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What is an Alaskan Malamute?

By B. Schreiber
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The Alaskan malamute is a large breed of dog that was developed in Alaska and the Arctic regions of Canada. Tall and powerful, the malamute was bred for its endurance in pulling sleds in harsh weather. Malamutes have variable coats of gray, black, and tan, but always have a characteristic facial mask of lighter fur, which contrasts with the surrounding darker fur. Malamutes make good pets, but have lots of energy and require exercise. While the dog is typically friendly with children and other dogs, its high energy level can make the Alaskan malamute challenging to train.

Impressive in their size, adult Alaskan malamutes stand about 23 to 28 inches (58 to 71 cm) tall. They are noted for their muscular bodies, deep chests, and broad faces. Their somewhat rough outer coat is frequently mixed and may contain sandy colors, gray, or black, and their coats often have white markings. Adults weigh on average 85 pounds (39 kg), but they may weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg). Other features include brown eyes, an erect carriage of the head, and a plumed tail that is usually held curled over the back when the dog is standing.

Malamutes take their name from an Inuit tribe native to western Alaska called the Mahlemuts. The breed was probably already well developed when Europeans first made contact with this and other native Alaskan tribes. Early explorers always associated the Mahlemuts with their dogs and admired the people and their distinctive breed. Rather than being bred for speed, malamutes were developed for hauling and have thus inherited a great deal of natural energy and endurance. Today they are still best kept in cooler climates.

Due to their curious nature and high level of activity, the best owners for an Alaskan malamute is someone who is naturally active or fond of exercise. The malamute requires moderate grooming and has a rather large appetite. The breed is generally known as a gentle giant, getting along with other adults, children, and dogs. If it is not properly trained, the Alaskan malamute may have behavioral problems when faced with other dogs.

Since the Alaskan malamute was bred for pulling, training classes are recommended to make walking and exercise comfortable for both the owner and the dog. Well-trained malamutes should not present other handling problems. Their naturally playful and gentle temperament will be encouraged by frequent exercise. In regions with snowy winters, they are still used as sled dogs for recreation or for sport.

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