Friend of the Alaskan Malamutes of Southern Africa


A Merry Xmas to all

Alaskan Malamute lovers

Welcome to our Xmas Edition

How the Malamutes saved Christmas 

It was the night before Christmas and all through the igloo, 

Not a creature was stirring, not a bark, not a woo.

The Malamutes were tethered and curled in the snow, 

While above them the aurora shimmered and glowed.

When out on the pack ice there arose such a clatter, 

All sprang to their feet to see what was the matter.

And what should they see but a desperate St. Nicholas, 

His reindeer were gone, his sleigh stood motionless.

The presents were packed, His list was complete, 

What to do, what to do, He had a schedule to meet.

All over the world it was Christmas Eve, 

And the children waited, and the children believed,

That Santa would come in this magical night, 

Leaving presents for all, that would please and delight.

The Malamutes shook the snow from their coats, 

Take us, they cried, we're ready to go.

Down the picket line he went, calling each dog by name, 

Come Balto, come Shag, this night's not in vain.

Come Cubby, come Pip, come Alberta and Jack too, 

Come Penny, come Whisper, and Miska, I need you.

Without further ado, he went straight to work, 

And soon they were harnessed, and sounding berserk.

From his pack he withdrew a small silver vial, 

And sprinkling each dog, he said with a smile,

This dust from the stars, and the Milky Way, 

Will let you fly and pull my sleigh.

The dogs were ready, the time had come, 

It was Christmas Eve, the journey begun.

And I heard him say, as they sprang to flight, 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night. 

Our thanks to Linda Dowdy for this lovely Christmas Poem

From the Chairman's Pen
Getting to know our Members - Inserts from Chris Potgieter and Denise Lloyd
General - How to Care for your Alaskan Malamute on the Road
Health Issues - Prevention Parasitic infestations, External Ectoparasites
Educational - Over & Under bite, Some basics on Genetics and gene-mapping, Selection tips for a reputable Breeder 
Social - Uses for the Alaskan Malamute
Breeding - The Basis of Selection in Canine Breeding  
Working - a Primer on working your Alaskan Malamute(s)  
Other - Links


To receive this informative FAMC Club Newsletter in future, join us by sending an e-mail to for our Application Form. Membership is open to all KUSA registered members or non-registered owners or just those who are interested in the Alaskan Malamute breed.

Please don't give the password to non-members. Rather provide their e-mail addresses to enable us to send them an Application Form

Friend of the Alaskan Malamutes in Southern Africa

Postal Address:            P.O. Box 660, Rooihuiskraal 0154  


Johan Mostert                      

Phone:012 661 2301 a/h

Fax:    012 661 7496


Articles: Contributions are welcome. Send to e-mail address above.

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The Editor reserves the right to edit submissions including advertising. The Newsletter accepts no responsibility for false claims made by advertisers and article publishers but will not knowingly print erroneous articles/advertisements. All articles forwarded for placement should be typed. Legible hand-written copy will be accepted as well as e-mails. Send articles or attachments to the editor. The Friends of the Alaskan Malamute Club takes no responsibility for the loss of photographs or other material sent to the Editor. This magazine is published bi-monthly. The views and opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the contributors and correspondence concerned does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Friends of the Alaskan Malamute Club, the Editor, the publishers or printers, who do not accept responsibility for errors in interpretation of the subject-matter contained herein. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, and recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the Friends of the Alaskan Malamute Club Committee. 

People wanting to join the club may contact the Chairman for application forms. An initial joining fee of R25 is applicable with a membership fee of R75 per person. All Newsletters will be limited for viewing by Club Members only. Access to the Newsletter content can be obtained by using the “username & password” provided to members for access. It will be appreciated if this could be kept confidential as we depend on your sound intergrity.

From the Chairman’s Pen:

KUSA Affiliation process:

Club Constitution - Feedback received from DOGSPC and the Club Rules, COE and Constitution were amended accordingly. Updated Constitution forwarded back to the DOGSPC Constitution sub-committee for final vetting. Updated version can be viewed on the following links;




According to feedback received from the DOGSPC, our application will serve on the 3rd February 2005, after which it will immediately be sent to KUSA. Members will be kept posted on progress made to this effect. 

PFI Affiliation:

The PFI Board has approved for our Club to become Associated Member and are awaiting our official application in this regard. This will be addressed at out first  Committee meeting after KUSA affiliation.

Our website:

Visit our Club website, your feedback will be appreciated, send to:


We have entered into a working relationship with the ALASKAN MALAMUTE WORKING ASSOCIATION in the – UK in assisting us in gaining knowledge regarding working activities for the Breed.

Please visit their web site by clicking on the logo below:

The Alaskan Malamute Working Association was conceived in August 1992, by 2 founder members and then created by 18 enthusiasts, who got together and wanted to work their dogs. At the time not many people in Britain were working their Malamutes, although sleddog sports in general were on the increase. From a few teams, the working side has grown to seeing regularly 20 or more teams entering any one event. Although not part of the breed club, AMWA is an Association which was formed to organise or help to organise events primarily for Alaskan Malamutes in Britain. 

Insight into their Events , visit this link.

Just like AMWA, would we also like to hold various events in time to come, such as timed events, backpacking, weight pulls and treks. 

Use of our new Club Logo:

As the previous logo originated from my personal "Friends of the Alaskan Malamute in Southern Africa" Newsletter at the time, it has been felt that time has come to create our own unique and specific logo with which we can identify ourselves as members for the future.

sign for our Club merchandise:



For more information on FAMC merchandise available, go to: - still under construction, bare with me - watch the space.

Membership drive:

All members are requested to approach all known Alaskan Malamute owners to become Members of FAMC. I will be sending a copy of our Application Form to each member for further action. We would like to increase the numbers to enable us to start with our next phase to establish "Club Chapters" all over South Africa. Each area will then be responsible to co-ordinate their own fun days amongst themselves. Come lets get exited and make others also jubilant about our Breed that me love. The more members we have in your area, the more you will be able to share your knowledge and understanding of the Breed with others. The past month we have added 3 new members. 

As you already might know, the Alaskan Malamute franchise is very small in South Africa.  

Herewith some information compiled from stats received from the KUSA Office for the period 01/11/1999 to 31/10/2004; 

Registered owners of the Breed


Residing in South Africa

Registered Breeders


Residing in South Africa

Litters Registered over the period


278 puppies (124 Males & 135 Bitches)

Transfer of Puppy Ownership to new owners


Residing in South Africa

The assumption from this information is that many Alaskan Malamute owners exists without forming part of any Club structure nor being registered with KUSA.

As for FAMC Members, we refrain from ....

    • any derogatory remarks,

    • the spreading of malicious rumours,

    • the making of negative references towards or about other breeders, owners and/or Club Members,

but would rather show:

    • good fellowship and sportsmanship,

    • goodwill to both people showing interested in the breed or needing help in improving their lines,

    • honesty and openness about any genetical factors inherent in our lines. 

Let's bring back the fun back in having an Alaskan Malamute without involving ourselves in any dog politics. Come lets unite and show interest in bringing those owner of the breed on board of our Club where the ultimate goal is to bring this wonderful specimen of dogdom.

Looking back on 2004, we have established a Specialised Breed Club, made aliances with bodies in and outside of South Africa and established new friendships amongst members and non-members.

We are looking forward to 2005 when we as members will seriously start to look at the establishment of Club Chapters throughout South Africa to enable us to embark on social activities for the breed in our areas of interest, but at first we are awaiting our Club affiliation to KUSA. Please, one or two people cannot do it alone, it needs to be a joint effort with a common goal in re-establishing the breed amongst South Africans. Why keep this adoreable specimen for ourselves.

From Sandra and myself, a very happy festive season, may God bless you all and may your Alaskan Malamutes bring you pure festive joy.

Merry Xmas and a happy New Year. 

Johan Mostert


1. Chris & Lorraine Potgieter

Nestled in the foothills of the Kwazulu-Natal midlands, South Africa lies the farming community of Eston. It is here that Chris and Lorraine reside with their family of Malamutes known as the "Juggernauts", hence their kennel name. 


Chris is also the vice-chairman of our Club and very knowledgeable and have been involved with the Breed for the past almost 9 years. Javelin (on the picture), must be one of the luckiest Malamutes being able to have experienced snow in “South Africa”.


Some of their Mallies taking a breather during a hot day.

During the formation of our Club on the 13th March 2004, Chris traveled all the way from KZN to attend the inaugural meeting with one of his carrying Malamute bitches. She gave birth the morning of the meeting and Chris was still giving feeding instruction and assistance during the meeting proceedings. He was so dedicated to the formation of the Club that he said at the time, even if it takes that he had to bring her to give birth at the meeting, he will do so …. such dedication is hard to find.

2. Denise Lloyd

Being a veterinarian (retired) I have wanted a Mallie for many years, but my husband refused point blank.  He felt that they were too “hairy”.  Not wanting to rock the boat, I gave in to him.  December 2003, was a bad year in that I lost my favourite dog to cancer.  Keith still would not agree to me getting a Mallie and insisted that I get an Airedale Terrier (a dog he grew up with). Fortunately all the breeders I phoned had no puppies.  

Being a veterinarian, albeit retired, dog and cat magazines are sent to me.  In one of these magazines was a picture of a Mallie.  When Keith saw the look on my face he agreed to come with me and “look at the dogs”.  A colleague of mine gave me Tracey Judnick’s name as her dogs were well known to him.  On Valentines Day, Keith agreed to “look at the dogs” – “looking” was to be my valentines present.  I had to assure him we would not spend more that half an hour with the dogs.  

Well! Keith took one look at Jinx’s father and was hooked. The half hour turned into 2 hours and I walked away with Jinx – she was now my valentine’s gift.  

Jinx is the love and joy of my life and has the most wonderful nature. I take her everywhere with me. She has rearranged my garden (I have 1 acre) – she obviously did not like my gardening ability, torn bags of paper that were being stored for re-cycling into millions of little pieces (took us days to pick it all up), dug holes that elephants can fall into, eaten a few doves, stolen cat dishes and  shoes which were promptly chewed up, taken countless sponges that are used to wash the cars to decorate the lawn and driven me mad by refusing food on countless occasions (I could go on and on).  

She is not alone and shares the house with 2 labbies and 5 cats, but she is the queen. My husband is just sorry we waited so long to get our Mallie – we have missed out on years of pleasure.

I have to send you this picture of my Jinx.  It was my son’s birthday breakfast and she was lying fast asleep in the dining room.  From the way she is posing it looks as if she partook of the festivities.  I have named this picture “The morning after the night before”.


On the Road With Your Alaskan Malamute

From the simple individual kennel placed in a private car to the trailer designed to carry dog boxes to the double cab or bakkie there are many systems on the market to help ensure the dog's comfort during road trips which are often fairly long in their way of thinking.

The travelling crates must be large enough for each animal to stretch out and move around but not so large as to be dangerous during braking or sharp turns. The floor should always be dry and the ventilation adequate. A 38-kg dog occupies a circle approximately 80 cm in diameter when he is curled into a ball resting but needs 160 to 180 cm of depth when stretched out.

However they are placed, dog boxes must be solid, easy to open but lockable, and firmly attached to the vehicle transporting them. When they are part of the vehicle, they should not open to the rear, since the vacuum created behind the vehicle when it is in motion takes up all the exhaust, which is highly toxic to dogs.  

Ideally, dog boxes should have no sharp angles inside and be made of a synthetic material that is easy to clean and disinfect completely, with a removable mat that is useful as long as the dog does not chew it up during the trip (a clean bed of straw can also be used, as long as it is changed daily). If the boxes are bolted to the van, a slight slope of 1 to 2% will allow the cleaning water to flow out.

During long road trips, dogs should be let out several times a day, ideally every two to three hours. When travel is stopped for the night, they can sleep for eight hours in their boxes with no problem. Dogs should be given water during stops, so it is necessary to carry a supply of fresh water (a 40-kg dog needs 2 to 3 liters of water per day).  

Finally, out of respect for others, any excrement left on the ground should be collected and disposed of before getting back on the road. Apart from the obvious hygienic reasons, doing this always gives other people a good impression of breed and their owners!


Prevention Parasitic infestations

External parasite infestations affect mainly the skin and coat. They can cause eczema, pruritis or significant hair loss. Internal parasites are found mainly in the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach and intestines).

Internal (Digestive) Parasites

Esophagus and Stomach

Spirocerca lupi is the main parasite that infects the esophagus and stomach in dogs. S. lupi is a nematode usually found in the esophageal wall, more rarely in the stomach or even in the wall of the aorta. These parasites cause a serious disease that is endemic in tropical countries, northern Africa, and southern Europe. Dogs become infested by ingesting intermediate hosts, usually Coleoptera (beetles), or more commonly, small vertebrates.

Diseased animals show symptoms in the esophagus (regurgitation, sometimes inability to swallow) and stomach (repeated vomiting, increased thirst). Respiratory difficulties may be observed when the parasite is located in the wall of the aorta. Treatment is very difficult, involving injectable anthelminthics such as ivermectin. Given the wide variety of intermediate hosts (vectors) of the parasite that can infect dogs, it is practically impossible to design effective prophylaxis.

Stomach and Intestine

Strongyloidosis, or hookworm infestation, is mainly due to Uncinaria stenocephala, the most common hookworm in France; to Ancylostoma caninum, particularly in torrid zones; and Ancylostoma braziliense in tropical countries. These parasites affect primarily animals living in groups, which is why in French an infestation is sometimes called "pack dog anemia," but other dogs may be infested as well. Hookworm larvae of the Ancylostoma genus penetrate through the skin or are ingested by puppies along with the bitch's milk. The infestation has several stages corresponding to larval migrations within the body. It begins with a cutaneous phase: small lesions appear on the dog's abdomen, then disappear spontaneously within about ten days.

The adults develop in the small intestine, which causes digestive symptoms such as alternating diarrhea and constipation, then the appearance of persistent diarrhea with a fetid odor. Finally, the dog's general health worsens due to anemia. In its severe forms, the disease may lead to death, while in more benign forms spontaneous recovery is possible. 

The parasites take blood: the adult form attaches to the intestinal mucous membrane, eats a small amount of blood, and has the same effect as bleeding the dog. The parasites probably also have a toxic effect, and affect the immune system as well: As a result, there is a stronger skin reaction on reinfestation, which hinders larval migration. In this way, dogs can become fairly resistant to these hookworms. 

The primary means of prevention in areas with groups of dogs is to disinfect the area. Pregnant bitches can be given a preventive treatment of fenbendazole, which destroys the larvae. Puppies can also be treated once a week from the age of ten to forty-five days, then again at eight weeks and twelve weeks in areas where these parasites are prevalent.

Small Intestine

Parasites of the small intestine include nematodes (roundworms) of the Ascaris family (Toxascaris leonina) and the Toxocara family (Toxocara canis). T. canis can be transmitted to humans. These parasites infest mainly young dogs less than a year old. The puppies ingest embryonic eggs in their drinking water or food, or the eggs are transmitted from the mother to the puppies either in utero or via the milk. Dogs that are in poor general health are more susceptible, particularly animals suffering from certain nutritional deficiencies. Massive infestation causes general symptoms such as slow growth, weight loss, and a high mortality rate in three- to seven-week-old puppies that were massively infested before birth.

Of course, the puppies display mainly digestive symptoms: diarrhea interspersed with periods of constipation, vomiting (to get rid of some of the parasites), and a distinctly pot-bellied appearance. Complications may also occur in the form of intestinal blockage (by a clump of worms) or even intestinal perforation leading to hemorrhage or peritonitis. In addition to causing these symptoms, the parasites ingest blood and some of the intestinal contents, which both contain constituents that are essential to the puppy's growth. Diagnosis is usually straightforward: the puppy's overall health is poor, its abdomen distended, and it sheds parasites in its stools or by vomiting. Analysis of a stool sample can sometimes help with the diagnosis. Many parasiticides are available, the most effective being pyrantel pamoate, nitroscanate, and ivermectin. Preventive measures include systematic treatment of young dogs and destruction of the adult worms present in the mother. It is extremely difficult to destroy eggs in the environment, as they are highly resistant.

Cestodes can also parasitize this portion of the digestive tract. These tapeworms, such as Dipylidium caninum, are transmitted when fleas are ingested. They affect dogs of all ages, leading to significant anal pruritis that causes the dog to rub its posterior on the ground. Associated digestive symptoms include the elimination of segments of the parasite (which look like grains of rice) in the stools, which may have the appearance of diarrhea. Reinfestation is common, facilitated by the fact that eggs can stick to the dog's hair and be ingested. The spoliatory effect is very slight: The parasites' main effect is to cause irritation and swelling of the anal glands.

Prophylaxis consists of first eliminating intermediate hosts, both fleas and, to a lesser extent, lice. Use of specific anti-cestode treatments such as praziquantel in the infested animals is then recommended. Multi-purpose anthelminthics such as nitroscanate can also be effective. 

Large Intestine

This portion of the digestive tract, namely the cecum and colon, is parasitized mainly by nematodes of the genus Trichuris. Dogs become infested by ingesting eggs present in the environment, with adults seeming to be affected more often. A massive infestation leads to symptoms such as diarrhea (which can be bloody), anemia, and obvious weight loss. These whipworms siphon off blood and cause lesions in which bacteria can develop. Diagnosis depends on a stool analysis, which reveals the presence of parasite eggs in the dog's feces. 

Treatment is by administration of benzimidazoles such as flubendazole for three consecutive days, or of febantel for the same length of time. Reinfestation occurs very easily, however, so the owner must ensure that the facilities are clean and the food is sanitary. 


Puppies can be wormed after they are two weeks old, as a preventive measure. A multi-purpose vermifuge is used, usually consisting of a mixture of several anthelminthics providing a broad spectrum of protection. The dose should be adjusted for the puppy's weight. The dog is then treated once a month until it is six months old, then from two to four times per year depending on whether it goes out frequently or not. 

Stool analysis can also reveal worm eggs, and the worms can then be more specifically targeted by choosing the best anthelminthic for the type of worm observed. The dog's characteristics should be taken into account when deciding how to administer the vermifuge, whether as pills, paste or liquid. Some can be given in one dose, and some require several, which will also influence the decision. 

Regular worming is essential, particularly if several dogs live together and in cases where there is a risk that the worms may be transmitted to humans.

External Ectoparasites


A flea is an insect with a wingless body that is flattened sideways. Ctenocephalides canis and Ctenocephalides felis are the fleas commonly found on dogs and only the adults are parasitic. They are usually found in areas frequented by the dog: it has been estimated that at any given time, only ten percent of the fleas present are in the dog's coat.

Fleas are quite prolific: the females lay many eggs (sometimes one or two thousand) within a few months. The eggs do not stick to the dog's coat, but fall to the ground and collect in rugs, wood floors, etc. Then they hatch and the larvae undergo metamorphosis, molt to become nymphs and when conditions are favorable, emerge as adults and become parasites on dogs, their definitive host. The adult flea pierces the dog's skin with its mouth parts and, after injecting some anticoagulant saliva, drinks the blood through its proboscis. 

A flea and its larva

The presence of fleas is revealed by their excrement: tiny black pellets found on the animal, particularly in the dorsal lumbar region. The pellets consist of blood eaten and digested by the fleas.

Fleas cause many diseases. First, they are a direct pathogen, although usually not a serious one, merely causing an itch. However, a dog can develop flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), causing significant pruritis that leads to hair loss and even sores from scratching, localized on the top of the body (especially in the lumbar region). This is less common in cold seasons when fleas are not as active.Their indirect pathogenic role consists of transmitting pathogenic agents: bacteria (including the bacterium responsible for bubonic plague in humans) and digestive-tract parasites (transmitted when adult fleas are ingested).

The Why and How of the War against Dog and Fleas

To effectively combat a parasite, the pet owner must know how it develops so he can intervene in the various stages of development.

Larvae hide from the light. (In a house, this can be under rugs, cushions or skirting, between floorboards, in nooks and crannies, etc.) After one or two weeks of life, the larva changes to a cocoon, which is very resistant to flea treatments, and can survive this way for up to five months. The presence of animals or humans triggers the hatching of the adult from the cocoon. When a house has been inhabited for several months, a large number of cocoons can hatch all at once, leading to an infestation of fleas within a matter of hours. The adult then jumps onto (usually) a cat or dog and bites the animal so that it can eat the blood. The females are the most ravenous, able to eat fifteen times their own weight in blood (seventy females can eat one milliliter of blood per day!). If nature calls while a female flea is eating, the flea deposits "flea dirts"-small black pellets that can be found in the coat and become deep red when placed on wet paper.

In addition to siphoning off blood, fleas frequently cause allergies and can also transmit a flatworm to dogs and cats, a phenomenon often found in adult carnivores.

Most flea treatments applied to the animal (collars, sprays, powders) do limit the number of fleas, but are not sufficient to eliminate all of them because there are often a large number still lurking in the environment. Two treatments are usually recommended. The purpose of the first treatment, an insecticide, is to kill all the adult fleas on the dogs and cats living in the area to be treated. Antiparasitic sprays (pyrethroids) or "spot on" applications (direct application of very concentrated spray solution that then diffuses throughout the animal's body and kills the fleas as they eat) are used for this purpose. This treatment must be repeated every month. Another method attempts to sterilize the fleas as they eat. This treatment is administered by giving the dog a pill once a month. The second treatment attempts to kill the fleas (using an insecticide) or keep them from developing (by means of an insect growth regulator, or IGR) in the environment. 

Insect growth regulators have the advantage of being completely harmless to domestic animals and humans. Before applying this treatment, the entire area must be dusted and thoroughly cleaned (remember that the vacuum cleaner, as well as the cupboard where it is kept, can become a haven for fleas). Surfaces are then treated with an insecticide and/or insect growth regulator. In good weather, it is sometimes necessary to treat the yard as well (only the shady places where the dogs and cats lie down, and the products used must be resistant to ultraviolet radiation). Many effective insecticides and insect growth regulators are available, each with its own advantages and limitations.

The results obtained are usually good, but depend on the way the treatments are applied and how often they are used.


Ticks are very large acarids (from two to ten millimeters long) of the Ixodidae family. They display a significant sexual dimorphism: the female's abdomen can expand greatly, while the male's cannot. Their bodies are reddish-brown and flat, except after eating, when they are globular. They are intermittent parasites that live strictly on blood, except for the males of certain species, which do not eat at all. 

The main species that is parasitic on dogs is Rhipicephalus sanguineus, the kennel tick, which is highly specific to its host. It attaches preferentially to dogs and only dogs, at all stages of life (larva, nymph, adult).Ticks attach to a dog's skin, preferring the most delicate areas. They use their mouth parts to pierce the skin and inject a special saliva, which solidifies into a very strong attachment point. The tick can then enjoy its meal of blood, after injecting more saliva with anticoagulant and vasodilating properties. Larvae, nymphs and unfertilized females take only small amount of blood, but fertilized females take large amounts (as much as several milliliters). While larvae, nymphs and adult females take only a single meal, the males eat very little but eat many times. Once the tick has finished its meal, another type of saliva is used to dissolve the attachment point so the tick can drop off. A free-living stage can follow the parasitic phase, depending on outside conditions.

A tick on a dog's skin

This free-living stage of the tick's life cycle is much longer than the parasitic stage. The kennel tick usually reproduces on its host, then the female gorges on blood and drops to the ground. After a few weeks, the female lays several thousand eggs and dies. Depending on environmental conditions, the eggs incubate for several weeks and then hatch. A larva emerges from each egg, climbs a blade of grass and waits for its future canine host to pass by. It attaches to the host and takes its first meal, lasting several days, then drops to the ground again. After a time on the ground, the larva molts and becomes a nymph. The same process occurs again: the nymph attaches to the host and eats, drops to the ground and molts to become an adult male or female. The complete cycle is quite long, considering that the tick must attach to three hosts: under less-than-ideal conditions, it can last up to four years. Furthermore, not all eggs reach adulthood, because they may be ingested at any stage of development by various animals, particularly during the free-living stage.

How to Destroy Ticks?

If the dog is not heavily infested, the ticks may be removed one at a time with tweezers, preferably after dropping a bit of ether on the tick or using a felt-tipped applicator impregnated with cypermethrin. A veterinarian has also designed a small hook that can be used to easily extract a tick without breaking off the mouth parts. In fact, removing the mouth parts is essential to prevent abscess formation at the point of attachment.

If the dog is heavily infested, it will have to be washed in lindane, pyrethroids, or amitraz, which all kill ticks. To avoid infestations in kennels or other animal populations, the floor and walls should be covered with cement, and an appropriate powdered insecticide should be used. A vaccine is also available, which is effective for six months and is designed to prevent parasite infections when a dog must frequent locations (e.g., forests) having a significant tick population.


1. Over & Undershot Bites


Dogs normally have twenty-eight deciduous (primary or baby) teeth that erupt during the first six months of life. Most breeds have forty-two adult teeth. There are four types of teeth. Incisors are the smaller teeth located between the canines on the upper and lower jaws. They are used for grasping food and help keep the tongue within the mouth. Canines (also called cuspids or fang teeth) are located on the sides of the incisors and used to grasp food. Premolars (bicuspids) are for shearing or cutting food and are located behind the canines. The molars are the last teeth in the mouth. They are used for grinding nourishment for entry into the esophagus.


The way teeth align with each other is termed occlusion. Normal occlusion in most breeds consists of the upper (maxillary) incisors just overlapping the lower (mandibular) incisors (scissor bite). The lower canine should be located equidistant between the last (lateral) incisor and the upper canine tooth. Premolar tips of the lower jaw should point between the spaces of the upper jaw teeth. Flat faced breeds (Boxers, Shih-Tzu, and Lhasa Apso) normally do not have scissor bites.


Malocclusion refers to abnormal tooth alignment. Overbite (overshot, class two, overjet, mandibular brachygnathism) occurs when the lower jaw is shorter that the upper. There is a gap between the upper and lower incisors when the mouth is closed. The upper premolars are displaced at least twenty-five percent toward the front, when compared to the lower premolars. An underbite (undershot, reverse scissor bite, prognathism, class 3) occurs when the lower teeth protrude in front of the upper jaw teeth. If the upper and lower incisor teeth meet each other edge to edge, the occlusion is an even or level bite. When the upper and lower incisors do not overlap or even meet each other when the mouth is closed, the pet has an open bite. Anterior crossbite occurs when the canine and premolar teeth on both sides of the mouth occlude normally but one or more of the lower incisors are positioned in front of the upper incisors. Anterior crossbite is the most common malocclusion, is not considered genetic or hereditary, and is correctable. If there is an anterior crossbite there must be a condition termed posterior crossbite. Posterior crossbite occurs when one or more of the premolar lower jaw teeth overlap the upper jaw teeth. This is a rare condition that occurs in the larger-nosed dog breeds. A wry mouth or bite occurs when one side of the jaw grows longer than the other. It is considered hereditary and difficult to correct. Base narrow canines occur when the lower canine teeth protrude inward and can damage the upper palate. Often this condition is due to retained baby teeth and can usually be corrected through inclined planes used to push the teeth into normal occlusion.

Level Bite

LevelBite.GIF (10275 bytes)

Scissors Bite

For most breeds the scissors bite is ideal.

Scissors bite is one in which the upper incisors just overlap and touch the lower incisors.

Scissors Bite:

As per the Alaskan Malamute Standard

ScissorsBite.GIF (9482 bytes)



(overbite, parrot mouth, class two, overjet, mandibular branchygnathism)

In this condition the upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw.  There is a gap between the upper and lower incisors when the mouth is closed.  Some puppies that are born with an overbite might  

Overshot Bite

OverShotBite.GIF (9248 bytes)


(underbite, reverse scissors bite, class 3, prognathism) 

In this condition the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw.  If the upper and lower jaw meet each other edge to edge, the bite is referred to as an even or level bite.  In some breeds of dog an underbite is the correct bite.  Check your breed standard.


Undershot Bite

UnderShotBite.GIF (10278 bytes)


What is a Gene?

The gene is the basic unit of heredity. Each gene, acting alone or with other genes, determines one or more canine characteristics. All of the genes that constitute the hereditary makeup of an organism are called the genome. Genes occur in strands of genetic material within the cell called chromosomes. A dog is composed of a large number of cells that are genetically identical. The first cell of a particular dog formed when egg and sperm united; it contains one set of chromosomes from each parent. The canine genome is made up of 39 pairs of chromosomes (one set from each parent) that contain approximately 3 billion base pairs of DNA, or around 100,000 or so genes. Each gene generally occupies a particular position within a particular chromosome.

What is DNA?

The chromosome is made up of two very long single strands of a chemical called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that are wrapped around each other to form a double helix. This DNA never leaves the nucleus of the cell--it is like a reference library that contains the genes (functional regions) that determine how the organism will develop. DNA strands are made up of four basic units linked together in pairs. The entire canine genome contains about 3 billion base pairs. A small gene may contain 100 of these base pairs; a larger one may contain 10,000 base pairs.

What is a Genetic Marker?

Scattered throughout the chromosome are short repeated groups of these base pairs known as microsatellites, or markers, that can be used to track defective genes. Hundreds of these distinctive sequences have been isolated along the canine genome for use in mapping genes. To find a marker that is "linked" to a disease, researchers may examine hundreds of markers from animals with and without the disease before they find one that is located so close to a disease gene that it is almost always inherited along with the disease caused by that gene. The closer the marker is to the disease gene itself, the more accurate the test. Finding such a marker also narrows down where to look for the disease-causing gene, which could ultimately lead to a more specific test for the gene itself.

What is a Mutation?

A mutation is a genetic mistake that scrambles the instructions given by a gene. Mutations may be good, bad, or indifferent. In the case of renal dysplasia, it is believed the presence of mutations in one or perhaps two different genes causes the glomeruli of the kidney to stop developing. What are dominant and recessive genes? A dominant gene will express itself when the puppy inherits only one copy of the gene (from sire or dam). A recessive gene will express itself only when a puppy inherits two copies of the gene (one from the sire and one from the dam). If a disease-causing gene is recessive, a dog with the gene can be bred to a dog without it and will not produce the disease, although it will produce carriers of the gene. If the gene is dominant, both parents must be free of it to avoid producing affected puppies. Again, more than one defective gene may be needed to produce a disease.

Interpreting DNA Test Results for Recessive Diseases

There are three possible test results: Clear, Carrier, and Affected. Below is a description of what each result means to you as a breeder.

CLEAR   This finding indicates that the gene is not present in your dog. Therefore, when used for breeding, a Clear dog will not pass on the disease gene.

CARRIER   This finding indicates that one copy of the disease gene is present in your dog, but that it will not exhibit disease symptoms. Carriers will not have medical problems as a result. Dogs with Carrier status can be enjoyed without the fear of developing medical problems but will pass on the disease gene 50% of the time.

AFFECTED   This finding indicates that two copies of the disease gene are present in the dog. Unfortunately, the dog will be medically affected by the disease.

Breeding Strategies…

DNA test findings can be extremely valuable when developing and implementing your breeding plans. The chart provided below outlines the implications of various breeding pair combinations. Remember, it is always best to breed "Clear to Clear". If followed by all breeders, these strategies will ensure a significant reduction in the frequency of the targeted disease gene in future generations of dogs. However, to maintain a large enough pool of good breeding stock, some breeders might find it necessary to breed "Clear" to "Carriers" (see below). 

Breeding Pair Combinations





100% Clear

50% Carrier / 50% Clear

100% Carrier


50% Carrier / 50% Clear

25% Clear / 50% Carrier / 25% Affected.

50% Carrier / 50% Affected


100% Carrier

50% Carrier / 50% Affected

100% Affected

Ideal Breeding Pair. Puppies will not have the disease gene (neither as Carrier nor as Affected).

Breeding can be Safe. No Affected puppies will be produced. However, some or all puppies will be Carriers. Accordingly, it is recommended that Carrier dogs which are desirable for breeding be bred with Clear dogs in the future, which will produce 50% carrier and 50% clear animals, to further reduce the disease gene frequency. These offspring should be tested for this defective gene, and if possible, only the clear animals in this generation should be used.

Very high Risk Breeding. Some puppies are likely to be Carriers and some puppies are likely to be Affected. Even though it is possible that there will be some clear puppies when breeding "Carrier to Carrier", in general, neither this type of breeding pair nor "Carrier to Affected" are recommended for breeding. 

Breeding Not Recommended.  -  All puppies will be genetically and medically affected.

FAMC - preference should rather be given to clear such genetic affected stock by spaying/neutering in finding "pet" homes for them and then to improof breeding stock let us rather stand together, import breeding stock clear of genetic diseases or defects from reputable breeders abroad.

Requirements for importing Alaskan Malamutes to South Africa

Should you be importing from the United States, Canada, Australia or European Countries, the 14 days quarantine on entry into South Africa is not required. Dogs from some countries are required to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival in South Africa. There are 3 Government Quarantine Stations in South Africa - Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Non Quarantine Import Permits can be obtained within 1 week, but when required Quarantine Import Permits needs to be applied for 5 -6 weeks in advance. 

All imported Alaskan Malamutes need to be in possession of the following to enter South Africa.

1. A VALID RABIES VACCINATION - valid means that the rabies vaccination must have been done not less than 30 days and not more than 1 year before date of travel. The only exceptions to this are for pets coming from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, in which case no rabies vaccinations are required.

Puppies under the age of 12 weeks may enter South Africa on their mother's valid rabies vaccination. (Valid in this instance means that the mother must have had a rabies vaccination no less than 14 days before the date of birth of the puppy or kitten and no longer than 1 year before the date of birth of the puppy or kitten). If over the age of 12 weeks it is essential that they have their own rabies vaccination and must then wait 30 days before entry into South Africa.

2. AN IMPORT PERMIT is required for all pets entering South Africa. A Pet Travel agency can apply for on your behalf. They will need to know the country and airport of departure, consignee's name, destination airport in South Africa, approximate date of travel and number and species of animals. The only exceptions are South Africa's neighbouring countries, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe - for these countries only a Movement Permit which has been stamped and signed by the Government Vet in country of departure, is required.

3. A CURRENT HEALTH CLEARANCE CERTIFICATE. South Africa has it's own 4 page Health Clearance Certificate for dogs. These need to be completed by the  vet in the country of departure and as there are certain blood tests (for dogs) which will need to be done this should be done timeously - blood tests have to be done within 30 days of arrival. Once fully completed by your Vet the Health Clearance needs to be stamped and signed by the Government Vet in country of Departure within 10 days of travel. NOTE that the original Health Clearance Certificate with the Government Stamp clearly visible must accompany pets entering South Africa - a photostat copy is not acceptable. The angency can fax or email these Health Clearance forms to you.


Pet Travel Agencies offer the service of clearing customs, paying airport handling fees and delivering pets to the owner's home. They can also arrange onward shipment to neighbouring or other African countries. For pets needing to go into quarantine they can offer the service of clearing customs, paying airport handling fees and arranging with the Quarantine Master to transport the animals to the Quarantine Station. On completion of quarantine they could also offer the service of collecting the animals from the Quarantine Station and delivery to your residence.

Find a reputable Pet Travel Agency with world class boarding kennels who can offer boarding for long or short period should it be required.



If you see these signs in your potential dog breeder ... RUN!

You think you've finally found a breeder for that puppy you want to share your life, but you want to be sure he's a responsible breeder, so your new family member can have the best possible start in life. 

How will you know if he is a responsible breeder? 

What are the signs to watch out for? 

When should you take your money and run ... in the opposite direction?

Herewith a compiled list of
"red flags" that should help you decide if the breeder you are talking to is a good one or not. If you see these signs, it would be best to look elsewhere for a breeder: 


    He/she won't let you see the puppy's parents (the father may not always on site, this is normal).
    He/she won't let you see his kennel facilities.
    He/she cannot produce registration papers for the parents.
    He/she does not have the registration papers for the current litter of puppies (atleast should be able to provide proof of submission to the Registry Body).
    He has no pedigrees on either of the parents.
    None of his/her puppies come with guarantees, should something go wrong.
    None of his/her Alaskan Malamutes have been checked for genetic diseases. (minimum requirements = hips)
    None of the parents have been x-rayed for hip dysplasia. 
    If x-rayed, the hip readings of the parents exceeds the norm for the breed, being 0.0 with at worst 1.1
    He/she does not want to know if anything has happened to your Alaskan Malamute that previously came from him - showing no interest in his offspring.
    He/she breeds a lot of unrecognized breeds, therefore being a cross-breeder between various breeds.
    No veterinary health checks of the puppies from birth.
    No mandatory vaccinations (at least basic ones), no de-worming.
    Breeding solely for "pet quality" means breeding for money - not for the betterment of anything.
    Does not breed to better the overall conformation or working style of the breed.
    Does not know the history of the Alaskan Malamute breed.
    His/her Alaskan Malamutes or any other dogs on his premises appear to be in ill-health.
    He/she always has puppies for sale, sometimes two or three litters at a time.
    Does not have veterinary records for at least the mother on hand.
    He/she won't give references from owners of pups from previous litters.
    He/she doesn't ask any questions about the environment you offer the pup, just wants to see the cheque (and prefers cash). The puppies are ready to go before they should be (under eight weeks of age).
    Advertises or sells their pups for greatly reduced prices.
    Sells to pet stores, puppy brokers, wholesalers, etc.
    Breeds before the age of twenty two months.

It is a long list, but considering the health and welfare of your newest family member, it is always better to be picky about who you buy from, than to end up with possibly insurmountable health problems a year or two later.


Social, uses for the Alaskan Malamutes

Malamutes have performed various functions and participated in such diverse activities as war and sled pulling in polar regions for a long, long time. The Eskimos was the pioneer in Alaskan Malamute breeding, and was even referred to as the "The freight train of the frozen North." The bred were primarily used when not sledding freight to guard children and to hunt.

But the usefulness doesn't stop there: The dog's role evolved toward that of a constant companion, completely devoted to its master and ready to defend him at all costs. It was primarily during the Renaissance that the dog developed this role of "pet."

Social and economic upheaval caused by changes in our society over the last decades have profoundly affected the relationships between humans and dogs. Massive urbanization, development of mechanical transportation, and significant changes to social and economic structures have caused greater isolation of people. Dogs and other pets have entered into new relationships with people, and are sometimes necessary to balance the place of those men and women in society.

Dogs are not only around people for the affection they provide, but they are also "used" to satisfy other needs. In this way, dogs become an integral part of the quality of our daily lives, serve as therapists, assistants to the handicapped, and can even help criminals re-enter society.

Dogs as a Symbol of the Quality of Life

Capacity for interaction with others and social skills are the primary criteria by which the "minimal" quality of life is judged. Dogs allow people to meet these two criteria. They are a constant presence, a means of protection and defense, sometimes even a surrogate partner (after divorce or the death of a loved one, for example), and they bring their masters out of a lonely situation, help them regain their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Dogs also contribute to people's well-being through their very presence and the unexpected situations they create. They influence our physiological and psychological health by reducing day-to-day stress. Petting an animal, particularly your own, significantly reduces blood pressure, skin temperature, and heart rate. It also brings an instant calming feeling. A researcher at Cambridge University has shown that, compared to people who do not have dogs, dog owners experience a significant drop in minor health problems (roughly 50%) during the first months after acquiring a dog.

The benefits of the human/dog relationship begin in childhood. A study carried out in Germany on more than 300 families (and more than 500 children) with dogs provided significant figures: 90% of parents questioned felt that the dog played a "teaching" role and held an essential place in the child's quality of life. 80% of the children considered their dog as first and foremost a friend and confidante. The animal therefore serves to socialize the child by helping him through different stages of life and by stimulating learning and awareness of the child's own abilities. The dog helps the child develop independence by teaching him obedience, self-control, and pain, concepts that are essential for his development. Through his responsibility for the dog, an adolescent can find a meaning for his life, feeling that the animal is counting on him.

Dogs as a Factor for Social Stability and Reintegration of Young People

According to Konrad Lorenz, animals help manage incompatible impulses with life and society. Dogs represent a sense of belonging to a community and serve as a sort of "social lubricant." A recent study in Germany showed that through their affectionate support, dogs allow people to avoid certain risks in large cities and metropolises. Young people with dogs differ in many ways from young people without dogs: they are more satisfied with their lives and their work; they try to succeed more in school and work; they have positive relationships with older people, and demonstrate a need for security, understanding, and tenderness. The study reveals that alcohol consumption, intensity of conflicts with parents, and lack of self-confidence are greater in young people who do not have dogs. Young people also see dogs as a way to deal with other risk factors in large cities: loneliness, crime, lack of responsibility and communication.

The way dogs give completely of themselves and are so extremely loyal appear to be stabilizing factors for young people in particularly volatile and changing environments. The young person must take responsibility for the animal and a daily routine is established, thereby giving him a sense of choice and control. The dog becomes a non-threatening support for the person's aggressive impulses. The dog can reduce tensions within the family unit and facilitate communication between people in difficult situations.

Despite everything, relationships between young people and dogs are not exempt from problems dogs used as a means of: aggression, unplanned puppies, dog fights, etc. The dog itself can sometimes be the expression of social difficulties. Basing their approach on the idea that the young (and not so young) are always ready to learn more about their pets, special teams use dogs in the field as a pretext to approach marginal populations with the goal of reducing urban violence.

Many countries are already using dogs as mediators to re-integrating young people into society. The first experiments were held in "problem" areas and detention centers in the United States and France. In all cases, organizers were surprised by the special attention young delinquents gave to the animals, communicating much more successfully with them than with others in their group. When the animals were given to the young people, they soon felt responsible for the animal - for another life. Through contact with the animal or after the animal had been introduced to the institution, some learned to communicate effectively, to love, and to respect others.

Dogs in Therapeutic Roles

Stress and health problems are not perceived in the same way by dog owners and people who do not have dogs. Psychosomatic symptoms, such as nervousness, stomach aches or migraines, heart or cardiovascular problems, insomnia, etc. are less frequent in people with dogs!

In addition dogs play a beneficial role in preventing health problems for the people around them, they are also actually used at the present time in therapy for a variety of reasons:
- sensorial and physical stimulation;
- memory stimulation;
- greater communication among therapy patients, personnel, and families;
- constant motivation to break away from the routine.

Dogs are being used more and more to help combat loneliness for people suffering from senility. During their hospitalization, patients must overcome the separation from their family and friends and also deal with a disruption of their normal routine. In addition to physical pain, simply being dropped into a new environment and feeling more dependent than usual can weaken patients psychologically. Data gathered in English-speaking geriatric institutions has show that most patients in contact with dogs felt less alone, appeared happier, and accepted treatment more willingly.

A study carried out in the United States showed that the presence of a dog around patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease had an "awakening" effect and triggered reactions that allowed them to increase their efforts at socialization (smiles, looks, compliments, warm welcomes, forward movement toward others, physical contact, etc.).

Observations have also shown that autistic children are able to establish close relationships with animals, showing a closeness that they rarely do with the people around them. Certain patients seek a dog as a companion, to give or receive comfort, or to have someone to trust in a way that they never have had with family members.

Several studies have established the advantages of pets (especially dogs) for a person's well-being, emotional growth, and quality of life.
Seven international conferences on the interactions between people and animals have been held in London (1977), Philadelphia (1980), Vienna (1983), Boston (1986), Monaco (1992), and Geneva (1995). In 1992, the drive to bring together all of the national associations into one federation led to the creation of IAHAIO (International Association of Human Animal Interaction Organizations). The 8th International Conference on human/animal relationships was held in Prague in September 1998 and centered on the theme "Animals in Society, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow."


1. The Basis of Selection in Canine Breeding

It may seem easy for a livestock breeder to select genitors according to their aptitudes for producing meat or milk. However, it is much more difficult to establish a selection in canine breeding, where the dog's morphology and character are often equally sought after qualities.

Choosing the Parents

It is relatively rare to find high quality, adult breeding dogs on the market. Most of the available sires and dams are very likely "spent" animals which have hidden defects or do not correspond to the desired standard. Thus, it is only natural that most breeders keep the most promising puppies in their breeding pool for their own use. Choosing a breeding animal will thus involve selecting a puppy. This often means placing a wager on the puppy's future, since its conformity to its breed standard and its fertility cannot be confirmed until later.

Choosing a Sire

During puberty and before any mating or insemination is practiced with a male whose offspring is completely unknown, it is prudent to begin by checking the quality of its semen.

Checking Semen Quality 

A spermogram (detailed analysis of sperm) can help predict the degree of semen fertility. This analysis brings to light any risk of male infertility (absence of or too few spermatozoa, excessive abnormal forms, lack of mobility, etc.) and makes it possible to monitor the progress of puberty-and therefore the animal's entry into the reproductive stage-and detect the first signs of senescence in sires who are close to being spent.

Two or three consecutive spermograms conducted at one or two-day intervals are necessary to:
- evaluate semen quality,
- evaluate the renewal of the sperm supply, which determines the frequency with which the sire can be used,
- judge a sire's potential: Some breeds appear to have seasonal cycles that produce alternating spermograms of good and poor quality.

Many males produce initially average spermograms after a long period of abstinence, and still others do not release the totality of their spermatic phase at the first sampling.

When taking a sample, it is helpful to evaluate:
- the color and transparency of the three phases: Observation with the naked eye of the spermatic phase (which should have a milky consistency) already gives an idea of sperm concentration,
- the volume of the ejaculate, which is usually proportional to the size of the breed and therefore to the length of the female genital tract,
- the pH (acidity) of semen, which may indicate infection,
- the overall movement of spermatozoa on the hot stage of a microscope at low magnification: a "cloudy" appearance is a good reflection of overall semen vitality,
- the mobility of sperm at higher magnification: the number of gametes that are motionless or mobile,
- the ratio of abnormal forms which, to remain physiologically viable, must not exceed 30%,
- the percentage of living spermatozoa, which can be seen using a vital stain (eosin-nigrosin) that electively penetrates the gametes that were dead prior to staining,
- the total number of spermatozoa, which is calculated through a count made in a grid and is generally proportional to the size of the breed.

All these results are then combined into a table that points to a conclusion regarding the potential fertility of a sire. If several consecutive spermograms are of poor quality, it is best to question any medical treatments (hormones, antifungals, corticoids, radiation therapy) that the sire may have undergone recently or during his growth.

Checking Genealogy

More than a spermogram, a sire's recent offspring is the best proof of his fertility and also enables the breeder to judge the genetic quality of the semen based on the sire's ability to mark his progeny (resemblance). It is prudent to also obtain information on the size of the litters the dog has sired in order to judge his prolificacy, which appears to be linked to semen vitality. Finally, reading the sire's pedigree enables the breeder to identify the number of champions among the sire's ancestors and thereby deduce the sire's probable genetic features, especially if he is the product of inbreeding.

Choosing a Dam

Choosing a future dam from a litter also requires a wager on the future and is based essentially on the dam's ancestors. Even though dams and sires are equally responsible for their offspring in terms of genetics (with each transmitting 50% of its genes), dams must also nurse the puppies and raise them. The selection criteria for a dam must therefore take into account, in addition to her intrinsic genetic value, the ease of her births, her "lactating" ability, her ability as a mother, etc. (see section entitled "The basis for selection in dog breeding").

Why Choose?

Many breeders keep their most promising puppies to improve the quality of their breeding pool and use a sire from outside to inject new blood into their lines. 

While it may seem easy for a breeder of production animals to choose parents based on their meat- or milk-producing abilities, it is much more difficult to make choices in canine breeding, to the extent that the desired features are often related as much to the dog's morphology as to its character. 

A dog breeder could thus leave it up to nature and simply let his dams mate and reproduce randomly. Although this may sometimes result in an exceptional dog, the breeder would soon see that this dog's features mark its offspring very little. This shows why the traits produced through random mating are not easily passed on. 

Nevertheless, quite a few breeders base their passion on the lasting improvement of the features of their dogs, which builds the kennel's reputation. 

To achieve this, breeders must practice a true selective breeding policy and begin by asking themselves the following questions:
- How does it work? In other words, how are traits passed on to become the features and faults of each individual?
- Does appearance reflect genetic programming? Is phenotype (what can be seen or measured externally, such as the coat, for example) a true reflection of genotype (the genetic "sheet music")?
- What are the pros and cons of inbreeding, which has such a bad reputation in the eyes of the general public?
- Finally, how can the appearance of genetic defects be prevented or, if it is too late, how can they be eliminated?

Next issue …… How is genetic traits transmitted  

A Primer on Working the Alaskan Malamute

by Linda Dowdy

Getting Started

You have always wanted to try working your dogs in harness, but you are unsure on just how to get started. Or maybe you have made previous attempts at it, but they have either ended in total disaster or have been frustrating and dissatisfying. You have dreams of seeing your dogs strung out ahead of you, gangline straight, tuglines tight, and heads down as they concentrate on transporting you through a snowy landscape. But in reality the gangline is down and the tuglines are not tight, their heads are up and they see every distraction along the trail, they stop without warning and far too often, they are deaf to your commands, fights break out, and the list goes on and on.

Let’s face it. Working a team of Malamutes is a challenge. They are smart, and they are manipulative. However it can be done. The price is a great deal of work and large amounts of patience, but the results are well worth the effort. And the reward comes when you see that team strung out ahead of you, you see the straight gangline and the tight tuglines, you feel the snow hitting your face as it is kicked up by their feet, they don’t stop, and best of all -- they listen to you!

First Introduction -- Dog Meets Harness

Some Malamutes are natural pullers; others are not. But natural or not, they all must be taught that pulling is not something to be done at their convenience, if the mood strikes them. They must learn the command to pull and obey it just as reliably as a good obedience dog is taught to reliably jump or retrieve the dumbbell.

Puppies should be introduced to the concept of pulling at three to four months of age. One method of doing this is to harness the puppy and attach the tugline to a light weight, such as a small log or small tire. Place a light choke chain on the puppy. The puppy is then given the command to "pull" and simultaneously pulled forward using the choke chain. Some puppies will do it right away, while others will throw virtual temper tantrums, screaming and hurling themselves on their backs. One way or the other, either on its feet or on its back, the puppy is moved forward a very short distance and then given a great deal of praise for its accomplishment. This is repeated, always with praise for pulling, until the puppy gets the idea to pull on command.

Adults may also be introduced to pulling by this same method. A heavier weight must be used however. The weight must be heavy enough so that the dog, or puppy, knows there is something there and they must work to pull it, but not so heavy that they can’t pull it.

On the surface this may appear to be too hard on a puppy. But think back to some of the antics you have seen puppies go through when they are leash-broken. More than one puppy has taken its first steps on a leash quite involuntarily and often not on its feet.

Harnessing Up -- Holding the Line Out

When a team of dogs is harnessed, the first dog to take its place on the gangline is the lead dog. It is the responsibility of the lead dog, or dogs, to hold the gangline tight while the other dogs are harnessed. This is known as "holding the line out".

The method used to teach a dog to pull is also used to teach a lead dog to hold the line out. A choke chain is put on the dog. The dog is harnessed and put into position at the end of the gangline and given the command of either "up front" or "stay". The command is given and the dog is pulled forward enough to tighten the gangline. Don’t forget to praise the dog for moving forward to tighten up the gangline (whether it was his idea or not!). This exercise must be repeated an innumerable number of times until the dog reliably responds to the command of "up front" or "stay". You will find yourself constantly returning to the dog to correct them, put them back into position, and praise them. With enough patience and time on your part however, the lesson will be learned, and you will have a lead dog that will reliably hold the gangline out straight and tight while the remainder of the dogs are harnessed.

During the harnessing process, the sled, or training cart, is secured by means of a quick release line. The anchored sled or cart and the lead dog holding the line out provide a tight, stable gangline for hooking up the remainder of the dogs.

The same process is followed, but in reverse order, at the end of a run. The lead dog(s) again hold the line out while the remainder of the team is unharnessed. The lead dog is the last one to be unharnessed. While still in harness and hooked up, they are watered, and each dog is given praise for its work. Additionally sometimes a small treat is also given. Unless the lead dog is watered first, it may turn around and forget to hold the line out.

After they have been watered, the musher will often drive them again, a very short distance. This is to prevent the team from becoming used to the idea that once they reach the truck, their work is done and they don’t have to do anything else.

Equipment No Malamute Driver Should Be Without

Most sled dog drivers have one or more "jinglers". A jingler is anything that makes a jingling noise. The most commonly used jinglers consist of a ring with several metal washers on it. When the ring is shaken, the washers make a jingling noise. Jinglers are not used during the time a dog is learning a command. Once the command has been reliably learned, then failure to obey the command while in the team results in a correction that is accompanied by the sound made by the jingler. Corrections are made by tapping the dog with either a piece of doweling, a piece of garden hose, a piece of thick braided hemp rope, or a slapstick -- with the jingler attached to it. The intent is to teach the dog to associate the correction with the sound of the jingler. Eventually it will evolve to the point where the sound of the jingler itself is sufficient to correct a dog.

Three important points need to be made with regard to the use of a jingler.

·         The jingler must never be allowed to make noise except when it is being used for correction.

·         When the issue is one of growling, looking around at the scenery, etc., only the offenders are corrected.

·         When the issue is one of failing to pull, all of the dogs on the team are corrected, not just the ones that are the most flagrant offenders. The dogs that are pulling are corrected very lightly, while the culprits receive a slightly harder correction.

Lead Dog Training

Almost any dog can be trained to lead a team, but some of them are a lot better at it than others. Either one or two dogs may be used in the lead position. Being in the lead position is stressful for most dogs, and sometimes two dogs, known as a "double lead", will work better at lead than a single dog. Two dogs tend to bolster each other’s confidence -- a trait that is a definite "must" at the lead position.

Training a dog to lead can be most effectively accomplished by use of what is known as a "belly band". Use of this device allows the trainer to keep the dog up front, ahead of the trainer. Basically it consists of a band which goes around the dog’s belly, with an attachment that goes to the dog’s harness. This band serves a dual purpose; first, it prevents the dog from backing out of the harness, and second, it allows the trainer to "throw" the dog ahead of him. This is done by placing one hand on the collar, the other on the tug loop of the harness, and then giving the dog a hearty heave-ho forwards. The attached leash on the collar can also be pulled to one side or the other to teach the "gee" and "haw" commands.

An alternate method of training a lead dog can be accomplished by placing two choke chains on the dog. One is placed so the "pull" is out to one side, and other is placed so the "pull" is to the opposite side. Attach two leashes, one to each side, somewhat like reins on a horse. Then the commands are given and the appropriate leash is pulled to move the dog in the desired direction.

Dogs have a tendency to follow a trail. Training a dog to lead in an open field, where there is no trail, presents a much more difficult challenge. Two techniques can be used here.

·         Give the command to gee or haw, and tap the dog on the opposite side with the slapstick/jingler

·         Give the command to gee or haw, and go to that side and call them

·         Open field training is very stressful on the dogs, so you don't want to overdo it. Open field training can be gradually introduced by initially following the perimeter of the field and then start cutting the corners. This gives the lead dog a visual target, and gradually the amount of corner cutting can be increased.

If by now you think that you are going to be doing a lot of running, you are right! Training dogs, particularly lead dogs, requires a great deal of running back and forth. If you aren’t in shape when you start, you will be by the time you finish

The Principle of Drag -- Don't Be Without It

The underlying secret of training a Malamute team lies in always keeping their minds on what they are doing. In other words, forcing them to think about pulling. This is done by always making them pull against resistance or drag. If they aren’t pulling against resistance, they aren’t thinking about what they’re doing. Then they get creative, and creativity does not belong on a Malamute team. If you’re working on a wheeled cart, you may create resistance by dragging a tire behind the cart. If you don’t have a tire, then the last resort is to ride the brake. On a sled, resistance is created by dragging an auxiliary brake. This auxiliary brake is generally a section of snowmobile track which the musher can stand on in order to create as much drag as is needed. In particular, coming out the chute, or just starting out, they must be slowed down.

Another favorite method of forcing the dogs to concentrate on what they are doing is to train on four-wheelers -- the popular ATV’s (all terrain vehicles). The dogs are hooked up to the four-wheeler, and it is placed in either first, second, or third gear with the engine just idling. The dogs must pull hard enough to continuously turn the crankshaft of the idling engine.

When you wish the team to go faster, you can give the command to "pick it up" and simultaneously shift into a higher gear. This reduces the amount of drag the dogs are working against, and their speed will automatically increase.

All training is done at a very slow pace, with the dogs pulling and working hard. They are never allowed to run "pell mell". In particular, great care must be taken when going downhill to see that they do not pick up their pace and rush downhill. Keeping it slow going downhill is particularly crucial to prevent shoulder injuries.

Just Rewards -- Don't Forget the Praise

Throughout all your training, never forget to take time for praise. When they have done well, let them know about it. After training, stop them and give them all a hug. Let them know they have done well. In obedience training, the saying is "cover a correction with praise". In other words, when you do correct them, and that will be often, then praise them for doing the right thing. Praise at the right time is just as important as a correction at the right time.

When you give a command, only give it one time; then correct if the dog doesn’t follow the command. The purpose of the correction is to show (or remind) the dog what needs to be done. As soon as the correction starts to take effect, i.e. the dog starts to do what is wanted, then cover the correction with praise.

After they have completed a particularly stressful portion of training, such as working in an open field with no trail to follow, stop the team and give each dog a hug and words of praise. It really pays off in the long run. Even when on the trail and continuing to move, let them know they are doing well.

Commands -- The Ones Most Commonly Used (Outside of Hollywood) 

·         Come Gee -- make a U-turn to the right

·         Come Haw -- make a U-turn to the left

·         Easy -- slow down

·         Gee -- go to the right

·         Gee Over -- move over to the right side of the trail

·         Good (alternately That’s Good) -- praise for the right actions

·         Haw -- go to the left

·         Haw Over -- move over to the left side of the trail

·         Hike -- let’s go

·         Mush -- used only by Hollywood

·         On By (alternately On By Dammit) -- go past a distraction without stopping or slowing down

·         Pick It Up -- increase the speed

·         Pull -- buckle down to work and pull (quit gazing around at the landscape)

·         Ready -- let’s go

·         Right There -- telling the lead dog the correct trail has been selected or standing in the right spot

·         Straight On -- don’t turn, keep going straight

·         Up Front -- keep the gangline stretched out tight, stay "up front"

·         Whoa -- stop

Fighting -- What Causes It and How to Stop It

Fighting is the single most difficult obstacle to overcome in working a Malamute team. Malamutes, as a breed, hold fighting to be one of their First Amendment rights and if given the chance will happily morph from a working team into a ten-dog furball. To put it in a nutshell, fighting will not be tolerated at all, under any circumstances.

Fights start when the dogs lose their concentration and don't focus on pulling. When a fight breaks out, it is imperative that it be stopped immediately. One of the effective methods of stopping a fight is to whack the aggressor across the muzzle, and to use a great deal of force in doing it. For this purpose, it may be necessary to use something as drastic as a length of ax handle or heavy broom handle, with a jingler attached to it. Always bear in mind that in the long run, it is far kinder to the dogs to break the fight up quickly (though the immediate result may be quite painful) than to let them inflict serious damage on each other. Ultimately, even though you may not believe it at first, fights will be eliminated.

During a fight, the dogs are in a heightened emotional state, and if you become hysterical or lose your temper, you are only adding fuel to the fire, so to speak. Even though you may be taking extreme physical actions against the aggressor(s), keep your voice quiet and calm! (Much easier said than done)

The Art of Passing -- Other Dogs, Not the Buck

Inevitably you are going to encounter other dogs, whether it be another team or loose dogs. The Malamutes must be taught to ignore these inviting distractions. Again, focus on pulling is the key. If they are concentrating on their work, they do not become interested in the other dogs. At first you may find it necessary to run beside them in order to correct any tendency to swerve towards the other team or loose dogs. Keep the dogs focused on their work by grabbing an offender’s tugline and pulling backwards, along with the command to "pull" in order to redirect their attention to the job at hand. Soon they will reach the point where no attention is paid to other teams, loose dogs, or even terribly inviting distractions like horses running in a pasture.

At the "dog mushing camp", held by Jamie Nelson (defending champion of Minnesota’s John Beargrease Sled Dog Race), there would be as many as four teams of Malamutes working abreast, passing back and forth. When Jamie first told the participants about this exercise, they were all terrified at the prospect. But Jamie insisted they could do it successfully. Much to everyone’s surprise, they were able to do it, and no fighting or challenging occurred.

A Word About Equipment

An elastic, stretchable loop, called a shock absorber, is used to attach the gangline to the sled or cart or four-wheeler. The purpose of the shock absorber is to lessen the impact on the dogs if the sled or cart should hit a tree, for example, and come to an instantaneous stop. In addition to the shock absorber, a safety line is also used between the gangline and the cart or sled. The purpose of the safety line is to keep the gangline from pulling free and releasing the dogs in the event the shock absorber should break.

A quick release line is used to attach the sled or cart to an anchoring object during the harnessing process. This line can be released with just a single pull. It allows the musher to release the line with one hand while hanging on to the cart or sled for dear life with the other hand.

If you are running the dogs on snow, a snow hook should be on your sled. This is a large hook which can be stamped down into the snow to provide an anchor should you need to get off the sled.

Harnesses are of the "over the back" type, where the pull comes from the back. They should fit snugly around the neck. The objective is to have them fit tight enough so they do not slide down over the dog’s shoulders, impeding the free and natural movement of the dog.

The dogs are fitted with a limited-slip collar. This collar is adjustable and is made out of heavy webbing. It will only tighten up a limited amount, so that no dog can inadvertently be choked

The lead dog has a short jerkline attached to its collar to facilitate moving or correcting the dog. If a double lead dog combination is used, they are not coupled to each other via necklines. This is to prevent one from dragging the other off in the wrong direction.

Indelicate Subjects -- Watering, Peeing and Pooping

The dogs are moderately hydrated at least one hour prior to running. Then they are put on a picket line in order to attend to those indelicate necessities. During the run itself, no "bio breaks" are allowed. In other words, if they have to eliminate or urinate, they must learn to do so on the run. If a dog suddenly stops in order to eliminate, it throws the entire team into chaos. Therefore when this happens, it is imperative that the culprit immediately receives a correction and the team must keep going.

It’s even worse when the lead dog comes to a sudden halt. If a lead dog persists in either unauthorized watering of trees or fertilizing of the trail, one solution is move the dog back into the team. Then an unauthorized halt will often result in the offender being dragged by the rest of the rest of the team. When the team is stopped for a rest break, of course they are allowed to relieve themselves as needed.

Putting It All Together -- The Keys to Success 

·         Patience -- infinite amounts of it

·         Consistency -- consistency in corrections and expectations

·         Praise -- always praise them for doing well, cover your corrections with praise

·         Focus -- keep their minds on pulling

·         Drag -- always keep them pulling against resistance

·         Slow -- keep them working slowly, never allow them run "pell mell" like gangbusters (for ½ mile)

·         No fighting -- fighting is not an option, swift and painful corrections for all participants

·         Rewards -- reward them for doing well, stop and give them all a hug and a treat

Keep your expectations realistic. Yes, expect a lot out of them, for they can deliver. But don’t expect every run to be trouble-free. Most runs are not. But then when that special run does come along, when they are strung out in front of you and pulling hard, and you realize the power and strength of these dogs, you will know it was all worth it.


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