Alaskan Malamute: Breed Profile

| Updated: August 10, 2023
Alaskan Malamute laying on side with tongue out

Origin History of the Alaskan Malamute:

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the oldest and most iconic Arctic sled dogs. Their ancestors crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska thousands of years ago with native peoples, eventually settling in the northeastern area of the Seward Peninsula. It is here that the Alaskan Malamute was developed for the purpose of hunting seals, chasing away polar bears, and pulling heavy sleds loaded with food or camp supplies. The native people treated their dogs well and valued them highly, so the breed survived the influx of new breeds during the gold rush of 1896 better than other breeds.

Fast forward to the 1930s, and Arthur T. Walden’s Chinook Kennel in New Hampshire had established the breed and began breeding Alaskan Malamutes. Walden and his successors Milton and Eva Seeley supplied dogs for the Byrd Antarctic expeditions, and also began a program to reproduce the dogs found in the Norton Sound area of Alaska, becoming known as the ‘Kotzebue’ strain. Paul Voelker, Sr. began a slightly different strain in the early 1900s and 1920s, known as the ‘M’Loot’ strain, which was used in both World War I and II.

The Alaskan Malamute Club of America was formed in 1935, with the American Kennel Club recognizing the breed the same year. During World War II, most of the registered Alaskan Malamutes were loaned out for war duty as there was a great demand for sled dogs. Tragically, many of them were destroyed after serving their nation on an expedition to Antarctica during World War II. All AKC-registered Malamutes today can trace their ancestry back to the original Kotzebues or to dogs registered during the open period in the late 1940s.

full length side profile of a husky cross malamute dog standing and facing to the right
Credit: Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/ Gettyimages

Alaskan Malamute Appearance:

The physical appearance of the Alaskan Malamute is one of its most striking and recognizable features. This breed sports a thick, dense double coat in a variety of colors ranging from light gray to black, sable, and shades of sable to red. The coat length increases around the shoulders and neck, down the back, over the rump, and in the breeches and plume of the tail. The undercoat is one to two inches deep and is oily and woolly to repel wetness and cold.

The most distinctive feature of the Alaskan Malamute is their wolf-like facial markings and huge plumed tail, which waves when they greet someone. Many Malamutes have an attractive white blaze on the forehead or around the neck. These majestic dogs also possess tremendous strength, energy, and endurance, and are often chosen for companionship and various dog sports.

Alaskan Malamute standing on snowbank
Credit: Zoltan Gerzsenyi / EyeEm/ Gettyimages

Diet and Nutrition:

The Alaskan Malamute is a large, active breed with high energy and exercise needs, so their diet must be tailored to meet their particular nutritional requirements. The most important part of any Alaskan Malamute’s diet is high-quality, nutrient-dense food that is specially formulated for a large breed. It should include a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to ensure your Malamute is getting all the nutrition they need.

When it comes to portion size, it is important to feed your Malamute the right amount of food for their size and activity level. Puppies, seniors, and pregnant or nursing females will have different nutritional needs; consult your veterinarian or professional nutritionist for advice on the correct portion size.

It is also important to provide your Malamute with plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise. This breed enjoys seeking out games and treats, so feel free to provide them with hidden treats or snuffle mats to help keep them engaged. And because Malamutes love to run, hike, and pull a person on skis, make sure to provide them with plenty of opportunity to do so. It is also essential to provide your Malamute with adequate shelter and a fenced enclosure, preferably with a roof over it. With a combination of a proper diet and plenty of exercise, your Malamute will be fit and healthy for years to come.

Common Health Issues Affecting Alaskan Malamutes:

Alaskan Malamutes are generally a healthy and hardy breed, but like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. The most common health issues affecting Alaskan Malamutes include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease.

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the hip joint does not form properly, resulting in pain and limited mobility. Elbow dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the elbow joint which can cause lameness and arthritis. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, resulting in weight gain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood disease that affects the ability of the blood to clot properly.

It’s important to note that not all Alaskan Malamutes will develop any or all of these conditions. Responsible breeders will breed their Malamutes with the goal of producing healthy puppies and will take steps to reduce the risk of these conditions. Therefore, if you’re considering getting an Alaskan Malamute, it’s important to do your research and make sure you get your pup from a reputable breeder.

Alaskan Malamute dog
Credit: wichianduangsri/ Gettyimages

Interesting Facts About Alaskan Malamutes:

Alaskan Malamutes are an iconic breed with a long history and a unique set of characteristics. Here are some interesting facts about them to help you get to know them better:

• Alaskan Malamutes have been used as sled dogs for centuries, hauling heavy loads over long distances. However, they are not as fast as some of the other sled dog breeds, such as Siberian Huskies.

• These dogs have an incredible sense of smell and can be used as search and rescue dogs in addition to sled dogs.

• Alaskan Malamutes have a strong independent streak and can be difficult to train. However, with consistent, positive reinforcement they can be taught to obey commands and perform tricks.

• The thick double coat of the Alaskan Malamute helps them stay warm in cold climates. They shed heavily twice a year and regular brushing is essential to keep their coats in tip-top shape.

• Malamutes are extremely social and outgoing, and they need lots of interaction and attention from their owners. Without it, they can become bored and destructive.

• While they can be good watchdogs, Alaskan Malamutes are not aggressive towards strangers and will usually greet them with a friendly wag of the tail.

• These dogs usually live between 12 and 15 years, so they can be a long-term commitment. But their loyalty and affection make them well worth the effort!

Where to Adopt or Buy:

If you’re considering bringing an Alaskan Malamute into your family, there are a few different ways to go about it. You can adopt or purchase a Malamute from a reputable breeder, or you can look into rescue organizations and shelters that specialize in the breed.

Adopting a Malamute from a rescue or shelter is a great way to give a pup a second chance at a forever home. It’s important to do your research before adopting a Malamute, as they can be high-energy dogs that require an experienced and dedicated owner. To find a rescue near you, you can use the American Kennel Club’s online search tool, which will show you rescues and shelters near you that specialize in the breed.

If you’re looking to purchase a Malamute from a breeder, it’s essential that you do your research. Look for a breeder who is devoted to the health and welfare of their dogs and who provides a health guarantee. Avoid pet stores and “puppy mills” at all costs, as these places often lack proper care and awareness. Talk to the breeder and ask questions about the puppy’s parents, and make sure you have a contract in place to ensure the pup is healthy and has all the necessary vaccinations.

Alaskan Malamute side profile
Credit: wichianduangsri/ Gettyimages


The Alaskan Malamute is a beautiful and powerful breed that can make a great addition to any family. With their wolf-like facial markings, large size, and impressive strength, Malamutes are sure to turn heads wherever they go. Malamutes are very intelligent and independent, and they need plenty of exercise and room to roam. If you’re looking for a loyal, active companion, the Alaskan Malamute may be a perfect choice.

With the right training and lots of love, these dogs can be a wonderful addition to any home. They are great with children, and their intelligence and strength make them excellent for activities like weight pulling, skijoring, and sledding. They are also quite adaptable and can live in both cold and warm climates. If you’re up for the challenge, the Alaskan Malamute could be the perfect fit for your family.


Q: Do Alaskan Malamutes make good pets?

A: Yes, Alaskan Malamutes make great pets for active households. Not only are they loyal, loving, and affectionate, but they also need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. They thrive on long walks, hikes, skijoring, carting, and other activities that require mental and physical stimulation. However, they can be independent and stubborn, so they will need consistent training and socialization from a young age.

Q: Are Alaskan Malamutes easy to train?

A: Alaskan Malamutes can be difficult to train, as they are independent and have a tendency to be stubborn. They need consistent and persistent training and socialization from a young age to ensure that they are obedient and well-mannered. It is also important to use positive reinforcement when training Malamutes, as they respond best to reward-based training.

Q: What kind of environment do Alaskan Malamutes need?

A: Alaskan Malamutes need plenty of space to exercise, play, and explore. They also need access to a securely fenced area, preferably with a roof, to keep them safe. Malamutes are sensitive to heat, so they need plenty of shade and access to fresh water and air-conditioning during hot summer months.

Q: Do Alaskan Malamutes need a lot of grooming?

A: Yes, Alaskan Malamutes need regular grooming to keep their double coat in good condition. This includes brushing their coat at least twice a week, bathing with a gentle shampoo when needed, and trimming their nails regularly. Malamutes also need their teeth brushed and ears checked for wax buildup.

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