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Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute

A wolf-like breed in appearance, the Alaskan Malamute is a large, imposing breed of dog who has typical Spitz characteristics (a tail often curled over the back, a very thick coat, erect ears, and a wedge-shaped head.

  • Dogs suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Generally healthy breed
  • Enjoys vigorous walks
  • Enjoys more than two hours of walking a day
  • Large dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Barks, alerts and may be physically protective/suspicious of visitors
  • Could have issues with unknown dogs but gets along with known dogs
  • May need additional training to live with other pets
  • May need additional supervision to live with children
  • Needs a large garden
  • Best suited to countryside
  • Cannot be left alone

Key Facts

Lifespan: 12–15 years
Weight: 38–56kg
Height: 58–71cm
Colours: White and light grey to black, and from gold to red and liver, with markings
Size: Large
Kennel Club group: Working

Ratings

Family-friendly: 4/5
Exercise needs: 5/5
Easy to train: 4/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 2/5
Energy level: 5/5
Grooming needs: 3/5
Shedding: 5/5
Alaskan malamute looking up.

Personality

The Malamute dog is an affectionate, friendly dog who is devoted to their family, though not the ideal breed for a first-time owner as they can be challenging to own. As well as their almost insatiable need to run, they love to dig and howl, are often escapologists, and can have a high prey-drive for small, furry creatures – be they squirrels, cats or even small dogs. For owners who understand them and can give them what they need to be healthy and happy however they make outstanding and head-turning companions.

Alaskan malamute on the background of Alaska Range.

History and Origins

Country of Origin: United States

The Malamute is one of the oldest and strongest of the northern sled dogs and was beloved of the Mahlemut people of Alaska for whom the breed took their name. It is unclear just how old the breed is but there is history that suggests that they have been working in Alaska for over 5000 years. Their size, strength and stamina meant that they were used to transport heavy loads - and a team of dogs would have been able to drag half a ton across challenging terrain for hundreds of miles. When they weren’t needed as sled dogs, they would be employed as livestock guards and used to help hunt moose or bear.

When outsiders began to arrive in Alaska, the sport of sled-racing become popular. The Malamute wasn’t best suited for this as they were built to pull heavy loads over long distances rather than for speed. This led to outsiders crossing the Malamute with smaller faster dogs and the original breed went into sharp decline. Fortunately enough, there were parts of Alaska too remote for visitors, and enough dogs remained to recreate the breed and by 1936 the breed was recognised by the AKC and their future secured.

Health and Common Issues

As with many breeds, Alaskan Malamute dogs can suffer from hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.

Exercise Needs

The Malamute needs at least two hours a day every day of active running exercise but would be happier with more. The rest of the time, they are quiet and generally content to relax - with the occasional howl… just for fun! They enjoy being outside but extremely high and secure fences are a must.

Space Requirements

A big house and well-fenced garden are important for an Alaskan Malamute - as is daily access to places to run. They are definitely not city dogs - and as they enjoy howling, they are best suited to living away from close neighbours.

Nutrition and Feeding

Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. The Alaskan Malamute dog breed is prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.

Grooming Alaskan Malamutes

With a thick undercoat that can be as deep as two inches, together with a thick, coarse guard coat on top, the Malamute breed is well protected against severe, harsh weather. In a centrally-heated house however there will be considerable shedding! Daily brushing will help to capture a lot of loose hair but you can’t be too houseproud if you live with a Malamute.

Training Alaskan Malamutes

As this is a large dog, they need to learn all the usual basic manners that a training class will give them. The Alaskan Malamute never forgets that they are bred to pull sledges however - and so they need to learn to walk on a lead and harness for the occasions when they need to be under close control. Traditional dog walks are of little interest to a Malamute - they need to run and so training in sports like canicross can give them an appropriate outlet for their hard-wired behaviours. It goes without saying that they need extremely active owners who want a dog they can run with.

While a good recall is extremely important and should be taught and practised, it shouldn’t be relied upon in the great outdoors when squirrels or just the need to run can make them deaf to anything else.

If they are to live with other animals, early socialisation is vital and even then, care must be taken.

Best Family Dog Breeds

Alaskan Malamutes can happily live with children as long as they are well socialised with them from an early age but as with any large dog, care should be taken.

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • Along with the lighter Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes were involved in The Serum Run of 1925 when 150 sled dogs transported diptheria antitoxin across Alaska coering 674 miles in just over 5 days, saving the small town of Nome and the surrounding communities from an epidemic.
  • In World War 1, 450 Alaskan Malamutes were sent to France to deliver supplies to French army troops in mountain outposts.
  • Previously they were used to deliver mail and transport supplies for the early settlers in Alaska.
  • Alaskan Malamute’s were used in the Gold Rush to haul food and supplies over mountain passes.
  • This breed was used to sniff for mines, carry weapons and act as search and rescue dogs in World War II.

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