Alaskan Malamute Breed Information
|Average height||58-64 cm|
|Average weight||34-39 kg|
|Average lifespan||Over 10 years|
|Minimum exercise (per day)||2 hours|
|Minimum cost (per month)||£105|
Alaskan Malamutes are popular dogs due to their looks and individual personalities. They’re often mistaken for Huskies, but Malamutes are larger. They are very solid dogs as they were originally bred to pull sledges.
Although their personalities can be a huge draw for owners, they can be extremely challenging so probably aren’t well suited to first time dog owners. They suit very active homes where they can join their families on daily adventures.
Common health problems in Alaskan Malamutes
Malamutes are robust dogs who can be great in the right household but unfortunately, like many purebred dogs, they are prone to certain health issues associated with their breed. There is currently testing and screening for some of the problems Alaskan Malamutes can have.
If you’re thinking of buying a Malamute puppy, we’d recommend getting one from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, as they meet extra requirements including health screening. Parents having the relevant screening reduces the chances of your puppy being affected by these upsetting conditions. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above in the family line.
Some of the health conditions Malamutes can develop due to their breed include:
- Hip dysplasia – where hip joint that doesn’t fit together perfectly, which will eventually lead to arthritis. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the BVA/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme.
- Hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid, causing problems with weight, skin and energy levels.
- Chondrodysplasia – where cartilage and bone develop incorrectly – puppies can be screened by x-ray between 5-12 weeks of age.
- Idiopathic polyneuropathy – a genetic disorder affecting a dog’s nerves. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by blood test to make sure they are not carriers.
- Day blindness (also known as haemeralopia or cone degeneration) – a sensitivity to bright light which affects their vision. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by blood test to make sure they are not carriers.
- Cataracts – a ‘clouding’ of the lens of the eye affecting vision. Breeding dogs should be screened every year.
If you want to minimise the risk of your dog getting problems due to exaggerated features, you can read our advice on choosing a pedigree dog.
Caring for your Alaskan Malamute
Malamutes can be great pets for very active households but be aware that the breed's large size, strength and stamina mean they’re not the best breed for everyone. Malamutes shouldn’t be left unsupervised with children, vulnerable or older people, especially as they’re so energetic. They need lots and lots of exercise every day to keep them happy and healthy, so need owners with lots of time for them.
Like all dogs, they love company and enjoy being challenged so they can use their intelligence. A bored or lonely Malamute will wreak havoc on your house and garden. They can be challenging and need consistency and patience as well as constant exercise and lots of company.
Alaskan Malamutes and barking
As with any dog, Malamutes are likely to make noise and it’s down to the individual dog how much they bark or vocalise. Malamutes in particular are renowned for being quite vocal (this usually means a lot of howling/singing!) so make sure your home is in a location where this won’t be a problem for others before taking on this breed. If you’re having problems with excessive noise or barking, we recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.
Training and socialisation
Malamutes need ongoing positive, reward-based training and a firm but fair attitude. If you aren’t an experienced trainer, or are a first time dog owner, then you should ask for the help of an accredited trainer. You’ll need to set clear boundaries with them and be patient. As with all training, consistency is key.
They can be destructive, especially if left alone because they can get bored easily. If you need to pop out, remember to leave your Malamute with brain puzzles and safe toys to keep them occupied. You should never leave your dog on their own for more than four hours but some Malamutes may not even be able to cope with this, so work with your individual dog to find out what they can manage without negatively affecting their wellbeing.
Remember to socialise your Malamute as a puppy with lots of other dogs, different people and types of experiences.
Malamutes are extremely active dogs as they were originally bred as working dogs and like to be kept occupied. Their purpose was to pull sledges, and they still have a strong desire to pull, run and roam. There are many clubs available that allow Alaskan Malamutes and their owners to go sledding – even without snow – and this is perfect for fun-loving Alaskan Malamutes, not only for their physical but also their mental wellbeing.
Malamutes need a minimum of two hours of heavy exercise every day. This can be spent running and walking so they can let off steam. As well as this they’ll also need extra playtime, free time in the garden and training to help keep their brains active too. They are a great dog to take on long walks in the cold, but remember that in very hot weather they are more sensitive to overheating due to their thick coats.
Malamutes have a special “double coat” which helps keep them warm in Arctic temperatures. Be prepared – Malamutes shed a lot and aren’t the best pets for house proud owners or people with fur allergies. Because their coats are so thick they will need daily brushing to keep them comfortable, or even twice a day in the spring and autumn when they shed the most.
You might like to get your Malamute professionally groomed around once every six months to keep their coat in the best condition.
Alaskan Malamutes and children
Although Malamutes can be friendly dogs, they suit active adults without children or families with older children or teenagers the best. This is because of their large size and strong-will they could knock over or injure small children accidentally. They also have an instinct to pull on the lead which comes from their sledding background, meaning younger children or inexperienced adults will be much less able to handle them. Always supervise children and vulnerable adults with your Malamute and make sure you can recognise the signs of unhappiness or anxiety in your dog to help avoid any conflicts.
Alaskan Malamutes and other pets
Well socialised Malamutes will usually be fine around other dogs.
Malamutes have a very strong prey drive so you need to be careful with them around smaller animals. While they will tolerate other pets if well-socialised at an early age, we don’t advise leaving them alone with smaller pets.
When you are out walking, make sure you have a firm grip on their lead just in case they decide a smaller dog, cat or any wildlife looks fun to chase. Find a secure area for off-lead exercise.
Your Alaskan Malamute’s diet will vary depending on their age, lifestyle and any medical conditions it may have. You’ll need to feed them a complete, commercial dog food to keep them slim and healthy.
Your vet or vet nurse will be able to tell you how much your dog should be eating if you’re not sure. You should feed them a good quality, commercially available and complete dog food and it’s usually recommended to split their daily allowance into two meals. If you give your dog an occasional treat or use treats for training, remember to take this into account and reduce their daily meal allowance to avoid them gaining weight. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their recommended daily calorie intake or they can unbalance their diet.
You can try to feed your dog at the same time every day to get them into a routine. Remember to leave a gap after eating and before exercising, as this is thought to reduce the risks of GDV.
The cost of owning an Alaskan Malamute
You can expect an Alaskan Malamute to cost you a minimum of £105 per month after purchase and set-up costs and over £17,000 across their lifetime.
Costs you’ll need to think about include:
Adopting an adult dog from a rescue centre may be a cost-effective option, with the added advantage of giving a home to a pet who really needs one – check if the rehoming centre you’re looking at asks for a donation for rehoming.
If instead you’re buying a puppy from a breeder, you’ll need to factor in the cost of the pup. Beware unusually cheap puppies as they could come from a puppy farm. If you’d like to buy a pedigree Alaskan Malamute puppy, we recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder. These breeders must do extra health tests and meet certain standards of breeding.
- Puppy vaccines – if you rescue a dog, reputable centres will often vaccinate them for you. Remember that ongoing booster vaccinations will be needed to continue their immunity.
- Neutering – you should usually arrange for your dog to be neutered at around six months old, although your vet will be able to advise you exactly when is best. Check prices at your local practice as these will depend on your vet and where you live. Some rescue centres will neuter any dogs they rehome, saving you this cost.
- Equipment – including a collar and tags, lead, harness, dog beds, dog bowls, pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrushes, grooming brushes and toys. Keep in mind that all these will need to be replaced with wear or damage or if your dog outgrows or damages them!
- Preventive healthcare – budget for routine vet visits to help stop your dog getting ill and catch any problems early. They need annual check-ups, vaccinations and regular flea and worming treatments. Check if your vet offers a health care plan as this can help spread the cost throughout the year.
- Vet bills* or pet insurance – if you don’t have pet insurance and your dog needs veterinary treatment for an injury or illness, costs can rapidly mount up. Check what’s covered and what isn’t when comparing policies.
- Accessories – including lots of poo bags, replacing worn toys and grooming accessories, buying doggy toothpaste and any other extras they might need.
- Training – basic training is very important and dogs can benefit from formal classes. Some dogs may have, or develop, behavioural problems which might need professional management.
- Boarding – you may also need to budget for boarding or dog sitting costs if you are planning to go away from home on holiday.
- Dog walkers/day-care – you might consider a professional dog walker to keep your dog happy and healthy if you’re unable to get out with your dog enough yourself, or to look after them during the day if you need to be out for more than four hours.
* It’s always better to plan ahead and budget or get pet insurance in case your pet gets injured or unwell. If you are having difficulty with veterinary costs, you can find out more about PDSA services here.
If you’re considering pet insurance, our PDSA Pet Insurance could be a great option for you and it’s quick and easy to get a quote online.
- Alaskan Malamutes can be vocal. They may not bark too much, but will happily howl for you.
- Their fur is double coated and super thick because they were bred to withstand freezing arctic temperatures.
- They can be very mischievous which can make them a challenge to train and they like to chew everything.
- They are the biggest of the sled dog breeds and need lots of space.
Getting an Alaskan Malamute
Do plenty of research before you think about getting an Alaskan Malamute. Make sure you will be able to give one of these friendly, active dogs enough exercise and the right environment so that they can live a happy, healthy life. They take a lot of hard work so we don’t recommend getting one unless you’re absolutely ready to take on a dog who was bred to pull a sled for hours and hours every day.
There are plenty of rescue centres across the country where you may find an Alaskan Malamute. Breed-specific rescues that specialise in Alaskan Malamutes are out there too. You’ll need to ask any rescue centre about the dog’s history to make sure they will be comfortable in your home. Good rescue centres should run home checks, neuter their dogs and let you know of any potential health or behaviour problems after health or temperament assessments.
If you buy from a breeder, make sure your puppy will be well socialised and that the puppy and their parents have all necessary health checks and vaccinations. We recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they meet higher standards and must do certain health tests. We’ve put together some advice to help you find a good breeder.