Malamutes have several coat types but only one is the correct breed standard. The proper coat has a short dense undercoat and medium length guard hairs over the body. Sometimes a recessive gene pops up in a litter and it can produce a long coat Malamute or a woolly Malamute. These 2 coat types require frequent grooming to keep the coat clean and not matted up. Some woolly Mals need to have a "potty path" trimmed off in the britches so that poop and urine don't stay in the fur making the poor dog reek to high heaven. Another down side to these incorrect coats is the loss of insulation. Snow and ice can get packed up into the undercoat or stuck to the longer coat taking away the insulation properties. Woollies make great sled dogs but they require booties or frequent stops to pull ice balls out of the feet and coat. A correct coat keeps the Mals warm in the winter and cool in the summer. An air layer sits between the undercoat and the guard hairs to hold in warmth generated by their body in the winter. In the summer the coat protects them from the heat with the coat acting like sunscreen. If you shave a Mal in the summer it takes away that protection from the sun so they will overheat. The ones that have to be shaved down due to a severely neglected coat (like poor Jake) need to have access to shelter from the elements until the coat grows back in. You can see the different coats in the various pictures below.
This is Jake an extreme woolly mal. He had been chained to a tree for over 10 years with no grooming of the coat. Leaves and trash were matted way down into this coat. He had very little guard hair and tons of cysts all over his body. There was no getting a comb or brush through this mess so he had to be shaved right down to about an inch of coat.
Jake is on the left and you can see his coat was like a sheep's wool. On the right Makuyi shows her correct coat. The snow stuck to Jake's coat like velcro so we really had to stay vigilant about pulling the snowballs out. All Makuyi has to do is shake a couple of times and the snow falls off.
Magnus (L) is a littermate to Makuyi (R). He's a borderline woolly and there was one other male littermate who turned up with the woolly coat in this litter of 10 pups.
Tok (L) and Saber (R) have a combination woolly and long coat and boy did they require vigilant grooming. It almost looks like they have a coat like a Collie. If you look close at Tok's paw in the snow, you can see how the snow sticks tight to that fur. Tok was a lead dog so removing snowballs was quite routine. One thing we have noticed about most of the woollys that have come through rescue, they have the best temperaments and act like big hairy teddy bears.