The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Alaskan Malamute

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Alaskan Malamute

Whether you’re a current Alaskan Malamute owner seeking to understand your pet better, or you’re considering welcoming this breed into your home.

This guide is designed to equip you with all the necessary information, from its rich history and purposeful breeding to its size, temperament, and intelligence.

Alaskan Malamute History: What Are Alaskan Malamutes Bred for?

Alaskan Malamutes have a 5,000-year history as working dogs in the Arctic region and Alaska and are still used as sled dogs today. Their name originates from the Alaskan ‘Mahlemiut’ Inuit tribe who bred them to pull heavy sleds and hunt polar bears.

During the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s, this breed played a crucial role in transporting people and supplies across the harsh terrain. Their strength, endurance, and ability to navigate difficult terrain made them invaluable to the prospectors who were searching for gold.

A close relation to similar Arctic breeds such as the Siberian Husky and the Samoyed, Alaskan Malamutes were originally bred for their ability to work in cold climates due to their thick and protective double coat.

How Big Do Alaskan Malamutes Get?

Alaskan Malamutes are a large breed of dog. The size of Alaskan Malamutes can differ considerably within the breed, with some attaining what is known as ‘Giant’ stature.

Standard male Alaskan Malamutes typically stand about 25 inches high at the shoulder and weigh around 85 pounds, while females usually stand 23 inches high and weigh about 75 pounds.

There are also ‘Giant’ Alaskan Malamutes which significantly exceed these standard sizes. These dogs often reach between 150 to 200 pounds, with males standing slightly taller than females at around 30 inches.

They are much larger than standard Malamutes, giving them an imposing presence.

Alaskan Malamutes Temperament: What Is It Like to Own an Alaskan Malamute?

Alaskan Malamutes are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and dignified nature, but they necessitate a significant amount of respect and compliance from their caretakers.

A key part of their personality is their independent streak. It can take a lot of patience and persistence when training them before they can follow commands, and they respond best to positive reinforcement techniques.

While friendly and affectionate with their owners, you may find them to be aloof with new people and naturally wary of strangers.

These dogs have a strong prey drive and are known to chase and attack small animals, so they may not always be suitable for households with small pets (unless socialized with them from an early age).

Are Alaskan Malamutes Good with Kids?

At their heart, Alaskan Malamutes are basically giant softies and can make perfect family pets, but they will need to socialize with children early on to help them feel at ease and establish a strong bond.

You may find that older kids who can handle their size and strength are better fits for your Alaskan Malamute as younger kids could be injured accidentally due to their size and playful nature. Therefore, it’s important to supervise interactions between young children and Alaskan Malamutes.

Do Alaskan Malamutes Get Along With Cats?

Yes and no – Alaskan Malamutes have a high prey drive, which means they can chase after small animals like cats without much thought. Through appropriate instruction and social interaction, they can be taught to live together harmoniously.

The key factor in determining whether an Alaskan Malamute will get along with cats is how they were introduced and at what age.

If an Alaskan Malamute is exposed to a cat during its puppy stage, it’s more likely to recognize the cat as part of its social group. Whereas an adult Alaskan Malamute meeting a cat for the first time may view them as prey and attempt to chase or attack it.

To increase the chances of a successful introduction, keep the cat and Alaskan Malamute separated initially. Use baby gates or crates to create separate living spaces and gradually allow the cat and dog to interact under supervision.

Alaskan Malamutes Intelligence: How Smart Are They?

Based on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) rankings, Alaskan Malamutes hold the 50th position in intelligence among 138 breeds. Their renowned skill in solving problems stands as a vivid testament to their mental acuity.

Intelligence in dogs can be measured in different ways. For instance, certain dogs excel in obeying orders and mastering tricks, whereas others stand out with their problem-solving prowess and capacity for independent thought. Alaskan Malamutes perform better in the latter.

How Often Do Alaskan Malamutes Bark?

While Alaskan Malamutes aren’t particularly known for frequent barking, they do communicate through a variety of sounds such as howling, whimpering, and a distinct form of “talking.”

Alaskan Malamutes are descendants of sled dogs and were bred to communicate with their human companions, using various vocalizations to express their emotions and needs.

One of the most common sounds Alaskan Malamutes make is howling which they may do when they are lonely, bored, or in reaction to other dogs howling.

As for barking, this breed may only do so when they feel threatened or to alert their owners of something.

How Much Sleep Should an Alaskan Malamute Have?

On average, an adult Alaskan Malamute requires 12 to 14 hours of sleep each day, whereas a puppy might need as much as 18 hours. The precise amount of sleep your Malamute needs may vary based on aspects such as age, size, and activity level.

Your Alaskan Malamute must get enough sleep to avoid fatigue and irritability, so be sure to create a comfortable sleeping area for them, away from any distractions.

Understanding Your Alaskan Malamute

Best Age to Breed a New Alaskan Malamute

Initiating the breeding process either too early or too late may result in several health issues and potentially decrease conception probabilities

For male Alaskan Malamutes, the optimal breeding age is approximately 18 months. This is when they have achieved physical maturity and attained their maximum size and weight.

For female Alaskan Malamutes, it is preferable to start breeding after their second heat cycle (normally around 18-24 months).

In addition to choosing a healthy age,  choose a reputable breeder who follows ethical practices and prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs.

Ask about their breeding practices, health screenings, and genetic testing. A conscientious breeder will be transparent about their methods and provide you with all the essential information to make the right decision.

Best Age to Spay/Neuter an Alaskan Malamute

It’s typically suggested to hold off on the spaying or neutering of your Alaskan Malamute until they’ve reached a minimum age of 9 months. This gives them sufficient time to fully grow and mature before they undergo the procedure.

Waiting until the dog is fully grown can be beneficial, particularly to avoid potential orthopedic problems.

Starting the spaying or neutering operation before the dog has reached full maturity can potentially affect the growth of the dog’s bones, joints, and growth plates.

Conversely, postponing the spaying or neutering process for too long is not without its risks. For females, each heat cycle they go through increases their risk of mammary cancer and pyometra, a potentially life-threatening uterine infection.

Intact males may exhibit certain undesirable behaviors such as marking, roaming, and aggression. Neutering can help mitigate these behaviors.

What Alaskan Malamutes Can (And Can’t) Eat?

Being a guardian of an Alaskan Malamute requires understanding the safe foods and those that could pose a risk to their health.

What Alaskan Malamutes Can Eat?

  • Meat: As carnivores, Alaskan Malamutes flourish on a diet rich in protein. Feed your dog beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and lamb. Be sure to handle it safely to avoid contamination. Cooked meat is also fine, but avoid feeding your dog meat with bones as they can splinter and cause digestive problems.
  • Fish: Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure the fish is cooked and boneless.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: They are abundant in diverse vitamins and minerals. Top picks encompass apples, bananas, blueberries, carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes. Always remove any seeds or pits when preparing fruits/veggies for your dog to prevent choking or cyanide poisoning.
  • Grains: While Alaskan Malamutes don’t need grains in their diet, they can eat them in moderation. Give them small handfuls of cooked brown rice, oatmeal, or quinoa.

What Alaskan Malamutes Can’t Eat?

  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Even a minimal quantity can result in vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
  • Grapes and Raisins: They can cause kidney failure in dogs. Avoid feeding your dog any foods that contain either of them also.
  • Onions and Garlic: They can damage your dog’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Avoid feeding your dog any foods that contain traces of onion or garlic.

Are Alaskan Malamutes Easy to Train?

Training an Alaskan Malamute can be challenging due to their pack mentality but their intelligence makes them quick learners, so a firm and fair approach will yield good results!

Start early with your dog as puppies are like sponges and can learn to establish good habits and behaviors with enough positive reinforcement. Early training can help them distinguish between real threats and normal play so that overprotective, aggressive tendencies don’t set in.

Reward good behavior with treats, toys, and verbal praise, and avoid using punishment or negative reinforcement, as this can cause your dog to become fearful or aggressive.

Secondly, learn to establish yourself as the pack leader as Alaskan Malamutes look to you for guidance and direction – this means things like taking him for a walk before feeding him and reserving affection for when your dog is calm and submissive.

Can Alaskan Malamutes Swim?

Yes, Alaskan Malamutes can swim! They are not innate swimmers, so you will need to dedicate time to train them.

Swimming is a hugely beneficial skill to teach them as it provides a low-impact workout for their joints and helps keep them cool during warm weather.

Swimming can be difficult for them initially due to their heavy bone structure and thick double coat which can weigh them down, so make sure to supervise them at all times.

Even though they may enjoy the water, they can easily become exhausted and have difficulty staying buoyant. Always ensure they are wearing a life jacket, particularly if you intend to bring them on a boat or into deeper waters.

Can Alaskan Malamutes Run Long Distances?

Yes, their history as sled dogs transporting people and goods for miles and miles makes Alaskan Malamutes excellent long-distance runners. This breed requires a lot of exercise, thriving on long runs and hikes, so a short walk around the block won’t be sufficient for them!

While they have great natural stamina, it’s important to take your Alaskan Malamute for shorter runs at first and build up the distance gradually. You must also ensure they remain well hydrated and energized so bring along some water and snacks on runs.

Do Alaskan Malamutes Shed?

Yes, Alaskan Malamutes shed quite heavily but this is thankfully manageable with proper grooming and maintenance.

Alaskan Malamutes possess a dense dual-layered fur designed to shield them from the severe climatic conditions of the Arctic.

The outer coat is made up of long, coarse guard hairs, while the undercoat is soft and dense. This double coat helps them stay warm, but it also means a lot of loose hairs around the house!

Shedding is a year-round process, but it is more pronounced during the spring and fall when they “blow coat” (shedding their undercoat to make way for a new one).

Daily brushing with a good-quality grooming brush is the key to keeping their coat healthy and reducing shedding whilst an undercoat rake is recommended for removing loose fur and preventing mats from forming.

Proper nutrition and hydration are also important for maintaining a healthy coat.

Are Alaskan Malamutes Hypoallergenic?

Alaskan Malamutes are not considered a hypoallergenic breed of dog due to their thick coats and heavy shedding.

Alaskan Malamutes have a thick, double coat that sheds copiously in the spring and fall. During these times, they will require more frequent grooming to keep their shedding under control. This shedding can cause dander, which is dead skin flakes, to be released into the air, causing allergic reactions in sufferers.

If you’re grappling with allergy symptoms, you can diminish your allergen exposure by regularly brushing and bathing to reduce loose hair.

Using air purifiers or HEPA filters could eliminate air-borne allergens.

Can Alaskan Malamutes Stay Outside in the Heat?

Alaskan Malamutes should not stay outside in the heat for extended periods as their thick fur coats can cause them to quickly overheat.

They lack sweat glands throughout their bodies, hence their body temperature regulation is not as efficient as that of humans.

If you must keep your Alaskan Malamute outside during hot weather, take the following steps to keep them cool and comfortable:

  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool drinking water
  • Keep their coat well-groomed to help them regulate their body temperature
  • Providing a shaded area for your dog to rest in
  • Avoiding exercise during the hottest parts of the day
  • Using a cooling mat or other cooling products designed for dogs
  • Provide a paddling pool for them to bathe and cool off

In hot weather, vigilantly monitor your Alaskan Malamute for signs of heatstroke or other heat-induced ailments such as heavy panting, drooling, lack of energy, and vomiting. If any of these signs are observed, prompt veterinary assistance is necessary.

Can Alaskan Malamutes Stay Outside in the Cold?

Despite their dense, fluffy coats providing good insulation from the cold, Alaskan Malamutes can still fall victim to hypothermia if exposed to prolonged periods of cold without appropriate care and vigilance.

Provide them with a shelter that is insulated and protected from the wind. Ensure that the shelter provides ample space for your dog comfortably stand, turn around, and lay down. You should also provide your dog with plenty of fresh water that is not frozen.

Indicators of hypothermia in your dog encompass trembling, lack of energy, and a reduced heart rate. So regularly monitor them and if you notice any of these signs, bring them inside and warm them up gradually.

Can Alaskan Malamutes Live in Apartments?

Apartment living is possible with this giant breed, but it will requires careful planning and preparation.

Firstly, Alaskan Malamutes love to run and play so you need to provide suitable space indoors for physical activity and games with them.

If you have a small apartment, regular long walks outdoors will become essential to help them run off steam and provide adequate mental stimulation to stave off boredom and aggression.

With their imposing size in mind, consider not only the apartment’s layout but also the stairs and any narrow hallways which could be difficult for them to navigate.

Understanding Your Alaskan Malamute

Are Alaskan Malamutes Good Service Dogs?

Service dogs are specially trained to perform specific duties for those with disabilities. This can include guiding visually impaired people, alerting hearing-impaired individuals, and pulling a wheelchair, among other tasks.

Although Alaskan Malamutes can be trained to undertake some of these tasks, they may not be the optimal choice as a service dog. Their strong-willed nature and potential for aggressive behavior can make their specialized training quite challenging.

Additionally, their sheer size means they may not be able to fit into tight spaces or navigate crowded areas as easily as smaller breeds can, which is essential for owners in need of help opening doors, retrieving certain items, etc.

However, situations in which Alaskan Malamutes may excel as a service dog may include tasks that require strength, such as pulling a wheelchair or assisting with mobility.

Alaskan Malamutes Mixed Breeds

Alaskan Malamute mixed breeds inherit a variety of physical and personality traits from both parents, making them unique and interesting companions.

Some popular mixed breeds include:

  •  Alaskan Shepherd: This mix combines the Alaskan Malamute with the German Shepherd, resulting in large, intelligent dogs that are loyal and protective of its family. They require a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation to maintain their health and satisfaction.
  • Siberian Malamute: This mix combines the Alaskan Malamute with the Siberian Husky to create aN athletic, energetic, and independent dog. While they can exhibit stubbornness and pose challenges during training, their loyalty and affection towards their family members is unwavering.
  • Malamoodle: This mix combines the Alaskan Malamute with the Poodle. The outcome is a smart dog, allergy-friendly, and sheds minimally. While great for those with allergies, regular grooming is needed to keep their coats in good condition.
  • Alaskan Goldenmute: This mix combines a Golden Retriever with the Alaskan Malamute, resulting in a dog that is super friendly, loyal, and intelligent. They’re also good with children and make great family pets.
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