The coat of the Alaskan Malamute is a double coat. The undercoat has an oily and woolly texture and can be as thick as two inches. The outer guard coat is coarse and stands off the body—longer at the withers but not more than one inch off the sides of the body. Ears are small in proportion to the head and stand firmly erect when at attention. The Alaskan Malamute is a heavy dog, with a more formidable nature and structure than the Siberian Husky, which is bred for speed. The Alaskan Malamute is bred for power and endurance, which is its original function and what the standard of the breed requires of Alaskan Malamute breeders.
The usual colors are various shades of gray and white, sable and white, black and white, seal and white, red and white, or solid white. There are a wide range of markings in the breed including face markings, blazes, a splash at the nape of the neck, and a collar or half collar. In terms of color variants, some Malamutes exhibit a dark grey to buff-colored undertone around their trimmings and white areas, presenting with a color-linked gene known as ‘Agouti’. The eyes of the Alaskan Malamute are almond-shaped and are varied shades of brown; however, the darker eye is preferred. The physical build of the Malamute is compact and strong with substance, bone and snowshoe feet.
Malamutes are very fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs, but unreliable watchdogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs, provided they get plenty of time outdoors meeting their considerable exercise requirements. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool. In the winter, they love snow.
Malamutes are usually quiet dogs, seldom barking. When a Malamute does vocalize, it often appears to be “talking” by vocalizing a “woo woo” sound. It may howl like a wolf or coyote, and for the same reason.
There is only one known health survey of Alaskan Malamutes, a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey with a small sample size of 14 dogs. The median lifespan of 10.7 years measured in that survey is typical of a breed their size, however this study had a sample size too small to be considered reliable and much anecdotal evidence suggests they have on average one of the longest lifespans of large dogs, up to 15 years.