Alaskan Malamutes are a large breed of dog; weighing up to 43 kg on average. It comes as no surprise to learn that they were initially bred to put their natural strength and endurance to work. But is this breed known for being aggressive? Does this need to be considered given their potential to cause harm? I spent some time researching to find out for sure.
So, are Alaskan Malamutes aggressive? Alaskan Malamutes are generally not an aggressive breed of dog when trained and socialized from a young age. Instead, they are typically friendly and affectionate – both around their family members and even strangers. Although, they do have a relatively high prey drive and can become aggressive around other animals, including dogs of the same sex. Equally, they are known to be possessive of their food and are likely to become aggressive if they suspect their food is to be taken away.
Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies are commonly confused. Besides, the differences are subtle.
They both possess that wolf-like look; a similar coat coloring, and are very similar in personality and temperament.
However, Alaskan Malamutes are bigger; standing taller and carrying quite a bit more weight. This is perhaps the main way to differentiate them.
They are of course a separate breed in their own right.
And just like any breed of dog; they have their own unique tendencies and traits.
There are certainly things prospective owners need to be aware of before bringing one home, especially if young children are in the picture.
So, let us now take a closer look at the typical temperament of this arctic breed, when they can become aggressive and how to prevent aggression if you do decide to take them on.
Typical Alaskan Malamute Temperament
Alaskan Malamutes are typically renowned for being calm, friendly and of an even temperament. This is true for both family members, and if trained and raised correctly, around strangers.
Thankfully, this is a breed that is very intelligent, and very trainable.
That being said, new dog owners should think twice about taking on this breed.
They are also known for their stubbornness, so they do require a firm but fair approach.
One other thing to consider is that this is a dog that possesses quite a lot of energy.
You need to dedicate quite a bit of time to exercise them, or behavioral problems could ensue.
They can get quite easily bored and even destructive if left to their own devices for too long.
So, this is certainly not the type of dog you can leave at home or outside without some consideration.
In fact, they have even been known to be quite persistent diggers. Definitely, something to consider if this could enable a potential escape.
Nevertheless, despite these traits to certainly be aware of, with sufficient attention they do make for great devoted, loyal, and naturally playful companions.
When Can Alaskan Malamutes Become Aggressive?
Alaskan Malamutes are not generally aggressive, although just like in most breeds of dogs, there are triggers that could cause them to react accordingly.
Being such a large dog and one of such power, it is therefore essential that you are aware of such traits and tendencies.
Let us now take a closer look at the main ones of this particular breed:
Around Other Animals
Alaskan Malamutes were not just bred and used for sledding, but also for hunting.
As such, they have a high natural prey drive and are more than likely to stalk and chase other animals, if given the chance.
This can include birds, along with small animals such as rabbits, cats, and even smaller dogs.
This is why you need to be particularly careful with this dog around other animals.
Unless of course, you spend time and effort socializing them with other pets and animals in the formative years.
Common in most breeds of dog, an Alaskan Malamute will likely respond aggressively if somebody interrupts their mealtime.
They are possessive of their food, and for this reason, must be left alone during this time.
If you were to attempt to take away their food or their bowl while they eat, an aggressive reaction is likely.
As A Show Of Dominance To Other Dogs
This particular breed can become aggressive towards other dogs, particularly of the same sex.
While it is even more common in males to males, it does and can occur in females towards other females (particularly bitches in heat).
So this is not something experienced exclusively by the males.
This particular form of aggression could be the result of either trying to protect you (the owners) from other dogs or even out of jealousy of the attention you give them.
Are Alaskan Malamutes Dangerous?
Alaskan Malamutes can be dangerous; although this is typically in response to a trigger or merely by accident.
We must consider their size and power, and they can accidentally hurt a young child who does not know how to behave around a dog or is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For instance, if a young child is playing with an Alaskan Malamute and they are running around, there is the possibility that they are knocked over.
Equally, a young child who does not know to leave a dog in peace while they eat could also be on the receiving end of aggression.
This is why this breed is not generally recommended if you have young children. Older children who are taught to behave around dogs generally make a much better fit.
That is not to say it is not possible to raise an Alaskan with a young child, but it does take careful consideration and vigilance.
As stated previously, this dog is not typically aggressive.
For this reason, they do not make natural guard dogs.
But due to their sheer size and power, they certainly have the intimidating factor.
As with any breed, no two dogs are the same and each comes with their own personality and responds differently around different people.
It is for this reason that there are some documented cases of Alaskan Malamutes biting strangers.
And unfortunately, due to their strength, this breed does actually have one of the highest dog bite fatality risks (according to PitbullInfo.org – a non-profit research group dedicated to responsible ownership of dogs of all breeds).
So the danger is certainly there with this breed.
How To Prevent Aggression In Alaskan Malamutes
Preventing aggression in Alaskan Malamutes is very much about taking a proactive approach, especially from the time that they are young puppies.
While this dog can certainly exhibit aggressive behaviors, with the right upbringing and approach you can dramatically improve your chances of not having to experience them.
Let us now take a closer look at some of those things you should look to do if you decide to own the breed:
Let Them Eat Their Food
First and foremost, you should always give this dog plenty of time and space to eat their food.
Always ensure you feed your dog at regular times and schedules, and be sure to let them finish their bowl before you attempt to take it away.
Ensure young children do not wander over or attempt to play with this dog during mealtime!
Taking your dog to structured training, especially from a young age, will help your dog learn to understand exactly how to behave, and how not to.
They will learn the boundaries as well as identify you as the pack leader and the boss who is in charge.
Equally a range of commands such as ‘sit’, ‘wait’, ‘stop’ etc. can be taught which can help prevent or diffuse situations throughout their life.
Ensure you enroll your Alaskan Malamute in puppy classes as soon as you can – especially in classes where other dogs attend.
This will also give them a further opportunity to socialize with other dogs.
Ultimately, an Alaskan malamute without sufficient training is more likely to consider biting and other aggressive behaviors as acceptable.
You can ensure this is not the case and leverage the techniques of professionals who work with dogs of all personalities.
It’s important to socialize any dog, from the youngest age possible.
Socialization is all about introducing your dog to as many people, other dogs, sights, sounds, and environments as safely possible.
So, do take your dog to the park, beach, or other public settings as much as you can. The more you can do this when they are a puppy the better.
Better yet is to introduce your puppy to friends and neighbors who have dogs of their own – this will enable you to socialize your dog in a much more relaxed and controlled setting.
Alaskan Malamutes should soon be taught that growling and other aggressive behaviors will not be tolerated.
Otherwise, they will never learn that it cannot continue; and are likely to resort to it throughout their lives given the opportunity.
As you can imagine, this will become even more problematic the larger they get.
So, you should nip growling in the bud as soon as you can, ideally when they are still a puppy.
Never let your puppy growl as anyone or anything.
Correct these acts by leveraging positive reinforcement techniques (reward the behaviors you like) to make sure your dog learns this will not be tolerated.
Provide Sufficient Exercise
Alaskan Malamutes are very intelligent and active dogs. They need lots of exercise for both physical and mental stimulation.
Otherwise, they can get bored and destructive of your home. They need a way to release any excess energy.
So, if you are taking on this dog you need to prepare to give them at least 2 hours of exercise each day.
This can be broken up into multiple walks, (if possible), hiking, running or letting them have access to a private and secure yard where they can run around and play.
However, when walking this breed, a harness comes highly recommended.
This dog should be controlled when walking, especially in public places.
This breed is naturally curious and can and will run off, or they can quickly get close to other dogs which should be avoided.
Keep Your Distance From Other Dogs
If your dog is prone to becoming aggressive around other dogs, then you can proactively limit any interactions when walking.
This could mean crossing the street, walking in a different direction or generally not crossing the path of another walker.
Always be sure to have a good hold of your dog, and keep them on a strong harness, to ensure they do not lunge or pull away.
Neutering or spaying is known to help reduce some aggressive behaviors, especially those of dominance.
So, you should consider neutering or spaying if you are not looking to later breed your dog.
Equally, if your dog is particularly aggressive, doing so will prevent any genetic traits for aggression from being passed on.
Just consider that neutering will not prevent all acts of aggression and you still need to remain vigilant at all times.
Is A Malamute A Good Family Dog?
An Alaskan Malamute can make a great family dog. They are particularly suited to an active family with either no children or those with older children (preferably teenagers).
They are certainly not a dog breed for every family, however.
They are tough-willed and will require a firm but fair owner to establish hierarchy and ensure that they behave accordingly.
They need to be put through obedience training and be socialized from a young age. Both of which require time and dedication.
Beyond this, owners need to be able to take them for regular walks and keep them occupied throughout the day.
So this is not a dog you can leave at home all day left to their own devices.
Their strength and size should be taken into account too; especially when it comes to walking.
There are two other factors to consider as well with this particular breed.
For starters, they are high shedders. So, if anyone in the family has a pet allergy then this breed is not going to be best suited.
Then there is the howling.
This dog is known to howl if left outside unsupervised. So, you must consider where you live and if you have any neighbors (especially with dogs nearby).
Alaskan Malamutes are not generally considered to be aggressive dogs.
But, just like in other dog breeds, they certainly have their triggers and some dogs of the breed will naturally be more prone to aggression than others.
Thankfully, there are certainly proactive things you can do to help reduce and manage aggression.
It all should start from the time you take them home from a young puppy.
Obedience training and socialization are simply a must for this particular breed.
So, if you were not sure if this was the right dog breed for you, the truth is, it depends.
It depends on the type of owner you are and if you can commit the time to train, exercise, and be there for your dog.
Alaskan Malamutes are often recommended to people who have had dogs before.
But, it can work out for first-time owners with some research, planning, and work ahead of time.
Equally, they can and do make great family dogs in certain contexts. If you have younger children, however, they may not be best.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.