Choosing an Alaskan Malamute

Choosing an Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan malamute is one of the oldest of the Arctic sled dogs, powerfully built and originally bred to pull heavy weight over long distance in harsh conditions. Best known as a member of a sled dog team, the malamute has slowly gained popularity and is now better known as a companion rather than a working dog.

History and Origin

The exact origin of the Alaskan malamute is uncertain, as is the origin of the people who came to inhabit the land now called Alaska (the Inuits). Written accounts exist of an Inuit tribe called the Mahlemut, who settled along the shores in the upper western part of Alaska, and are believed to have bred these dogs to pull sleds and as pack animals. The dogs are named for the tribe. Over time, the name changed to malamute. The tribe appeared to have high regard for their dogs and took great efforts to care for them. Today the breed is a popular pet and still maintains a reputation as an impressive recreational sled dog. The Alaskan malamute was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1935 as a working breed.


The Alaskan malamute is a large dog. The undercoat is extremely thick and the outer coat is coarse, reaching 2 inches in length on some pets. The coat may be all white or range from light gray to black with white markings. The ears are triangular and usually erect, pointing slightly forward. However, the ears may fall forward even more when the dog is working. The tail is full and brush-like, widening toward the tip and arching over the back. The forelegs are straight and under the shoulders while the hindlegs extend slightly outward and in back of the hind end. The dog's chest is deep and the eyes are brown. Despite its large size, the malamute moves quite gracefully.


The Alaskan malamute possesses a quiet, dignified demeanor. The pet easily and quickly becomes a cherished family member.

Home and Family Relations

The Alaskan malamute interacts well with children and other dogs. The breed is also a good first pet as long as the owner has the time and energy to provide the much-needed exercise for a dog of this size and heritage.


The Alaskan malamute is well known as an intelligent dog and highly trainable. They do well as sled dogs and also on search and rescue teams.

Special Characteristics

Because of the breed's northern origin, a cooler climate is preferred. Pets who live in warmer and humid environments must never be left outdoors for more than a few minutes and should not be made to exercise in the heat. Serious health problems could result. Alaskan malamutes shed significantly in the summer.

Special Care

The Alaskan malamute benefits from daily brushing. If this is not possible, brushing the coat thoroughly several times a week may be adequate. This activity encourages the growth of a healthy coat, along with a proper diet and adequate exercise, and eliminates mats.

Health Concerns

  • Zinc responsive dermatosis - is a condition that results in hair loss and skin crusting around the eyes, ears, mouth and genital area. The problem usually develops around 1 to 3 years of age.
  • Demodectic mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by a mite. Hair loss and itchiness are common.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately.
  • Polyneuropathy - is a degeneration of nerves that can cause weakness in all limbs and exercise intolerance. The disease usually begins at about 1 to 1 ½ years of age.
  • Renal dysplasia is a disease in which development of the kidney tissue is abnormal which can cause renal failure.
  • Hemeralopia - is a problem with the eyes that causes the dog to lose vision in bright light but normal vision returns at night.
  • Corneal ulceration is the loss of the corneal epithelium (the outermost cells of the cornea).
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. You may see a cloudy, white color in the pupil, which is normally black. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Progressive retinal degeneration (PRD) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Glaucoma is a painful and serious condition that causes pressure within the eye to increase. It can lead to blindness if not treated early.
  • Anal sac adenocarcinoma is a tumor arising from the anal glands.

    In addition, malamutes are also prone to gastric torsion (bloat), hip dysplasia, dwarfism, diabetes and hemophilia.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the Alaskan malamute is approximately 8 to 10 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.