The Alaskan Malamute is actually descended from the wolf. Today's breed has some very distinctive characteristics that remind us of that fact, though the Alaskan Malamute is typically a very calm, good-natured dog. Some people think the word "mute" in the name means the dog doesn't bark.
While they tend to be less vocal than many breeds, the Alaskan Malamute can vocalize, though they tend to howl more often than bark. These dogs were first domesticated by the Mahlemuts - a tribe of people who saw the benefit of using the animals for work and companionship. Often, these dogs attached to sleds were the only real mode of transportation available - meaning a well-trained group of dogs was extremely valuable in terms of sheer ability to survive. The natural harshness of the Northern regions made it necessary for the Alaskan Malamute to be a strong dog with a heavy coat. Those features have changed little over the centuries of domestication.
And in fact, it's easy to see some other tendencies of this breed that make the ancestry clear. For example, the Alaskan Malamute does well in a "pack" situation - whether that means it prefers to be outdoors with other dogs or indoors with its people. These dogs don't typically do well when they're left to their own devices for too long. Remember that they had to be cunning to survive in the Alaskan wild. That cunning comes to their aid in finding ways to entertain themselves when their human owners fail to provide sufficient exercise and play time. They might dig their way free of a confined yard or simply tear up whatever they can reach.
Either way, it's much safer to be sure that you can provide ample opportunities for the Alaskan Malamute to be with you and to vent his energy in a productive way. Today, the Alaskan Malamute is still sometimes used as a pack or sled animal. They're also used in many types of competition, including weight pulling and racing. They've been featured by many writers and have been used in several movies - mainly depicting the trials of polar sledding. Though they make excellent work animals, many have found themselves pampered family pets. Remember that the heavy coat makes them ideal for cooler climates, but they should be sheltered from heat.
Keep in mind that these are large dogs - weighing in at almost 100 pounds for a typical male. Add to that the fact that they tend to love to play well into adulthood and you may find that this is simply more dog that you're ready to handle. Alaskan Malamutes can be trained to be extremely well behaved, though it doesn't come naturally to them. They just like to have fun, and their sheer size sometimes makes that a problem. If your Alaskan Malamute is going to have a fenced in yard, be sure that the fence is high and that you include some sort of underground barrier - such as burying a portion of the fence.
These dogs are excellent athletes - they can jump and dig with the pros, and they're nothing if not tenacious about getting their way.
For more information on Alaskan Malamutes and other Popular, and not-so-popular breeds of dogs, visit The Working Dog Directory