The Alaskan Malamute is a purebred dog who is sometimes confused with the Alaskan Husky or the Siberian Husky. Like her Siberian Husky cousin, she is a working breed recognized by the AKC who has become a popular family pet.
Owning an Alaskan Malamute should not be taken lightly, as she is a high maintenance dog in many respects and needs a dedicated owner who understands this. In fact, there are many Malamutes in rescue centers due to people buying them without having a good understanding of the breed.
Keep reading to find out more about what owning an Alaskan Malamute involves.
1. She loves to have a job while exercising
The key difference with the Malamute is that, while the Huskies are known for their speed, she is much larger and stronger. According to the Alaskan Malamute Club of Canada, she can pull extremely heavy loads of up to 3,000 lb (907 kg).
Given her working background, she needs lots of exercise (1 ½ – 2 hours a day). Not only that, but she also thrives on having a job to do while exercising.
Here are a few of the activities she excels at:
- Hiking (while carrying a doggie backpack)
- Bikejoring (pulling someone on a bike)
- Skatejoring (pulling someone on skates)
- Skijoring (pulling someone on skis)
- Carting (pulling a cart)
- Sledding (pulling a sled)
- Agility classes
Check out how focused this group of backpacking Malamutes are:
Since this is a large breed who needs to be active and loves being outdoors, I don't suggest you get a Malamute if you live in an apartment. She needs space to roam and a garden to play and run in. In a small space, she is likely to become frustrated, which can lead to noise (howling) and destruction (chewed furniture).
2. She needs a firm leader
Like the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute needs a firm leader and isn't the ideal dog of choice for a first-time owner, unless you're really willing to put the work in.
Similar to the Siberian Husky, her obstinacy can be confused with not having much upstairs, but she is, in fact, an intelligent dog. If she senses you are not a strong leader, she is unlikely to obey, and will happily do whatever she feels like doing.
With the right training and consistent, strong leadership, she can learn to be a follower. I advise you start obedience training with her from a young age so that you can learn how to manage your (rather willful) Malamute.
3. She likes spending time with her family
The Alaskan Malamute has a strong pack instinct and, therefore, wants to be included as a part of the family and loves to be around you. She does not like being left alone for extended periods of time (no more than 3 or 4 hours).
She is a gentle soul, underneath all that muscle and fur! According to the AKC, she 'loves children.' Indeed, I find she is usually patient and affectionate with kids. She is better off with slightly older children, however, as she is a large dog who grows fast; an energetic Malamute puppy could knock over a small child without meaning to.
As with all large dog breeds, you should always supervise interaction between your Malamute and your child.
4. She doesn't tolerate hot climates
Like the Huskies, the Malamute is highly sensitive to heat. If you live somewhere where the temperature goes above 80 degrees (26.6°C), I don't advise getting a Malamute.
In summer months, provide her with shade and plenty of water to keep her cool, and avoid exercising her during the hottest hours of the day.
70 degrees (21°C) is too hot for your Alaskan Malamute to do any strenuous activity.
The Malamute can certainly withstand living outdoors in cold climates due to her dense double coat, but she still needs adequate shelter.
5. She sheds heavily twice a year
The Alaskan Malamute has an extremely thick double coat, consisting of a coarse outer and an undercoat about 1-2 inches deep, which is oily and wooly.
Like Siberian Huskies, these dogs shed their entire undercoat twice a year (in spring and fall), which means for about 3 weeks you'll be finding large clumps of fur around the house. During this time, brush daily with a heavy-duty comb that reaches into the undercoat, and, well… do I have to mention the vacuum cleaner?
This video gives you an excellent idea of how much fur a Malamute loses during shedding season, and how much effort is required when grooming her:
Apart from these heavy shedding periods, she sheds a low to moderate amount and will need brushing just once or twice a week to remove dead fur.
6. She has a high prey drive
Alaskan Malamutes were not only used for sled pulling, but also to hunt seals, and even polar bears.
Due to this hunting background, Alaskan Malamutes tend to have a high prey drive and are likely to chase small animals like squirrels and rabbits, as well as cats. So, if you are in an area where she might chase, and there is a road nearby, you should always keep her on the leash.
Alaskan Malamutes can usually get on with pet cats if she is raised from a young age with them. This way, she will consider the cat as part of her pack.
7. She likes to dig!
Malamutes are quite the professional diggers and can make a real mess in the garden when they put their mind to it. If you’ve got a lovingly landscaped outdoor space with pristine flowerbeds, it might be an idea to make a sandbox or another area that is all hers to carry out all her digging desires. Nice compromise, don't you think?
Now, let's talk about the garden fence. While Huskies are more likely to jump over it, the Malamute – that´s right – can tunnel her way under there in no time if not properly entertained and exercised. This shouldn't be a problem if you see to it that all her needs are met.
So do you think you´ve got what it takes to own this gentle giant? Let's recap what we've learned about her.
- Needs plenty of exercise (and a job while she's at it)
- Does better living in a house with a garden
- Needs a firm leader
- Makes a great family dog
- Doesn't do well in the heat
- Sheds heavily twice a year
- Has a high prey drive
- Is a professional digger
Can you give an Alaskan Malamute a forever home? Comment below!