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Honest FAQ for Alaskan Malamutes (2021)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Alaskan Malamute

Native Alaskan tribes relied on the Malamute's instincts for survival, which included hunting for food and cleverly avoiding dangers along the trial. These instincts lead to independent, free-thinking behaviors that are not really appreciated in modern environments. Malamutes are still a rather primitive breed.


What kind of temperament and personality does the Alaskan Malamute have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Alaskan Malamute temperament and behavior are:

rugged, vigorous, self-assured, primitive, destructive, strong prey instincts, independent.

I give you my honest opinions about Alaskan Malamute temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Alaskan Malamute Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were Alaskan Malamutes used for?

The Mahlemut tribe (note the different spelling) used these rugged dogs as freight dogs to haul heavy sledges. The dogs were also relied on to hunt for food.

What traits would help Alaskan Malamutes accomplish their work? That's right... great strength, endurance, high tolerance to cold and discomfort, and strong instincts to kill other animals.

How big are Alaskan Malamutes? Height and weight?

About 23-27 inches at the shoulder, and 75-110 pounds, which puts them in the LARGE category. However, some breeders offer oversized Malamutes that fit in the GIANT category. In my opinion, these latter breeders are emphasizing excessive weight at the expense of athleticism and sound structure.

What colors do Alaskan Malamutes come in?

Colors include wolf gray, red, black, and Alaskan seal (black with a creamy undercoat). Usually a Malamute's face is white with mask markings.

Do Alaskan Malamutes come in different "types"?

Not really, except for the oversized dogs I mentioned under the size question above.

How much exercise do Alaskan Malamutes need?

Lots and lots! If you've read this far down the page, you know that the Alaskan Malamute was bred to WORK. Leave him home alone all day and you'll come home to a home that looks like a tornado slashed through. Stick a Malamute in the back yard and you'll be rewarded with howling, craters dug in the dirt, and escapes; this breed is a master of finding the weak link in fencing.

You must provide enough exercise in the form of long walks, a large yard where he can romp in the cold and snow, and involvement in sledding and weight-pulling activities. A champion weight-puller can haul three thousand pounds.

Do Alaskan Malamutes need a fenced yard?

Yes, with a high solid fence. Why? and best and worst fences.

Are Alaskan Malamutes easy to train?

Haha! No. Alaskan Malamutes are very difficult to train. They're independent thinkers with very little desire to please. You must be a firm owner who can establish a healthy leader-follower relationship with this powerful, headstrong, and manipulative breed.

Are Alaskan Malamutes easy to housebreak?

They're about average.

Are Alaskan Malamutes friendly with people?

Most Alaskan Malamutes are friendly or at least good-natured with everyone, whether friend or foe. These dogs have zero watchdog skills, but their size and wolfish appearance can still be a deterrent to bad guys.

Other Malamutes are more discerning, more loyal to their family, and a bit reserved with outsiders.

A well-bred Malamute should never be aggressive, but unfortunately there are Malamutes that are not well-bred, and I have seen aggression issues with these dogs.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good with children?

I don't recommend Alaskan Malamutes for children younger than about age 10. This is a very strong, vigorous breed that could knock over a small child. Even more concerning is this breed's likelihood of being possessive of his food and chew toys. I would never allow a child (or another pet) near an Alaskan Malamute who is engrossed in his food or bones.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good with other dogs?

Certainly they co-exist with other dogs when they're involved in pulling a sled or cart. But out of harness, the Alaskan Malamute is very likely to be dominant and aggressive toward other dogs. Usually this aggression is same-sex, and in Malamutes, female-female conflicts are often more vicious and deadly than male-male.

With their chasing and predatory instincts, Malamutes should not be kept around small dogs.

Honestly, unless you're very experienced with this breed, I prefer to see an Alaskan Malamute as an only dog.

Are Alaskan Malamutes good with cats?

My opinion? I wouldn't trust an Alaskan Malamute in the same room as a cat.

How much do Alaskan Malamutes shed?

Tons and tons. Alaskan Malamutes are very heavy shedders. Along with shedding great chunks of hair in the spring and fall, you'll find loose hair the rest of the year, as well.

Are Alaskan Malamutes hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

Absolutely not!

How much grooming do Alaskan Malamutes need?

Just moderate brushing once a week... except daily during the seasonal shedding periods.

What's a good training schedule for training Alaskan Malamute puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Alaskan Malamutes: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Alaskan Malamutes tend to have?

The worst problems occur during adolescence (7-24 months) when the hormones are building. Most commonly I see animal aggression, rambunctiousness, dominance challenges, hauling people around on the leash, stealing food, howling, digging holes, massive destructive chewing, possessiveness of bones or food, escaping so he can go exploring, and generally getting into trouble.

Don't make the mistake of leaving a young (or bored) Alaskan Malamute alone and loose in the house, instead of properly crated/penned/safe. This critical adolescent period is when you must teach calmness, establish the right leader/follower relationship, and respond properly to behavior problems.

What health problems might Alaskan Malamutes have?

Loose hip or elbow joints are common in Alaskan Malamutes and can cause lameness and crippling arthritic pain. Cataracts and other eye diseases can cause blindness. Then there is cancer, bloat, and hypothyroidism.

What breeds are similar to the Alaskan Malamute?

Most people who consult with me about getting an Alaskan Malamute say they're drawn to its wolfish appearance. When I discourage the breed, they ask, "Is there a breed that resembles a Malamute, but is easier to live with and train?"

The breed that most closely resembles the Malamute, in looks and behavior, is the Siberian Husky. Unfortunately, this breed is no easier to live with and train. If anything, the Siberian Husky needs MORE exercise, is more likely to destroy things when bored, and is more likely to escape his yard. On the plus side, Siberians are smaller and thus easier to handle, and Siberians are less likely to be aggressive toward people and other dogs. (But still predatory toward cats and other small animals.)

Where can I buy an Alaskan Malamute puppy?

I would only buy fron a show breeder who also works his dogs in sledding and/or weight-pulling activities. Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Alaskan Malamute?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Alaskan Malamute. Which pages should I read first?

  • Alaskan Malamute Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Alaskan Malamute puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Alaskan Malamutes, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Alaskan Malamute puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Alaskan Malamutes have pros and cons, and female Alaskan Malamutes have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Alaskan Malamute puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Alaskan Malamute breeder would ever place one of their Alaskan Malamute puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Alaskan Malamute puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Alaskan Malamutes?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Alaskan Malamute to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Alaskan Malamute until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Alaskan Malamute, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Alaskan Malamutes that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.