The American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard describes a natural range of size, with a desired size of 23 inches (58 cm) tall and 75 pounds (34 kg) for females, 25 inches (64 cm) tall and 85 pounds (39 kg) for males. Heavier individuals (90 lb (41 kg)) and dogs smaller than 75 pounds (34 kg) are commonly seen. There is often a marked size difference between males and females. Weights upwards of 100 pounds (45 kg) are also seen.
The coat of the Alaskan Malamute is a double coat. The undercoat has an oily and woolly texture and can be as thick as two inches. The outer guard coat is coarse and stands off the body—longer at the withers but not more than one inch off the sides of the body. Ears are small in proportion to the head and stand firmly erect when at attention. The Alaskan Malamute is a brown eyed, heavy dog, with a more formidable nature and structure than the Siberian Husky; which is a dog of small and slim stature, with the ability to have blue, brown, and bi-eyes, and is fine-boned specifically bred for speed. The Alaskan Malamute is bred for power and endurance, which is its original function and what the standard of the breed requires of Alaskan Malamute breeders. The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white. There are a wide range of markings in the breed including face markings, blazes, a splash at the nape of the neck, a collar or a half collar. In terms of color variants, some Malamutes exhibit a dark grey to buff colored undertone around their trimmings and white areas; presenting with a color-linked gene known as ‘Agouti’. The eyes of the Alaskan Malamute are almond-shaped and are varied shades of brown; however, the darker eye is preferred. The physical build of the Malamute is compact and strong with substance, bone and snowshoe feet.
An adult Alaskan Malamute
According to the AKC breed standard, the Malamute’s tail is well furred and is carried over the back like a “waving plume”. Corkscrew tails are occasionally seen but are faulted in the AKC breed standard (a corkscrew tail is commonly seen in the Akita). The Malamutes’ well-furred tails aid in keeping them warm when they curl up in the snow. They are often seen wrapping the tail around their nose and face, which presumably helps protect them against harsh weather such as blowing snow. Their ears are generally upright, wedge shaped, small in proportion to the head and set to the side of the skull. The muzzle is deep and broad, tapering slightly from the skull to the nose. Nose and gums are black but some Malamutes have a snow nose which is black with a pink undertone that can get darker or lighter, depending on the season.
Alaskan Malamute puppy
Alaskan Malamutes are still in use as sled dogs for personal travel, hauling freight, or helping move light objects; some however are used for the recreational pursuit of sledding, also known as mushing, as well as for skijoring, bikejoring, carting, and canicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or as show or performance dogs in weight pulling, dog agility, or packing. Malamutes are generally slower in long-distance dogsled racing against smaller and faster breeds and their working usefulness is limited to freighting or traveling over long distances at a far slower rate than that required for racing. They can also help move heavy objects over shorter distances.They are also very smart animals, though they can be hard to train.
The Malamute retains more of its original form and function than many other modern breeds. The Malamute personality is one of strong independence. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owner’s every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the harshest environment imaginable, and many of its behaviors are evolved to survive in such environments. Independence, resourcefulness, and natural behaviors are common in the breed. Because of their intelligence, they can be difficult dogs to train. However, if the trainer understands Malamutes and how to keep them motivated, success is possible.
Malamutes sometimes cope poorly with smaller animals, including other canines; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. Many Malamute owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals. Due to their naturally evolved beginnings, Malamutes tend to have natural hunting instincts which often leads them to chase smaller animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and cats. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amiable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals.
Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs but unreliable watchdogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs, provided they get plenty of time outdoors meeting their considerable exercise requirements. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool. In the winter, they love snow.
Malamutes are usually quiet dogs, seldom barking. When a Malamute does vocalize, it often appears to be “talking” by vocalizing a “woo woo” sound. It may howl like a wolf or coyote, and for the same reason.