Giant Alaskan Malamutes: A Complete Guide

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Alaskan Malamutes

There are few dogs as regal and majestic as an Alaskan Malamute. Originally bred as a sled dog, they retain much of the appearance of their wolf ancestors, yet with little of the aggression.

In fact, these are great family dogs, and they love people — especially children. They tend to have a strong prey drive, though, so expect to need to train and socialize them thoroughly if they’ll be sharing the house with other pets.

However, these dogs can be a stubborn handful when they want to be, so prospective owners should know what they’re signing up for before purchasing or adopting one. Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about these wonderful dogs.

What is a “Giant” Alaskan Malamute?

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While they’re often billed as a completely different breed, there is no such thing as a “giant” Alaskan Malamute. Any dog advertised as such is just a really big garden-variety Alaskan Malamute.

That being said, some breeders will deliberately pair up their largest dogs to try and create gigantic puppies. These can usually be sold at higher prices.

However, the emphasis on size may cause a lack of emphasis on other, more important characteristics, like health and temperament, so buy a giant at your own risk.

What to Know Before You Buy an Alaskan Malamute Puppy

How Much Do Puppies Cost?

The price of an Alaskan Malamute puppy can vary wildly, with some purebred dogs going for as much as $6,500. Typically, though, you can buy one for around $1,000 or so.

As mentioned above, if you want a Malamute that’s worthy of being considered a “giant,” you can expect to pay a few hundred bucks more.

How Do You Find a Reputable Breeder?

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If you want a breeder you can trust, you’re going to need to meet them in person and be prepared to spend more money.

It’s important to see the breeding facility firsthand so that you can have an idea of the conditions the parents were raised in. You want to see that the dogs have lots of room, are well fed and groomed and that the breeders treat them with love and respect.

As a general rule, you should avoid choosing a breeder that offers you a much lower price than others. There’s likely a reason for that — and it’s one you probably don’t want to think about.

Registration Papers

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Many top-notch breeders will have dogs that are registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). While not a guarantee that the breeder will be legitimate, AKC registration requires jumping through enough hoops that many backyard breeders and puppy mill operators won’t bother with it.

Instead, they may try to show you that their dogs are registered with another service, but many of them aren’t very reputable. Stick with the AKC or, failing that, the United Kennel Club (UKC).

Things to Watch For

When inspecting the puppies, note their temperament. Alaskan Malamute puppies should be friendly and curious, not timid or stand-offish. They shouldn’t show any signs of aggression upon your approach, either.

If possible, ask to spend some time with the parents as well. They should be sweet and loving, and their skin and coat should indicate that they’ve been well taken care of.

If either the dogs or the breeder set-off alarm bells, trust your gut. There are plenty of other breeders out there.

3 Little-Known Facts About Alaskan Malamute Puppies

  1. These dogs don’t bark, but they’re still extremely vocal. Expect to hear lots of chuffing and howling.
  2. There are typically only around six pups per litter, so you might need to hurry if your favorite breeder has puppies for sale.
  3. These dogs “blow their coats” once or twice a year. During these massive shedding moments, you can fill several grocery bags with the hair that falls off your pup.

Physical Traits of Alaskan Malamutes

While there may not be a separate breed known as the Giant Alaskan Malamute, that’s OK — regular Alaskan Malamutes are plenty big enough.

These dogs stand anywhere from 23-25 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh anywhere from 75-100+ pounds. They look even bigger than that, thanks to their thick double coats, but these are seriously stout dogs even without all that hair.

That’s not surprising, though, given that these weren’t just regular sled dogs — they were actually bred to pull heavy freight across the snow. So, while they’re not quite as hyperactive as other sled dogs like Siberian Huskies, their energy will still last all day.

Coat and Coloring

Alaskan Malamutes actually have double coats. The undercoat is oily and wooly, while the outercoat is shaggy and coarse.

All that coat gives the dog plenty of opportunity to show off a range of colors. Typically, you can expect to find shades of gray and white, with black, sable, and even red thrown in for good measure. Regardless, white is the predominant color, and some individuals are solid white.

Grooming Requirements

As mentioned above, Alaskan Malamutes shed a lot. As in, they will occasionally drop another small dog out of their fur, especially when they blow their coats. Plan on brushing him often, and invest in a vacuum cleaner that’s adept at picking up dog hair.

He doesn’t need to be bathed too terribly much — once every few months at most. Other than that, his requirements are pretty basic. Trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth frequently, and check his ears and paws for dirt or infection.

Life Expectancy

On average, Alaskan Malamutes live for 10-12 years. You may be able to extend that by taking certain precautions, however.

A healthy diet is essential (more on that later). Cancer is one of the main causes of death, so take your pup to the vet for regular checkups in order to catch any tumors in their early stages.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and maintains a healthy weight. Also, Malamutes are exceptional jumpers, so make sure your fences are high enough to contain them, otherwise, he could get out and into traffic.

Intelligence

Alaskan Malamutes are exceptionally smart dogs — and unfortunately, they know it. They’re stubborn and prone to looking for shortcuts, so while training is essential, it’s also difficult.

They can be brilliant escape artists as well, so a tall, sturdy fence is essential. They’re very curious, and like a brilliant engineer, they love to take things apart to see how they’re put together (reassembly is not their problem, of course).

Temperament

These dogs are very friendly, and they’re incredibly loyal to their families. They’re loving and patient with children, although they tend to try to dominate other dogs.

Their natural affability makes them poor guard dogs, however. The good news is you may discover burglars trapped in your home by a Malamute who refuses to let them leave until he’s done playing fetch.

The Proper Alaskan Malamute Diet

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Many Alaskan Malamutes suffer from obesity, so watching your dog’s weight is essential. These pooches will eat as much as they can get their paws on, so leaving food out all day is a big no-no. Instead, feed them one meal in the morning and another at night.

When choosing kibble, look for one that’s high in protein — at least 25%. Try to find one with at least 10% fiber as well, and make sure that the first ingredient is real meat.

Avoid feeding table scraps as much as you can — which may not be entirely possible, because these are big, smart dogs who know exactly how to manipulate you to get what they want.

How Much Exercise Do They Need?

Given that these dogs were bred to pull sleds through heavy snow, it’s no surprise that they require quite a bit of exercise. If not properly tuckered out, they’ll likely let that energy out in a destructive way.

These pups need one or two hours of exercise every day. Suitable forms of exercise include walks, playing fetch, or agility drills. If at all possible, choose a form of exercise that stimulates his mind as much as his body.

Just be careful about pushing them too hard during the summer, especially if you live in a hot climate. They can overheat easily, so keep their coats well-groomed and make sure they have plenty of water available.

Alaskan Malamute Health Conditions

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While Alaskan Malamutes are generally healthy dogs, that doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer from a few health conditions. Many of their issues are related to their size, which is another reason why you should keep their weight down.

Structural diseases like hip dysplasia and osteochondritis are common, so it may be smart to supplement his diet with glucosamine or chondroitin.

Eye health is another area of concern. These dogs are prone to cataracts, glaucoma, and other diseases that can cause blindness. Be sure that your dog has an area in which he can get out of the sun during the day, and take him in for regular vet check-ups.

Three Important Training Tips

As we’ve already mentioned, these dogs are extremely stubborn and intelligent, so training them can be difficult. However, the following tips can make your life a lot easier when it comes time to teach your dog some manners.

1. Use Positive Reinforcement

Malamutes don’t respond well to harsh treatment, but they love to eat and play. Any praise, petting, or food rewards will go a long way towards reinforcing desired behavior. However, you still need to remind them that you’re in charge, or else they’ll walk all over you.

2. Be Careful with Food Rewards

We know, we know — we just said to use positive reinforcement, and we stand by that. Just be careful not to take things too far with the food, or else you could quickly find yourself with a fat dog on your hands. That could lead to any number of health issues.

3. Socialization is Key

Malamutes tend to be dominant towards other dogs, and can be aggressive to all kinds of animals. As a result, it’s incredibly important to make sure they’re properly socialized as soon as possible. Introduce them to other people, animals, and situations in controlled situations, and don’t be afraid to get a trainer involved if need be.

Final Thoughts on Alaskan Malamutes

Alaskan Malamutes are beautiful, loving dogs, but they’re not for everyone. You should be prepared to spend hours training and grooming these animals, and expect to devote several hours a day to make sure they get enough exercise.

However, if you’re willing to meet the challenges these dogs pose, they are incredible pets with tons of personality. You’ll discover behaviors and quirks you never expected to find in a dog, and chances are you’ll become incredibly attached almost immediately.

Just be careful when you’re attached to them by a leash. Remember, they’re probably stronger than you, and they’ve got plenty of energy to haul you around the neighborhood.

Featured Image Credit: Photos8, Wikimedia Commons