Grooming a Correct Coat
and a Bath too...Coat gooming can be enjoyable for you both. Lie the dog on the floor in front of you while watching television in the evening. Comb him when you are relaxed and not rushed. Always make an effort (even if it's just a little at a time) to do the inside of the legs, breaches (butt), belly and tail. Many Malamutes do not like these areas done, but they are also the most likely to matt and knot so are most important. You can concentrate on a different area each time so you aren't yanking and pulling the entire time - for example: first the back, next time the belly, next time the inside left back leg, next time right back leg and a quick skim over everywhere else.
Limit each session to 10-15 minutes at first. If you comb every day, it normally will take only about 5 minutes per dog (10 for a woolly or a very thick coated dog). Don't buy a pin brush, run it over the back a few times and consider your dog "groomed" - sorry but that won't cut it!
It's important to get the comb or rake down to the SKIN. When they are "blowing coat", a technique called "line combing" is very effective in getting out the old dead coat. What this involves is parting the fur, taking a greyhound comb or rake, and from the skin out, pulling out the old coat. Part again about an inch away and do it again. Eventually you'll want to do this over the entire body of the dog. If the coat is not quite "ready" to come out, it can "pull" so be gentle so it doesn't hurt. A warm bath can move along a coat that is almost ready to blow and make it come out faster. A coat that is "ready" and loose, will come out easily. Line combing does not have to be done in one session - that could be a 4 or 5 hour project! Most Malamutes only have the patience for sessions much shorter than that! But slowly, if you keep at it you will get the whole dog finished. Resist the urge to "pluck" those tufts that come out - it is SOOOOOO embarrassing to your Malamute. They know they are losing their beautiful coat and that just lends insult to injury (though it's so hard to resist!).
Regularly groomed, your Mal will stay cleaner and begin to enjoy grooming because it isn't a painful or BIG chore. Eventually it becomes fun and part of their routine. Once they know what to expect (especially that treat afterwards...) many dogs will willingly volunteer to be brushed. Mocha asks every time she goes by the grooming table just in case! While most malamtues love getting their back and sides brushed, tails are another thing altogether. Most are not fond of the tail brushing so I usually leave that for last - just before they get their treat. This lets them know we are almost done and tail brushing is associated with the treat. We've never needed to take our dogs to a groomer to "make them look nice" since they always look nice.
If you don't have time for an in-depth brushing - you can always use the pin brush for quick touchups behind the ears, on the back and tail...but don't think this is all you need to do to keep your Malamute looking nice.
A housedog Malamute doesn't need a bath very often unless they are diggers. Baths can have a drying effect on the skin and soften the coat if given too often. A Malamute's guard coat is supposed to be somewhat stiff - that's what protects the undercoat from the weather. So you don't want a shampoo that will make the guard coat too "soft" (though I admit, I love the feel of a somewhat soft coat!). There are special shampoos that are just for a double coat that will not soften the guard hair too much, and also shampoos that are specifically made to brighten the white parts of the coat (legs, belly, face, tail). If you really need to get the whites' whiter, you can use laundry "bluing" on the legs before you lather them up with shampoo. The bluing cancels out the yellow tinge some coats seem to acquire when the dog likes to dig.
If the dog is not throughly dried after a bath, dampness against the skin can cause hotspots. Malamute fur is very dirt resistant, and even if they get muddy, by the time they dry it will often flake off so that the dog looks just fine. Malamutes also tend to keep themselves clean by grooming themselves like a cat. When they eat something greasy or messy it's common to see them liking and cleaning their paws afterward. Malamutes use the front dew claw like a thumb, so I suppose it's no different than when we wash our hands after eating something messy! I prefer to give baths every 1-2 months but they can go as long as 6 months or more between baths and look just fine (unless you have a persistent digger!).
Some day my dream is to have a doggy bath tub - an elevated tub with shower all set up just for the dogs! Until that day I've been using our regular people bath tub. I put a longer hose on a Handheld Showerhead, close the bathroom doors to prevent escapes and have a cookie handy for when they get out - and that works wonders. (Expect everything to get soaked!) Some like it and some do not, but they all get their treat afterward so are pretty good about baths. It's also important to give young puppies baths more often. First, because puppy fur is not as soil-resistant, second because they will be much better about bathing if they have had regular baths from a young age. If you give a treat afterwards, are patient, and make it fun, your dog won't mind a bath.
Make sure you put lots of old towels in the bathroom with you and wear something you don't mind getting soaked. I'm still looking for the solution to teaching a dog not to "shake" at an inappropriate time - but I suppose what they consider inappropriate is not MY idea of inappropriate! Most of our guys don't like a wet neck for some reason so that always triggers the shake response - but if you want a clean neck area, be prepared for a good soggy shake. I always depart from the bathroom soaked to the skin, but with a happy frolicking dog - so I guess it's all in how you measure success.