alaskan malamute Q&A
Feet: 10 points; Coat: 10 points; Tail: 5 points. (Note that feet have almost as many points as head.) As for propor- tions, 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. Also in regard to body proportion, a shallow chested dog and/or out of coat will appear to be longer. But when he matures and comes into coat, he will appear to be more compact and proper length. While short legs generally aren’t a major problem in the breed and was only seen occasion- ally in the past, at recent nationals there seems to be more such dogs, not a lot but a few. They don’t necessar- ily look “long and low.” The Malamute short leggedness isn’t as drastic as some breeds and doesn’t always stand out but you have to be aware to watch for it. Dogs with deep chests and a heavy coat can give the appearance of short legs, so it is important to feel for the elbow. I always like to physically feel the elbow and compare to the withers during the exam. (Note that the elbow is usually well above the white on the front legs which can also contribute to the optical illusion of short legs.) Another indication of short legs is watching side gait to visually see leg length and normally will also have less reach. More common are dogs that are too leggy, which of course is undesirable as well. Possibly the most common mistake new judges make with Malamutes is to overem- phasize tail carriage. Consider the overall dog in terms of type, movement, substance and proportions. Don’t emphasize tails much unless there are two dogs of nearly equal quality; in other words, I use tail carriage more as a tiebreaker. It’s important to note that tail set is critical, but is not the same as tail carriage. Some people feel that a tight tail carriage is an indication of croup angle or tail set. I disagree, I think more likely it’s due to a muscle or tendon imbalance. The dogs with tight tails can move the tail in an instant to different positions depending on their mood. I’ve seen young dogs with tight tails but as they became veterans, their tail carriage opened up. In the 1990s, Nancy Russell, Robin Haggard and I measured a number of dogs’ pelvis lengths, pelvis angles and croup angles looking for a correlation between tight tails and structure factors—we found no correlation. In regards to flash and showmanship—while eye catching, super showmanship should not play a large factor in judging Malamutes. If judges are evaluating breeding stock, how many breeders choose a stud dog because of his show- manship? It seems many new Mal judges try to go on type alone, without considering movement very much and end up doing a poor job. It’s more logical for new judges to emphasize the overall dog with proper propor- tions, substance and movement before worrying about minor type details. Knowledge of breed type will come with experience in the breed. GH: There are judges who miss the boat on movement. There are too many judges who look for a pretty dog standing still, and don’t worry about the rest. Malamutes are not Dobermans. While they should be manageable in the ring; they don’t have to stand like a statue to be a good Malamute. Showmanship is nice, an extra added
bonus, but should not be the deciding factor in choosing the best dog. In addition, bigger is not better! If he’s big, then he must be strong seems to be the criteria for some. This is not an accurate assumption as there is many a small bitch that can pull her heart out. I would hope that judges would try to find the best dog closest to our standard of 25", 85 pounds for a male and 23", 75 pounds for a bitch! 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. SW: I do wish more judges understood the mindset of this breed. Their natural instinct is action—moving and being busy. They are not likely to stand still for long periods of time. They are expected to behave in the ring, but their natural instinct is to move something! WW: Each breed possesses movement and structure unique to the breed. I think that some judges look at the breed as being a generic dog, and its individuality and function is not recognized. 4. Is there anything Malamute handlers do you wish they would not? Any grooming practices you see that bother you? SB: I think most judges find the overuse of bait to get a dog to stand still annoying. I don’t mind if a dog moves a bit and doesn’t stand like a statue. But I do mind watching a handler shove food constantly into the dog’s mouth. The overuse of products in the coat to make the coat stand out often ruins my perception of the coat quality. A cor- rect coat should not need sticky products. RG: Malamutes are usually owner handled, which I think has been beneficial for the breed. Even in the specials class, most are owner handled. That probably prevents some people from dropping out of the sport. Malamute owners are generally very professional in the ring and groom their dogs very well. Most are capable handlers and competitive with the professional handlers. There is camaraderie in the breed, which is good. One disturbing trend of recent years is some dogs being over trimmed— even high quality dogs. I suppose the owner thinks his or her dog with a deep chest and heavy coat appears to be short legged and wishes to give a “better profile.” And those dogs often have their pants trimmed. When the coat is perfectly even across the bottom, it has obviously been trimmed. The standard states that the breed is shown naturally and trimming is not acceptable, except for the feet. Some dogs enter the ring with chalk still present and not completely brushed out.
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