Showsight Presents The Alaskan Malamute

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

S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , F EBRUARY 2017 • 213

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