Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is a generally large breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) originally bred for use as an Alaskan sled dog. It is sometimes mistaken for a Siberian Husky, but in fact is quite different in many ways.

Alaskan Malamute Appearance

The Alaskan Malamute breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting size of 23 inches and 75 pounds for females, 25 inches and 85 pounds for males. Heavier individuals (90lbs) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds are commonly seen. There is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 110 pounds are occasionally seen, but this is uncommon and such dogs are produced primarily by breeders who market a 'giant Malamute.' These large sizes are not in accordance with the breed's history or show standards.

The coat is a dense double northern dog coat, somewhat "harsher" (in a certain sense) than that of the smaller Siberian Husky. The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, or solid white. Blue and white (slate gray with gray pigment) also is seen in the breed. Eyes are almond-shaped and are always various shades of brown (from dark to light, honey or hazel brown); blue eyes will disqualify the dog in shows. The physical build of the Malamute is compact with heavy bone, in most (but not all) cases. In this context 'compact' means that their height to length ratio is slightly longer than tall, unlike dogs like Great Danes which are longer and lankier in their ratios.

The primary criterion for judging the Malamute in a show is its function to pull heavy freight as a sled dog; everything else is secondary. As many an owner has found out, the pulling power of a Malamute is tremendous.

Alaskan Malamute Temperament

While a few Alaskan Malamutes are still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight, or helping move heavy objects, some are used for the recreational pursuit of sledding also known as mushing, also skijoring, bikejoring, and canicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or show dogs. The Alaskan Malamute is generally slower in long-distance dogsled racing against smaller and faster breeds and their working usefulness is limited to freighting or traveling over long distances at a far slower rate than that required for racing. They can also help move heavy objects over shorter distances.

The Alaskan Malamute retains more of its original form and function than many other modern dog breeds. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owner's every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the harshest environment imaginable, and many of its behaviors are evolved to conform with "survival of the fittest." Independence, resourcefulness and primitive behaviors are common in the breed.

There is reason to believe that Alaskan Malamutes cope poorly with smaller animals, including canines; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. It is difficult to pinpoint why many Alaskan Malamutes owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals, though some might speculate this is due to the Malamute's uniquely divergent ancestry, at one point cross-breeding with wolves. Due to their naturally evolved beginnings, the malamute tends to have a heightened prey drive when compared to some other breeds of dog. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amiable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals and young children.

Generally speaking, time and experience will show if a dog can be left unwatched with other household pets. In this respect, it is also important to understand that just because a Malamute is comfortable with other pets, this does not mean it will be comfortable around all other animals it encounters. Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs. However, they enjoy being outdoors in winter to enjoy the snow. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool.

The majority of Malamutes are fairly quiet dogs, seldom barking like most other dog breeds. When a malamute does vocalize, more often than not they tend to "talk" by vocalizing a "woo woo" sound (the characteristic vocalizations of Chewbacca in the Star Wars films are based upon a Malamute named Indiana once owned by George Lucas). They may howl like wolves or coyotes, and for the same reasons.


There is only one known health survey of Alaskan Malamutes, a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey with a small sample size of 14 dogs. The median lifespan of 10.7 years measured in that survey is very typical of a breed their size. The major cause of death was cancer (36%).


The most commonly reported health problems of Alaskan Malamutes in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey (based on a sample size of 64 dogs) were musculoskeletal (hip dysplasia), and hereditary cataracts.

Other health issues in Malamutes include inherited polyneuropathy, chondrodysplasia, heart defects, and eye problems (particularly cataract and progressive retinal atrophy).

Climate and Malamutes

While Malamutes have been successfully raised in places such as Arizona, their dense coats generally make them unsuited for outdoor living in hot climates. When the weather gets hot, like any other breed of dog, the Malamute needs plenty of water and shade. They will grow a winter coat and subsequently shed it in spring.

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