Alaskan Malamute Breed Magazine - Showsight

Alaskan Malamute Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

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Official Standard of the Alaskan Malamute General Appearance : The Alaskan Malamute, one of the oldest Arctic sled dogs, is a powerful and substantially built dog with a deep chest and strong, well-muscled body. The Malamute stands well over the pads, and this stance gives the appearance of much activity and a proud carriage, with head erect and eyes alert showing interest and curiosity. The head is broad. Ears are triangular and erect when alerted. The muzzle is bulky, only slight diminishing in width from root to nose. The muzzle is not pointed or long, yet not stubby. The coat is thick with a coarse guard coat of sufficient length to protect a woolly undercoat. Malamutes are of various colors. Face markings are a distinguishing feature. These consist of a cap over the head, the face either all white or marked with a bar and/or mask. The tail is well furred, carried over the back, and has the appearance of a waving plume. The Malamute must be a heavy boned dog with sound legs, good feet, deep chest and powerful shoulders, and have all of the other physical attributes necessary for the efficient performance of his job. The gait must be steady, balanced, tireless and totally efficient. He is not intended as a racing sled dog designed to compete in speed trials. The Malamute is structured for strength and endurance, and any characteristic of the individual specimen, including temperament, which interferes with the accomplishment of this purpose, is to be considered the most serious of faults. Size, Proportion, Substance: There is a natural range in size in the breed. The desirable freighting sizes are males, 25 inches at the shoulders, 85 pounds; females, 23 inches at the shoulders, 75 pounds. However, size consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, movement 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 depth of chest is approximately one half the height of the dog at the shoulders, the deepest point being just behind the forelegs. The length of the body from point of shoulder to the rear point of pelvis is longer than the height of the body from ground to top of the withers. The body carries no excess weight, and bone is in proportion to size. Head : The head is broad and deep, not coarse or clumsy, but in proportion to the size of the dog. The expression is soft and indicates an affectionate disposition. The eyes are obliquely placed in the skull. Eyes are brown, almond shaped and of medium size. Dark eyes are preferred. Blue eyes are a disqualifying fault. The ears are of medium size, but small in proportion to the head. The ears are triangular in shape and slightly rounded at the tips. They are set wide apart on the outside back edges of the skull on line with the upper corner of the eye, giving ears the appearance, when erect, of standing off from the skull. Erect ears point slightly forward, but when the dog is at work, the ears are sometimes folded against the skull. High set ears are a fault. The skull is broad and moderately rounded between the ears, gradually narrowing and flattening on top as it approaches the eyes, rounding off to cheeks that are moderately flat. There is a slight furrow between the eyes. The topline of the skull and the topline of the muzzle show a slight break downward from a straight line as they join. The muzzle is large and bulky in proportion to the size of the skull, diminishing slightly in width and depth from junction with the skull to the nose. In all coat colors, except reds, the nose, lips, and eye rims' pigmentation is black. Brown is permitted in red dogs. The lighter streaked "snow nose" is acceptable. The lips are close fitting. The upper and lower jaws are broad with large teeth. The incisors meet with a scissors grip. Overshot or undershot is a fault.

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Neck, Topline, Body: The neck is strong and moderately arched. The chest is well developed. The body is compactly built but not short coupled. The back is straight and gently sloping to the hips. The loins are hard and well muscled. A long loin that may weaken the back is a fault. The tail is moderately set and follows the line of the spine at the base. The tail is carried over the back when not working. It is not a snap tail or curled tight against the back, nor is it short furred like a fox brush. The Malamute tail is well furred and has the appearance of a waving plume. Forequarters : The shoulders are moderately sloping; forelegs heavily boned and muscled, straight to the pasterns when viewed from the front. Pasterns are short and strong and slightly sloping when viewed from the side. The feet are of the snowshoe type, tight and deep, with well- cushioned pads, giving a firm, compact appearance. The feet are large, toes tight fitting and well arched. There is a protective growth of hair between the toes. The pads are thick and tough; toenails short and strong. Hindquarters : The rear legs are broad and heavily muscled through the thighs; stifles moderately bent; hock joints are moderately bent and well let down. When viewed from the rear, the legs stand and move true in line with the movement of the front legs, not too close or too wide. Dewclaws on the rear legs are undesirable and should be removed shortly after puppies are whelped. Coat : The Malamute has a thick, coarse guard coat, never long and soft. The undercoat is dense, from one to two inches in depth, oily and woolly. The coarse guard coat varies in length as does the undercoat. The coat is relatively short to medium along the sides of the body, with the length of the coat increasing around the shoulders and neck, down the back, over the rump, and in the breeching and plume. Malamutes usually have a shorter and less dense coat during the summer months. The Malamute is shown naturally. Trimming is not acceptable except to provide a clean cut appearance of feet. Color : The usual colors range from light gray through intermediate shadings to black, sable, and shadings of sable to red. Color combinations are acceptable in undercoats, points, and trimmings. The only solid color allowable is all white. White is always the predominant color on underbody, parts of legs, feet, and part of face markings. A white blaze on the forehead and/or collar or a spot on the nape is attractive and acceptable. The Malamute is mantled, and broken colors extending over the body or uneven splashing are undesirable. Gait : The gait of the Malamute is steady, balanced, and powerful. He is agile for his size and build. When viewed from the side, the hindquarters exhibit strong rear drive that is transmitted through a well-muscled loin to the forequarters. The forequarters receive the drive from the rear with a smooth reaching stride. When viewed from the front or from the rear, the legs move true in line, not too close or too wide. At a fast trot, the feet will converge toward the centerline of the body. A stilted gait, or any gait that is not completely efficient and tireless, is to be penalized. Temperament: 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. Summary : Important - In judging Malamutes, their function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all else. The degree to which a 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. The legs of the Malamute must indicate unusual strength and tremendous propelling

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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, cowhocks, bad pasterns, straight shoulders, lack of angulation, stilted gait (or any gait that isn't balanced, strong and steady), ranginess, shallowness, ponderousness, lightness of bone, and poor overall proportion. Disqualification : Blue eyes.

Approved April 12, 1994 Effective May 31, 1994



W hen describing the Alas- kan Malamute, nothing stands out in my mind more than the descrip- tion in the summary paragraph of our breed standard. “In judging the Alaskan Malamute, their function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all else.” The Alaskan Malamute came to us from the Mahlemut Inuit tribe that lived in the Norton Sound area of Alaska. They were hard working dogs yet affection- ate to those who provided them care. In the early development of the breed other similar lines were added to form the dogs you see today. For this reason you will see a variety of styles in this breed and all are acceptable. The Alaskan Malamute’s function is to haul heavy freight over long dis- tances. Your first impression of the

Malamute should be one of a powerful, well muscled, athletic dog. They stand well over their pads showing alertness and a proud carriage. Rarely do they stand like statues as they are always ready for what comes next. The ideal freighting size of the Alas- kan Malamute is 25” at the shoulder for males and 23” for females. The standard clearly states that “Size consideration should not outweigh that of type, pro- portion, movement and other function- al attributes”. You will see a range of heights in the ring but please remember that bigger is not better. Body lengths are longer than tall and compactly built but not short coupled. Dogs should be well muscled and in excellent condition with no excessive weight. The head of the Malamute is broad and deep and should be in proportion to the size of the dog. Their eyes are

obliquely placed, almond shaped and preferably dark brown. The only breed disqualification is blue eyes. The ears are of medium size though they often appear small due to their standoff coat which covers the base of the ears. The ears are triangular in shape and slightly rounded at the tip. The ears are placed on the outside back edges of the skull and point slightly forward. They are placed wide apart with the outside edge of the ear in line with the outside cor- ner of the eye. This placement is a dis- tinct difference from the Siberian Hus- ky. The muzzle is bulky and tapers very little from skull to the nose. Pigment is black in all colors except red dog where brown is acceptable. A snow nose is often seen in winter and is acceptable. The jaws should be broad with large teeth that meet in a scissors grip.


The Malamute must have a strong moderately arched neck which blends into a back that is straight and slightly sloping into a hard, well muscled loin. The tail is moderately set and follows the line of the spine. The tail grace- fully arches over the back when they are not working. It is not a snap tail nor curled tightly over the back but a well furred waving plume. When working and often in the ring, the Malamute will drop its tail to a more horizontal posi- tion. The forequarters and hindquarters should be moderately angled, balanced and well muscled. Forelegs are straight with short, strong pasterns. The rear assembly has moderately bent stifles with well let down hocks. Good feet are paramount to a functioning sled dog. Feet are referred to as snowshoe type. They are somewhat longer than a cat foot. Feet are large, tight and well pad- ded. The only trimming allowed in this breed is that done to provide a clean cut appearance of the feet. One of the most important surviv- al characteristics of this breed is the thick, course guard coat with a dense woolly undercoat. Guard coat can vary in length but is never long or soft. The quality of the coat is far more important than the length. A Malamute sleeping out in a snowstorm may be covered in snow by morning and upon waking will rise, shake the snow off and never be wet. Like other double coated breeds, the Malamute will shed its coat in the summer and a good dog should not be




overlooked when “out of coat”. Coat may vary in color from a light gray to shades of black, sable and red. The only solid color allowed is white. White is always the predominant color of the underbody, parts of the legs, feet and part of the face markings. We allow for a wide range of attractive facial mark- ings including a blaze, star, bar or gog- gles. Markings need not be even. The Malamute is mantled and although he may have a white collar, half collar or nape spot, uneven or broken color over the body is undesirable. To effectively evaluate the structure of the Alaskan Malamute you must be able to watch them in motion. If they are well built and balanced they should move effortlessly when trotting. They are powerful dogs but it should not look like it is hard work to get around a ring. The Malamute should be shown on a loose lead for a good working dog will drop their head, allowing for the best extension of their front assembly and

this should be balanced with a strong rear drive without excessive rear kick. Their motion must be balanced, effort- less and efficient. When viewed from the front or rear the legs will converge as speed increases. The Alaskan Malamute is an affec- tionate dog and is easy to approach. You will often find yourself admiring a ring of wagging tails. They may not however be best friends with dogs of the same sex and it is important to maintain ade- quate room between dogs and never crowd these dogs. Bitches in season can often cause males to be edgy and if one starts to make a grumble others may follow. Give dogs adequate room and divide classes when necessary. Remember it is the functional char- acteristics of this breed that are to be given consideration above all else. As the standard says, “Any indication of unsoundness in legs and feet, front or rear, standing or moving, is to be con- sidered a serious fault.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shilon Bedford and her husband David have raised Alaskan Mala- mutes under the Black Ice name since the early 80’s. They are best known for producing top working sled dogs that are equally competitive in the show ring. Shilon is currently the head of the Alaskan Malamute Judges Educa- tion Committee. She judges the Work- ing Group, a portion of the Toy Group and several Non-Sporting breeds.




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.


Alaskan Malamute


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 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



by NaNcy c. Russell

A quote from the standard —

“IMPORTANT: In judging Malamutes, their function as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all else.”

I f there is any hope of preserving this breed’s ability to survive in the high Arctic and perform as a freight- ing sled dog, then both breeders and judges have to recognize and reward those traits. So what structure is necessary for a freighting sled dog? First Critical Attribute: The Malamute must have complete extension of the hock when the foot is on the ground. This is the forward force. The dog that pushes off with the hock bent is pushing up, not forward. This is extremely inefficient. Even worse is a dog that never extends the hock and lets it fly up behind. This looks like a bicycling action from the side. This should never be rewarded. Second Critical Attribute: The Malamute must have a solid, level back when moving. Yes, the standard says “gently sloping” and standing still the withers may be an inch higher than the top of the pelvis but when the dog moves and drops his head forward that back should be straight, strong and level. Do you want the dog to pull the load uphill? If you have ever seen dogs weight pull or a team start a heavy load, they drop the head and lower their body so that there is a straight forward pull at the height the tug line is attached to the load. Because of the longer coat over the shoulders, the topline may look slightly sloping but an actual slope from withers to croup is improper structure for a freighting dog. Third Critical Attribute: The Malamute must have bal- anced, moderate angulation. Moderate compared to what? The same New England mushers wrote the Siberian Husky standard in 1932 and the Alaskan Malamute standard in 1935, so moderate compared to the Siberian Husky is the likely answer. Our standard states the Malamute is not a racing sled dog. Draft horses and oxen have straight angles and heavy bone. The AMCA measuring committee in the early 1990s found 28 to 30 degree shoulder layback to be the maximum. Balance is critical for endurance. A dog with no endurance would never have survived. Once a dog could not continue to pull they became dog food. This was true not only for the Eskimos but also was the standard practice of Arctic explor- ers. As the expedition used up their supplies and the extra sleds and dogs were not needed, the excess dogs were used as dog food. Only the very best dogs returned. Fourth Critical Attribute: The Malamute must have large snowshoe feet. Perhaps this should be first, as every musher will tell you that a sled dog is only as good as his feet. It is imperative that Arctic animals be able to stay on top of the snow. Like a snowshoe, the large foot distributes the weight

of the dog so he does not sink to his belly in the snow. A small cat foot would be a life threatening detriment to a Malamute. Fifth Critical Attribute: The Malamute must have heavy bone and strong muscles. I love the last sentence of the 1935 Malamute standard—“The legs of the Malamute must indicate unusual strength and pulling power—any definite indication of unsoundness in feet or legs, standing or moving consti- tutes practically disqualification in the show ring.” The Alaskan Malamute is truly a survival-of-the-fittest breed. When one studies the life of the Eskimos in Alaska you come to realize that everything about this breed is a result of their subsistence hunter lifestyle. The Eskimos of North America and Greenland are the only people that lived in the high Arctic (above the treeline) all year. Scarcity of food demanded that they were nomads and the dogs pulling sleds in winter, boats in summer or packing their meager belong- ings were their only means of transportation. When I started in Malamutes in the mid-1960s there was very little information available about the breed. So I started reading books about Arctic exploration and Eskimo culture in hopes of learning more about the breed. These accounts always wrote about the dogs’ ability to survive at minus 60 degrees below zero with 40 mile per hour winds just curled up in the snow; how they could keep working on meager rations; their ability to find a buried trail and to avoid unsafe ice and their love of fighting. But I was looking for specific characteristics that contributed to the Malamute’s ability to survive in the Alaskan Arctic and perform his job. So I pro- ceeded to study the other land animals that live in the high Arctic all year: the arctic wolf, the arctic fox, the polar bear and the arctic hare. When you compare them to the same spe- cies found in the temperate climate and the warm areas, you will notice the following: As the species goes North the coat becomes denser, longer and hair increases on the extremities. The body and extremi- ties become rounder. The feet are larger and have more hair on them. The dewlap increases in size. The ears become smaller, thicker, and more furred. Also I noticed that all of the Arctic species have dark pigment, no stop, almond shaped eyes and tight lips. The book, The Arctic Year , written by Peter Freuchen and Finn Salomonsen explains in detail the reasons for the adapta- tions of Arctic animals, birds, insects and plants. Coat: This is the most critical characteristic for the Malamute’s survival in his native environment. The dense woolly, oily undercoat is filled with air which being a

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against the skull to keep the snow out and he can rotate the ear 180 degrees when the musher gives a command or he hears something behind him. The set of the Malamute ears on the outside back edges of the skull facilitate this. Dewlap: The Arctic animals have a layer of fat under the skin in winter which not only acts as insulation but is a source of energy when food is scarce. Note how the dewlap becomes less prominent in the southern species. This extra layer of fat, skin and fur insulates the trachea and helps to warm the air before it reaches the lungs. In addition to

the above charac- teristics found in all high Arctic land animals we need to include teeth and tail to the Alaskan Malamutes neces- sary survival char- acteristics. Teeth: The dogs were tossed a chunk of fro- zen food. A dog that had missing canines, molars,

correct hock extension, excellent topline and head carriage, good reach and perfect timing.

non conductor helps to reduce the loss of body heat. The coarse guard hair covers the undercoat keeping the air from escaping and protecting it from moisture. Good leg coat and hair between the toes as called for in the standard are also important adaptations. Compact Body: Heat loss is proportionate to the size of the surface so there is a general tendency to reduce the surface of the body in the Arctic animals. A broad, deep and long rib cage with a short muscular loin will produce the compact body essential for packing and will also reduce heat loss com- pared to a long narrow body. Black Pigment: In summer there are 24 hours of sunshine and no trees for shade. Pink pigment sunburns and it also attracts biting insects according to the Ranger who was in charge of the dogs at Mt. Denali. Dark pigment on the eyelids helps to prevent “snow blindness” in humans so perhaps it is the same in animals. I have noticed that all puppies are born with dark hair under the eyes and keep it for several months. A protection from the glare of the sun just like baseball play- ers blacken under their eyes. Tight Lips: At minus 40 degrees exposed skin will freeze in 3 seconds. When the dog is working and panting the warm air exhaled will keep the lips from freezing but when not panting the skin of the lips must never be exposed. No Stop: Any indentations on the head would collect snow and result in heat loss. The Malamute standard states: “The topline of the skull and the topline of the muzzle show a slight break downward from a straight line as they join.” Almond eyes: Round and/or protruding eyes would be very susceptible to injury from ice and snow. Ears: Obviously the smaller, thicker and well furred ears would have less heat loss and less likely to freeze. When you look at the same species from warmer climates you see the ears change to larger, thinner and less fur. The Malamute is also capable of folding the ear together and laying them back

small teeth or a bite issue would take longer to eat his food. This means he had to defend his meat from those that devoured theirs faster. While defending his food some other dog would likely steal it. With less food his chances of sur- vival diminish. The dog who couldn’t continue to work is the one that became food for the other dogs or bear bait. It was strictly survival of the fittest. Tail: The tail of the Malamute is not only a distinguishing breed characteristic but serves an important purpose. When the dog is at rest he curls up and puts the plume tail over his nose. The snow will completely cover him as he can breathe thru the abundant tail hair, thus providing him with his own igloo. Size has been an issue among breeders since the 1940s, but for judges it should not be. Our standard clearly states —“size consideration should not outweigh that of type, pro- portion, movement and other functional attributes.” Size should be only used as a tie-breaker by a judge. The 25 and 23 inches in the standard was actually an average height between two bloodlines prominent in the early years. Here are the statistics on two Admiral Byrd expedition dogs: s #H#OCHISEOF(USKY 0AK MALE INCHESANDLB s #H#HINOOK+OTZEBUE'RIPP MALE INCHESANDLB As a breeder it is also most important to consider func- tional attributes and Arctic survival characteristics in order to preserve the breed, but size can be a breeder preference along with coat color and markings. Breeders and judges please memorize this quote of Natalie Norris, famous breeder and musher in Alaska, whose stock is behind most of the dogs today. “The Malamute is too fine and distinguished a breed to be changed into anything but what centuries of adaptabil- ity to its environment has produced… It isn’t a question of breeding a better Malamute but as good a Malamute.”

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Another Look at the ALASKAN MALAMUTE

T his is a test…close your eyes; someone says Alas- kan Malamute. What do you see; power, sub- stance, athletic, beauty? Th at’s a good start! Our breed standard is a simple one spelling out what makes the “ideal” Malamute. We don’t use a lot of fancy words that send you to Spira to find out what we mean. You don’t need a degree in geometry because we don’t use a lot of numbers or percentages to describe how the breed should be made. There is only one disqualification. Blue eyes. However, because the Malamute is a natural breed there is a range of variety that often confusing to judges. We are going to explore these areas. There are 3 words I share with peo- ple to help them put the standard into perspective. TYPE is the first and most important. To have breed type there can be no question the dog looks like a Malamute; not a Siberian, not an Akita. Next the dog must possess all the physi- cal attributes necessary to do its work. The combination results in breed type. Second and very important is BAL- ANCE. This breed is not extreme. All parts must blend together so that no part overtakes all others. The third

By Sharon Weston

word is STYLE. When Malamutes walk into a ring you may think they all look like a Malamute but they can look quite different from each other. That’s where style comes in. It’s the look! It can be face markings, coloring, size to some degree, coat length, etc. In order to understand the reasoning behind our standard one must remember what the breed was bred for. The Mala- mute is the powerhouse of sledge dogs. His job is to haul a heavy load over a long distance at a moderate speed unlike the Siberian who hauls a light load. He is

asked to do this under the most extreme conditions and often on a very limited diet. The Standard refers to moderate several times; therefore, extremes are not in keeping with the ideal Alaskan Malamute. With this in mind how do we find the best exhibit before us on any given day? Your first look at the lineup will include noticing size variances. The only numbers our standard articulates are those relating to size and weight. Size should never outweigh all the oth- er attributes necessary to proper breed

“There are 3 words I share with people to help them put the standard into perspective: TYPE, BALANCE, AND STYLE.”

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“AS A SLEDGE DOG the Malamute must be compact yet NOT SHORT COUPLED.”

type. So, “When all else is equal, the dog closest to the desired freighting size is to be preferred”. At this point one needs to remember that as an endurance dog he must be only slightly longer than tall. In order to negotiate through snow drifts he must have some leg length. We gener- ally expect the leg length to be about ½ the total height at the withers. As you begin your evaluation the Malamute head should be of consider- able importance as it is a defining breed characteristic. The standard states it is broad and deep. The dog cannot possi- bly have the proper ear set if the skull is narrow and shallow. The ears are placed wide apart at the outside back edges giv- ing the appearance of standing off from the skull when erect. They are small in proportion to the head. There is a slight break downward between the skull and the muzzle (stop). The word “slight” does not mean no perceptible stop. The cheeks are flat smoothly joining the muzzle which is large and bulky. Judges sometimes ask about length of muzzle as it relates to back skull. Here is our first example of thinking “balance”. Is the muzzle in balance with the back skull? The correct balance between the two will be apparent giving the head a blend- ing without sharp edges. There should be under jaw. The teeth are large meet- ing in a scissors bite. Remember this breed survived mostly on frozen food so needed a strong jaw with strong teeth. Dropped lower middle incisors are not considered a fault in an otherwise cor- rect bite. The eyes of the Malamute are almond shaped obliquely set but not so much so as to give an extremely oriental

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appearance. The Malamute has a soft inviting expression. His brown eyes and black pigment add to that look. The red Malamutes will have a lighter eye and brown pigment but their expression is no less soft and beautiful. Blue eyes are a disqualification. As a sledge dog the Malamute must be compact yet not short coupled. He must have a strong neck blending smoothly into the withers. The neck needs to be moderately long and strong in order to carry the head forward when working. We ask for a moderately slop- ing shoulder. The topline is firm and strong sloping gently to the hips. This

breed must be well muscled and carry no excess weight. He is a substantial dog but substance is bred not fed! His chest is deep and ribs well sprung but not barrel chested. He must have sufficient lung capacity to do his job. The Mala- mute tail is a distinct breed characteris- tic different than the Siberian, Akita or Samoyed. It is most often carried over the back as a waving plume but it is not uncommon for the tail to trail when moving. This breed may drop its tail in the ring at some point. Bitches may drop their tails when in season. On the other hand, males may tighten their tails when in the ring with other males. It is desir- able to see the tail carried naturally at least once while in the ring. It is often said the Malamute is built from the feet up. Without proper feet they could not perform their task for long. The foot is snowshoe shape; toes are well arched with thick pads compact in appearance. Flat, splayed or feet of an incorrect shape are not consistent with proper breed type. The pastern is short and only slightly sloping. The forelegs are straight with heavy bone. The rear legs are very well muscled, stifles mod- erately bent with well let down hocks. This combination enables the power needed to perform effectively. Th e Alaskan Malamute has a coat unlike its counterparts. It is a stando ff coat consisting of a thick harsh guard coat and a dense woolly undercoat. It can be described like something a golfer might wear. Th e guard coat acts like a rain resistant wind breaker over a warm wool sweater. Th e length varies slightly but never long and soft. Th ere will be more length around the neck, down the back and on the pants and tail. It is natu- ral for Malamutes to shed out much if not all their undercoat at certain times of the year. Please do not discount an exhibit just because he is “out of coat”. Th is breed is shown in its natural state. Trimming is not acceptable except to provide a clean cut appearance to the feet. The movement of the Alaskan Mala- mute is very important. As we said earli- er, he is a powerful sledge dog and must denote that power when moving. On the


they could not perform their task for long.”

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“The way to a Malamute brain IS THROUGH HIS STOMACH.”

down and back the legs will tend toward the centerline but we do not specifically ask for single tracking. There should be no crabbing, padding, or any other movement fault that would interfere with his ability to negotiate the extreme terrain in his native Alaska. From the side you will see all the parts working together. Th e powerful drive in the rear, the firm topline, the head carried forward and slightly above the withers and the front legs reaching in a straight line from the shoulder to touch the ground just under the chin. Th ere is no roaching, dip- ping, rolling or other tiring action in the topline. Th ere is no pounding at the shoul- der, the pastern is flexible yet not weak and the overall motion is e ff ortless, bal- anced and tireless, all vital to endurance. Your impression is that of a dog covering the most ground with the fewest steps. He should never appear to be his own load! It is a complete package of a power- ful, athletic, beautiful dog capable of per- forming his duties in unforgiving weather and terrain. Th e essentials discussed above encompass breed type. Without these characteristics the dog is not a correct Alaskan Malamute. It is imperative for judges to get their hands into the coats to properly evaluate the structure of this breed. Coat can totally distort size, substance, topline, head shape and angles. If you think the topline looks dippy, check with your hands. It could be coat. If you think the head has too much stop, feel to be sure. Our exhibitors are good groomers - it’s up to judges to get beyond cosmetics.

When we consider color we are thinking more of a style characteristic than actual breed type. Th is breed comes in several colors and variations of those colors. Some judges have asked if gray is the preferred color. Absolutely NOT!! Th ere is no preferred color. Th ose mentioned in the standard are anywhere from light gray to black, sable, red and the only allowed solid color, white. All can have white, cream, gray or sable undercoat and shadings of these colors. Th e gray, black, sable, white dogs will have black pigment and brown eyes, the darker the better. Reds will have brown pigment and a light color eye. All are totally acceptable. A snow nose is not to be faulted in any color. Face markings are another example of style characteristics. An open face, one having no other color than white often makes the head seem broader and muzzle heavier. Heavy face markings such as a bar and mask of a dark color can give the impression of a narrow and/or longer muzzle. You may see very heavy markings covering most of the face. Th e expression is still inviting and beautiful. All colors will have varying shades of white on the under belly, tail, legs and some part of face markings. You may see a white color, half color or nap spot. Th ere could be a blaze on the top skull. You may also see dark colored streaks down the back of the hock. All are acceptable. What is not are body splashes or broken colors over the body. A word about temperament… He is confident, smart, alert and determined. In the Malamute world there is a leader and all others follow. However the breed

is great with both adults and children. He is not a guardian breed normally. He has a tendency to verbalize which is di ff erent than growling! Normally dogs in the show ring are very well trained and totally happy to be admired and have special attention. Often when approaching, you will see tails wagging and almost a smile on their face. But there can be times when males in particular get agitated with each other. Th ere may be a bitch in season or another dog may have grumbled even if you didn’t hear it. Should you be faced with this, give them room. Separate them as much as possible. If a bitch in season, allow as much space as reasonable possible between the girls and boys. Never bunch them all up in a corner. Split the class if need be to prevent an incident. Most handlers know their dog and know when to keep separation. Having said this, if a Malamute does growl or snap at you, immediately send it form your ring. Th ere is no excuse for it and never tolerate it, even if it’s a puppy! Th e way to a Malamute brain is through his stomach. Please allow the reasonable use of bait. Because food is a motivator, any leftover bait from other breeds needs to be cleaned up before the Malamutes enter the ring. Most of the time a ring with 50 or 60 dogs will present a picture of waving tails and happy expressions. Just a little aware- ness may help prevent an incident. Th e Alaskan Malamute is a majes- tic beautiful breed. His heritage is to be respected and his virtues rewarded. It is the job of breeders and judges to protect this heritage.

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BACK TO BASICS: The Alaskan Malamute


By Robin Haggard and Jim Kuehl

he Alaskan malamute is the heavy freighting dog of the north. Malamutes pull heavy loads at slow speeds. Th ey are not racing dogs. Th e Mala-

registered dogs to maintain the breed. Th e Malamute Club modified the original 1935 standard in 1960 to accommodate the new bloodlines. Th is change in the standard and admission of new lines caused a great deal of strife in our Club over the years. Th e one dog that unites all of these lines is Ch Toro of Bras Coupe. He rep- resented our breed for many years in the “AKC Complete Dog Book.” Toro is behind every Malamute alive today because of his use in blending all three Malamute strains. He was bred by Earl and Natalie Norris of Alaska and won the Breed at Westminster in 1952. Th e Malamute standard stresses the anatomical features that allowed these dogs to survive in the harshest environ- ment. Th e dogs lived outside in weather that often got to 50 degrees below zero. When food was scarce they ate only every few days and still worked extremely hard. To protect the dogs in these extreme con- ditions, the Mals need a coarse, stand-o ff coat with a dense, wooly undercoat. A soft or long coat will separate in the wind and let the weather get to the skin. Good feet are also important for survival in the Artic. Th e Standard calls for large compact feet which help the dog spread its weight in the snow. Small, thick, well furred ears are less likely to freeze. Almond shaped, obliquely set eyes minimize the glare of sun on snow. A round or bulgy eye is at risk of freez- ing. Th e flat back skull, bulky muzzle, and slightly sloping stop do not provide a place for snow to accumulate on the dog. Th e Malamute standard uses the word ‘moder- ate’ to describe most aspects of conforma-

tion. Extremes in structure are usually not a successful survival strategy. Type features in our standard, such as the plume tail, ear placement, and dark eyes are not neces- sary for the dog to survive, but they help to make the dog a Malamute. Th is “Important” note comes from the Malamute standard: “In judging Malamutes, their func- tion as a sledge dog for heavy freighting in the Arctic must be given consideration above all else. Th e degree to which a dog is penalized should depend upon the extent to which the dog deviates from the descrip- tion of the ideal Malamute and the extent to which the particular fault would actu- ally a ff ect the working ability of the dog. Th e legs of the Malamute must indicate unusual strength and tremendous propel- ling power. Any indication of unsoundness in legs and feet, front or rear, standing or moving, is to be considered a serious fault.” Th e character of the Malamute was shaped by the environment as well. Th e dogs lived in small family packs. Th e Inuit are a nomadic people and traveled around the arctic, rarely meeting other family groups. Th e Malamute is not a guard dog, but he will tell you if any critter is around. He is not particularly loyal to one person or family, but should be a ff ectionate with all people. Most Malamutes love children. Since they never knew where their next meal was coming from, Mals are prey oriented and will attack any furry, feath- ered or finned creature they encounter. If they are raised with cats or other animals, they will generally be fine with them, but strange cats are fair game. Malamutes can

mute’s breed characteristics developed from the harsh environment they endured as much as from the lifestyle of the Inuit, the people of the North American Arctic coasts. Th ese Arctic dogs were a necessity for Inuit survival. Th e dogs not only pulled sledges, they carried backpacks in the summer, they located seal breathing holes in the coastal ice, and they distracted Polar bears for hunters. Th e Inuit are one culture from the coast- al areas of Alaska to Greenland. Th eir dogs are essentially one breed across that large geographic area. Di ff erences in these dogs that we see today, such as length of leg or coat, color and markings, result from the geographical separations of these nomadic people. Th e dogs Robert Peary used in the 1890’s to explore the Arctic could compete in our show rings today. Th ere are still dogs used by the Inuit in Greenland that are true to Malamute type. Th e Malamute gene pool today is made up of three basic strains. Th e AKC recog- nized the original Kotzebue strain, regis- tered in 1935. Th e AKC opened the Mala- mute Studbook and admitted the M’Loot and Hinman strains in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Th e Army had drafted most sled dogs for service during World War II. In accordance with US military protocol, the Army destroyed most of those dogs at the end of the war, so that there were too few

“Malamutes were bred TO PULL HEAVY LOAD S AT SLOW SPEED S.”

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be same-sex dog aggressive. Most enjoy the companionship of another dog, but typi- cally the opposite sexes get along for life. Most of our mothers and daughters get along and occasionally we have had broth- ers who lived together for life. A neutered male and spayed female usually make a great pair for pets. As noted previously, Malamutes were bred to pull heavy loads at slow speeds. Jamie Nelson is a musher who has run her dogs in three Iditarod races and other races including the 500 mile Bear Grease and 1,000 mile Yukon Quest. In 1994 she ran the first, and so far the only, “All Mal- amute” team in the Iditarod. Jamie com- pared running the cross-breds in a race to running Malamutes. With the cross-breds, she could take short naps on the trail and the dogs would keep running and follow- ing the trail without her encouragement. If she tried to nap with the Malamute team, they would just stop. Calories are pre- cious in the Arctic, and Malamutes see no reason to waste them if it isn’t necessary. Conservation of energy is a Malamute survival strategy. Siberian huskies and Malamutes look similar, and people often ask about the di ff erences between the breeds. Siberians,

of course, came from Asia. Dog racers in Alaska imported Siberians in 1907 to run in the Fur Rendezvous races. Malamutes, as the name implies, hail originally from Alaska. Sibes are racers, Mals are sledgers. Th e Sibe is smaller than the Mal, generally half the size. A standard Mal bitch is about the same size as a standard Sibe dog. Sibes can have blue eyes. Since Mals don’t carry the blue gene, a blue eyed dog is not a Mal- amute and neither are its parents. Blue eyes are the only disqualifying fault listed in the Malamute standard. When people ask me what the di ff erence is between a Mal and a Siberian, I tell them if your Sibe gets loose, it is in the next county. If your Mal gets loose, it is in your neighbor’s garbage. One of the best things the Alaskan Malamute Club has done is to institute a working dog program. Th is program awards titles in weight-pulling, backpack- ing and sledding. It encourages breeders and owners to work their Malamutes and keep the important characteristics that make the Malamute a working dog. It also fosters friendships and camaraderie among breeders in a non-competitive way. Malamute breeders and judges today should keep in mind this quote from Nat- alie Norris, charter member of the Alas-

kan Malamute Club, long time Malamute breeder and dog musher: “ Th e Malamute is too fine and distin- guished a breed to be changed into any- thing but what centuries of adaptability to its environment has produced. Our e ff orts should be to breed not only beautiful Mal- amutes, but as good specimens physically as were originally found in Alaska. It isn’t a question of breeding a better Malamute, but as good an Alaskan Malamute.” BIO Robin and Jim have been breeding Malamutes under the Poker Flat prefix for forty years. Th ey have bred over eighty AKC champions, including the first two all-white male Malamute champions in breed history. In 1978 they were found- ing members of the Dog Training Club of Champaign-Urbana, where they continue to teach obedience classes. Poker Flat Mal- amutes have completed over 50 Obedience and Working titles. Both Robin and Jim have served on the board of directors of the AMCA. Currently they are on a commit- tee supporting DNA research for Mala- mute genetic problems. Robin is also on the AMCA History Committee. Both are AKC Breeders of Merit.

Inuit dogs from the Canadian coast in the 1980’s show Malamute breed type.

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