Alaskan Malamute vs Golden Retriever: Full Breed Showdown

You’ve come to the right place if you want a full rundown of the similarities and differences between the Alaskan Malamute and Golden Retriever.

Both are quite large dogs that shed often and love to spend time around people. However, they have very different personalities, with Alaskan Malamutes being quite stubborn and independent, whereas Golden Retrievers are eager to please and easy to train.

This is only the start of the comparison, so stay tuned for a full rundown of the Alaskan Malamute vs Golden Retriever.

An infographic detailing the similarities and differences between the Alaskan Malamute vs Golden Retriever

Difference In Appearance

Before diving into the main comparisons between the Alaskan Malamute vs Golden Retriever, let’s look at the most obvious one – their appearance.

Alaskan Malamute facing the camera, appearing to smile

Alaskan Malamutes have several classic Spitz-type features, such as pointed ears, fluffy curly tails, and a thick double coat.

They come in various colors and have a very friendly demeanor, similar in many ways to the Golden Retriever.

A Golden Retriever in some grass

Golden Retrievers look incredibly friendly and loving, with floppy ears and a golden, medium-length double coat.

Ever wondered what happens if you cross these two breeds? Check out our Alaskan Goldenmute guide here!

Other Key Differences Between The Alaskan Malamute vs Golden Retriever

Appearance isn’t the only difference between these two breeds.

Let’s explore some of the other key differences to see how these two compare!

Origin & History

The Alaskan Malamute name originates from the Mahlemuts, an Inuit tribe who settled on the shores of northwestern Alaska. Before that, it’s thought their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia thousands of years ago, making them one of the most ancient dog breeds.

Malamutes were used primarily for pulling heavy sled loads across rugged terrain, which they still enjoy.

Golden Retrievers are much more recent, originating in 19th Century Britain and created by Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks by cross-breeding the now-extinct Tweed Spaniel to a wavy-coated dog named Nous.

Their popularity rose quickly due to their golden coats, which were not common during the time, and they were handed out selectively to wealthy men who prized them as hunting companions.

Overall Size

Alaskan Malamutes are larger than Golden Retrievers in both average height and weight:

  • Alaskan Malamutes reach 23 to 25 inches in height and 75 to 85 lbs in weight on average.
  • Golden Retrievers reach 21.5 to 24 inches in height and 55 to 75 lbs in weight on average.

It’s also worth noting that Mals regularly exceed the recommended weight, leading to the popularity of so-called ‘Giant Alaskan Malamutes.’ These are simply malamutes bred for size, something that we do not recommend due to the increased health risks associated with these sizes.


Malamutes live longer than Golden Retrievers on average, although both breeds are considered quite healthy for their weights.

There are exceptions to the rule, as always, and if either breed is cared for properly, they can easily exceed these averages. It also helps to work with reputable breeders who are able to screen for potential health problems quickly.


Another area where these two breeds differ is in their stubbornness.

Malamutes are a very stubborn breed, thanks to their Spitz heritage. This means they can be challenging to train and often spend time to themselves when they feel like it.

Golden Retrievers are not anywhere near as stubborn as the Alaskan Malamute and are pretty eager to please their owners as well, which can make training much more accessible.

Guarding Capability

These two breeds vary quite a lot in their guarding capacity.

Golden Retrievers are very, very friendly dogs, but they can be trained as guard dogs under the right circumstances. In the majority of cases, they aren’t, however, and are instead kept as loving family pets.

Alaskan Malamutes have practically no guarding instinct, so there wouldn’t even be any point trying to train them for this purpose.

Malamutes have even less suspicion of strangers than Golden Retrievers, which can sometimes confuse people given how wolf-like and intimidating they can be to people unfamiliar with the breed.

Exercise Needs

Golden Retrievers are quite an active breed and need anywhere from 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily, but Alaskan Malamutes are even more demanding.

Mals need at least 2 hours of exercise daily thanks to their background as sled dogs, capable of pulling heavy loads for miles over rough terrain.

They’ll also appreciate many varied exercises, especially any activity where they can pull you!

Prey Drive

Most dogs have a prey drive, which is an instinctual drive to chase after small animals and hunt them.

Alaskan Malamutes have a stronger prey drive than Golden Retrievers, however, so they are not as suited for going off-leash as there is a possibility that they could chase after an animal and put themselves in harm’s way.

This can also make it difficult to keep Mals with other small pets like cats unless they have been socialized together from a young age.


Although these breeds look very different, they share many similarities that you might not expect.

Double Coated (Coat Blowing, Shedding & Grooming Requirements)

Alaskan Malamutes and Golden Retrievers have double coats, which has many implications on seasonal shedding, regular shedding, and how often they need to be groomed.

A double coat is where the fur is split into two layers: a short wooly undercoat that provides insulation and a long guard layer that protects the skin and coat below from water and debris.

Coat Blowing & Year-Round Shedding

Double-coated breeds shed quite a lot year-round, especially those with longer coats like the Alaskan Malamute and Golden Retriever. This means that you’ll have to be prepared for hairs to end up pretty much everywhere…

They also blow their coats twice a year on average, which is a process where they transition into their summer coats by blowing their undercoats.

They will shed even more than usual during this time and require multiple grooming sessions daily.

Grooming Requirements

On the topic of grooming, both breeds will require quite constant grooming thanks to their double coats.

Friendly Nature

Alaskan Malamutes and Golden Retrievers are both very, very friendly and thrive on human interaction.

Alaskan Malamutes have a strong pack mentality, boosting their need for social interaction. Golden Retrievers love to be around people, as they were originally bred as hunting companion dogs.

Separation Anxiety

One of the downsides of the friendly nature of these breeds is that they both can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.

Separation anxiety is a condition where a dog can become stressed and display destructive behaviors like excessive howling or chewing when left alone for periods.

There are several things owners can do to deal with separation anxiety. Still, it’s an important consideration with these two breeds as they don’t suit being left alone for long periods every day.

Which Breed Is Best For You?

It’s hard to choose between these two dogs because they are adorable and friendly!

In terms of daily life, Mals are larger and require more exercise, which means more work. Both breeds require a lot of grooming and are highly suited for family life, though.

There can be issues with Alaskan Malamutes and other small animals as well, so this is something to keep in mind as well.

It all comes down to personal preference, as their personalities differ. Mals are much more stubborn and harder to train because of it, whereas Golden Retrievers live to please their owners.

If you’ve had experience with Spitz-type dogs and enjoy their unique personalities, then the Alaskan Malamute is the way to go. If you’re apprehensive, the Golden Retriever might be a better option, but there really isn’t much to choose between the two!

Want to read more Alaskan Malamute breed comparisons? Check out some of our other recent posts below:

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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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