The Alaskan Malamute is a generally large breed of domestic dog originally bred for use hauling heavy freight because of their strength and endurance, and later an Alaskan sled dog. They are similar to other arctic breeds, like the Greenland dog, Canadian Eskimo dog, the Siberian Husky and the Samoyed.
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 heavy dog, with a more formidable nature and structure than the Siberian Husky, which is 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.
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, andcanicross. However, most Malamutes today are kept as family pets or as show or performance dogs in weight pulling, dog agility, or packing.
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, and a collar or half collar.
Malamutes, like other Northern and sled dog breeds, can have a high prey drive, due to their origins and breeding. This may mean in some cases they will chase smaller animals, including other canines, as well as rabbits, squirrels, and cats; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond anecdotal, observational data and many Malamute owners have observed varying levels of prey drive between individual dogs. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amicable around people and can be taught to tolerate smaller pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals and, as always with the larger breeds (and some others such as the Chihuahua), supervised around small children.
Malamutes are very 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.
The most commonly reported health problems of Alaskan Malamutes, in the 2004 UK Kennel Club survey (based on a sample size of 64 dogs) were musculoskeletal (hip dysplasia), and hereditary cataracts.