Grooming your Alaskan Malamute is essential to the dog's health, your happiness and the general contentment of both. These are high-maintenance dogs, and you may want to start by having a professional groomer do the coat trimming before you do it all. This page will go into detail on the more important parts of grooming your Mal.
Keeping your Mal's coat clean is required to help prevent discomfort, disease and other health concerns. Matted hair can introduce skin conditions, fungus, and infections. Brushing daily is the most important part of grooming as it keeps the coat clean and allows you to check for tangles and mats. Because there is a significant undercoat that contains the coat's essential oils, it should not be shaved save for extreme emergencies such as surgery. These dogs tend to have a couple of coat blow-outs every year, so be prepared for the fallout! When you are ready to learn how to groom your Alaskan Malamute, be sure to buy only the best tools as it is a worthy investment.
This breed has a double coat, and there are many Mally brushes you should have for the weekly session. For daily brushing, you'll want a basic pin or bristle brush, or a slicker. You may want to stay away from complicated brushes (like furminators) that cut the guard hairs.
Some say the best brush for an Alaskan Malamute is the Mars Double Wide Stainless Steel Coat King Pet Stripper with Wooden Handle. This rake is comfy for your hand, doesn't pull the hairs and gets down to extract the loose undercoat. Prior to this, you should use a good slicker. A great one is the Wahl Large Slicker Brush.
Here are some tips for brushing:
- Brush when she's a puppy so she'll get used to being handled
- Brush the same time each day
- Pick a quiet time and place
- Have a large container for the hair
- Brush daily for a few minutes
- Use the slicker first
- Graduate to a pin brush
- Use the rake for deep down, but be careful to not scratch the skin or joints
- Watch for tangles — especially on the belly
- Wipe down with a chamois afterward
Unfortunately, for the Alaskan Malamute tangles and mats can be a fairly common issue. This is especially the case during shedding season, when dead hairs from the undercoat get tangled up in the long, thick guard hairs of the outer coat. Whether it's shedding season or not for your Mal, though, the best defense against tangles is consistent brushing!
One school of thought is to remove the hairs that cause tangles in the first place. A lot of owners do this by using undercoat rakes or de-shedding tools. It is true that with a tool like a Furminator, Malamute dogs will shed less--and in turn, their coats are less likely to develop tangles.
The problem with using rakes and de-shedding tools is that they often remove healthy hairs along with the dead ones, which can leave the coat looking uneven. So if your Mal's coat does get a tangle, the best way to remove it is with your fingers. This method, while more difficult and time-consuming, is the preferred one because it's less damaging to the coat.
Once you locate a tangle, use your thumbs and forefingers to separate the hairs, going one strand at a time if necessary. If you like you can spray the snarl with de-tangling solution beforehand to lubricate the hairs. For extra-stubborn tangles, use scissors to cut it in half (or even fourths) to get the untangling process started.
If the tangle is impossible to undo, the only option is to cut it out with scissors--but this should be a last resort.
When it comes to Alaskan Malamute teeth, you should start cleaning them when your Mal is a puppy. This will get them used to handling their mouths. You should never use human toothpaste. A meat-flavored, dog toothpaste is best. You can start by brushing a few front teeth with your finger, using a circular motion. Do this during a quiet, non-TV time. Increase the number of teeth every few days and start using a brush too.
You can help maintain your Mally's dental health with a good diet, quality dental chews and brushing all the way back to the rear teeth where plaque and tartar are often found. If your dog has truly bad breath (and not just doggy breath), this could be a serious sign of teeth problems. A chipped or broken tooth is not always a problem unless the nerve is exposed, however.
As for puppy teeth, these should fall out starting around 3-4 months. You won't always find them because sometimes the growing dog will eat them; this is fine. There may be slight blood spotting too, and this is OK as well. Their adult teeth should be grown in when they reach 7-8 months old.
There are basically no Alaskan Malamute haircuts, just trimming when the dog needs it. Because even a small mistake in trimming could affect the dog's health, it's best to let a professional groomer do it. You can learn to do it too, but you should be very careful.
There are some styling tips and tricks, however, that can accent your Mal's coat and colors. Cornstarch is one way to make bring out the white highlights in your Mally's coat. Just rub some into the coat and then brush the hair. The loose powder will come out. There are also dog shampoos that will bring out her color(s). If you want your Mal's beautiful coat to look springy, be sure to bathe her the day before a showing. That way, her coat has time to fully dry and recondition itself. You can also gently brush from the tail to the head when the hair is damp so as to help the hair not lay flat.
Finally, when the once or twice-annual coat blowout occurs, don't start trimming. She may look crazy with huge tufts of hair literally popping out at crazy angles, but brushing is all that's needed — and maybe a giant trash can to collect it!