Breed of the Month – Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute (Canis familiaris) adult, portrait in snow

Description: The Malamute has a broad skull and muzzle. The erect ears are triangular shaped and slightly rounded on the tips. The tail is plumed and carried over the back. Feet are well padded and have a large snowshoe shape. Malamutes have a double coat. The undercoat is oily and woolly while the guard coat is thick and coarse. Coat length can vary anywhere from 1 to 3 inches. The color of the coat can range from various combinations of light gray, black, sable, to red. According to the AKC, the only acceptable solid color for this breed is white.

History: The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world and can trace its ancestry back 3000 years. The Malamute receives its name from the tribe which raised these dogs, the Inupiat people called Mahlemut. The Mahlemut people and their dogs had a special bond. Malamutes were used to help hunt seals and bears, pull heavy loaded sleds, and were companions to the Mahlemut people. The dogs and these people helped one another survive in the rough conditions of Alaska.

Size: Males: 24–26 inches at the withers, weighing 80-95 pounds. Females: 22–24 inches at the withers, weighing 70-85 pounds.

Temperament: The Malamute are affectionate, loyal, and loving companions. Malamutes do not make good guard dogs due to their fondness for humans as well as their lack of alarm barking. Instead of barking, Malamutes tend to howl. These dogs do well with children who are big enough to play with a large dog.

While this dog is eager to please, its strong will leads this dog to be difficult to train and even housebreak. However, if the owner is a firm leader who understands Malamutes and has experience working with dogs, the dog will show progress in its ability to perform commands.

While properly socialized Malamutes can get along well with smaller animals, Malamutes have a high prey drive which can be stimulated by the running of a small animals such as cats, rabbits, and squirrels. Malamutes get along great with humans but, not so well with other dogs of the same sex. This breed should be given its space when it eats and drinks.

Grooming: Malamutes need to be brushed twice a week. They don’t need to be bathed regularly but, owners can use dry shampoo on their dog when needed. Like other similar breeds, the Malamute blows its coat twice a year which requires special detail to brushing. This breed is a heavy shedder.

Health: While mostly healthy, the Malamute is known to be prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, eye problems (cataracts and PRA), and dwarfism.

Exercise: The Malamute favors the outdoors. This dog loves to roam and go on a long daily walk. Malamutes need physical and mental exercise in order to keep their rambunctious and destructive side at bay.

Lifespan: About 13 to 16 years.

Trivia: The Alaskan Malamute was named the official dog of Alaska in 2010. The Alaskan Malamute can survive in extreme cold temperatures of -70°F.