If, like me, you like big (and fluffy) dog breeds and you cannot lie, you may have looked into getting an Alaskan Malamute. Especially if actively spending lots of time outdoors in freezing temperatures is what actually warms up your heart.
Malamutes are intelligent, loyal, and playful companions who are excellent with children. Yet, that’s not all that there is to this breed.
Malamutes can be like rowdy, naive, and pig-headed quarterbacks with way too much energy and infinite hair. They will require lots of your time and attention, will dig up your yard, pull on the leash, shed everywhere and all the time, treat the burglar as their new best friend and will drive you mad in terms of training.
Sadly, there are many Malamute owners who find it hard to live with this breed…and eventually abandon them.
It’s not the best option for any breed. Especially one with a heart of gold like that of a Malamute. So, make sure to get all your facts straight before you decide to get one.
And definitely think twice if you are a novice dog owner.
Malamutes are an ancient breed of Arctic dogs, one of the oldest breeds in the world.
Cousins to Siberian Huskies and Samoyeds, they too hail from Siberia.
Malamutes were bred by nomad tribes to pull heavy loads as well as transport people and supplies during the cold winter months. They also helped their owners to hunt and track animals. Without Malamutes, it would have been hard or even impossible for these tribes to survive.
When these nomad tribes crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia into Alaska where they eventually settled, they used their dogs to carry freight.
Throughout centuries, Malamutes were used to pull heavy loads, help to track and hunt large animals, assist in other daily tasks, as well as serve as companions.
Are Alaskan Malamutes Good Family Dogs?
Malamutes are friendly, playful, and easy-going. Basically, they are simply very large puppies.
Malamutes can be excellent family dogs, but they need to be trained or they’ll want to become the leader of the pack.
Keeping a Malamute in an apartment may be a challenge. Houses with large yards work much better for them.
If you choose to own a Malamute, be ready to treat it like a very close friend or another family member.
Taking care of it will require tons of your time, attention, and dedication.
Yet, if you’re willing and able to put in the effort, you can have a loyal and loving companion for life.
Over thousands of years, Malamutes developed in the rough Alaskan wilderness. Thus their most optimal diet would be lean high-protein food. It can be either high-quality dog food or home-prepared food (raw).
It’s important to control the portions of a Malamute rather than let it free feed.
It can end up eating all the time and become overweight. If in doubt, run your hand over your dog’s ribs. You should always be able to feel its ribs with no fat on them.
Always provide plenty of water.
Especially in the summer because Malamutes can easily dehydrate.
If you’d like to treat your Malamute with a doggy version of ice-cream in the summer months, freeze a few cubes of lean beef.
Go easy on treats and avoid feeding your Malamute human food or table scraps.
A Malamute’s coat is thick and waterproof.
It’s perfect for the harsh Arctic weather. Not so much for an owner of a perfectly clean and arranged home or one who is terribly busy.
You’ll need to set aside regular time to groom your dog.
At least twice a week, brush your dog with a pin brush as well as a metal comb. Make sure to get rid of any mats and check for any bites or infected spots as you do so.
Malamutes blow their coat twice a year.
You’ll need to brush your dog’s coat more frequently, and use an undercoat rake to get rid of loose hairs.
It’s enough to bathe a Malamute once in every six to eight weeks. If the coat feels dry, you can use conditioner.
One for dogs, of course!
You should also regularly trim your Malamute’s nails, check its ears, and brush its teeth.
A Malamute was bred to pull freight.
Therefore, it needs plenty of vigorous daily exercise. It will keep your dog happy and out of trouble.
Your home will not suffer either.
Bored and un-stimulated Malamutes can become destructive and make a crater in your favorite couch.
Malamutes will enjoy activities that they can do together with their humans such as hiking, jogging, swimming, and similar.
You can even buy a doggy backpack and take advantage of your dog’s ability to pull and carry heavy loads.
Why not try it on your next walk to the supermarket?
Be sure not to let your Malamute roam around alone. They are friendly with strangers and can easily wander off with someone they do not know.
When it comes to training a Malamute, brace yourself.
It won’t be easy or fast. Malamutes are very intelligent dogs, but they have a strong will and can even be stubborn.
Yet, socializing and training a Malamute is a must. An untrained dog can be mischievous, dominant, and pushy. They can even start bullying more submissive dogs.
To successfully train a Malamute, you’ll either need to be very firm and patient. You’ll need to become the alpha of your relationship or your dog may try to dominate you.
Malamutes like to dig a lot.
Training them not to do so is pretty much impossible. It’s best to leave a designated space for digging where your dog can dig as much as its heart desires.
Alaskan Malamute Health Issues
The Malamute is a relatively healthy large dog, having a life expectancy of 10-12 years.
However, it is prone to developing a variety of health conditions such as:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Day blindness
- Chondrodysplasia (dwarfism)
- Inherited polyneuropathy
- Follicular dysplasia
- Von Willebrand’s disease
- Uveodermatologic syndrome
Things to Know About Alaskan Malamutes
1. Lone Wolf on the Outside, a Puppy on the Inside
A Malamute may look like a threatening oversized wolf, but is far from one in terms of behavior.
Dogs of this breed are playful and fun.
When young, they are extremely active and may even be rowdy. They enjoy playing games and fooling around with their favorite humans.
They are especially friendly with little children.
As a matter of fact, Inuit tribes used them to babysit their little ones. While you’ll find plenty of YouTube videos testifying that, it’s best not to leave any unsupervised dog with babies and small children.
As Malamutes age, they become more peaceful and relaxed. Yet, they never lose their playful inner puppy.
2. Not the Best Guard Dogs
Don’t judge a Malamute by its looks.
While it appears very wolf-like, it is unlikely to attack the burglar but will probably snuggle with them instead. Malamutes are vocal dogs, but they will be more likely to howl rather than bark.
Malamutes aren’t very protective.
When it comes to their watchdog abilities, they pretty much don’t have any. Invest into a good burglar alarm before relying on your Malamute.
3. Alaskan Malamutes Prefer Cold Climates
Malamutes have thick double coats. Thus, they are better equipped for the cold weather and could tolerate temperatures as low as -70°F.
Therefore, in warmer summer months, it’s best to keep your Malamute in a well-ventilated or air-conditioned room.
Also, make sure not to do lengthy and strenuous activities during the hottest hours of the day.
It may overexert or overheat your dog.
Plan activities or exercise outdoors in the morning or the evening when it’s cooler and make sure that your dog stays in the shade rather than direct sunlight during the day.
4. They may be the Oldest Dog Breed in North America
Malamutes are one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world.
Some even believe that they are the oldest breed to ever live in North America.
They say that an earlier version of the breed accompanied nomad tribes from Siberia as they crossed the Bering Strait and ventured into nowadays Alaska being the first breed of domesticated dogs on North American soil.
5. They are Named After an Inuit Tribe
The Malamutes were companions of an Inuit tribe that settled within the Arctic Circle, in the western part of the territory of Alaska.
The tribe was called the Malhemut and they used this ancient breed for survival purposes.
Their dogs tracked polar bears, caribou, and other prey, hunted sea mammals, carried heavy loads of possessions and hunted meat, as well as babysat the Malhemut children as their parents were out hunting and securing food.
As a result, the Malhemut people treated their dogs very well and established strong bonds with them.
And you guessed it. The dogs were eventually called after the tribe.
6. People Often Confuse Them With Other Breeds
If you are considering owning a Malamute, be ready for lots of explanation.
People will often confuse it with other dog breeds such as the Siberian Husky or even the German Shepherd.
No worries, here are the facts you’ll need to know to respond to the queries of others.
Malamutes look similar to Huskies.
Yet, they are much larger in size and tend to have much darker fur. They also never have blue eyes.
Some may confuse Malamutes with Akita.
However, Malamutes have longer bodies and don’t normally have white, red, or brindle coats that Akitas do. Their tails are also less curled.
Others may confuse Malamutes with long-haired German Shepherds.
But Malamutes have taller and shorter bodies as well as heavier bones. Malamutes are normally grey to white whereas German Shepherds are usually black and tan.
7. Malamutes Almost Went Extinct During the Alaska Gold Rush
The Alaska Gold Rush took place at the end of the 19th century. When the news about the gold fields broke out, many ventured over the Alaskan mountains into the Yukon territory in Canada. They needed to carry their equipment and a year’s supply of food to prevent starvation.
So, the demand for sled dogs increased.
Miners used and mixed different breeds. So, purebred Malamutes almost went extinct.
Luckily for us, a dog-sledding breeder from New England rescued Alaskan Malamutes and saved the breed.
8. Malamutes Took Part in Expeditions
Along with Samoyeds, Malamutes were another breed that was favored by explorers.
Admiral Richard Byrd had Malamutes accompany him on his expeditions to the South Pole in 1933.
9. Malamutes Served in World War I and II
Here’s something that our granddads and Malamutes have in common:
They both are war veterans.
In World War I, several hundreds of Malamutes were shipped to France. Their task was to deliver supplies to soldiers isolated in French mountain outposts.
During World War II, soldiers used Malamutes along with a few other breeds for a variety of tasks such as carrying weapons, due to their strength, endurance, friendliness, and eagerness to work.
Since Malamutes tend to be rather vocal, you may even hear your grandfather swap war stories with your dog.
10. They are Sled Dogs, but Aren’t Best for Sledding Competitions
Malamutes are working dogs. They have very muscular and powerful bodies.
Because of that, in the past, people used them to pull sleds with heavy loads in rough weather conditions. Sometimes, these loads were extremely heavy.
While Malamutes were the original sled dogs, Siberian Huskies replaced them as racing breed soon after they were introduced into the US in the early 20th century.
The reason for that was their speed. Huskies tend to be quicker whereas Malamutes are much more powerful.
In fact, a single adult male Malamute is able to pull up to 3,300 lbs of weight! This number can vary depending on the dog’s built, age, size, and training.
11. The Malamute is the State Dog of Alaska
Being the state dog of the state that you are named after may not come as a surprise. Yet, it comes with a story.
Up until May 2010, Alaska didn’t have a state dog. Yet, a Kindergartner named Paige decided differently.
She came up with the idea that Alaska needed a state dog and brought that up in her school, the Polaris K-12 School in Anchorage, Alaska. The idea was a success and, over the course of three years, it grew into a full-school project.
About 400 students, teachers, and parents worked on developing a bill that proposed naming the Alaskan Malamute the state dog of Alaska. They chose this breed because it is large in size just like Alaska and hardworking as the people of Alaska.
It took awhile year and the bill almost died.
The students even wrote a plea in the local newspaper to make sure their efforts weren’t in vain.
The bill eventually passed.
Does your state have a state dog? If not, make sure to tell this story to the kids at your next family reunion!
12. Malamutes Used to Be on Stamps
In 1984, the American Kennel Club celebrated its 100th anniversary. To commemorate that, the US Post office released four 20-cent stamps that featured the purebred dogs of America.
The Malamute was one of the breeds pictured.
If you are a philatelist and a dog lover, you can still buy these stamps off of eBay.
13. White Fang was Played by a Wolf-Malamute
The book mentions White Fang’s mother looking like a Husky.
In the 1991 rendition with Ethan Hawke, White Fang’s part was played by Jed who was part wolf and part Alaskan Malamute.
14. Star Wars’ Chewbacca Was Inspired by a Malamute
George Lucas used to have a Malamute when he was writing Star Wars.
The dog used to sit next to him while he was working and occupy the front seat when he was driving.
Always having his Malamute by his side inspired George Lucas to give his character Han Solo a similar sidekick. One that resembled a loyal dog and was intelligent.
We know this sidekick as Chewbacca.
But that’s not the only character that this dog inspired.
15. … And So Was Indiana Jones
George Lucas’ Malamute’s name was Indiana.
Just like Indiana Jones, created by Steven Spielberg and …
You guessed it! George Lucas.
Indiana Jones’ real name is Henry. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, he reveals that he had taken on the name “Indiana” after a dog his family used to have.
Rather cool, right?
16. They Are (Almost) Always “Teething”
But you will feel like they are because Malamutes chew a lot. Especially if they are bored and lack mental stimulation.
The answer to that is providing enough exercise, stimulation, and socialization. And a toy box. Make sure to pack it with a wide array of chewable toys. It may save your furniture and other possessions by keeping your Malamute busy while you are running errands.
17. Malamutes Need Lots of Exercise
Lots. LOTS. L.O.T.S. of exercise.
Remember, they are working dogs and used to pull sleighs with heavy loads. Thousands of pounds of heavy loads.
While you don’t have to prepare your dog for beating the Mountain in a truck pulling competition, make sure to provide plenty of exercise and activity.
18. …And Grooming
Do you think that Chewbacca needs to spend a decent amount of time grooming?
Well, so does a Malamute.
Be ready to dedicate at least a few times a week to brushing your Malamute and even more frequently during the shedding periods.
Keep in mind though that it will likely not prevent Malamute hair from getting all over your furniture, clothes, and food anyway. There will be less of it if you groom your dog regularly, but it will still be there.
19. You Need Tons of Patience to Train Your Dragon Malamute
Malamutes may be friendly and cheerful companions. Yet, when it comes to training one, you might as well train a dragon.
Having been bred to survive in the extreme wilderness, Malamutes seem to have a mind of their own and think for themselves.
So, they are hard and slow to train and require lots of patience.
20. Small Animals Are Prey
Malamutes don’t do well with small animals.
They’ll consider them prey and will try to chase them down and… well….not play with them.
They can be good with cats if raised together since both are small. However, they won’t do well with other dogs of the same sex.
Interested in owning a Malamute? Let us know what stole your heart!