Showsight Presents The Alaskan Malamute

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

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