Malamute 101

Happy Malamute eyes closed getting it's head pet by a volunteer

Is an Alaskan Malamute right for you?

Get to know this beautiful breed by reviewing this information compiled by our adoption specialists and behavior experts.

Malamutes may look like gigantic, fluffy huskies, but they are their own breed with specialized traits and needs. As with any breed, it is important to learn about malamutes and their traits before bringing one home.

Malamutes are strong and active dogs, who need human companionship to be happy. They need patient owners with the time to invest in consistent training and who can keep them on leash. Malamutes do best with owners who play to their intelligence. Your malamute may not hang on your every word, but you can still be a great team if you engage what they are best at. They also need owners who find their howling endearing, and don’t mind being covered in a lot of fur.

Malamutes are working dogs bred for strength and stamina, but not speed like their husky relatives. The Standard Alaskan Malamute stands 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder and weighs approximately 75 to 85 pounds. Maintaining a healthy weight is key with these dogs, as they can be prone to hip trouble as they age.

Malamutes are striking dogs, with thick coats that need to be brushed often to keep them shiny and healthy. They developed these coats to live in arctic conditions. Their owners must use a lot of caution outdoors during warm months. Malamutes shed A LOT and their owners can expect to clean up hair daily, or at least accept its constant presence.

A malamute won’t be a good fit for owners who cherish peace and quiet. Malamutes do bark but more often like to howl. Their howling, which can be constant, presents challenges when they live in apartments or more sleepy communities. It is nearly impossible to train a malamute to not howl, you will have to learn to love their constant singing and keep them occupied because they can be especially vocal when under-stimulated.

Every malamute is an individual, with their own experiences, and personality. There is no guarantee that they will get along with other dogs, however. Some malamutes prefer the company of people to fellow canines. Malamutes frequently do not get along with cats or small animals because they have a high prey drive. If a malamute’s prey drive is particularly strong, their presence will be dangerous for small animals.

When it comes to children, their sheer size and energy can be overwhelming, even when a malamute is friendly and well-meaning. Any children or dogs in your household should meet potential malamute family members. Research safe introductions to children and other animals. Plan for a slow adjustment period when you take a malamute home.

Malamutes love having an owner who looks forward to getting outdoors more than getting to the couch. If you already thrive on being outside, a malamute could be a great partner for you! Just remember that they are driven working dogs and shorter walks won’t meet that drive alone. You can expect to put two to three hours into exercising your malamute a day. Some malamutes can even be trained to carry or pull “cargo.” This kind of endurance training must be done safely, often with the assistance of a trainer.

Malamutes love having an outdoor space to play in but should not be left unsupervised in yards. If a malamute will be spending ANY amount of unsupervised time in a yard, then a solid six-foot is a must. Malamutes are known for taking themselves on adventures without their owners by digging under fences or climbing over them. They should be kept on a leash at all times because of this well-known wanderlust. If your malamute runs away from you, it will be very hard to get them back.

Malamutes are highly driven workers, but training them can prove challenging. It’s not that they are stubborn dogs incapable of “listening” to their owners. They are determined and intelligent, but frequently DO NOT respond to commands quickly or consistently. Basic training never truly ends with a malamute.

Their size and strength can present training challenges as well.  Anything they do takes up a lot of a space and makes a big impact. Setting boundaries for your malamute is crucial. Jumping up to greet people should be discouraged. Malamutes can also be mouthy, and those behaviors need to be channeled appropriately, with the right toys and games. Malamutes often tug on leash, and their strength can present a safety challenge if their owners don’t make loose leash walking a priority. You will have to teach your malamute leash manners using the right methods and tools, such as harness and gentle leaders.

Not only will you have to meet the exercise needs of your malamute, but you will have to meet their mental and emotional needs. They should be provided with varied and consistent mental enrichment, like puzzle toys and slow feeders.  When malamutes don’t get enough time with their people or have enough to do, they can become destructive out of boredom or anxiety. It won’t take long for a dog this big to chew through a wall if they have no other option to use their smarts and strength.