Let’s Talk Breed Education!
Malamute BY GENA BOX YOUNG
I n judging Malamutes, their function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given con- sideration above all else. The degree to which the dog is penalized should depend upon the extent to which the dog deviates from the description of the ideal Malamute and the extent to which the particular fault would actually affect the working ability of the dog. I have a friend who likes history because it explains “why”. In the history of the Alaskan Malamute, we can see why the standard calls for many of the traits that it does. (Form follows function is so true.) The Alaskan Malamute has its origin in an Inuit tribe called the Mehlemuts around the Norton Sound area of Alaska. They were not only sled dogs, who were used to haul heavy loads long distances, they were used for hunting and packing in supplies and were capable of an enormous amount of work. They also were well equipped to thrive in those harshly cold environments. To fulfill their function, not only is soundness essential, but survival characteristics are of the utmost importance, as well.
Proper coarse double coats are thick, harsh guard coats with dense woolly undercoats that enable the dogs to survive in the elements. Their coat texture enables them to sleep under the snow all night, stand up and shake it all off. A proper coat is water repellent and never long and soft. Please note that it is primarily the texture of the coat is important, which may mean that the best dog (or bitch) in the ring could be out of coat, especially in summer months. Trim- ming, except around the feet is not acceptable. Small extremities are in keeping with artic survival and protec- tion from frost bite. Note that the ear is medium sized, but small in proportion to the head. Almond shaped eyes, obliquely set offer protection from driving snow. Proper feet are essential to the performance of the Malamutes’ job. They should be tight and deep. They are large with tight fitting toes that are well arched. They should not be small (cat like), flat or splay footed. Most mushers agree that their dogs must have good feet. Strong, short, but flexible pasterns that are slightly sloping are also important for long distance performance.
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BY GENA BOX YOUNG continued
the tail is a distinguishing characteristic of the breed. It is moderately set, following the line of the spine. When not working, it is carried over the back in a graceful arch, like a waving plume. It should not lay flat on the back or curl tightly. When working or standing still the tail often trails. It is not a fox brush type. When judging Malamutes, you will need to use your hands to feel for structure under the coat. However, you never need to push on the back. If the topline is weak, you will see it standing or on the move. Along the same lines, please do not measure tails. If it is too short, it will be obvious. Do not pick up the feet to examine the pads. The most common mistake I see judges making is going into the mouth of a Mala- mute. Please note that the mouth exam is front only. There is no disqualification for missing teeth. From the front you will be able to see the bite (it should be scissors) and the size of the teeth (they should be large), which is all that our standard calls for. Malamutes normally love people, but do not always like each other. Please allow room to keep the dogs separate. The Alaskan Malamute should be like an Olympic quality athlete in peak condition. Please, never sacrifice soundness or sur- vival characteristics for cosmetic ones. There is not enough space in this article to cover an entire judge’s education pre- sentation. The judge’s education seminar will be available at the national specialty in Topeka, Kansas on October 31, 2019. For details, please visit the AMCA website at http://alaskanmalamute.org. In this article, what I would like to discuss are the things that our standard says are most important, some common misconceptions, and a few ring procedure requests.
see powerful reach and drive (not a flying trot). If there is balance and proper struc- ture, the gait will be smooth. Malamutes will tend to extend their head forward (low- er it) when they move. One of the most common misconcep- tions about Malamutes is that bigger is bet- ter or more powerful. This is not necessar- ily true. There is a natural range in desired freighting size (measured at the withers): 25" for males and 23" for females. “How- ever, size consideration should not out- weigh that of type, proportion, movement and other functional attributes. Only when two specimens are judged equal is the dog closest to the desired size to be preferred. In plain English, this means that a dog or bitch should not be awarded just because they are bigger (or heavier boned) or just because they are smaller. Size is not the main con- sideration. It is to be used as a “tie breaker”. Along these same lines, many judges assume that heavier boned is automatically better or more powerful. It is important to keep in mind that the Alaskan Mala- mute standard was written in contrast to the Siberian Husky standard. When our standard says “heavy boned” it is in com- parison to the Siberian Husky. It should be remembered that the standard also says that the Alaskan Malamute is not to be pon- derous and that he is agile for his size and build. (It is interesting to note that Mala- mutes have only one disqualification–blue eyes. The Siberian Husky has only one disqualification–height.) The head of the Malamute is broad with a blocky muzzle that is not long or pointed, but not stubby either. Note that in com- parison to the Siberian, for a Malamute, high set ears are a fault. There is also only a slight stop, it should not be well defined or completely lacking. As well as the head,
The entire structure of the Malamute contributes to his job performance. The body is compact, but not short coupled, and slightly longer than tall. A long loin that weakens the back is a fault, just as being too short coupled will hinder reach and drive. The chest is broad and deep and half the height of the dog. The chest should have room for the necessary lung capacity. The back is firm and gently sloping to the hips. Shoulders are moderately sloping, stifles are moderately bent, and hock joints are moderately bent and well let down. There should be a balance in these attributes that combines with proper muscle and con- ditioning to create a smooth, effortless, tireless and steady gait. “The legs of the Malamute must indicate unusual strength and tremendous propelling power. Any indication of unsoundness in legs and feet, front or rear, standing or moving, is to be considered a serious fault. Faults under this provision would be splay-footedness, cow- hocks, bad pasterns, straight shoulders, lack of angulation, stilted gait (or any gait that isn’t balanced, strong, and steady), rangi- ness, shallowness, ponderousness, lightness of bone, and poor overall proportion.” When learning a new breed, sometimes a mnemonic is helpful. I have used words from the standard to describe gait. Please note that BALANCE IS KEY. BALANCED
S- smooth T- tireless E- effortless and efficient P- powerful S- steady
The standard does not call for single tracking, but the feet should converge toward the centerline at a fast trot. The legs move true in line, not too close and not too wide. From the side, you should be able to
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1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. Large and impressive, this beauty is easily recognized around the world. How do you feel he is perceived by the general public? 3. The Malamute is currently ranked by AKC as #58 out of 192. Has his popularity fluctuated during your involvement? Why do you think this is so? 4. How does this big guy fit into a household? 5. What is his most endearing quality? 6. At what age do you choose a show prospect? 7. What is your favorite dog show memory? 8. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. KATEMCCALLUM I live in Northville, Michigan. I am a public high school teach- er—I advise the school newspaper and teach English. I am also the Varsity Equestrian Head Coach for our school. My husband and I race competitively as our schedule allows—I have finished two Ironman Triathlons. Large and impressive, this beauty is easily recognized around the world. How do you feel he is perceived by the general public? By fanciers in other breeds? Many people recognize them but call them Huskies. We like to clarify that they are the “body builders” and Huskies are more like the “marathon runners”. Both are equally athletic and powerful—just different. Has the breed’s popularity fluctuated during my involvement? Popular movies like 8 Below always bring some extra awareness to the breed. However, I feel the breed’s public persona has remained pretty constant over time. They are so large and can be dominant so they aren’t for everyone. I think this, above all, factors into our breed’s popularity. We tend to need enthusiasts who are active and energetic themselves to own the breed. That being said—I have seen a big decline in Malamutes showing conformation, and an increase in those who are household pets. I think that many feel that it is a very difficult breed to learn to show and also a difficult sport to break into. We have more popularity in things like back- packing or trail endeavors, and our breed follows public trends in this area. Typically, the Malamute is sort of an under-dog in big group competition. Our breed has minimal health concerns and a large gene-pool compared to many breeds which make them desir- able pets. They live an average of 12-14 years, so owning one is a long term commitment. How does this breed fit into a household? Malamutes can make wonderful family companions inside the home. My own Malamutes have a combination of indoor and outdoor living. We have families
that own several at a time. They prefer ample space, a fenced yard and a job. They need time outdoors. If these are neglected, then they can be terrors—mostly out of boredom and physical needs. They are highly intelligent and so strong, they can virtually figure out how to free themselves in any situation. Once they establish loy- alty to you and respect for you—they are really sweet and fun. That being said, there is never a dull moment with a Malamute. If you don’t have a sense of humor—it isn’t a good match for you. Many are surprised to know that they are wonderful with kids (if properly raised). I have a 2-year-old who has grown up with our dogs and they are so good to her. I myself grew up with Malamutes at a very young age. Their breed history even suggests that one of their many jobs included time with Inuit kids. But they need training and a sound environment to thrive. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? They each have a distinct personality. They can be extremely loyal and connected with their owners. Malamutes want to be with people and can have an amazing work ethic. At what age do I choose a show prospect? In stages. At eight to twelve weeks, about six months, and again at about two years. Mal- amutes tend to have staged growth spurts. A 12-18 month puppy is at it’s most difficult physical and mental development and should not be judged at this time. Good breeders rely on consistent lineage to support their decision making. If I own the sire and grand sire for example, I have a good prediction of how the rear-movement will develop, etc. Conditioning is also vital to a Malamute’s growth and an unfit dog can be overlooked to an untrained eye. Likewise, a beautiful coat and face can be appealing but shouldn’t be cho- sen over structure, balance, and movement. The cutest pup is not always the best Malamute. My favorite dog show memory? I have so many, but one of the most unforgettable is winning the breed at Westminster in 2008. Not just becauseI won, but because the night before my dog broke out of his crate, destroyed my suitcase, ate a whole tin of “puppy chow” snack mix and managed to get loose in the hotel. He got so sick from all the chocolate/peanut butter that we literally spent all night remedying the situation. Of course it was all worth it in the end! Afterwards (since we couldn’t leave him unattended, obvi- ously) we took this big Malamute with us all over NYC and were treated like royalty. He didn’t fit in our purse like most NY dogs, but they welcomed him anyway. I have had many judges ask me about the tail of the breed. While it IS a distinguishing feature, it shouldn’t be highlighted above oth- er important characteristics such as movement. While working, it is perfectly acceptable for the dog to hold its tail straight out—paral- lel to the topline. It should not be a “snap tail” but it is acceptable/ fine to touch the back. Really, the main concern of a tail is that it
“TYPICALLY, THE MALAMUTE IS SORT OF AN UNDER-DOG IN BIG GROUP COMPETITION. Our breed has minimal health concerns and a large gene-pool compared to many breeds which make them desirable pets.”
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Alaskan Malamute Q& A
“They are a breed that takes your heart for so many reasons. They are clowns, huggable, clean and smart.”
Kate McCallum continued is well-furred and long enough to warm the nose (when curled up lying down). That’s it. Also there are misconceptions about a Malamute’s head. Many breeders prefer a very short muzzle due to the type/look it produces but it is a preference and usually comes at the expense of some other things. It is very difficult to get a scissors bite with this type. A by-product of this as well is an exaggerated stop which is actually not good in a true working environment where snow and ice could easily build in that area. A Malamute should show substance and its head have adequate back skull, but the entire dog should be propor- tioned and moderate, not extreme in anyway. Even the head piece. Many think massive is better but moderate is the correct form. Moderate and functional are the two most important words to remember when judging Malamutes. There are so many types and looks in the breed and none are any better than the other. It is easy to be distracted by type, but form and function are the most essen- tial in the breed. GLORIA TOUSSAINT Currently we live in south
we brought home our first Malamute. That was 44 years ago and have never been sorry. I am approved to judge the working group, Australian Shepherds and BIS. I only have one dog now who will be retired at the end of the year. I hope to do some judging to stay involved with the sport. We live in Grants Pass, Oregon. Although basically retired, I own an RV dealership with my kids in Medford, Oregon. I’m also enjoying five terrific great grand kids. How do I feel the breed is perceived by the general public? In my experience the Malamute is always admired for his beauty. Some react tentatively because of his size and usually ask me if “he’s friendly” but always want to pet the dog. Other dog fanciers are usually quick to notice a good example of the breed and are respect- ful of their unique personality sometimes. Has the breed’s popularity fluctuated during your involvement? I believe the popularity has diminished since I started in the breed 44 years ago. Legislation, economics, age of fanciers and changes in family situations have all played a part. The Malamute is a large, strong breed and as we get older sometimes we’re just not up to dealing with a large dog. Legislation has put limits on the number of dogs people can have in some areas so having fewer dogs limits breeding. The cost of dog shows, vet bills, food, etc has all played a part plus the cost of property makes smaller living conditions neces- sary for many. How does this big guy fit into a household? Malamutes generally love people including kids. Some aren’t thrilled with cats or even other dogs but in general they are great as long as the owner under- stands the breed and has received good mentoring from the breeder and asked a lot of questions prior to bringing one into the home. I only have one Mal now and he’s a house dog, loves people including kids and actually loves all other dogs. I must stress mentoring and understanding the breed because they are a great breed and make wonderful companions but, as all dogs, different breeds have differ- ent personalities and to understand them makes life so much easier. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? Of course the shear beauty is what most people notice. They are a breed that takes your heart for so many reasons. They are clowns, huggable, clean and smart. They draw you in before you even realize you’re hooked! To say just one thing isn’t possible for me. For most of us once a Mala- mute owner always a Malamute owner if at all possible. At what age do I choose a show prospect? I think that all depends on the pedigree and whether or not the parents have been bred before. I wouldn’t make a decision before eight to ten weeks at the earliest. Once in awhile a great dog will be obvious immediately for several reasons. I always use the term “show prospect” not “show quality” at that age because they change so much as a puppy. My favorite dog show memory? There are many, but I have two that stand out beyond all others. The first is the last dog show my husband was ever able to go to and he was able to see his absolute favorite dog of all time, EZ, get his first BIS! The other is watching that same dog win the Regional specialty during National week and also win the Top 20 event that week. I’ve had other breeds but the Alaskan Malamute is by far the most fun, frustrating, loving, stubborn, adorable, and addictive breed. He is smart, hearty, basically a healthy breed, self sufficient and loving. He deserves an owner who will respect him and earn the respect of the dog in return.
California but in the foothills of the San Bernardino Moun- tains at 3,400 feet so the dogs see snow on occasion. We golf, walk the hills, play pick- leball and swim and garden. We are both retired folks, my husband from Engineering and I from teaching. How do I feel the breed is perceived by the general public? By fanciers in other breeds? To the public abso-
lutely fascinating, beautiful and majestic taking you back to the wild. Other breed fanciers consider the Mal too stubborn, or a goof ball, possibly aggressive in nature, a talker and a lover. Has the breed’s popularity fluctuated during my involvement? Yes, very much so. Fewer folks are breeding Mals, fewer young peo- ple are involved and Mal Fanciers are aging. How does this big guy fit into a household? Gosh, anywhere from the couch to a bed to the yard to your lap to the shower. This breed loves people and will do anything you do! What is the breed’s most endearing quality? Loyalty, love, goofi- ness and fun. At what age do I choose a show prospect? We make decisions between six to eight weeks and hope we were right. Once you are selected to stay at our house you are with us for life! My favorite dog show memory? Our first dog, Juneau, known as the Whoo Whoo dog for his enthusiasm in the ring and my first BIS with him under Mr. Thomas Mayfield. SHARONWESTON I’ve had dogs all my life. My parents presented me with my first pure bred dog as a graduation present, a lovely white Minia- ture Poodle. After determining that was way to much grooming to keep in show coat and after moving to Oregon where we had space,
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by RON POHL TAOLAN ALASKAN MALAMUTES THE ALASKAN MALAMUTE
K nown as the largest of the sled dogs in the Arctic, the Alaskan Malamute has recently been named as the “State Dog of Alaska”. The breed was originally recognized as indigenous to the northwest coastal area of Alaska, that which was inhabited by the ‘Mahl- emuit’ Indian tribes. These tribes used Malamutes as sled and hunting dogs. Descriptions and purported samples of the ‘Mahlemoots’ served as models for various breeders in the Lower 49 whose work lead to the eventual recog- nition of the breed with the American Kennel Club in 1935. However, most Malamute fanciers today don’t know that it has not in fact been demonstrat- ed that any genes from those North- ern Alaskan dogs actually contributed to the Alaskan Malamute as we know them today. Those progenitors came from points as far apart as the Yukon and Baffin Island, and not until the AKC reopened the stud book for Malamutes in 1950 following the loss of many exist- ing dogs on the Admiral Byrd Antarctic expeditions, did any dogs actually come from Alaska to the lower states. These were a distinctly different type (larger, less compact) compared to the earlier Malamutes. While the dogs extracted from dogs used in the freighting teams during the Alaska and Yukon gold rush- es resembled fanciers’ visions of what this breed should be, again, none actu- ally came from Northwestern Alaska. As the ‘Malamutes’ of the day were generally seen as more desirable in tem- perament and durability than the usual run-of-the-mill dogs of the North, it was common for those trading in dogs to call their sled dogs that name, whether or not they actually were. In any event, the breed was accepted in America as a distinct type, as com- pared to the ‘Eskimo Dogs’ previously recognized by AKC, and in due course, also by the Canadian Kennel Club. The first Alaskan Malamute Champion of Record with the CKC was actually a white male owned by Lorna Jackson of Ontario.
FORM & FUNCTION The head is NOT the most important aspect of this breed ! We all know that the Alaskan Mala- mute is a sled dog for heavy freighting. The part that is often overlooked or minimized is the addendum—“in the Arctic”. Essentially, all breeds of dogs were developed by intention or by hap- penstance for specific purposes and functions; for hunting, draft, coursing, hunting varmints, companionship or for sport. But perhaps no other breed was as essential to its human counterparts for their very survival. Whether utilized by the semi-nomadic Inuit to move to new hunting grounds, or tracking seal and bear game, or for hauling the fruits of a successful hunt back to their vil- lages by sensing the return route in the featureless Arctic, these dogs made pos- sible survival in the most horrendous conditions imaginable. Even more impressive than their abil- ity to transport large loads, is their abil- ity to survive extreme cold with mini- mal food. A compact structure with an incredibly dense coat and an extremely efficient digestive system was essen- tial. As these dogs had no knowledge of kennels and chains, and were left to roam loose between excursions, it was inevitable that these sled dogs would develop the skill to augment their own meager diets by hunting on their own. Indeed, modern Malamutes are still quite predatory in nature if not social- ized away from that at an early age. HEALTH & TEMPERAMENT While today most Malamutes live in conditions that are much less harsh than those their ancestors had to endure not so long ago, it is important that breeders aim their efforts at ensur- ing that those dogs that will not embark on Arctic expeditions remain capable, nevertheless, of doing exactly that on the basis of their structure, tough- ness, temperament and health. The Malamute is not a ‘one man dog’ but is willing to be friends with anyone given the opportunity. They should not be
standoffish or aggressive with humans at any time, though, they can be quite territorial around other dogs. Given the realities of urban and suburban life, temperaments of many Malamutes today are much softer than even a few generations ago. Health issues exist, although for a large breed, these are perhaps fewer than many breeds. As with humans, cancer is likely the number one cause of shortened lives in Malamutes. Kid- ney failures, hip dysplasia, autoimmune issues, epilepsy and cataracts may occur as well. JUDGING THE ALASKAN MALAMUTE Bigger is NOT better. There is a natu- ral range in size within the breed. the desirable freighting sizes are males, 25" at the shoulders and 85 lbs.; females, 23" and 75 lbs. It was once common to hear a judge in the Alaskan Malamute ring, having put up a particularly impressive speci- men declare, “This dog could pull me out of a snow drift any time.” It goes without saying that a large dog will exert more pulling power force than a smaller dog in equal con- dition, in equal conditions. However, a Malamute is not designed for short bursts of pulling power; the auto club should be contacted if you need to get out of a snow bank. The Alaskan Mala- mute is designed to pull heavy loads over long distances—which is to say, sustained effort. While the words of the breed standard make it clear that one should not exclude a large dog of con- siderable merit, it makes it absolutely clear that a smaller dog of equal merit also should not be overlooked. “When dogs are judged equal in type, propor- tion, movement and other functional attributes, the dog nearest the desirable freighting size is to be preferred.” That is to repeat, NEAREST the desirable freighting size, NOT the larger one. And especially the larger dog should not go up purely on size regardless of sound- ness. The larger dog may win on pure
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describing substantial build. Through- out the standard, the three words used most often to describe the Alaskan Mal- amute are strong, powerful and sound. FURTHER THOUGHTS All aspects of an Alaskan Malamute contribute to the identity of the breed and its ability to do its tasks. However, some are more critical than others. Feet: After balanced angulation (front to rear to be the same), no con- formation trait is as important to Mala- mutes at work than their feet. Poor feet (ones that are not large, compact toes well arched, pads thick) on a Malamute are like wheelbarrow tires on a work truck. These have sometimes been called “snowshoe feet,” which is in a fact a misnomer as it gives the impres- sion that large feet are intended to help the dog stay atop the snow; in fact they are intended to give maximum traction in slippery conditions and maximum shock absorption when on the move Bend of Stifle: Moderate. This is a heavy-trotting dog, not a Sight Hound. Coat & Color: Malamutes are dou- ble coated, with a coarsely textured out- er layer over a short dense undercoat. Colors range from silver grey through darker shades to black and red. Sable shadings are acceptable. White is the only solid color allowed. No color is pre- ferred. Trimming is allowed only to tidy feet. Cutting the hair on the underside of a dog to give appearance of more leg length is not permitted. Topline: It is SLIGHTLY sloping. Extreme slope indicates straight shoul- ders and /or overdone rear. Finally, because of the varied sourc- es of the original ‘Malamutes’, it was common to see considerable visual vari- ation in the breed. And indeed, these differences continued for some years
power for the short duration, but one should never forget, these dogs need to continue their effort over many hours and many miles and do it on minimal food ingested. A very large dog would expend more energy just hauling him- self down the trail, while also requiring a much larger food supply than a smaller dog. The original standard for the breed recognized by the AKC in 1935 called for males at 22 to 25 inches, females at 20 to 23 inches, today it seems that even dogs at the larger end of that range are considered too small; not too small to be successful freighting dogs, but too small to win in the ring. Priorities have been misplaced! WHAT’S IMPORTANT? The words of the standard are as clear as the English language can make it in the summary: “The legs of the Mal- amute must indicate unusual strength and tremendous pulling power. Any indication of unsoundness in legs or feet, standing or moving is considered a serious fault. Faults under this provision include; splay-footedness cow hocks, bad pasterns, straight shoulders, lack of angulation, stilted gait (or any gait that isn’t balanced, strong and steady) rangi- ness, ponderousness, lightness of bone and poor overall proportions.” To reiterate in the words of the authors of The Alaskan Malamute, Yesterday and Today , “The Malamute in its correct form is a marvel of effi- ciency, while he is well muscled and more heavily boned than his other Northern cousins, he is never an over- blown cartoon, nor is he a slow clumsy plodder.” Soundness of limb and move- ment are vital to the Malamute’s func- tion. When interpreting the standard as much emphasis must be given to the attributes of soundness as to those
as fanciers’ with the various iterations tended to remain loyal to them, there- fore resisting going outside. However, eventually the walls came down and today the lines and styles have been increasingly mixed and variations are now less extreme. However, those older genes have not completely disappeared and dogs demonstrating traits from the past still pop up from time to time. As they are still, indeed, Alaskan Mala- mutes, these should not be discriminat- ed against on style, only on type, sound- ness and their ability to continue as sled dogs for heavy freighting. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Our first Malamute arrived in 1977 and our most recent addition in November 2016. In the beginning and early on there were a couple of purchased dogs from a Canadian breeder plus three others from American breeders. Over time these were combined to form a new and unique line that has now influenced the breed worldwide. Genes from those dogs, were combined to produce BIS MBISS BVISS Am/Can Ch. Taolan Traces of The Cat ROM (Calvin), the top producing Alaskan Malamute in Canadian breed history and one of the most significant in the US as well. The top-ranked Malamutes in previous years in both Canada and the US have been grandsons, including currently in the US. Beyond the Malamutes known as ‘Taolan’ I have been active in All Breed Clubs, Parent Club AMCC, Parent Club AMCA, judged many sweepstakes and specialty sweeps in both countries I have been involved in Judges Educa- tion and Breeders Education on both sides of the border. Most of all I have enjoyed a passion for the Alaskan Mal- amute and its preservation for almost 40 years.
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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: ALASKAN MALAMUTE
JOE & ROBIN HUG
My husband David and I live in New Germany, Minnesota. Our professional training is in the field of Horticulture. We have a home on 47 acres with an orchard and a large landscaped home site that keeps us pretty busy. We also have a home on Lake Superior near the Canadian border and enjoy spending any time we can get up there hiking, kayaking and just
We live in the foothills outside of Den- ver, Colorado with our Alaskan Malamute pack. Joe is a Chiropractor and Lay Pastor for our local church. Robin teaches at a local dog-training center (Blue Springs n Katidid Dog Training) and enjoys spend- ing time with her three grandchildren when available. Joe has been involved with Alaskan Malamutes for 45+ years,
enjoying the outdoors. We have had Alaskan Malamutes since 1982. We have participated in conformation, agility, rally, sledding, weight pulling and backpacking with our dogs. I have been judging the breed since 1999. I have had the plea- sure of judging our National Specialty on two occasions and have judged in Australia, Italy, France, Belgium, England, Hol- land and Sweden. I judge the Working Group and several Toy breeds as well as Elkhounds, Manchester Terriers, Bichon Frise, Junior Showmanship and BIS. ROGER GIFFORD I grew up in a family that loved animals, including dogs, cats and parakeets. My father showed group-winning Chihua- huas and Boston Terriers before I was born. I got my first pet Malamute in 1970 and heard about dog shows so I thought I would try it out. I quickly learned my girl was not a show dog, but I was hooked and bought a puppy from Nancy Rus- sell (Storm Kloud Kennels). My pup was Ch. Storm Kloud’s Eski Nuka UD. She not only became a top ten special but also was the eighth Mal to earn a Utility Dog title. With a lim- ited breeding program, I bred and handled several top ten specials and obtained more obedience titles. I’ve been very active in the Alaskan Malamute Club of America, serving on numerous committees and two terms on the board. I’ve also been active with the Dayton Kennel Club and Dayton Dog Training Club wearing many different hats. I started judging in 1997 and currently do the Working Group and nearly half of the Sporting breeds. I’ve judged coast to coast in the US and also specialties in Spain and Italy. I enjoy the judging as much as exhibiting. It’s always great pleasure to judge good dogs. I particularly enjoys the many friends I’ve made over the years.
showing for 43 years and judging for 7. Robin has been involved with dogs for 30 years when she started showing Akitas and acquired her first Malamute 25 years ago. Robin has been judging for 10 years.
We moved from San Francisco to Cen- tral Washington State along the Colum- bia River between Seattle and Spokane. Here in Wenatchee we raised our family, enjoyed the outdoors, community activi- ties, business activities that allowed us to give our children a foundation in Horse- manship—Eventing, Dressage, now a third generation activity. My education
and interest in the Fine Arts has led me to juried shows and a pursuit in cultural anthropology, which ties in well to the study of origins and appreciation of canine/human develop- ment. Our interest in breeding beautiful functional dogs, train- ing, club affiliations, youth activities, enriches our life. I began professionally in dogs during the 50s in high school, handling German Shepherd Dogs, Bulldogs, Norwich and Norfolk Terri- ers. My first Group win was with a black and tan Norfolk, Gold- en Gate Kennel Club, 1954. I was fortunate to be mentored by an Englishman who was devoted to saving the Icelandic Sheepdog from oblivion. I started judging Sweeps and Matches 1964 to 2006, when I was convinced to apply for 8 breeds. I’m honored to have judged Malamute Nationals in 4 countries. I now judge the Herding Group, half of the Working Group, a few Toys and I am the AKC Delegate for the ISAA.
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alaskan malamute Q&A
WITH SHILON BEDFORD, ROGER GIFFORD, JOE & ROBIN HUG, PATRICIA PUTMAN, ARLENE RUBENSTEIN & NANCY C. RUSSELL
ARLENE RUBENSTEIN I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I started showing in spring of 1973. I was approved to judge in AKC in 1994.
long distances without effort. The last paragraph in our breed standard sums it up very nicely.
3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? SB: I do not think we are seeing any overt exaggerations in the breed at this time but I would like to express a con- cern for the feet we are seeing on many dogs. This breed should have a large snowshoe foot that is well arched. This is a critical characteristic that makes this breed able to work in difficult snow conditions. Sadly, I see many dogs with tiny feet that look like peg legs. J&RH: Not really, the Malamutes of today are very similar to the Alaskan Malamutes of the past. General qualities are about the same, there are just fewer animals in the ring; this makes it more difficult to find the complete package. PP: I hope to not see excessive coat—in length or soft tex- ture. I see we are getting better broad heads with lovely, smaller, correctly set ears just off the side of the back skull, rather than the plague of quite large, too low set ears or too high set thin pointed ears. I hope our croups and tail sets are improving and moving away from the too tightly curled snap tails—a gently waving plume when moving is so desired! I hope that over showiness is not encouraged, this is a drafting sledge dog that should not race or show excessive animation or aggressive attitude. NR: Unfortunately, I see the breed becoming the generic show dog with huge reach and drive being rewarded along with over angulation and exaggerated sloping toplines. In an effort to have a big impressive head, the stop is being increased; this has resulted in round eyes, which would be subject to injury in blowing snow and ice. Muzzles are getting shorter which results in smaller teeth, missing teeth, bad bites and the drooping flews which we are seeing in the show ring today. All of these things are wrong for a dog that is supposed to live and work in the high Arctic and they are wrong according to our standard. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? SB: I think in a good way we are seeing more uniformity and yet I miss the diversity we saw 30 years ago that gave you breeding options when you were looking to improve certain traits in your own breeding. J&RH: The tail sets are better; there were quite a few snap tails in the ring. Scissor bites are disappearing. Correct front end assemblies seem to be on the decline, this affects power and balance. PP: My first National Specialty in 1977, and for years later, showed a huge discrepancy in size—dogs on average were 29" and over, in the belief that a larger dog would work more efficiently than a dog closer to the standard ideal of 25" dogs and 23" bitches. In the past, our fronts had little layback and return and rears had hocks as long as the lower thigh, with very little reach in front, very little drive from the rear, resulting in an inefficient gait.
NANCY C. RUSSELL
In 2004 we moved from Sussex, Wisconsin to the Rocky Mountains west of Walsenburg, Colorado. My occupations have revolved around animals. I was a Veterinary Hospital assistant, the Humane Officer for the town of Lisbon and village of Sussex for 23 years, a professional handler for 25 years and an AKC judge for the past 15 years. I have had the privilege of judging the Alaskan Malamute National Specialty twice in the US and also in England, Spain, France, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. 1. Describe the breed in three words. SB: Independent, powerful and instinctual. At their core, this native breed has strong instincts and much of their behavior relates to those drives. You can mold their behavior, but that characteristic dictates the necessity to be consistent in your training. J&RH: Powerful, beautiful sled dog. PP: Strength, endurance and propelling power. 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? SB: Because our focus was to breed and raise Alaskan Mala- mutes that were superior working dogs, we not only had to have a dog of good breed type, but excellent working attitude and structurally sound. A structurally sound dog is of utmost importance when you are out sledding for hours and days at a time. J&RH: Balance, power and proper size. The Alaskan Mala- mute standard states a preferred size of 25" for males and 23" for bitches for a reason. Sometimes there tends to be a “bigger is better” preference with both breeders and judg- es. We need to attempt to both breed and judge according to the approved standard. We have produced a few “larger than preferred” dogs; it happens, you must judge what is in your breeding program as well as your ring. PP: I must have a strong, driving rear; slightly sloping topline; strong large bone for powerful muscle attach- ment; 50/50 leg length to body depth ratio; double weather proof coat; large bulky head; tight, almond eye; tight lips and large teeth; correct tail set and carriage; as well as a happy-to-work attitude—a willing, agile, athletic personality and a compact snowshoe foot. AR: The Alaskan Malamute is a magnificent breed. They should be deep chested, strong and well muscled to do what he was bred for—that is to pull heavy loads over
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alaskan malamute Q&A
WITH SHILON BEDFORD, ROGER GIFFORD, JOE & ROBIN HUG, PATRICIA PUTMAN, ARLENE RUBENSTEIN & NANCY C. RUSSELL
One had to be quite careful of our dogs at ringside, or in small rings, as temperaments would flare. The overall balance of proportions, efficiency of movement, improve- ment of temperament that breeders have worked on to come in line with the standard, has given the Alaskan Malamute a solid place in the Working Group and Best in Show line up. AR: We did go through a rough period in the mid 70s. We were losing our substance and wonderful temperament. We are now on track. We are filtering out the coyote- looking Malamutes and coming back, as seen at the last national specialty held in Colorado Springs. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? SB: Bigger is not better. This breed is often compared to the Siberian Husky and should be larger and more substantial but that does not mean huge. Males are ideally 25" and females 23" and slight deviations are not an issue, but extremes do not make it a better specimen. RG: Firstly, there is the issue of size. Malamutes are not getting bigger today, as some people think. Their coat and substance give the appearance of being bigger than they really are. It is a hands-on breed that you have to feel under the coat. Forty years ago there were a lot of 27" males that we don’t see often today. There were a lot of 27" dogs even back in the 1940s. The standard makes allowances for the variation in size. Under the section titled “Size, Proportion, Substance”: “The desir- able freighting sizes are males, 25" at the shoulders, 85 pounds; females, 23" at the shoulder, 75 pounds. How- ever, size consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, and other functional attributes. When dogs are judged equal in type, proportion, movement, the dog nearest the desirable freighting size is to be preferred.” The Standard Summary reemphasizes the importance of the function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting. I’m flexible on size if type, substance and movement are there. If a large dog is athletic, graceful and moves well, I would certainly consider him. If a dog is ponderous and clumsy, then he or she should be penalized. On the other hand I’ve seen 24" males that I’ve liked when they had good substance, balance, type and movement. The way I interpret the standard is to judge the dogs first and when two dogs are equal, go with the dog closest to the desired size. The Malamute standard was revised officially May 1994 to satisfy AKC for a common breed format. At that time AKC would not approve a scale of points. The essence and content weren’t really changed, more of making clarifications of the 1960 standard. The 1960 standard had a point scale as follows: General Appear- ance: 20 points; Head: 15 points; Body: 20 points; Legs & Movement: 20 points; Feet: 10 points; Coat: 10 points; Tail: 5 points. (Note that feet have almost as many points as head.) As for proportions, what can be visually deceiving is a shallow chested dog will appear to be leggier than he really is. Also a heavy coat may give a dog the appearance of being short legged when he
may not be. That’s why it’s important to feel the dogs and not go by visual appearance. J&RH: Size. The Alaskan Malamute standard states, “Must be a heavy boned dog.” Originally, “in comparison to the Siberian husky” followed this statement. The comparison was removed from the standard and many new judges are looking for the biggest dog in the ring. Malamutes need to be sound, efficient movers. PP: A judge new to the Alaskan Malamute may misunder- stand the purposefulness of our well-written standard— each section describes the positive value of maintaining conformation descriptions that lead the judge to under- stand that each balance of body parts, coat, head, move- ment, substance, attitude, describes a helpmate to human survival in arctic conditions, a description of working attitude and capabilities that have allowed travel, com- merce, companionship to those original Alaskan people, who designed, bred and loved this breed. Our National Specialties enjoy a Working Dog Showcase in which the entry is limited to 25 dogs and bitches that not only carry their AKC Championships proudly, but also carry AMCA Working Titles in Weight Pull, Packing, Sledding Team and Lead Dog; AKC Obedience Performance in Obedi- ence and Agility to also be included in the Showcase Competition. I encourage all new judges to appreciate these working qualities that allow owners to enjoy this breed that can pull your children’s sled, or skateboard, or your bicycle, pack your picnic items on a hike, or relive the history of Alaskan survival! AR: In judging the Malamute, their function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consider- ation above all else. We seem to have lost this. We are too hung up on the beauty of the breed rather the function of the breed. They are a beautiful breed, but in judging them it is not a beauty contest but on their ability to do their job. We are spending too much time on blowing the coat dry, which opens the coat and makes it feel soft, when it should be coarse. They are a wash and wear dog, although we do not treat them as such. NR: Don’t reward over angulation, especially with the bicycling movement in the rear. This is totally inefficient. Moderate angulation is in the standard and was likely in comparison to the Siberian Husky since both standards were written by mushers in New England in the 1930s. Size is another concern of judges and it should not be. The 23" for a female and 25" for a male was a compromise between two prominent bloodlines in the early years. Please memorize the statement following that indica- tion of size. “However, size consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, movement and other functional attributes.” So only use size as a tiebreaker when you feel both dogs are equal. And there is nothing wrong with rewarding a 22" male and a 26" female if they are the best dogs in your ring that day. 6. What five traits do you look for, in order, when judging Malamutes? What do you consider the ulti- mate hallmark of the breed?
216 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2017
alaskan malamute Q&A
WITH SHILON BEDFORD, ROGER GIFFORD, JOE & ROBIN HUG, PATRICIA PUTMAN, ARLENE RUBENSTEIN & NANCY C. RUSSELL
RG: The top priority for me is can the dog do the job it was bred for? Malamutes were bred as a freight dog to carry heavy loads and not for speed; but endurance is very important. As the AMCA Judges Ed program breaks down the standard, there are survival traits, performance traits and cosmetic traits. Obviously the first two are critical. The Malamute has to be able to survive in an extreme environment so coat is a must and small ears and almond- shaped eyes are important. Being a freight dog, substance is important to be able to pull heavy loads. Efficient gait to work all day is also a must. Of all the Working breeds, the Malamute and Siberians are the breeds that have to work all day. Guard dogs may patrol for a while, but not con- stantly. Some Working breeds do different functions such as hunting or herding, but again, usually not continuously all day. Of course it’s nice to have the cosmetic features such as expression with a dark eye and symmetrical mark- ings, but they don’t help a dog perform better. There’s a common misperception that light eyes are undesirable because they allow more sunlight in, but that is not true as light goes through the pupil. So dark eyes enhance expres- sion, but not a functional attribute. So to answer the ques- tion, I emphasize the total combined package of propor- tions, substance, movement and survival traits equally. NR: 1) Does the dog have breed type? I ask myself, ‘If I found this dog as a stray could I say it was a purebred Alaskan Malamute?’ If the answer is yes, then it has breed type; if not, it does not get a ribbon. 2) Now choose the dog that could best function as an Arctic freighting dog and for me that requires a powerful rear; i.e. complete extension of the hock when in contact with the ground. 3) A solid level topline when moving to transmit the force forward. 4) A front balanced with the rear with heavy bone and large snowshoe feet. 5) A proper double coat to withstand the cold of the Arctic winters. 7. If you have watched or worked with Malamutes in harness, how has that affected what you look for? NR: I have run my dogs in freight races and have had top winning weight pull dogs since the 1970s. I am still run- ning a 6-dog team, as I love to go out early morning to spot the wildlife and see the majestic Rocky Mountains as the sunlight strikes them. The two most important attri- butes are structure and drive. Unfortunately one cannot judge drive in the show ring, so that makes movement and the structure that produces it most important. I am pleased with the Working Program of the AMCA because at least some of the show exhibitors are working their dogs to get these titles. This is critical to maintain “drive and breed function.” 8. Is there anything else you’d like to share? SB: Judges must keep in mind that this native breed has variations in style. This is not a cookie cutter breed. It is important that this dog have the structure and survival characteristics to do the job for which it was intended. The Alaskan Malamute pulls heavy loads over long dis- tances and in harsh arctic conditions. Any unsoundness
in structure is a serious fault. A harsh guard coat with a dense undercoat are also a must have for survival. J&RH: The Alaskan Malamute is a powerful, beautiful, working animal. They should be judged on structure and soundness keeping in mind that all colors and markings are equal. PP: Malamutes are not only strong of body, but also of will and determination. Their instinct for pack hierarchy is strong. If you are not a just, dominant proven leader, you should choose a more passive breed. We have had as many as 23 Malamutes, intact, all ages, running 8 dog teams, with nary a problem; however, we were strong in our demands and very strong in our love, affection and support of the sociable pack hierarchy. 9. And, for a bit of humor: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? SB: While showing at a fair ground after torrential rains, our ring was quite muddy. As I took my special down and back on the diagonal, my feet went out from under me and I slide right up to the judge. The dog immediately came back to me to be sure I was okay and then posed for the judge. J&RH: This is Joe’s favorite story, but maybe not Robin’s. Annie Rogers Clark was judging the National Specialty and Robin had a young male in the ring. On the up and back, he got about half way back to the judge and he jumped up and grabbed Robin around the waist, almost pulling her skirt off. Robin succeeded in collecting her skirt, wits and dog before returning to the judge. Mrs. Clark politely asked if the pair would like to try the up and back again. Robin replied, “Not really,” but pro- ceeded to repeat the pattern. In the same spot during the return, Strutz attempted the same skirt-removing ploy. Mrs. Clark was highly amused and sent the pair around to the end. After receiving a placement in the class, Robin walked out of the ring and placed the lead in Joe’s hand—Strutz officially became “Joe’s Dog.” PP: Funny to the observer is usually most embarrassing; my most humbling experience was while handling a very naughty Doberman Pinscher. On the down and back, as I made the turn he leapt into the air and bumped me. When I returned to the judge, I felt a bit of a chill. The dog hit his stack perfectly. I smiled at the judge, who was looking rather shocked at my totally opened blouse! After a second, he calmly smiled and said, “That was wonder- ful, shall you do that again?” AR: The Malamute is a talker and one time we witnessed a conversation between a Mal and his handler. The dog wooed and the handler answered back and it went on for quite sometime. NR: I was grooming near a new Malamute exhibitor and he was generously spraying a coat product and brushing his dog. The AKC Rep walked by; watched for a moment and then said, “Young man do you know that you can not have foreign substances on your dog?” The owner quickly looked at the label on the spray bottle and inno- cently said, “But see, this is made in the USA.”
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