The Alaskan Malamute--often called a "Mal" for short--is a large-sized breed that was originally developed to be an arctic sled dog. Because of their high exercise requirements, voracious appetites, and extreme shedding tendencies (not to mention their often dominant temperaments), maintenance for these dogs is pretty time-consuming compared to most dog breeds. The info contained below is your definitive Alaskan Malamute care guide: you'll find details on puppy development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and much more. For everything you need to know about Alaskan Malamute puppy care, read on!
Malamute puppy development from birth to adulthood typically spans 18-24 months. Physically, Alaskan Malamute growth is rapid in height and length for the first year or so of a puppy's life, then those growth rates slow somewhat while the adolescent Mal "fills out" by gaining muscle mass and fat; a Mal is usually at its full adult size by about 18 months of age. Socially, Mal puppies develop fairly steadily: they reach adolescence at 7-8 months, sexual maturity at 10-11 months, and full mental maturity by two years old (though some may retain their puppylike behavior for an additional year or more). For specific milestones in puppy development, see the following chart:
|Dog Age||Development Milestone|
|2-3 Weeks||Eyes/ears open, begins walking|
|8 Weeks||Can be separated from mother, housetrained, introduced to solid food; frequent socialization with humans and other animals necessary at this early stage; obedience training should begin as well|
|3 Months||Old enough to be exercised; vaccinations/de-worming needed; training should definitely be in full swing|
|7-8 Months||Adolescent period begins; increased independence/disobedience|
|10-11 Months||Sexual maturity; can be switched to adult food|
|15 Months||Training continues|
More so than most breeds, Alaskan Malamute exercise is vital to these dogs' health and happiness. From centuries as an arctic sled dog, the Mal is blessed with incredible speed, strength, and endurance, and thus will need a great deal of daily physical activity. As numerous kennel clubs exclaim, the Malamute "is not a dog for the lazy."
But precisely how much exercise does an Alaskan Malamute need? The short answer is that it needs a whole lot. Breed clubs recommend at least two hours per day, a majority of which should be walking or jogging. You can begin exercising a Mal puppy at three months of age by taking it on relatively short (15- to 20-minute) walks, then increasing the walks' duration as the puppy grows.
Some things to consider when exercising your Mal: first, puppies younger than nine months old shouldn't be allowed to participate in activities that include a lot of jumping and running, as doing so can injure their still-developing bones and joints. And regardless of age, a Mal will need to be leashed when in public. Due to their high prey drive and instinctively dominant temperaments, these dogs will chase (and possibly injure) smaller animals--even small dogs! Mals also suffer in hot weather, so try not to exercise your Malamute in extremely warm temperatures, and give the dog access to shade or A/C and plenty of fresh water
That said, proper daily exercise is a must for these dogs. They're instinctively task-oriented, so a bored or restless Malamute will create a task of its own--which is usually tearing the house to shreds or digging dozens of holes in the yard. Exercise--and lots of it--is good for both the Mal's sanity and your own peace of mind. Here are a few exercise ideas:
- Walking: Two 45-minute walks per day is a good target
- Fetch/Frisbee: A Mal will chase a ball or Frisbee for hours
- Tug-of-War: Great indoor activity; use a rope or old towel
- Canine Sports: Malamutes excel in a variety of competitions like agility, flyball, etc.
- Hiking: Great bonding activity; your Mal can even carry the backpack!
When indoors, it's a good idea to give your Mal access to one or more balls or chew-toys to allow the dog to release some pent-up energy (which it'll undoubtedly have!). Another good suggestion is to have a consistent daily exercise schedule for your Mal, such as walks after breakfast and dinner combined with a play period in the afternoon.
Caring for this breed in terms of shedding and drooling is fairly time-consuming. While Mals don't drool much, they shed regularly for most of the year--and during the twice-yearly shedding seasons, they shed like crazy.
Some Alaskan Malamute shedding information: these dogs have thick, double-layered coats that shed a bit all the time. But in the spring and fall, when Mals lose their winter and summer coats, expect to find huge amounts of hair everywhere. Owners say that frequent brushing helps, but doesn't completely eradicate the amount of shed hairs; some say they also use an undercoat rake, especially during shedding season, to further minimize the problem. Regardless, Malamute owners can expect to use their vacuum cleaners and lint rollers often.
A Mal may drool a bit in anticipation of food, but very little otherwise. If your Malamute is drooling excessively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case you should consult a veterinarian.
As with all breeds, the Malamute diet is extremely important in keeping these dogs healthy and happy. As such an active breed, Alaskan Malamute food will need to be high in animal proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats--and in fact, some breed enthusiasts say the best dog food for an Alaskan Malamute is a BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet. These dogs are believed to be directly descended from wolves, the enthusiasts argue, so they benefit most from a diet similar to their feral ancestors. While those enthusiasts might indeed be correct, a majority of "regular" Mal owners say the BARF diet is simply too inconvenient, so the most popular choice is premium dry kibble. The dry food will need to be high-quality because it'll have the nutritional requirements that cheap dog food, which contains a lot of empty "filler" calories, simply doesn't have.
Whatever you choose to feed your Mal, there should be a lot of it--and the dog will probably still beg for more. In regards to portions, Alaskan Malamute food requirements are: 3-3½ cups per day for adult Mals, divided into two meals; depending on their age, puppies need about 2½ cups per day, divided into three meals. (These amounts may vary based on the Mal's age and activity level; a dog that spends the day pulling snow sleds, for example, will likely eat more than one that lounges around all the time.) For further reference, see the following Alaskan Malamute feeding guide:
|Dog Age||Dog Weight||Food Type||Amount||Frequency|
|2 Months||15 lbs||Dry||0.3 cups||3x/day|
|3 Months||25 lbs||Dry||0.5 cups||3x/day|
|6 Months||45 Lbs||Dry||0.75 cups||3x/day|
|9 Months||60 lbs||Dry||1.25 cups||2x/day|
|12 Months||75 lbs||Dry||1.5 cups||2x/day|
|18 Months+||85 lbs||Dry||1.75 cups||2x.day|
Surprisingly, even though Mals are extremely athletic, they have a high tendency to become overweight if allowed. And part of the reason is genetics: for centuries, these dogs have been utilized as sled dogs, often pulling sleds for hours with no meal break. Modern Mals, therefore, have an instinctive tendency to wolf their food (and then beg for more!) because to them, they may not another chance to eat for many hours. What this means is that a Mal will eat a meal in two minutes, beg for more, owners will keep feeding the dog...and before the owners know it, they've got a fat Malamute waddling around. Veterinarians and breed experts all recommend having a consistent feeding schedule, with consistent portions--and no matter how much your Mal begs, no seconds! Vets also strongly advise against "free-feeding" a Mal, whereby food is left in the dog's bowl all the time so it can eat anytime it wants. It's best to put your Mal's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 15-20 minutes after the dog begins eating.If you're worried your Malamute is overweight, give the dog this simple Ribs Test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Decrease the dog's daily food intake by one-fourth, and add an extra walk or play period to its daily exercise schedule.
Owners, breeders, and enthusiasts have long debated over what's the best dog food for an Alaskan Malamute. Some believe that fresh or home-prepared food is best, but the most popular, sensible, and convenient choice is premium dry food. The dry food will need to be high in quality because, while more expensive, premium foods contain the necessary animal proteins and carbohydrates that cheap foods lack.
In a manner of speaking, Alaskan Malamutes are both inside and outside dogs. While these dogs need lots of outdoor exercise, they've spent centuries living as part of a pack--so unless owners have multiple Mals, these dogs will need to spend a lot of time indoors socializing with their human "pack." And as you can probably guess, a Malamute in an apartment is not a good situation, as the dog is simply too big (and too active) for such a confined space.
In regards to climate: the best Alaskan Malamute temperature is frigid cold. As sled dogs, Mals are used to spending days on the frozen tundra, so no cold is too cold for them! This also means that Mals suffer greatly in extreme heat, so warm climates don't suit them at all.