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Alaskan Malamute

An Ancient American Breed

The Alaskan Malamute is an active, loyal breed that loves to be with its family. These dogs are hardworking and have plenty of energy to play or exert through heavy exercise. Wonderful dogs!


To truly appreciate and understand their amazing personality, one must look at a breed's beginnings - why they were created in the first place. 

It takes a great amount of energy, tenacity and stamina to be a sled dog in frigid climates, where getting along with people was a must if one was to survive and procreate.

An Alaskan Malamute lying down in a dark doorway, looking into the distanceAn Alaskan Malamute lying down

Getting along with members of the canine pack, however, required some pressure and time to form a hierarchy. These traits served them well as they pulled sleds and people from one cold arctic town to another. They have remained with them until this day.

They are happiest when participating with their owners or dogs of their own pack. At the same time, they thrive when given a job that allows them to use up their excess of energy.

Their energetic personality is important to be taken into consideration when getting one, as they will get into some bad habits if they are allowed to stay cramped up in their home.

These dogs are loyal and happy to be around their families, however, they are not very well suited to share the house with other dogs. While they tend to coexist better with dogs of their own breed, it’s recommended that they have lots of space to move around in alone.

Unknown dogs will be treated with wariness and are not likely to be welcome to the property.

Due to their natural instinct to hunt given their ancient background as a breed, they’ll look at many smaller animals as prey, not excluding smaller dogs or cats from the list of various neighborhood creatures.

They must be trained well to live with other animals.

Despite their inhospitable approach towards other animals, they are quite warm towards strangers. They will happily greet whoever, whether they are welcomed onto the property or not.

They are not suited for deterring any unwanted company, despite their intimidating appearance. Despite their friendly demeanor towards strangers, they are not recommended for apartment life.

Due to their vocal personality paired with their need to spread out and exercise, a confined, quiet habitat is not at all appropriate for this breed.

This breed is very sensitive to the way it is treated, with its behavior a direct reflection of its owner’s treatment.

These dogs have a natural instinct to claim the position as leader of the pack if it appears up for grabs.

An owner must display an air of superiority and be a strong leader if they hope to train these dogs at all. An Alaskan Malamute may walk all over any owner that they see as weak, ideally less physically than literally.

Alaskan Malamute

Alongside their sensitive personality comes their sensitivity to heat, as these dogs were evolved to survive in cold environments. Their thick coats are perfect for life in cold climates, leaving them not accommodated for exceptionally hot climates.

In any case of particularly warm weather, they should avoid extensive exposure to the heat and keep well hydrated.

The Alaskan Malamute is not the best dog to be sharing a house with children. While their demeanor towards older, teenage children is not dissimilar to that of an adult, younger children are at risk of injury.

Due to the breed’s energetic personality paired with its strong, sturdy build, it’s easy for a small child to be knocked over or become scared.

Children should always be monitored when playing with these dogs, as well as taught the proper way to handle them beforehand.

The Malamute is famous for its vocal behavior, particularly its unusual howl like babble. When they’re not wooing your guests, they’re legitimately “wooing”.

They’ll woo at whatever they find curious or unusual, as well as the presence of a person or creature. They are not recommended for very populated areas, both in wildlife and people.

It is also best that they are not near any neighbors that are particularly sensitive to high volumes.

The Alaskan Malamute has the energy and determination to explore all day if nothing is stopping them. Their inclination to spread out and explore the neighborhood comes from their days exploring vast chunks of the Alaskan wilderness.

Due to the breed’s size, it’s not likely that a small electric fence could keep them from chasing after anything they find interesting, whether it be a car or a squirrel. It’s recommended that they have a sturdy fence to keep them from bolting into the street or running off.

The Alaskan Malamute is also notorious for its love to dig. Without supervision, a malamute will dig up your entire yard.

This love to dig is profoundly ingrained, with most owners resort to providing a designated “dig” space rather than attempting to train them otherwise. If you don’t plan on having extra canine help the next time you go planting in your garden, it’s important to take this into consideration.


An Alaskan Malamute standing on snow, wearing a sled harnessSable and White Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is well known for being a very ancient breed. It is believed that these dogs are among some of the earliest that separated dog from a wolf, a factor that is often very apparent from the breed’s appearance.

It’s most likely that these dogs migrated along with the first humans that crossed over the land bridges that connected the Americas with Asia around two or three thousand years ago.

These dogs continued to thrive as they coexisted with Native American tribes near and inside the Arctic Circle.

Their name originates from the Mahlemut tribe that resided in Alaska, with whom they shared the mutual benefits that allowed them to survive to the present day.

These humans and dogs lived in harmony for a long time before they encountered any foreign contact, assisting their tribes in hunting game and helping to defend them from the wild.

The Alaskan Malamute remained in Alaska uninhibited until the discovery of gold in the state at the very end of the 19th century. Due to that finding, many people from all over the world flocked to the area in hopes of becoming rich.

These foreigners were promptly greeted by the harsh conditions of the Arctic, prompting them to adapt where they could to survive. When it came to hauling equipment, they turned to dogs as a more versatile form of transport.

Many of the dogs brought by these people were mixed with the dogs local to Alaska, including the Alaskan Malamute. It was only the breed’s isolation that kept it from being thoroughly mixed and disappearing altogether.

These dogs were put to work pulling sleds for people traveling the vast terrain, a job they were well suited for with their sturdy build. The use of dog-sledding continued for a long while due to its efficiency and practicality.

Most of the Alaskan gold rush had been centered in the town of Nome, where many gold miners set themselves up in hopes of getting lucky.

However, due to the town’s isolation and its harsh climate, it was vacated by many of its new residents just as quickly as they arrived.

Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamutes have a prominent part in the town’s survival, like a disease outbreak in 1925 put the people in a state of peril. It was the dogs’ transportation of necessary supplies and medicine that saved many of the town’s people from perishing to disease.

The breed remained in Alaska for the most part, with few leaving the state with those who left while maintaining a fascination with the dogs. They were first registered by the AKC in 1935, allowing for a standard and a base of these dogs to begin a stable population recovery.

These dogs continued to prosper until World War 2 when a military expedition to Antarctica almost proved fatal to a large group of Alaskan Malamutes that were requisite for it by the military.

It was only the public outrage from the men involved that prevented their higher ups from killing the dogs involved.

After the war, the Alaskan Malamute was allowed to slowly rebuild its lost population. Due to the AKC’s standard and base of dogs before the war, they were able to repopulate the breed.

This was just in time for the post-war economic boom felt by the US. The better economy allowed for a higher quality of living, which inevitably meant an increase of domesticated dogs as pets.

Today, the breed holds the rank as the 55th most popular dog in the US according to the AKC.

Ease of Training

An Alaskan Malamute sitting on grassAlaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is a notoriously difficult dog to train, as its intelligence and pack mentality pair in a very stubborn fashion.

They are not recommended for newer owners, as they will take advantage of any owner that does not assume the position of pack leader. Instead, these dogs will adopt that position themselves, making them almost impossible to train.

Once their attention has been commanded, however, these dogs are incredibly intelligent and fast learners. They are very sensitive as to how they are being trained, so their teaching must be consistent, or else they will take advantage of any leniency.

These dogs are well behaved once they have given the role of alpha to their owner. Their housebreaking process is often with ease, with their main discrepancies coming from digging or chasing prey.

Early socialization is crucial in the training process, so many owners will recommend frequent walks and introductions to new people and other animals.

Socializing any dog early on will help them become more comfortable in their environments and more relaxed around strangers.

Vital Statistics

Average Lifespan: 12-15 Years

Average Weight: 71-94 lbs. (32-43 kg)

Average Height: 22-26 in. (56-66 cm)

A red and white Alaskan Malamute sitting down outdoorsRed and White Alaskan Malamute


There are 9 colors registered by the AKC for this breed:

  • Red and White
  • White
  • Silver and White
  • Seal and White
  • Agouti and White
  • Black and white
  • Sable and White
  • Gray and White
  • Blue and White

There are no markings registered for this breed.


The Alaskan Malamute would be an ideal dog if it came to protecting you or your family, when it comes to physical prowess.

These dogs have a muscular, heavy build that is capable as well as intimidating. No dog should be put in harm's way as a form of defense, although, these dogs would willingly put themselves between an intruder and their owner.

These dogs are well known for being an alert breed. This being said, they are also warm and welcoming to most strangers they encounter.

They may be able to tell that an intruder is on the property, but they also may not let their owners know due to their less vocal personalities.

This breed is not appropriate for being a guard dog due to their friendly character. While they would be capable of defending their owner if push came to shove, they are mostly warm towards strangers.

They would not be inclined towards being particularly territorial, and are not vocal enough to warn their owners of a possible threat.


An Alaskan Malamute lying down on grass

You will need to brush the Alaskan Malamute daily as it has a very thick double coat.  To keep your pet healthy, regular brushing is essential - it is especially important to brush a dog with a double coat.

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Brushing a dog's teeth is just as important as maintaining their coat. Brushing a dog's teeth will not only help keep their breath fresh but also remove bacteria and prevent tartar buildup.

Providing a dog with the proper dental care is essential for maintaining their health. Most owners recommend brushing these dogs’ teeth at least 2-3 times a week.

It is important to maintain a dog’s nails as well. Should a dog’s nails get to be too long, they may become uncomfortable or even painful.

To prevent discomfort, owners recommend clipping these dogs’ nails at least every 3 weeks, or as needed. A good way to tell if a dog’s nails are too long is if they can be heard clicking against the ground as they move.

Keeping a dog’s ears clean is an important part of the grooming process. Dogs’ ears can harbor bacteria that is caught and built up in their ear wax, leading to infections.

Owners recommend cleaning a dog’s ears at least once a week to remove excess wax. With the Alaskan Malamute, there is more airflow due to the shape of their ears, helping to prevent too much build up.

Health Considerations

Dogs are like people, they get sick and need proper medical attention. This is important to take into consideration when purchasing any pet.

As an owner, you must be capable of providing adequate health care for your dog, which includes more than the regular vet visit.

The Alaskan Malamute is a hardy dog that lives a relatively long life. This being said, they are still susceptible to health problems.

Many breeds, such as this one, are prone to certain health conditions, which should be considered when purchasing any purebred. While it is not inevitable that these dogs will be affected by any of these health problems, it's best to be aware of them.

  • Inherited Polyneuropathy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Cataracts
  • Chondrodysplasia
  • Day Blindness or Hemeralopia
  • Hypothyroidism

It's important to always purchase a purebred dog from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will know their breed inside and out. They should also be capable of passing health checks for their dogs.

Famous Alaskan Malamutes

Balto:  Famous Sled dog mentioned above

George Lucas' dog, Indiana

Shasta, The Alaskan Husky that starred in Snow Buddies

Alaskan Malamutes from the movie, Eight Below

Further Reading

To find out more about this amazing breed click on the images below.

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