Alaskan Malamute:

Appearance and Character

by Katerina Scheuflerova

ALASKAN MALAMUTE: Appearance and Character


We can dare say it's a description of an ideal representative of thebreed.

The AKC Alaskan Malamute standard is the original standard thatinfluences

cynological organizations in other countries like the FCI or ANKC. The

land of origin of the breed is almost always the biggest source of

information about that breed.MAL'S AKC (American Kennel Club) STANDARD

General Appearance:

The Alaskan Malamute, one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, is a powerful

and substantially built dog with a deep chest and strong, well-muscled

body. The Malamute stands well over the pads, and this stance gives the

appearance of much activity and a proud carriage, with head erect and

eyes alert showing interest and curiosity. The head is broad. Ears are

triangular and erect when alerted. The muzzle is bulky, only slight

diminishing in width from root to nose. The muzzle is not pointed or

long, yet not stubby. The coat is thick with a coarse guard coat of

sufficient length to protect a woolly undercoat. Malamutes are of

various colors. Face markings are a distinguishing feature. These

consist of a cap over the head, the face either all white or marked with

a bar and/or mask.

The tail is well furred, carried over the back, and has the appearance

of a waving plume. The Malamute must be a heavy boned dog with sound

legs, good feet, deep chest and powerful shoulders, and have all of the

other physical attributes necessary for the efficient performance of

his job. The gait must be steady, balanced, tireless and totally

efficient. He is not intended as a racing sled dog designed to compete

in speed trials. The Malamute is structured for strength and endurance,

and any characteristic of the individual specimen, including

temperament, which interferes with the accomplishment of this purpose,

is to be considered the most serious of faults.

Size, Proportion, Substance:

There is a natural range in size in the breed. The desirable freighting

sizes are males, 25 inches (63,5 cm) at the shoulders, 85 pounds (38,5

kg); females, 23 inches (58,4 cm) at the shoulders, 75 pounds (34 kg).

However, size consideration should not outweigh that of type,

proportion, movement and other functional attributes. When dogs are

judged equal in type, proportion, movement, the dog nearest the

desirable freighting size is to be preferred. The depth of chest is

approximately one half the height of the dog at the shoulders, the

deepest point being just behind the forelegs. The length of the body

from point of shoulder to the rear point of pelvis is longer than the

height of the body from ground to top of the withers. The body carries

no excess weight, and bone is in proportion to size.


The head is broad and deep, not coarse or clumsy, but in proportion to

the size of the dog. The expression is soft and indicates an

affectionate disposition. The eyes are obliquely placed in the skull.

Eyes are brown, almond shaped and of medium size. Dark eyes are

preferred. Blue eyes are a disqualifying fault! The ears are of medium

size, but small in proportion to the head. The ears are triangular in

shape and slightly rounded at the tips. They are set wide apart on the

outside back edges of the skull on line with the upper corner of the

eye, giving ears the appearance, when erect, of standing off from the

skull. Erect ears point slightly forward, but when the dog is at work,

the ears are sometimes folded against the skull. High set ears are a

fault. The skull is broad and moderately rounded between the ears,

gradually narrowing and flattening on top as it approaches the eyes,

rounding off to cheeks that are moderately flat. There is a slight

furrow between the eyes. The topline of the skull and the topline of the

muzzle show a slight break downward from a straight line as they join.

The muzzle is large and bulky in proportion to the size of the skull,

diminishing slightly in width and depth from junction with the skull to

the nose. In all coat colors, except reds, the nose, lips, and eye rims'

pigmentation is black. Brown is permitted in red dogs. The lighter

streaked "snow nose" is acceptable. The lips are close fitting. The

upper and lower jaws are broad with large teeth. The incisors meet with

a scissors grip. Overshot or undershot is a fault.

Neck, Topline, Body:

The neck is strong and moderately arched. The chest is well developed.

The body compactly built but not short coupled. The back is straight and

gently sloping to the hips. The loins are hard and well muscled. A longloin

that may weaken the back is a fault. The tail is moderately set and

follows the line of the spine at the base. The tail is carried over the

back when not working. It is not a snap tail or curled tight against the

back, nor is it short furred like a fox brush. The Malamute tail is well

furred and has the appearance of a waving plume.Forequarters:

The shoulders are moderately sloping; forelegs heavily boned and

muscled, straight to the pasterns when viewed from the front. Pasterns

are short and strong and slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The

feet are of the snowshoe type, tight and deep, with well-cushioned pads,

giving a firm, compact appearance. The feet are large, toes tight

fitting and well arched. There is a protective growth of hair between

the toes. The pads are thick and tough; toenails short and strong.Hindquarters:

The rear legs are broad and heavily muscled through the thighs; stifles

moderately bent; hock joints are moderately bent and well let down. When

viewed from the rear, the legs stand and move true in line with the

movement of the front legs, not too close or too wide. Dewclaws on the

rear legs are undesirable and should be removed shortly after puppiesarewhelped.


The Malamute has a thick, coarse guard coat, never long and soft. The

undercoat is dense, from one to two inches (2,5 - 5 cm) in depth, oily

and woolly. The coarse guard coat varies in length as does the

undercoat. The coat is relatively short to medium along the sides of the

body, with the length of the coat increasing around the shoulders and

neck, down the back, over the rump, and in the breeching and plume.

Malamutes usually have a shorter and less dense coat during the summer

months. The Malamute is shown naturally. Trimming is not acceptable

except to provide a clean cut appearance of feet.


The usual colors range from light gray through intermediate shadings to

black, sable, and shadings of sable to red. Color combinations are

acceptable in undercoats, points, and trimmings. The only solid color

allowable is all white. White is always the predominant color on

underbody, parts of legs, feet, and part of face markings. A whiteblazeon

the forehead and/or collar or a spot on the nape is attractive and

acceptable. The Malamute is mantled, and broken colors extending overthe

body or uneven splashing are undesirable.


The gait of the Malamute is steady, balanced, and powerful. He is agile

for his size and build. When viewed from the side, the hindquarters

exhibit strong rear drive that is transmitted through a well-muscled

loin to the forequarters. The forequarters receive the drive from the

rear with a smooth reaching stride. When viewed from the front or from

the rear, the legs move true in line, not too close or too wide. At a

fast trot, the feet will converge toward the centerline of the body. A

stilted gait, or any gait that is not completely efficient and tireless,

is to be penalized.


Important: In judging Malamutes, their function as a sledge dog for

heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all

else. The degree to which a dog is penalized should depend upon the

extent to which the dog deviates from the description of the ideal

Malamute and the extent to which the particular fault would actually

affect the working ability of the dog. The legs of the Malamute must

indicate unusual strength and tremendous propelling power. Any

indication of unsoundness in legs and feet, front or rear, standing or

moving, is to be considered a serious fault. Faults under this provision

would be splay-footedness, cowhocks, bad pasterns, straight shoulders,

lack of angulation, stilted gait (or any gait that isn't balanced,

strong and steady), ranginess, shallowness, ponderousness, lightness of

bone, and poor overall proportion.


Blue eyes.

Approved April 12, 1994 Effective May 31, 1994


The Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate, friendly dog, not a "one man"

dog. He is a loyal, devoted companion, playful on invitation, but

generally impressive by his dignity after maturity. Even when a Mal

grows up he is usually a playful dog. My Sophie was very lazy and didn't want

to play in the summer but she acted like a puppy again in the autumn and

winter. Some Mals don't very much like the hot summer weather but of course they can

adapt to almost all conditions. The fact is, that there are some Mals living in

Australia, South Africa, Spain and other warm climates without problems.

Some Mals have a strong hunting instinct. It goes back to the time when they

were used for many different purposes - inluding hunting - by their

Inuit owners. My girl Sophie hunts almost everything smaller than she

and that moves - including cats (on occasion she has a respect for them),

chicken, shares, pheasants, etc. This instinct may be stronger than the Mal

himself. When some Mals encounter "prey" nobody (if he isn't on a lead) and

nothing can stop him.

The water is usually a source of fun for Mals. Some love to swim, some not. My

Sophie is quite a good retriever too, she likes to retrieve logs and

other things that I throw in the water. Almost all Mals, especially

young ones, like to put their paws in their water bowls and dig.

When it's hot, it's a good idea to refresh a Mal by sprinkling him a

little with a hose.

One very interesting fact about Mals is that they bark very little.They

use howling to communicate and sometimes they can be very talkative.

Truly, they sometimes seem to be trying to talk with us and the sounds they

make sound quite similar to human speech.

Mals are very clean and they have a nice smell that is different from

other dogs. Mals usually lose their coat two times per year

This can be a difficult time for their owners - but for the rest of the

year they won't drop any hair. Some Mals (especially those with longer

hair) may lose their coat slightly throughout the year, but only in small patches.

It isn't necessary to keep a Mal as a pack animal with other dogs. Of

course a Mal can enjoy your company without any other dogs around. Some people

that have become familiar with this breed sometimes can't help

themselves and a friend of the same breed may arrive soon afterwards.

Some Males and females can be aggressive to dogs of the same gender,but

aggressiveness to people, puppies or dogs of the opposite sex is

unwanted and usually not tolerated. Females may be more aggressive and

less obedient before, in and shortly after their heat cycle.

Bitches, in almost every case, have two heat cycles per year.Females

may be great mothers and are usually very careful with their puppies. Litters may be

quite big (around 6 puppies) but sometimes only one puppywill arrive.


The Malamute is a true pack animal with the natural instinct to "lead or

be lead"; therefore, training must begin as early as three to fivemonthsof age.

Some people think that Mals are dumb, but they really aren't. They're

very very clever, especially when they want something. They can do

almost anything to get it. A Mal can be trained as any other dog, the

problem is that they're sometimes strong-headed. On the other hand, my

Sophie on occasion has been more obedient than German Shepherds and other

similar breeds. The key to having a (relatively) obedient Malamute is

careful and kind training that must start early. If the trainer becomes angry and

hysterical, he will "create" a similar behaviour in his dog.

Mals (especially males) can sometimes be dominant, especially duringtheir

teens (12mos-3yrs).

You need to show them as early as you can that you're their master and

leader. This will avoid many problems in the future.

When they're well trained and educated, Mals make friendly, playful and

kind companions. They can be kept together with asmall chidren, but of

course (as with all other breeds), always with adult supervision.

Not only their appearance but also their special character makes the

Malamute a jewel in the dog world.

Photos & text copyrighted 2000 by Katerina Scheuflerova

© 2000,, All rights reserved

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