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Alternative Name

Mal (The Artic Dog)

Basic Info

The Alaskan Malamute is a large northern dog breed originally developed for use as a sleddog. The AKC breed standard calls for a natural range of size, with a desired freighting weight of 75 to 85 pounds (34-38.5 kg) and a height of 23 to 25 inches (58-63.5 cm). Heavier individuals (100+ pounds) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds are common--there is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 140 pounds or more are occasionally seen; these dogs are uncommon and are produced primarily by breeders who market a "giant" malamute. These "giant" sizes are not in accordance with the breed's history or the AKC standard. The coat is a dense double northern dog coat, somewhat harsher than that of the Siberian Husky. The usual colors are various shades of grey and white, sable and white, black and white, red and white, or pure white. Eyes are almond-shaped and brown; blue eyes are sometimes found, but will disqualify the dog in shows. The physical build of the Malamute is compact with heavy boning. In this context 'compact' means that their height to length ratio is fairly even, unlike dogs like Great Danes which are longer and lankier in their ratios. According to the American Kennel Club, the primary criteria for judging the Malamute in a show is its function to pull heavy freight as a sled dog; everything else is secondary. As many an owner has found out, the pulling power of a Malamute is tremendous, and if this trait is lacking in a show dog, it is enough for a disqualification.


Health issues in the Alaskan Malamute are hip dysplasia, inherited polyneuropathy, chrondo dysplasia, and the usual northern-breed eye problems (particularly cataract and progressive retinal atrophy). While Malamutes have been successfully raised in places such as Arizona, their dense coats generally make them unsuited for hot climates. When the weather gets hot, they—even more than other dogs—need plenty of water and shade. Also, being a winterised breed they will grow a winter coat and subsequently, come spring, shed it again.



Understanding Alaskan Malamutes behavior requires understanding life in an aboriginal Arctic village. Malamutes were originally bred to think and act independently for the sake of protecting the sled team. Hazardous and unpredictable Arctic trail conditions rewarded the ability of a Malamute to rely on its own senses and, when necessary, override the sled driver's judgment and commands. As such, the breed is notorious for displaying a highly independent streak that manifests itself as stubbornness. Malamutes are sometimes downright insubordinate toward their human handlers and may ignore commands, particularly when young. At the same time, Arctic life required that Malamutes be bred to behave as consummate members of the sled team, family, and village community. Therefore they are usually very affectionate to members of their own pack - human and dog members alike. A Malamute may talk in glee in greeting a returning family or pack member after a period of separation, and howl in protest when it feels ignored, neglected, or excluded from group activities. Also, Alaskan Malamutes are usually friendly to other humans outside their own pack, often demanding their attention and affection as well. The Malamute's gregariousness and tendency to openly, unreservedly give affection make them highly attractive to many dog owners; these same qualities make a Malamute a poor guard dog. The harsh conditions for which Malamutes were bred rewarded a strong prey drive, as food was occasionally scarce. Consequently, Malamutes may instinctively attack animals such as house cats, squirrels, rabbits, chickens, quail, and even deer (however, many households enjoy harmonious, mixed "packs" of cats and Malamutes). Historic competition for food is also a reason why Malamutes may regard dogs outside their own pack or team with disdain or hostility. Malamutes dug for food when required, and digging is now a common way in which Malamutes deal with boredom. It is not uncommon to see a Malamute digging madly in pursuit of a mouse, mole, or gopher. Malamutes may also dig to escape a fenced yard, and have been known to dig escape tunnels underneath houses. This tendency to dig can be particularly frustrating to owners who maintain yards or gardens. Owing to the Malamute's independent nature, physical strength, and its high levels of energy and intelligence, most experts on the breed advise that Malamutes not be adopted by people who: are inexperienced in training dogs,/ lack the time, energy, and space to exercise them, or ,/ lack the patience and stamina to repeatedly engage in contests of willpower with a large, powerful animal without becoming angry.


United States


The Alaskan Malamute is a descendant of dogs of the Mahlemuit tribe of upper western Alaska. For a brief period during the Gold Rush, the Malamute and other sled dogs became extremely valuable to recently landed prospectors and settlers, and were frequently crossbred with imported breeds. This was often a misguided attempt to improve the type, or to make up for how few true Malamutes were up for sale. This genetic dilution seems to have had no long standing effect on the modern Malamute, and recent DNA analysis shows that Alaskan Malamutes are one of the oldest breeds of dog, genetically distinct from other dog breeds. The Malamute dog has had a distinguished history; aiding Admiral Richard Byrd to the South Pole, and the miners who came to Alaska during the Gold Rush of 1896. This dog was never destined to be a racing sled dog; instead, it was used for heavy freighting, pulling hundreds (maybe thousands) of pounds of supplies to villages and camps. That is in a group of at least 4 dogs for the heavy loads.