
- Shedding: Very high, especially during shedding seasons. Also, he will have large blow outs.
- Brushing Requirements: Everyday
- Good with Other Dogs: Yes, moderately good if trained properly
- Sensitive to Touch: low to Moderate
- Excessive Barking: quite frequent. This breed is very vocal and loves to howl occasionally.
- Good Pet: Very good to excellent, provided that he is trained and socialized
- Suitable for Apartment? No, requires a big space and a yard
- Suitable for First Time Dog Owners? No, needs experienced owners
- Training: Fast learners but might require a firm and persistent approach
- Exercise Needs: very high- they require a lot of physical and mental stimulation.
- Good with Other Dogs? Good to fairly good, if trained and socialized.
- Good with other Pets – good with socialization – can have a high drive for chasing preys
- The tendency to Gain Weight: Moderate. However, owners will need to keep an eye out for what he eats and how much food he consumes.
- Average Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
- Hypo-allergic: No
- Good Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Excellent tolerance to cold, but moderate tolerance to heat due to their thick coats which make living in warmer climates difficult.
- Tolerant To Isolation: Low – can easily get separation anxiety
- Intelligence – quite intelligent
- Drooling – Fairly low.
- Friendliness – Very friendly and social dogs
- A Wanderer or Roamer? Moderate
- Average Yearly Medical Expenditure: $500 for pet insurance and other basics
- Average Yearly Non-Medical Expenditure: $1000 as a starting figure
- Average Price Of A New Puppy: $1200