The Alaskan Malamute is categorized under the AKC (American Kennel Club) category of working dogs. The Malamute’s name derives from an Inuit tribe called the Mahlemuts located in northwestern Alaska, and this breed is the largest and the oldest of all Arctic sled-dog breeds. A descendent of the Arctic Wolf, the Malamute is often confused with the Siberian Husky; Malamutes have a larger build than the Husky, as well as a denser outer coat and bushier tail. Originally used to pull heavy loads, the Malamute is highly skilled in various tasks that require strength and endurance.
Malamutes have a general height range of 23 to 26 inches (58 – 66 centimeters), and an average weight range of 75 to 100 pounds (34 – 45 kilograms), depending on the gender. They have an average lifespan of 12-15 years.
With Nordic roots, the Malamute was a highly valued dog back when the Mahlemuts used them as a main form of transportation. Malamutes were used in pulling travelling sleds as well as pulling supplies and food for the tribesmen. Exceptionally skilled in sledding, weight pulling and racing, the Malamute has been used in many polar expeditions. Malamutes possess immense strength – they are reportedly able to pull loads up to half their weight –, as well as an excellent sense of smell and direction.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the sport of sled racing grew exponentially in popularity. As a result, the Malamute was crossbred with southern breeds in order to attain breeds with greater speed. Due to this crossbreeding, the purity of Alaskan Malamutes suffered a steep decline. It wasn’t until after the 1920s that the Alaskan Malamute recovered in its purity.
The Malamute is a muscular, powerful breed, with broad heads, long muzzles, and thick, muscular necks. They have a pointed muzzle as well as pointed ears. Their coats are thick and dense, and come in a variety of colors, including varying shades of gray, black, and red. Their underbellies are usually white. Malamutes are double-coated – they have a topcoat and an undercoat. The hairs of the topcoat are thick and coarse, and the hairs of the undercoat are a couple of inches deep with oily and woolly hairs acting as insulation against moisture and coldness during winter months. Some Malamutes have tails that are long enough to cover their noses, keeping it warm.
Although well known for their hardiness and hardworking attitude, Malamutes are playful by nature and very easy-going, making them great family companions. As they are friendly towards strangers, Malamutes are not ideal guard dogs. Malamutes are highly active and require daily exercise in order to prevent destructive behavior. Some are hard to housebreak due to their independent nature, and thus should be exposed to positive training at a young age. Training will also curb any combativeness against dogs of the same sex and/or breed. Although relatively quiet dogs, Malamutes will tend to howl when left alone as they love to be with their families. Malamutes are quite patient with children, and should be able to get along very well with them as long as their excitement is kept at bay – overly energetic Malamutes may knock children over.
General Care & Health
The coats of Malamutes should be brushed weekly at the very least in order to keep their coats clean and to distribute the oils on their skin. Heavy shedding occurs two to three times a year, and their hair will fall off in clumps. During shedding season, their coats should be brushed with a slicker brush along with an undercoat rake in order to keep the shedding in control. Malamutes are very clean dogs, and bathing is almost unnecessary. They need to be bathed once or twice a year unless messy accidents happen. Their ears should be checked weekly, and the outer ear should be cleaned with a cotton ball and a cleanser obtained through a vet. Teeth should be brushed two to three times a week, and nails should be trimmed once or twice a month. Check for signs of infection whenever grooming occurs, and keep an eye out for redness and inflammation of the skin, eyes, nose and mouth.
The recommended daily amount of food a Malamute should be getting is 4 to 5 cups of dry food, divided into two or three meals throughout the day. Despite the presence of a guideline, the amounts can be altered if the dog is highly active or otherwise.
Malamutes are prone to the following diseases:
• Hip Dysplasia – a genetic condition, dogs with hip dysplasia have thigh bones that do not fit comfortably into their hip joints. Some dogs that are affected may show pain and/or lameness in the affected hind legs, but some show no symptoms at all. With time, hip dysplasia can develop into arthritis.
• Chondrodysplasia – also known as dwarfism, this genetic disorder leads to birth defects such as abnormalities in the shape and length of limbs.
• Hemeralopia – also known as day blindness, this condition first appears in puppies as young as eight weeks old. Symptoms include bumping or stumbling into things and refusing to come into bright areas. They may also appear disoriented when facing the sun.
It should also be noted that because Malamutes are Arctic dogs, they are quite sensitive to heat and are thus not suited for hot, humid environments. If raised in a humid environment, Malamutes should be provided with shade, water, and air-conditioning whenever possible. They should also avoid excessive exercise in the daytime.
The Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate and friendly breed, ideal for being a family dog. Highly athletic, Malamutes are very active and they love to romp and play about constantly. Although they do require constant activity to be happy and satisfied, the Malamute is quite easy to take care of in terms of grooming. They are extremely loyal, and with appropriate training, they can be very well-mannered and easy to control.