Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
The Alaskan Malamute may look more like dogs’ ancestors - wolves - than most breeds, but they’re not nearly as intimidating as that might imply. These long-haired dogs with piercing eyes and pointy ears may look serious, but they’re actually playful, loyal and affectionate, making them wonderful companions for any dog owner. Especially one who’s up for some grooming, training and having fun in the winter months with a creature that does exceptionally well in the cold.
Also Known As...
Malamute. Mal. Mally. "Aaaghh, it's a giant wolf creature!" "That's no wolf creature! It's an adorably fluffy Alaskan Malamute! (But yes, it is giant.)"
This breed has its roots in Alaska, where they were bred by the Malemiut Inupiaq people, an Inuit tribe. They were bred for endurance and strength, traits they still have, in order to work hauling sleds across snowy landscapes.
They are closely related to the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Husky, which all are in turn related to the Chukotka, a breed of Siberian sled dog. These sled dogs were bred to work in packs to haul heavy sled loads over long distances at a slower speed than, for example, Siberian Huskies, which ideally move more quickly while pulling lighter loads.
Female Alaskan Malamutes stand an average of 23 inches tall, while males stand an average 25 inches in height.
Female Alaskan Malamutes have an average weight of 75 pounds, while males average a weight of 85 pounds.
These dogs may look like wolves, but their sweet temperament, playfulness and love of humans make them a great family dog. They love people so much, in fact, that they make for poor watchdogs. They won’t be threatened by someone new coming to your house - they’re more likely to come on over for a scratch than they are to become reactive. They also rarely bark. When they do make any vocal sounds, it may sound closer to the dog version of talking, a soft, short howl.
Despite how much they love their humans, these dogs were bred to survive in harsh environments, and so they are resourceful, bright and can be independent in mind, which can make them both playful while thinking they know better than you.
Intelligence / Trainability
Alaskan Malamutes are intelligent dogs, which means they can both learn lots of tricks and also think they can outsmart you. These dogs require skillful training from an owner who’s up to the challenge of working with a loveable, but sometimes stubborn dog. They’ll test you to see if you’re really the leader of the pack, so it’s important an owner is ready to put in some solid time training a Mal.
Best Training Techniques For Alaskan Malamute
Stubborn and independent, the Alaskan Malamute can best be trained using rewards such as training treats. They work well off of positive reinforcement and consistency. It may take a while to fully train these dogs, but their stubbornness will wear off over time with effective training.
With their thick fur and history in the north, Malamutes thrive best in cooler environments. They can stand up to bitter winter winds far better than they can hot and humid environments, so if you have a Malamute in a warm climate, be sure to keep the air conditioning running during the hot months to keep your dog feeling comfortable.
They’re best suited for spaces with room to stretch out, including a yard, but can do well in an apartment setting as long as they get plenty of exercise. If they don’t get the exercise they need - they love long walks and hikes in the right weather - they may become destructive, so give these pups plenty of time to burn off extra energy.
Good For Families And Kids?
These dogs are great for families and kids, as they’re friendly and affectionate. Socialize them with kids early if you’ve adopted a puppy, or socialize them well with kids and other humans in a calm environment to get them used to rambunctious children. Although they’re likely to join in the play, as well.
Alaskan Malamutes have an average lifespan of 10-15 years.
Alaskan Malamutes are most commonly affected by hip dysplasia in later years, a painful condition that can make it hard to walk. They also can inherit cataracts, and commonly have elbow dysplasia in later years, as well.
Alaskan Malamutes were bred to travel long distances and haul heavy loads - an adult male can haul more than 1,000 lbs in weight. Their strength and ability to travel long distances means they have plenty of energy to burn, and need plenty of activity so they don’t take out their pent up energy on your favorite shoes.
Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Alaskan Malamutes are extremely friendly - so much so that they make for poor guard dogs. They love meeting new people, putting their sweet, friendly demeanors on display. However, they can be a bit more skeptical of strange dogs, and can treat smaller animals, such as cats, as prey to chase down. Proper animal socialization is key with Malamutes.
Coat & Grooming
Break out your lint roller and brush - you’ll need to brush your Malamute a few times a week to keep up with their shedding. You’ll likely need to increase brushing frequency during shedding season and break out your vacuum cleaner a bit more frequently, too, as these dogs shed quite a bit. However, they self-groom quite a bit, which means you only need to bathe them twice a year.
Alaskan Malamutes are generally quiet dogs, but when they do vocalize, it sounds like a “woo-woo” noise, which can eventually lead into a howl reminiscent of coyotes or wolves.
Toys Alaskan Malamute Would Like Best
Alaskan Malamutes are high-energy dogs who need lots of play time, which means they have a love for a wide variety of toys. You can’t go wrong with a Fetch Toy that will give them the opportunity to run in the yard to burn off energy. You may also want to get a Tug Toy that can stand up to their strength and give you some bonding time as you play up close.
As a smart breed, Alaskan Malamutes are great candidates for thinker toys that will challenge their intelligence as they figure out a puzzle whose reward is a delicious treat.
For a more extensive list, check out the following post: What Are The Best Toys For Huskies?
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
As a larger dog, Alaskan Malamutes are prone to hip dysplasia. You can help your dog avoid anxiety or joint pain by introducing supplements into their diet. As always, consult your vet before administering anything.
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Malamute with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with joint issues, pain relief, and ease aggression in dogs during stressful situations. ($17.99-22.99.)
If you notice your Alaskan Malamute experiencing joint pain, you may want to buy them an orthopedic bed to make them more comfortable. Just as humans sleep better on a more comfortable mattress, dogs that are feeling run down or have pain in their joints may find some relief in sleeping on an orthopedic bed specifically designed to make them more comfortable.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s stout body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your Malamute. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Alaskan Malamute of Your Dreams
Ready to find your new best friend? Here are a few organizations dedicated to rescuing Alaskan Malamutes:
- Moonsong Malamute Rescue is a volunteer-run organization that’s dedicated to placing Alaskan Malamutes with loving owners. They rescue strays or Malamutes who have been abandoned, surrendered, abused or neglected by previous owners, and provide foster care to help these dogs recover and learn proper socialization. Once they’ve been cared for and are ready for adoption, the organization brings these dogs together with loving owners. They are based in Idaho, but also work in Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
- MUSH (Malamutes Unsettled Seeking Homes) operates in California with the goal of rehoming Malamutes that have been surrendered or abandoned. They evaluate each dog for health and temperament before they match them with any prospective owners.
- Alaskan Malamute Assistance League is based in Colorado and works to rehabilitate and rehome rescued Malamutes. They are a national organization that helps coordinate rescue efforts around the country, so you can visit their site to find their affiliates in your area.
- Adoptable Alaskan Malamutes on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Alaskan Malamutes
Can’t get enough of these beautiful dogs? With their deep eyes, pointy ears and luxuriously thick coats, there are plenty of reasons to keep an eye out for Malamutes on Instagram. And trust us, these accounts will dissuade you of the idea that Malamutes are anywhere near as intimidating as the wolves they so resemble. Here are a few accounts that are as crazy about Malamutes as we are:
Jerry goes on a lot of incredible hikes and sees a lot of incredible sights. Follow him!
A daily dose of Alaskan Malamute cuteness. You’ll be able to browse through more than 1,500 photos and videos of these sweet creatures.
Two Malamutes and a cat. They make quite the pack.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Malamute's mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month Super Chewer delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via JerryTheMalamute/Instagram