Breed Info

Alaskan Klee Kai Vs Alaskan Malamute: What’s The Difference?

Skye (Photo:

Last Updated on April 19, 2023 by Kieran Beckles

Alaskan Klee Kai and Alaskan Malamutes are two different dog breeds that may be confused because of their similar names.

While they’re both considered snow dogs, the Alaskan Klee Kai is a companion-sized dog breed unlike the hard-working Alaskan Malamute.

The Klee Kai is a relatively new dog breed that was created by an American lady called Linda Spurlin in the late 1970s. She wanted a Husky-like dog in a smaller package than a Siberian Husky or Alaskan Husky.

The Alaskan Malamute is considered one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and descendants of domesticated wolf dogs of the Mahelmuit tribe.

While the Alaskan Malamute has been recognised by the American Kennel Club for over a century, the Alaskan Klee Kai hasn’t been granted status by the AKC (at the time of writing).

But the Klee Kai is a member of the United Kennel Club since 1997.

With the introduction complete, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and the differences between an Alaskan Klee Kai and an Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: History

Copper and Skye (Photo:
Copper and Skye (Photo:

The Alaskan Klee Kai breed was created by an American lady called Linda Spurlin in the 1980s. She used Alaskan Husky, Siberian Husky, American Eskimo Dog and Schipperke to create her initial batch of Alaskan Klee Kai. Once she refined her companion-sized Husky-like dogs, she released them to the public in the late 1980s. The Alaskan Klee Kai was recognised as a breed by the United Kennel Club in 1997, having secured recognition from the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) in 1995.

Alaskan Malamutes are considered one of the world’s oldest dog breeds. They’re thought to be distant relatives of the world’s first domesticated wolf dogs. Alaskan Malamutes get their name from the Mahlemiut, Inuit people. They were developed by these indigenous wanderers to work as sled dogs who were capable of pulling heavy loads for long distances. Alaskan Malamute strain Kotzebue was first recognised by the AKC in 1935 before they granted the M’Loot and Hinman strains status in the 1950s after World War 2. At the time of writing, the Alaskan Malamute is the 68th most popular breed in the United States.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Size

Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)
Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)

The Alaskan Klee Kai can come in three different sizes: standard, miniature and toy. The Standard Alaskan Klee Kai ranges from 15 to 17 inches, the Miniature Alaskan Klee Kai is usually between 13 and 15 inches and the Toy Alaskan Klee Kai can grow up to 13 inches. It’s worth noting that the UKC considers over 17 inches a fault. Unlike other dog breeds, Alaskan Klee Kai are measured by their height rather than their weight. Copper and Skye are toy-sized Klee Kai.

The Alaskan Malamute don’t have three different sizes like Klee Kai. Instead Alaskan Malamute will usually be between 23 and 25 inches depending on their gender. They can be around 75 to 85 pounds.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Eye Color

Skye (Photo:
Skye (Photo:

Alaskan Klee Kai can have a range of different eyes colors. For instance, Copper and Skye have blue eyes. However, some AKK can have brown eyes, amber eyes or green eyes. You’ll find some Alaskan Klee Kai with bi-eyes – two different eye colors. Even more unique are Alaskan Klee Kai with parti-eye. This is where a Klee Kai has one eye with two different colors. The UKC write the following online:

The eyes are of medium size and may be any color or combination of colors. Almond-shaped eyes are the most desirable, followed in order of preference by oval and round. The eyes are set obliquely. Eye rims are black for dogs whose coat colors are shades of black or gray; and the eye rims are liver-colored in dogs whose coat colors are shades of red.

United Kennel Club’s Breed Standard.

According to the Alaskan Malamute’s breed standard on the American Kennel Club’s website, these large dogs should have brown, almond-shaped eyes that are of medium eyes. The AKC add that dark eyes are preferred. Blue eyes are a disqualifying fault under the organization’s breed standard rules.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Appearance

Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)
Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)

Alaskan Klee Kai were created to look like companion-sized versions of the Alaskan Husky. Therefore they’ve got a masked face, erect ears and a double coat that you would associate with the Alaskan Husky. They’ve got a tail that curls over onto their back. Alaskan Klee Kai can be black and white, gray and white or red and white. While you may find predominantly black or dark Alaskan Klee Kai or all-white Alaskan Klee Kai, these are considered faults by the UKC.

Alaskan Malamute share some of the same traits as a Klee Kai – erect ears and a tail which flops over onto their back. However, they’re substantially bigger than Klee Kai, with what the AKC describe as “substantial bone”. These Arctic sled dogs have a thick double coat made up of a coarse outer coat and dense under coat. Their coat color can be various shades of gray, black, sable, red and solid white.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Temperament

Skye (Photo:
Skye (Photo:

Seeing as the Alaskan Klee Kai was bred to be a companion pet, it’s no surprise that these small dogs love to be in the company of their fellow family members. They can become particularly attached to one person and end up acting like velcro dogs. The Alaskan Klee Kai can be shy or skittish around people they don’t know. However, if properly and responsibly socialized, Klee Kai can become less aloof. They’re smart dogs that require training from a young age, especially because AKK have a tendency to outsmart you or manipulate you if given too much free rein. After all, these mini huskies are independent thinkers.

The Alaskan Malamute is a dependable dog that traditionally would have played a key role in a tribe or group setting. Whether it was acting as working dogs pulling heavy loads or protecting the family, Alaskan Malamutes are reliable.

The Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate, friendly dog, not a “one man” dog. He is a loyal, devoted companion, playful in invitation, but generally impressive by his dignity after maturity.

American Kennel Club

While Alaskan Malamutes are much larger than Alaskan Klee Kai, they’re still fond of some affection from their owners. They’ll usually relish the opportunity to cuddle and relax with their family at the end of the day.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Exercise

Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)
Alaskan Malamute (Photo: Eleven52/ Storyblocks)

Alaskan Klee Kai are small dogs but they’re durable with substantial endurance. In my experience with Copper and Skye, I find they need at least three walks a day plus lots of enrichment games at home. As Copper struggles with some separation anxiety, I find he has higher exercise demands than Skye. So we regularly go for 5k, 7k or even 10k runs to help release some of the nervous energy. I’d estimate that my Alaskan Klee Kai get at least 90 minutes of exercise a day without including brain games and enrichment puzzles at home.

You likely won’t be surprised to learn that Alaskan Malamutes require a lot of exercise too. They’re large dogs with a big engine. Alaskan Malamutes will require at least 90 minutes of exercise a day. They’re suitable companions for hiking and running, even some swimming. Unsurprisingly Malamutes will excel with sled racing or any kind of endurance dog sports. According to the AKC, Malamutes often take part in agility and obedience trials, weight-pulling competitions, backpacking, recreational or competitive sledding, and skijoring.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute: Price

Copper and Skye (Photo:
Copper and Skye (Photo:

The price of an Alaskan Klee Kai puppy will vary depending on a number of factors. Firstly, every Alaskan Klee Kai breeder will have different prices. However, you should never pay less than $1,200 or more than $3,500 for a Klee Kai puppy. Other factors include coat color and eye color. For instance, a red-coated blue-eyed Klee Kai will could cost more than a gray-coated brown-eyed Klee Kai.

Alaskan Malamutes tend to be relatively expensive dogs to buy – too. They’ll usually cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000. Just like AKK, Malamutes may very in price depending on the breeder and the puppy’s physical characteristics.

Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamutes: Wrapping Up

We’ve reached the end of our Alaskan Klee Kai vs Alaskan Malamute comparison article.

Although they share the word Alaskan in their respective breed names, they’re two different dog breeds.

The Malamute is traditionally a working dog breed while the Klee Kai is a companion pet.

However, Klee Kai and Malamutes do share some characteristics in common, such as their Spitz-like appearance with erect ears.

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