Showsight Presents The Alaskan Malamute

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.”

218 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2017

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