Alaskan Malamutes are known for thriving in cold climates, but do they like to swim or do they prefer to stay dry?
A lot of Alaskan Malamutes do actually like to swim and to get in the water, which is quite surprising given the history of the breed.
In this guide, we’ll explore the reasons why some Malamutes do actually like to swim, why it’s surprising, and how you can let your Malamute swim safely.
Let’s get into it.
- Alaskan Malamute Background & Swimming
- Why Do Some Alaskan Malamutes Like To Swim?
- How To Teach Your Malamute To Swim
- Top Tips For Alaskan Malamute Swimming
- In Summary
Alaskan Malamute Background & Swimming
Alaskan Malamutes were bred as sled dogs and used to pull sleds over long distances, with a specialty of pulling heavy loads at a moderate pace.
This isn’t exactly a breed that you would associate with swimming (like a Newfoundland, for example), especially when you consider that if their coat were to get soaked through with water in arctic conditions it would freeze and become potentially lethal.
Why Do Some Alaskan Malamutes Like To Swim?
Although swimming is not natural for Alaskan Malamutes, there are a lot of Malamutes that do like to swim. We’ve known several Malamutes that stop on their walks simply to lie down in the water, so what gives?
The main reason why some Malamutes like to swim is because they are not from a working line. Most Malamutes today are kept as pets and it has been this way for centuries.
Working Mals would be more hesitant of water simply because it is unknown to them, and something that is avoided as it can cause complications with freezing.
Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance that your Mal will have access to some type of water quite regularly and that it isn’t life-threatening for them if they go for a swim.
Over time, especially if you provide positive reinforcement for them to swim, they will simply get used to it and realize that it isn’t a problem. Over years and years, this is how a lot of Mals today have actually grown to like water.
Is It Safe For Malamutes To Swim?
It’s generally pretty safe to let your Malamute swim, but it should always be supervised.
Mals are pretty large dogs weighing between 75 and 85 lbs on average but easily exceeding 100 lbs in certain cases.
They also have very thick double coats, and although these are designed to keep water out they are not fully waterproof and will hold on to a lot of water weight after swimming.
These factors mean that swimming is quite strenuous for the Malamute. They are very fit dogs, but should still be supervised while swimming as they can become exhausted quickly due to their size.
How To Teach Your Malamute To Swim
Most Mals will take to swimming easily.
The first step is to let them get their feet wet. Start off slow, and ideally get into the water with them while providing lots of praise and positive reinforcement.
Gently move them or encourage them into deeper water, and make sure you can stay nearby if you aren’t able to get into the water with them.
If they seem comfortable then let them swim for as long as they seem happy to, and if they look uncomfortable call them to the exit point and let them get out.
That’s really it. There isn’t much teaching to do, it’s more just making sure that they can get out when they want to and staying vigilant in case they get into trouble.
Top Tips For Alaskan Malamute Swimming
If your Malamute loves to swim, here are some tips for making it go as smoothly as possible.
Check The Temperature
Temperature is crucial when it comes to letting your Mal swim.
It’s advised that the water temperature plus the air temperature should equal at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and this is a good rule of thumb to use.
Mas are great at dealing with cold temperatures, but not when they are wet.
Watch Them Closely
Even if your Mal is an experienced swimmer, all it takes is one lapse of judgment, and they might swallow water and start to drown.
This isn’t very common, but it’s important to watch over your Mal all the time when they are swimming regardless.
Avoid Deep Water & Sudden Drops
As we mentioned before, Mals are big dogs that can weigh a lot.
Although they are very fit and active, swimming is strenuous for them and can quickly tire them out. You should avoid letting your Mal swim in deep water in case they become too tired, and instead, opt for shallow, slow-flowing water.
You also ideally want to choose a body of water that has a gradual slope, rather than a sudden drop-off point. This can catch your Malamute off guard and cause them to swallow water.
Dry Them Out Afterwards
It’s not ideal for a Malamute to get soaked through with water as they are double-coated.
Double-coated simply means that their coat has two layers, a short dense wooly layer that provides insulation and a long guard layer that keeps moisture and dirt out.
A Mal’s coat will regulate itself, which is why they only need to be bathed once every 3 or 4 months. If it gets soaked from swimming, you need to dry it out quickly to prevent any damage to its coat.
You can use towels for this or a dog blow dryer, but make sure to get them dry as soon as you get back.
Don’t Force Them
If your Malamute doesn’t like water that’s completely fine, not all Malamutes do and it’s actually quite natural for them to have an instinctual fear of water.
In these cases, you shouldn’t force your Mal to get in the water, even if you want to see them swim. It will only make them even more stressed, and make it even less likely for them to ever get into water in the future.
Use Positive Reinforcement
During the whole time, you need to positively reinforce your Malamute so they know it’s okay.
Use phrases like ‘Well done!’ or ‘Good Boy!’ regularly and they will associate swimming with positive feedback, which will make them more comfortable in the future.
Other Things To Be Wary Of
Local wildlife like snakes or even alligators can be found in many places in the US, especially near or in bodies of water. Make sure that the place where you let your Mal swim is safe to do so – if you wouldn’t swim there then don’t let your dog!
Leftover fishing hooks and bait can also cause issues for your Malamute, and if they try to swallow one then get in touch with an emergency vet immediately.
Alaskan Malamutes tend to enjoy swimming and getting in water despite their background as sled dogs.
It’s quite easy to encourage your Malamute to get into water as well, but I highly recommend following the tips in this article to make sure they stay safe.