Traits and Characteristics
The Alaskan Malamute is a powerfully built dog of Nordic breed type, developed to haul heavy loads rather than race. This breed is slightly longer than tall, and is heavy boned and compact, designed for strength and endurance. The Malamute’s gait is steady, balanced, and tireless. The coat is thick and double, with a coarse outer coat and dense, wooly, oily undercoat, providing the ultimate in insulation. Although the eyes have a “wolf-like” appearance, the expression is soft.
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Friendliness to Dogs
Friendliness to Other Pets
Friendliness to Strangers
Ease of Training
Disclaimer: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.
The Alaskan Malamute is powerful, independent, strong willed, and fun loving. Given the dog’s history as a sled dog, the malamute loves activity and interaction with the family. Malamutes are family oriented, and as long as they are given daily exercise, they are well-mannered in the home. Without proper exercise, they can become frustrated and destructive. This dog is friendly and sociable toward people, but may be assertive and should be introduced carefully to new dogs, pets, or livestock. Some can be domineering, and tend to dig and howl.
The Alaskan Malamute loves cold weather, and especially loves the snow. They can run for miles and need to have adequate exercise every day, either in the form of a long walk on leash or the opportunity to run. The coat needs brushing once or twice a week, more when shedding.
- Major concerns: CHD, cataract
- Minor concerns: chondrodysplasia, hypothyroidism
- Occasionally seen: gastric torsion, hemeralopia, polyneuropathy, seizures
- Suggested tests: hip, eye, (thyroid), (elbow), chondrodysplasia, (polyneuropathy)
- Life span: 10–12 years
Like most of the dogs of the spitz family, the Alaskan Malamute evolved in the Arctic regions, shaped by the adverse climatic conditions. The breed’s origin is unknown, but was first described living among the native Inuit people known as the Mahlemuts, who lived along Norton Sound on Alaska’s northwest coast. The word Mahlemut comes from Mahle, an Inuit tribe name, and mut, meaning village. The dogs served as hunting partners for big game, and hauled the heavy loads back home. These dogs were, of necessity, large and strong rather than fast, enabling one dog to do the work of many smaller dogs. They were an essential cog in these people’s lives and were treated almost as one of the family, although they were never pampered as pets. When the first outside explorers came to the region in the 1700s, they were impressed not only by the hardy dog but also by their owners’ obvious attachment to them.
With the discovery of gold in 1896, a flood of outsiders came to Alaska; for entertainment, they staged weight-pulling contests and races among their dogs. The native breeds were interbred with each other and those brought by settlers, often in an attempt to create a faster racer or simply supply the vast numbers of dogs needed to supply the gold rush. The pure Malamute was in danger of being lost.
In the 1920s, a New England dog racing enthusiast obtained some good specimens, and began to breed the traditional Malamutes. As the breed’s reputation grew, some were chosen to help Admiral Byrd in his 1933 trek to the South Pole. During World War II, the Malamute was once again called into service, this time to serve as freight haulers, pack animals, and search-and-rescue dogs. In 1935, the breed received AKC recognition and began a new phase as an imposing show dog and loyal pet.