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15 Alaskan Malamute Pros & Cons to Know Before You Get One

Rachel Giordano

By Rachel Giordano

Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamutes are playful, affectionate, and loyal dogs with thick double coats. Hailing from the cold, harsh climates of Alaska, these dogs make popular pets among many households. The Malamute is a large dog weighing between 75 and 85 pounds. Despite their large size, they are gentle dogs and are patient with children.

However, this breed does not come without challenges. Some owners struggle with owning this breed due to their demanding temperaments, but they are excellent dogs and thrive with the appropriate owner and household. If you’ve contemplated adding an Alaskan Malamute to your family, it’s crucial to know the pros and cons before committing, which can turn into a regretful decision later if you’re not prepared.

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The 5 Pros of Alaskan Malamutes

1. They Love the Great Outdoors

Alaskan Malamutes were bred to be working dogs and love having a job to do. So, where’s the pro here? The pro is that the Malamute will happily fit right in if you are an active person with a busy family. On the contrary, this trait will be a con if you have a sedentary family.

They love to go on hikes, go swimming, or accompany you on runs and walks. They also excel in agility and obedience events, weight-pulling competitions, and competitive sledding. If you want a four-legged partner for such activities, the Alaskan Malamute is a good fit.


2. Alaskan Malamutes Are Intelligent

If you’re looking for a dog breed with intelligence, the Alaskan Malamute has it. Their high intelligence can be coupled with stubbornness, but we’ll get more into that later. Given their high intelligence, they can learn commands quickly and easily, as long as the owner is experienced with training dogs of this caliber. As far as intelligence rankings, they rank #50 compared to other dog breeds.

alaskan malamute dog lying on the grass
Image by: Happy monkey, Shutterstock

3. They Love Children

Despite their large size, Alaskan Malamutes love children and are gentle and patient with them. Speaking of size, small children must learn to be respectful of the dog and not pull or tug on the ears, tail, or fur. Nonetheless, these dogs have tons of energy and love the energy children have in return, making them ideal playmates with children.


4. They Are Loyal and Affectionate

These dogs love their human families and want to be part of everything they do. They love getting attention and will eagerly join family activities, especially outdoors. The Malamute is loyal and will always want to be with you. When you return home from being away, even if just to run small errands, the Malamute will greet you with hugs and howls. They have also been known to give tender gazes at their owners to show how much they love them.


5. Their Looks Are Intimidating

By now, we know these dogs are large in size and loyal to their owners. Given these traits, the Alaskan Malamute will look quite intimidating to someone up to no good on your property. While they see humans as friends, their size alone is enough to ward off danger.

An Alaskan Malamute dog running in the snow
Image by: travelarium.ph, Shutterstock

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The 10 Cons of Alaskan Malamutes

1. They Shed—A Lot

These dogs have thick double coats designed to withstand the frigid climates of Alaska. Their waterproof coat requires extensive grooming and brushing every day with a metal comb or pin brush. Matting will be an issue if grooming is not kept up; mats in the coat can harbor fungus, which can lead to infection. They will also suffer hot spots if not brushed regularly.

In addition to brushing the coat daily, they must be brushed with an undercoat rake twice a year during the shedding seasons (fall and winter). Regarding bathing, they only need baths every 6 to 8 weeks.


2. They Can Be Stubborn

We’ve established these dogs’ intelligent status; however, a drawback to their intelligence is their ability to display stubbornness. They have an independent and willful nature, and if they don’t respect you, they will walk all over you and disobey your commands.


3. No Hot Climate for These Pups

These dogs were bred to withstand the arctic lands of Alaska, and the double coat will be very uncomfortable for them if you live in an area with hot temperatures, such as Florida and other southern states.

However, this isn’t to say that you can’t have a Malamute if you live in a warm climate; it just means you must be willing to take precautions in keeping your dog cool. This means keeping the dog indoors on hot days (which may prove challenging), brushing regularly to remove dead hair, providing plenty of water during outdoor time, finding shaded areas while outside, misting the coat with a spray bottle, and providing cool zones around your home, like keeping a kiddie pool in the yard.

Alaskan Malamute in the snow
Image by: Malachi Jacobs, Shutterstock

4. They Require Lots of Exercise

The Alaskan Malamute requires much exercise and will become destructive if you cannot provide enough. Having a fenced yard is a must with these dogs so that they have plenty of room to romp and play. They also need to go on daily walks or runs. If you’re a hiker or backpacker, this breed will be an excellent companion to accompany you.


5. They Are Escape Artists

Speaking of fenced yards, ensuring your Malamute cannot escape is detrimental, as they are quite the escape artists. These dogs are always up for an adventure, and if something intrigues them, they will investigate relentlessly.

Your fence should be high enough so your dog cannot jump it, preferably 6 feet tall. You may even consider putting a wire atop the fence as an extra safety measure. These dogs are also avid diggers and may dig their way out of the yard. The fence should be made of strong and sturdy material. Unfortunately, a chain-link fence will not suffice.


6. They Can’t Live in Apartments

If you live in an apartment and are trying to decide on a dog breed to own, go ahead and scratch off the Alaskan Malamute. These dogs are too rambunctious and require too much exercise to live happily in a small apartment.


7. Early Socialization and Training Is Essential

We cannot stress this enough: early socialization and proper training are a must with the Alaskan Malamute. You may hear of these dogs being aggressive with other animals, but they are generally non-aggressive with proper training.

You must expose these dogs early on to everything possible, such as dog parks, other people and animals, etc. They typically enjoy the company of other dogs, but they must undergo appropriate training to grow into a well-behaved adult.

alaskan malamute
Image Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

8. They Require an Assertive Owner

These dogs are highly intelligent, but they require an experienced and assertive owner who can establish pack leadership, or else the dog will walk all over you and ignore your commands. If you’re not experienced with training an Alaskan Malamute, they can be difficult to train. However, utilize available resources to help you if you’re set on owning one. Look for puppy training classes in your area, which can be a big help.


9. They Have a High Prey Drive With Smaller Animals

The Alaskan Malamute can get along famously with other dogs; however, they have a high prey drive and may chase after cats, rabbits, chickens, guinea pigs, and other small animals. This is another reason why early socialization is paramount, as these types of behaviors can be curbed with proper training.


10. Separation Anxiety

These dogs form strong bonds with their owners, and because of this, they are prone to separation anxiety and will howl when you’re gone. They may also be destructive in this case. They thrive on human companionship and are bred to be in a pack, and when you’re pack leader and are gone for extensive periods, the Malamute can become frustrated and depressed.

If you work long hours, the Malamute is not for you unless you can enlist help from family, friends, and/or a pet sitter and dog walker, all of which can be daunting. If you work remotely or can take breaks throughout the day to come home, you can still own one of these dogs. You may also opt for doggie daycare as another option.

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Conclusion

Even though the cons outweigh the pros, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider an Alaskan Malamute. While they can be challenging, they are exceptional family companions when trained properly by an experienced owner who understands their needs.

Some people adopt Malamutes, only to send them to a shelter later because they cannot handle the dog, which is unfair. However, it’s our intention to provide you with the pros and cons so you can decide if you’re up for the challenge. As long as you have the time and understand how to socialize and train a Malamute, you’ll gain an extraordinary companion.


Featured Image Credit: anetapics, Shutterstock

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