How To Identify a Wooly Malamute – Veterinary Insight

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Most Alaskan Malamute variations relate to the color of their coats, but there’s another variation that is catching the eye of many eager-to-be Malamute owners – wooly Malamutes.

With little information available surrounding these Malamutes, we’re here to put the record straight.

So, what exactly is a wooly Malamute, and how can they be identified? Keep reading to find out!

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What Is A Wooly Alaskan Malamute?

Before we get into identifying a wooly Malamute, it’s important to understand what one actually is.

Put simply, a wooly Malamute is an Alaskan Malamute that has a significantly longer coat than what you might imagine a normal Malamute to look like. Usually, these coats are also much denser due to the large volume of hair the Malamute has.

It is a common misconception that Alaskan Malamutes were originally bred to have woollier coats to help them survive freezing temperatures, but this is unlikely to be true. Wooly coats are very high maintenance, even more so than a normal Malamute’s coat!

They require daily grooming to prevent painful matting from happening. If their fur does become matted, these Malamutes would have been much more likely to get frostbite and potentially die as a result.

In reality, breeders of Alaskan Malamutes in the Arctic would have been aware of the liabilities involved with wooly Malamutes and would have found them undesirable due to their maintenance needs.

A wooly coat is the result of a recessive gene meaning two non-wooly Malamutes may have wooly puppies if they both carry the necessary genes.

This, unfortunately, means that some irresponsible breeders have chosen to selectively breed the woolliest Malamutes possible over the years.

Whilst wooly Malamutes remain an important part of Alaskan Malamute’s genetic history, we firmly believe that Malamutes should not be bred purely for aesthetic reasons. We have sadly seen many wooly Alaskan Malamutes surrendered to shelters over the years due to their high maintenance needs.

In an ideal world, wooly Malamutes would not be selectively bred, meaning enough suitable homes would remain open for those that are naturally produced.

How To Identify A Wooly Malamute

As previously mentioned, wooly Malamutes arise due to genetics. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 4 Alaskan Malamutes will show some wooliness in their coats, although full wooly Malamutes are much more uncommon.

Identifying a wooly Malamute gets easier as the Malamute gets older. This is because it gives the Malamute chance to grow their coats to their full potential. Many owners report that wooly coats can take up to 3 years to develop.

Fully grown wooly Malamutes usually stand out from non-wooly Malamutes thanks to their extra fluffy appearance making identification a breeze.

Identifying a wooly Malamute puppy is not the easiest of tasks, however, partly because the definition of a wooly coat can be a hot topic for debate.

Some owners believe that a wooly coat must cover the majority of the Malamute’s body for it to be considered as such. Others may call their Malamutes wooly even if the wooliness only appears in patches.

Wooly Malamute Toews - Sent in by one of our readers.
Wooly Malamute Toews – Sent in by one of our readers.

Some wooly Malamutes may only show their wooliness on their heads and tails, making it particularly hard to identify them if you are unfamiliar with the breed.

One of the key things to look out for in puppies is long fur behind their ears. In our experience, this area commonly stands out compared to non-wooly Malamute puppies.

In young Malamutes, you can sometimes identify a wooly coat by how it sheds. It may come as a surprise, but wooly Malamutes can appear to shed less than non-wooly Malamutes.

In reality, they are shedding just as much, but the structure of their coats means that the loose hairs are getting trapped, which is what frequently leads to matting.

If you notice that they drop fewer hairs around the home or that they need more maintenance to look well-groomed, you could have a wooly Malamute on your hands.

Short Vs. Long Hair Malamute

There is no such thing as a ‘short-haired’ Alaskan Malamute, but there are some Mals that have shorter guard layers of hair which can give the appearance of a short coat.

This becomes even more apparent when you compare these to wooly Malamutes, but they are still exactly the same breed.

How To Groom A Wooly Malamute

Alaskan Malamutes are a breed that is known to require a lot of grooming to keep their coats in good condition. Their thick double coats and twice-yearly coat blowing mean they shed a lot and can quickly look unkempt.

Wooly Malamutes require even more grooming to keep their coats looking luxurious and to maintain their physical health.

Brushing a wooly Malamute every day is essential to prevent painful matting from occurring. Matting happens when fur tangles together to a pretty much irreversible state, and it can feel like a solid lump in the middle of the coat.

Not only does matted fur ruin the appearance of a wooly Malamute’s coat, but they are also very painful for the Malamute as it can pull tightly on their skin. It may even result in their skin being exposed to the elements, which can affect their ability to regulate their temperature, increasing the risk of them getting ill.

Daily brushing will help you to identify any matting that is beginning to form so you can get rid of them early on. Once fur becomes matted, you will likely have to carefully trim it out of the coat, but the smaller the area, the easier this will be to do.

A Malamute’s coat is designed in such a way that it should never have to be cut or shaved, which is why it is so important for them to be properly groomed to prevent the need for this.

When it comes to bath time, take extra caution to make sure your wooly Malamute is dry to the skin. A wooly coat can easily trap moisture against the skin, which may cause irritation and lead to a hot spot forming, particularly if there is unwashed shampoo trapped too.

Some owners of wooly Malamutes may choose to regularly trim their Malamute coats to help better maintain them. It is very common for long hair on the bottom of their feet to get trimmed as this is a very common area for matting to occur and is not an essential coat area.

Overall, so long as a wooly Malamute is regularly groomed using the right tools, its coat should remain healthy and tangle-free. If you have any concerns about a matt that has formed, we recommend contacting a reputable groomer who will have the tools to remove it safely.

In Summary

Wooly Alaskan Malamutes stand out thanks to their extra-long coats but identifying them as a puppy can be tricky. We recommend looking out for key signs like long hairs behind the ears and on the pads of their feet.

Actively breeding for wooly malamutes is not something that we recommend or endorse.

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About The Author

Caitlin is the owner and lead writer for The Malamute Mom. She has over 10 years of experience with Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. She is currently working on getting her PhD in materials science but continues to write for The Malamute Mom in her spare time.

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2 thoughts on “How To Identify a Wooly Malamute – Veterinary Insight”

  1. I am having a lot of difficulty with my Wooly Malamute. She doesn’t want to be groomed and the groomers only want to shave her matted areas behind her legs. I said no but now I’m at a lose as to what to do next. I love her so much. I only want to do what is best for her.

    • Hi Susan,

      It sounds as though you need to make grooming an enjoyable experience for your Malamute. As she’s a Wooly, she’ll need to get used to regular grooming in order to remain healthy.

      Choose a single brush or comb for her to get used to at the beginning. Allow her to inspect it thoroughly and get used to being around it. Start with short but frequent sessions and slowly increase them until she can withstand a full session. Whilst you are brushing her, give her plenty of treats as positive reinforcement (and to distract her from the fact that it’s happening!). It might help to groom an area where there is no matting, and hence won’t hurt her, so that she learns grooming is not painful.

      It will take a lot of patience but it’s important to stick at it, eventually she will learn that grooming is worthwhile.

      In the meantime, you will want to find a groomer who has experience with Alaskan Malamutes or with long-haired double coated breeds. If the matting between her legs is bad, shaving might be necessary but it should only be done by someone who has experience to prevent permanent damage to the coat. A good groomer will be able to get her coat back to a healthy starting position, ready for you to begin grooming training.

      Best wishes,
      -The Malamute Mom Team


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