Alaskan Malamute Vs American Akita: Complete Comparison

Want to know all the differences between the Alaskan Malamute vs American Akita?

Look no further than this guide. We’ll give you a quick overview of each breed and its origins, and then dive right into the differences (and similarities) between each breed.

Before we get into it, here’s a quick rundown of the main similarities and differences between these two breeds if you’re in a hurry.

An infographic summarising the similarities and differences between the Alaskan Malamute vs American Akita

Alaskan Malamute Overview

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the most ancient dog breeds and was originally brought across to Alaska via the Bering Strait thousands of years ago.

The name originates from the Mahlemut people who settled in Alaska and depended on Malamutes for their survival.

A large Alaskan Malamute on a lead

Malamutes were used to pull sleds for hundreds of miles, as well as to hunt seals and other mammals. They almost went extinct during the Gold Rush in the 1800s as the demand for working dogs increased, but they luckily survived.

I highly recommend this article if you want to learn more about the fascinating history of this breed.

Fast forward to modern times and the Malamute is a recognised breed by the AKC since 1935 and a popular family pet. They are large in size and retain the ability to exercise for long periods of time.

They can be very stubborn and difficult to train, but they make very loving and caring companions with an independent streak.

American Akita Overview

There are actually two types of Akita, the Japanese Akita and the American Akita.

Japanese Akita (Akita Inu or Akita-Ken)

The Akita Inu, or Japanese Akita, originated from the Akita prefecture in Japan and was initially used to hunt animals like Elk and boar.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that the Japanese Akita was made a natural monument in Japan, and careful breeding according to a standard was introduced to preserve the breed.

It was difficult to preserve the breed during World War 2 and the years leading up to it as the Akita was regularly crossed with the German Shepherd to save the breed from the cull issued by the government on all non-war dogs.

However, certain lines remained and the Akita-Inu was successfully bred through the occupation years following the war, particularly by Moria Sawataishi.

A Japanese Akita looking to the left

The Japanese Akita is significantly smaller than the American version, and there are a lot of controversies, particularly among the Japanese who still consider the American Akita as a crossbreed.

The Japanese Akita does not have the black mask seen on American Akitas and has a more fox-like, slender appearance.

American Akita (Often Just Called Akita)

For the sake of this article, we’ll be looking at the American Akita specifically. This is because they are more popular in America, and are more comparable to the Alaskan Malamute in size.

The American Akita originates during the World War 2 era and was first brought across by Helen Keller who is accredited with bringing the Akita to America after being gifted two by the Japanese government.

Akitas were also brought across during the war by US military servicemen who came into contact with Akitas during their service in Japan.

The American Akita was recognised as an official breed by the American Kennel Club in 1972.

An American Akita laying in a field

The American Akita is larger than the Japanese Akita and usually has a black or white mask with a thick dense coat that comes in many color combinations.

Difference In Appearance

Before we take a deep dive into the differences between these two popular breeds, let’s get the main one out of the way first – appearance.

Alaskan Malamute vs American Akita in a custom graphic

Alaskan Malamutes have an appearance that closely resembles a wolf. They have large erect ears and a large bulky muzzle that only slightly diminishes in width.

Malamutes have a very friendly expression and brown, almond-shaped eyes. Their coat can come in many different colors, including black and white, red and white and full white.

American Akitas have a very powerful appearance and stance. They have large heads with small, triangular eyes and erect ears.

American Akitas have can have several different colored coats, including black, fawn and brown.

More Differences Between Alaskan Malamute Vs American Akita


American Akitas have the size advantage over the Alaskan Malamute in both height and weight:

It’s important to note that these are just average values determined by the American Kennel Club for optimal breed health, and in reality, both breeds can weigh significantly more.

‘Giant’ malamutes, for example, are malamutes bred specifically for size and can easily exceed much more than 100 lbs. So, if you see a Malamute on the street that looks much larger than the guideline above don’t be surprised.

Guarding Instinct

American Akitas have a natural guarding instinct to protect their families and be naturally suspicious of strangers.

Alaskan Malamutes do not have a guarding instinct, and are actually more likely to befriend a stranger rather than be suspicious of them.

The good news is that Malamutes and Akitas both have very intimidating appearances, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the breeds, which means that they can provide ‘protection’ without doing anything.

Similarities Between Alaskan Malamute Vs American Akita

You might be surprised to learn just how many similarities there are between the Alaskan Malamute and American Akita.

Let’s take a look at them to see how similar these two breeds actually are.

Spitz Type

Spitz breeds originate from arctic climates in places like Russia, North America and Asia.

Both Alaskan Malamutes and American Akitas are spitz breeds, which is why they share a fairly similar appearance in terms of their thick double coats and pointed, alert ears with long snouts.

This also affects how independent they can be, as well as how difficult they are to own due to their working background (more on this later).

Prey Drive

Both American Akitas and Alaskan Malamutes have high prey drives.

This means that they are predisposed to chasing small animals like cats or dogs without much thought. Recall can be very difficult (almost impossible at times) if they decide to chase after something, which is why you should keep both of these breeds on a leash when in an unsecured outdoor location.

This does also affect how they are with other pets in the family. Akitas and Malamutes really need to be brought up from a young age with other small animals for the highest chance of success.

Double Coated

As Spitz breeds, it should come as no surprise that these breeds both have double coats.

A double coat is where the fur is split into two layers: a short woolly undercoat and a top coat made of long guard hairs.

Dogs with double coats will blow their coats twice a year, and require grooming sometimes several times per day when they do so.

Outside of that, daily grooming is essential and you can expect a lot of shedding as well throughout the year.

Difficult To Train Due To Stubbornness

Spritz breeds are notorious for having a stubborn and independent streak.

This means that they are not particularly interested in pleasing their owners, which makes training especially difficult.

When you’ve got a dog as large as either of these two breeds, training is essential or they will quickly take over the house.

You need to establish yourself as the leader through correct training habits, which can be hard to establish due to the nature of these two breeds.

Working Breeds (Exercise & Mental Stimulation)

Alaskan Malamutes and American Akitas are both working breeds.

This means they require a certain minimum amount of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy. You’re looking at 2+ hours per day of exercise for the Malamute and 1 to 2 hours for the American Akita.

You’ll also need to supplement their daily routine with some form of extra mental stimulation such as playing games or giving them toys.

Leaving either breed alone for long periods of time is not a great idea either, as they are prone to separation anxiety.

This is a condition where a dog will show destructive tendencies when left alone, such as excessive howling or chewing, due to stress.

Life Expectancy & Health Issues

Malamutes and American Akitas have pretty similar life expectancies. Malamutes usually live between 10 and 14 years, while American Akitas live 10 to 12 years on average.

Given their size, this is quite a good lifespan. However, they are prone to a few of the same health issues, several due to their size:

  • Hip dysplasia – Hip dysplasia is common across many larger dog breeds and is a condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint grow at different rates. It is a genetic disease and causes weakness and pain in the back legs.
  • Cataracts – This is a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and it is most commonly caused by being inherited. Cataracts can be dealt with surgically and can lead to total blindness or partial vision loss if not handled.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (bloat) – Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with gas, and it can cause the stomach to twist in severe cases. Bloat is always a medical emergency and can be fatal. There are a lot of things you can do to help to prevent bloat in your dog, read our guide to learn 5 quick tips for this.

In Summary

When it comes to the Alaskan Malamute vs American Akita the two breeds are actually very similar in nature and difficult to own.

They both require a lot of work and effort from the owner, but if you are willing to put in the time and care for them properly they can become amazing companion dogs to your family.

Akitas are larger in size and have more of a guarding personality, but you’ll find that Malamutes are also quite effective and intimidating due to their size and appearance; although they are gentle giants to just about everybody!

Interested in checking out more Malamute comparison guides? We’ve covered plenty of others:

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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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