Judging Malamutes

We are all judges of Malamutes, whether we are licensed to judge by a kennel club, or we judge from ringside, or we meet a dog in the street, we all judge them.  What I see happening in show rings and breeding kennels everywhere, is that judges, and breeders, pick the head and silhouette, ie, “TYPE” and then of the pretty ones, they pick the best built dog.  This is backwards.

The AKC standard for Alaskan Malamutes says that “above all else,” the job is the important part, and not only that, but IMPORTANT is in all caps.

Personally, I’ve never seen a Malamute at a show site that didn’t look like a Malamute.  They all didn’t look like Best-in-Show Malamutes, or my Malamutes, but they were all clearly Malamutes….and not Mastiffs, Dobermans, Sammies, Akitas, Tibetan Mastiffs, or even Siberians — much less breeds outside the current Working group.  I’ve seen dogs with really bad parts that may bear a passing resemblance to other breeds in a particular area, but were still clearly Alaskan Malamutes who may have a Siberian-ish bottle-brush tail, or Saint-ish jowls, or a Newfoundland-ish feet — but they are still clearly Malamutes. Therefore they all clearly had TYPE.

Here’s what I look for in a Malamute in a show ring:

Temperament

A dog that can’t go 2 minutes without looking for a fight with another dog or a judge is no good to me as a breeder or a musher and shouldn’t be any good to me as a judge.  More than just not-fighting, he should be an alert, calm, friendly dog — to the judge at least.  Maybe he doesn’t love other dogs, but it’s 2 short minutes, knock it off or get out of the ring.  And if he can’t handle a STRANGER examining him, than either the owners didn’t do their jobs in properly socializing him, or he CAN’T be properly socialized, and either way — out.  No matter how “pretty” he is or world-class his head or movement is — I won’t deal with an evil or shy or spooky temperament because THAT IS WRONG for the breed.  And besides I have to live with him, and my puppy buyers have to live with his kids, for the 365 days minus 2 minutes that he’s not in the show ring. Not a Golden Retriever temperament, but a solid working-dog MALAMUTE temperament.  As a ringside judge, and we all are, I look at temperament inside and outside the ring, first, last, and always, but that’s also happening in my head while I do the rest.

Movement

Coming, going, and around and around and around. ABOVE ALL ELSE, our standard says, we have to judge our dogs as arctic sledge dogs — they must have the mind to do the job, the movement to do this job, and the particular structure details of the body to do this job. A judge should have these dogs move more than they stand still. A Malamute doesn’t do his job standing still and looking for cookies while sprayed and chalked and fluffed, he does it head down and moving and moving and moving and doing it in the most inhospitable conditions on this planet.  So at the least in the show ring, he should be moving, and moving, and moving.  A dog that can’t handle a couple OR MORE trips around the ring, shouldn’t be in the Malamute ring.

If the handler can’t keep up, they (me, too) should get in shape or hire someone who can. I’d probably have to be doing some hiring if judges truly wanted to look at movement in Malamutes, but they don’t and I keep showing them as best as I can.

I won’t forgive a temperament fault because someone has to live with them when they are not in the show ring. And I won’t forgive a movement fault that interferes with the job.  There are some things I have forgiven over the years, a female who is estie-westie in the front, but still does the job on a team or in weightpull and I don’t pick her puppy with that fault.  A male who has a long loin, but still does the job on a team and in weightpull, and I jut don’t pick his puppy with that fault.  But those are two easy-to-pick-out faults in the whelping box and I can just NOT select those pups in the second generation.  But the ideal is easy, long-distance, efficient, powerful, effortless movement (not RACING) and judges should be looking for that when the dog comes in the ring and most of the time while he’s in the ring.  German Shepherd shows in Germany have the dogs run MILES, Malamutes should be able to do half a dozen trips around a decent-sized ring, even if at a much slower, steadier, more powerful pace.

Structure

is a two-parter.  You can see most of the details of a dog when he’s moving, but I do want to know how the dogs are engineered standing still — CAN the dog stand square and still?  Does he look balanced standing there, front to back, head to tail, left to right, top to bottom.  If so, he’s probably engineered in a balanced way.  That is not type, not specific to any breed, just is it a well-built dog? Because he needs to be a well-built dog to do his job as a Malamute.  He can’t do his job as a Malamute if he is not well-built.

THEN, and only then, I want to know does he also correctly exhibit “structures” as defined in the Malamute standard re: ears, eyes, muzzle, skull, neck, etc.?

All of the above, all three parts together — Temperament, movement and structure — equal TYPE.

Wait, I didn’t say how much ear, how almond the eye, how waving the plume!!!  No, I didn’t.  The Malamute comes in a wonderful and important variety of shapes and colors and sizes, and I’ll worry about those “style” details once I have temperament, movement, structure balance, and structure details…  All historical Malamutes didn’t live in the same geographical area or have to work in the same snow/ice conditions, so there SHOULD be variety in our dogs.  I have a “style” preference, every breeder does, but WHAT I LOOK FOR is temperament, movement, structure, and THEN at type. I really don’t care if he has an Uyak head, a Storm Kloud head, a T’Domar head, a Nanuke head….and neither should a judge.  If he has temperament, movement, and structure, then he IS a good Malamute, he HAS type.

Judging first for “type,” what some people think of as head and silhouette, does not, should not, can not work for judging the Malamute, since the writers of the standard put in all caps — IMPORTANT when judging a Malamute — if you look at head and silhouette first, picking “STYLE” which so many do, you compromise on those other details — temperament, movement, and structure — you end up with pretty dogs who can’t do the job.  If they can’t do the job they are NOT Malamutes as defined in the standard.

ABOVE ALL ELSE when judging the Malamute, we must consider the job they were intended to do. And that JOB dictates that the dog before us must have Malamute TEMPERAMENT, Malamute MOVEMENT, and Malamute STRUCTURE — all three — before it can have Malamute TYPE.

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