Can Alaskan Malamutes Stay Outside in The Cold? (Explained)

Can Alaskan Malamutes Stay Outside in The Cold

The Alaskan Malamute, a descendant of Arctic wolves, can tolerate temperatures down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Their thick, waterproof double coat makes them well-suited for the Arctic’s frozen conditions. In the past, they joined expeditions, helping settlers carry heavy loads on sleds.

The time your Alaskan Malamute can stay outside in the cold depends on its age, health, and coat density. Generally, the Alaskan Malamute can handle both moderately warm and extremely cold temperatures well.

Alaskan Malamutes Cold Tolerance

Alaskan Malamutes, as their name suggests, were bred to be sled dogs in Alaska’s frigid Arctic climate.

Living for generations in harsh subzero conditions, Alaskan Malamutes have developed remarkable body and mind traits that make them love, not just endure, the freezing winters.

Built for Subzero Survival

  • Alaskan Malamutes have a double coat for insulation: a soft, dense undercoat up to two inches thick, and a top layer of long, coarse guard hairs.
  • Malamutes have tough foot pads and furry paws, protecting them from freezing and rough snow and ice.
  • High-fat content – An Alaskan Malamute’s diet while working in frigid temperatures requires up to twice the fat intake by proportion than a typical dog’s food. This high fat intake keeps them warm and gives them the energy to stay active in cold climates.
  • Relaxed heat loss – Unlike humans and other dog breeds, Alaskan Malamutes can relax the blood vessels near their skin to release body heat when needed. This helps them cool down efficiently after hard work and prevents overheating.
  • Malamutes primarily circulate blood to their vital organs and core, less so to their extremities. This concentrates heat where it’s most needed and reduces warmth loss from their outer tissues

Thriving in their Element

Apart from their natural insulation and temperature control, Alaskan Malamutes get physically and mentally energized by falling temperatures.

  • Cold weather boosts the energy and playfulness of Malamutes, reminiscent of their Alaskan hunter instincts, especially in winter settings.
  • Snow excites Malamutes a lot. They often joyfully buck, zoom, dig, and tunnel through fresh snow.
  • Their strong tolerance for cold, a trait bred into them, makes Malamutes more eager to stay outdoors in cold weather, unlike humans and other dog breeds.

Is My Alaskan Malamute Truly Weatherproof?

Not every Malamute has the same level of resistance to winter conditions. Their cold weather readiness depends on various factors.

Check Their Coat Condition

The double coat of an Alaskan Malamute is its primary defense against the cold. Examine both layers to gauge their insulating potential:

  • The undercoat should present as a cottony-soft, dense layer of fur exceeding one inch thick. This thick undercoat creates pockets of air that trap body heat. Thin or nearly bald undercoats do not retain warmth effectively.
  • The guard coat has long, coarse hairs covering the shoulders and back. Healthy Malamutes have outer fur that extends 1-2 inches in length. Short and sparse guard hairs leave the undercoat exposed to cold and moisture.
  • Check for complete fur coverage on the torso, chest, neck, and behind the ears. Patchy or uneven coats may signal health issues affecting their fur’s condition.

Consider Their Age

Many adult Alaskan Malamutes do well in cold weather, but puppies and senior dogs are more vulnerable.

  • Puppies under 1 year old. Their coat, metabolism, and temperature control might not be fully developed to protect them.
  • Senior dogs over 8 years old may struggle to retain body heat and their tolerance for cold can decrease with age.

How Cold is Too Cold for an Alaskan Malamute?

Interpreting Frigid Temperature Readings

  • Most healthy adult Alaskan Malamutes can safely stay outdoors for limited periods in temperatures down to -20°F (-29°C).
  • Temperatures below -35°F (-37°C) can be too cold for even well-adapted Malamutes to handle safely. In such extreme cold, seek immediate shelter for your Malamute.
  • Consider windchill along with the actual air temperature when assessing cold risks. Strong winds can lower body temperature faster than still, cold air. Avoid staying out for long in windchill temperatures below ‐60°F (-51°C).
  • Puppies, elderly, and health-compromised Malamutes have a lower tolerance for cold. They are more prone to cold stress and injury. Limit their outdoor time, especially when temperatures reach frostbite warning levels for typical dogs.

How Long Can Alaskan Malamutes Stay in The Cold?

Follow these guidelines to determine how long to keep your Malamute outside.

  • Above 20°F (-6°C): They can stay outside for several hours, but monitor them closely.
  • 0°F to 20°F (-18°C to -6°C): One hour maximum.
  • -10°F to 0°F (-23°C to -18°C): 30-45 minutes maximum.
  • -20°F (-29°C) and below: 15-30 minutes maximum.

Reduce these times for puppies, seniors, or during strong winds that make it feel colder.

Setting Safe Timeframes

  • Consider the dog’s age and health.
  • Take into account the current outdoor temperature and windchill.
  • Consider their activity level outdoors, as more activity can increase body heat loss.

Do Alaskan Malamutes Like the Cold?

Seeing an Alaskan Malamute joyfully playing in the snow clearly shows their natural love for cold conditions. But what causes their joyful response to very cold temperatures?

Arctic Affinity Encoded in Their DNA

Selective breeding over generations for work in Alaska’s frozen climates gave Malamutes physical and mental traits ideal for cold environments.

  • Ancestral northern dogs required amplified metabolic activity and alert mental focus to hunt and survive wintry extremes. Likewise, cold air boosts a Malamute’s metabolism, energy, stamina, and hunting instinct.
  • Studies indicate that snowfall and cold air increase dopamine and serotonin levels in northern working dogs like Malamutes. These hormones lead to happier moods and a stronger desire to play.

Essentially, a Malamute’s body and brain make them thrive when temperatures drop, snow covers the ground, and lakes freeze.

The Allure of Winter Wonderlands

Additionally, winter scenery and activities specifically appeal to many intrinsic canine interests making the season especially enticing:

  • Malamutes find digging through fresh, fluffy snowbanks down to the soil exhilarating.
  • Malamutes are intrigued by new scents captured in the frost and snow, appealing to their sharp sense of smell.
  • Malamutes enjoy catching and biting at snowflakes, which stimulates their hunting instincts.
  • Malamutes love chasing and wrestling with their owners in the snow, sharing the joy of winter play.

To an Alaskan Malamute, winter turns their environment into an exciting playground filled with their favorite activities. For them, it’s a perfect winter world whenever subzero temperatures last until spring.

Cold Warning Signs

Watch out for these cold warning signs that’ll let you know if your Alaskan Malamute needs to come inside:


If your Alaskan Malamute begins to shiver or shake- bring your dog inside immediately.

Becoming Anxious

Signs of anxiety or stress is another foolproof way to identify if your dog is becoming too cold.


Unusual whining or calling of your attention can indicate a problem coming from your Alaskan Malamute.

Curled-up Position

When your Alaskan Malamute remains stagnant in a curled-up position, they’re usually too cold to move and are trying to keep warm. In this instance, it’ll be time to bring them inside.

Acting Distant or Refusing to Leave Dog House

If your dog shows signs of distance or refusal to come out of their dog house- this is generally a sign they’re too cold.

Paws Rising

Whenever it’s cold out and your Alaskan Malamute raises his paws, he’s attempting to grab your attention and explain in “doggy-language” that he’s cold.

Don’t forget, dogs do get cold in extreme freezing temperatures- despite other people’s claims.

Whenever your Alaskan Malamute appears to be showing cold warning signs, be sure to act accordingly and provide them temporary warmth until their behavior regulates.

What Diet Should Alaskan Malamute Eat if They Are Outside for Long Periods in The Cold?

The best diet for an Alaskan Malamute spending long periods outside in the cold is a high-fat diet. Foods that contain greater than 20% of fat are considered high-fat.

A high-fat diet is commonly used for working dogs- which assists in increasing endurance. The same diet will suit an Alaskan Malamute that spends the majority of their time outside in the cold.

The more natural fats your Alaskan Malamute has, the better off they’ll be compared to a skinner dog.

It is important to remember that typical household dogs do not require being on a high-fat diet, in fact- for some dogs, they risk potential health issues.

High saturated fats are no good, for both humans and dogs. High saturated fats include:

  • French Fries
  • Burgers
  • Some Cheese
  • Pizza

To feed your Alaskan Malamute an adequate high-fat diet, you’ll need to provide the correct sort of foods.

Find below examples of high-fat foods you can provide for your Alaskan Malamute:

  • Boiled Eggs
  • Fatty Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Trout, etc)
  • Nuts
  • Full-Fat Yoghurt
  • Beef and Pork
  • Raw Chicken

Remember: Everything should be in moderation- remaining caution around dog-obesity.

Caring for Alaskan Malamutes in The Cold

Surprisingly, caring for an Alaskan Malamute in the cold is considerably easier than caring for an Alaskan Malamute in the hot weather.

The Alaskan Malamute is a caring, loyal, and friendly breed that enjoys assisting humans through the use of their endurance and strength. And for an Alaskan Malamute, the cold weather comes as no battle.

If you have plans to keep your Alaskan Malamute outside in the cold, be sure to consider a few of these tips first:

  1. Provide a weatherproof dog-house
  2. Do not shave their coat (Let it shed naturally)
  3. Keep him hydrated, providing plenty of water
  4. Feed them a high-fat diet
  5. Maintain frequent VET visits
  6. Watch the temperature
  7. Keep an eye out for cold warning signs

Exercise During the Winter

Benefits of Cold Weather Exercise

  • Intensified energy levels – Breathing in cold air often makes Malamutes more lively, encouraging them to run, play, and release stored energy.
  • Elevated endurance – Unlike other dogs whose stamina decreases in heat, most Alaskan Malamutes can exercise for much longer in the cold before they tire.
  • Mental engagement – Winter environments stimulate a Malamute’s senses and interests, keeping them more focused and less prone to distraction.
  • Social stimulation – Exercising together in winter often motivates owners to spend more time playing outdoors with their Malamute.

Potential Cold Risks

  • Watch for signs of overexertion and give your Mal a warm break if needed.
  • To prevent heat stroke, avoid intense exercise right after your Mal has been indoors for a long time.
  • Be careful of unsafe ice or packed snow, as they increase the risk of injury.
  • Put protective booties on your Mal when exercising on salted sidewalks to prevent irritation to their foot pads.
  • Remember that a Malamute excited from exercise takes longer to calm down after coming back indoors.

Adjust the pace and plan activities considering the weather to ensure your Mal exercises comfortably throughout the winter.

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