Alaskan Malamute Vs Saint Bernard: A Complete Comparison

In this guide, we’ll compare the Alaskan Malamute vs Saint Bernard to see which breed is more suited for you.

Some of the key differences include size, eagerness to please and trainability. There are surprisingly a lot of similarities between these two breeds though, which we’ll get into later in this article.

Before we dive into an overview of each breed, here’s a quick rundown of the key differences and similarities:

An infographic comparing the Alaskan Malamute vs Saint Bernard

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 survival.

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

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.

Saint Bernard Overview

Saint Bernards originate in the Alps in the 11th century, where they were used to aid in mountain rescue for travellers who were heading to Rome. A monk named Bernard of Menthon established the hospice where Saint Bernards were bred to aid in rescue missions.

It is thought that the Saint Bernard was bred from the ancient Molloser breed, like many other European dogs such as the Mastiff.

Saint Bernards have also been used to protect livestock and for guarding duties throughout the years, and are one of the largest dog breeds on the planet.

A Saint Bernard laid down on some grass

Saint Bernards are well known for being great with children and families, as well as maturing at quite a slow rate despite their large size. They are quite eager to please, which makes them relatively easy to train.

They have thick coats to help them withstand harsh weather conditions and thrive with a job to fulfil.

Difference In Appearance

Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first.

It’s pretty clear to tell that these two dog breeds look VERY different.

An Alaskan Malamute next to a Saint Bernard in a custom graphic

Alaskan Malamutes have a very wolf-like appearance with pointed ears and a large fluffy tail that curls over. Their coat can come in a variety of colors, but is usually black and white or grey and white.

The Saint Bernard has a very large head and square muzzle, with floppy ears and a wrinkled brow.

Their coat also comes in a lot of colors but is usually red and white or brindle and white (white being present on all accepted coat colors).

More Differences Between The Alaskan Malamute Vs Saint Bernard

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at some other, more subtle, differences between the Alaskan Malamute and Saint Bernard.


Although Alaskan Malamutes are a pretty large breed of dog, the Saint Bernard is much larger.

Alaskan Malamutes will reach 75 to 85 lbs in weight and 23 to 25 inches in height, as per the AKC standard. There is of course a lot of variation here as this is the desirable weight set by the standard.

Saint Bernards grow to 26 to 30 inches in height and weigh anywhere from 120 to 180 lbs, as per the AKC standard, which is considerably more than the Alaskan Malamute.

Saint Bernards are one of the largest dog breeds in the world, so you really need to be prepared before you decide to get one.


Saint Bernards are known for their drooling and can make a mess in no time at all, especially if they decide to shake their heads.

Carrying a small towel or dog wipes is a great idea if you own one of these large dogs.

Alaskan Malamutes don’t drool anywhere near as much, and they even groom themselves much like a cat.

Protective Instincts

Saint Bernards have a much stronger protective instinct than the Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamutes are more likely to make friends with a stranger, whereas the Saint Bernard would be extra cautious, especially if they were with their family.

Exercise Requirements

One of the biggest differences between these two breeds is their exercise requirements.

Saint Bernards are happy to lounge around most of the day and need 30 minutes to one hour of exercise per day to keep them happy (although they will happily become couch potatoes if you let them).

A Saint Bernard up close

Alaskan Malamutes need at least 2 hours of exercise per day. These high exercise requirements come from their background as sled dogs, capable of pulling sleds for miles and miles at a time loaded with heavy weight.

Meeting the exercise needs of your dog is absolutely crucial, and Alaskan Malamutes are definitely not for those who aren’t active.


Unfortunately due to the massive size of Saint Bernards specifically they don’t live as long as many other dog breeds.

Alaskan Malamutes are still on the larger size for most dogs, but they live significantly longer on average than Saint Bernards:

  • Saint Bernards live 8 to 10 years on average, even when provided a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise, proper nutrition and care.
  • Alaskan Malamutes live 10 to 14 years on average.


Saint Bernards are quite eager to please their owners, and when combined with their intelligence it means that they can learn obedience pretty quickly.

It’s also essential to train them from a young age due to their size – the last thing you want is a 150 lbs or more dog that doesn’t listen to you.

Alaskan Malamutes, on the other hand, are more difficult to train. This is because they are more independent and even stubborn at times, and they have much less desire to please their owners.

If you’re interested in teaching your pup lots of new tricks, Saint Bernards are a better option.

Similarities Between The Two

There are actually quite a few similarities between the Alaskan Malamute and Saint Bernard despite how different they look.

Working Background

Saint Bernards and Alaskan Malamutes are classified as working breeds by the AKC and other clubs around the world.

Working breeds are strong, intelligent and alert. They were bred for a specific role, in this case, sled pulling for Alaskan Malamutes and mountain rescue for Saint Bernards.

Grooming & Shedding (Double Coated)

Saint Bernards and Alaskan Malamutes are double-coated, which simply means their coats are split into two layers:

  • A short dense undercoat made with a woolly texture
  • A longer layer of guard hairs.

It’s pretty normal to see dogs with double coats that originate from places where the temperature is on the lower end, as it helps to maintain temperature when it gets very cold.

Can Be Stubborn

Although Saint Bernards are more eager to please, they still have a streak of stubbornness just like the Alaskan Malamute.

They can be particularly stubborn when it comes to exercise, while malamutes tend to always be excited to exercise but show their stubbornness in other ways, particularly during obedience training.

The problem with stubborn dogs is that they can easily take over a house (especially Alaskan Malamutes and Saint Bernards due to their size) if you aren’t ready to train them properly.

Early socialization is important for both of these breeds as well as obedience training.

Varying Coat Length

Saint Bernards can have two coat lengths.

These are short or medium-long, both of which are double-coated. Originally Saint Bernards had short coats, but in the early 19th century they were crossed with the Newfoundland to introduce a longer-haired variety.

This is why the majority of Saint Bernards that you see today have longer fur, and it’s also why the official AKC standard lists both longhaired and shorthaired.

Alaskan Malamutes can also have different coat lengths. You have the ‘standard’ malamute, with medium to long fur, and the so-called ‘wooly malamute‘ which has typically longer and woollier fur.

Wooly Malamute
An example of a wooly malamute (credit)

A woolly malamute is simply a malamute that has been bred to produce a longer and thicker coat – there are no other differences aside from the coat length.

Good With Children

Malamutes are great with children thanks to their patience and loving personality.

Saint Bernards are also known to be very caring and protective of children. They should never be left unsupervised, however, as the size of these dogs does pose a threat to children even if the dogs mean no harm at all.

In Summary

If you’re looking for an easy dog, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

Both of these breeds are large and require a lot of effort and patience. Alaskan Malamutes are smaller but need much more exercise, while Saint Bernards are gigantic and need less exercise.

If you’re committed to providing the right care for both of these breeds you’ll give yourself and your family a companion for life.

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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