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Personality Profiles - by Ruth Kellogg

The Alaskan Malamute is a breed with a wide range of personality types. Like its close cousin, the wolf, such diverseness in characters lends itself to stability within the social/pack structure that these dogs definitely live by. In addition to this breed’s strong pack orientation, there is an equal amount of diversity of both intelligence and confidence levels. These three factors, pack orientation, intelligence, and confidence are the foundation of each dog’s personality. Other factors such as sense of humor, reasoning skills, and, yes, even spirituality also play a part in forming “who” our furry friend is.

For many years, I have observed, assessed, recorded, and then evaluated the pups I have encountered. It has enabled me to better understand my own dogs and to counsel others regarding the education of their dogs. To be able to help each pup achieve its full potential, a basic understanding of a personality profile is needed.

Pack Orientation

For simplicity, I use the classifications of alpha, beta, gentle, and soft to label the degree of pack orientation.

Alpha dogs have a strong basic need to dominate everyone (including people) to be the leader of the pack. In a wild pack, it is necessary to have a strong leader. However, I do not believe it is of any benefit to have a true alpha dog let alone breeding it. A “true” alpha dog is not the same as a dog who assumes the alpha role. The true alpha dog is born with a very strong drive to dominate.

Beta dogs have a strong desire to lead but when their challenges are dealt with by a stronger leader, they will back down and follow another’s lead. If the individual that the Beta dog is testing or challenging does not show strong leadership, then the Beta dog will believe, in his mind, that he has won and is the leader. A Beta dog will test the leadership throughout its life. The Beta dog doesn’t have to be a large dog. A sorry example is the household that is ruled by a tough little dog.

Gentle dogs are very sweet and biddable. They are quite content to let others do all the fussing and worrying. If they are challenged, they will meet the challenge and possibly fight as they will not automatically submit to a challenge.

Soft/Omega dogs are the proverbial “bottom of the pack” dogs. They are strongly submissive and will routinely show active or passive submission to any challenge or perceived (in their minds) challenge.

As all dogs cannot be nicely slotted into one of these categories, I also use a way of determining those dogs who are not solidly in one of the above categories. The predominant “grey” areas I’ve found are between beta-gentle and between gentle-soft. Let me elaborate. A sweet dog who has an “edge” to him regarding pack placement would be designated as a Beta/Gentle. Another dog who seems even more laid back but doesn’t have the same edge or drive to challenge would be called a Gentle/ Beta. This tells me that the Beta/Gentle dog is a stronger personality than either the Gentle/ Beta or the Gentle dog. In my experience, the Gentle/Beta orientation is a wonderful sweet family companion. The Beta/Gentle is also a sweet companion but should be in either an experienced home or a home that will be activity orientated.


Intelligence levels are also an area that can affect the personality. I rate them as: Canine Einsteins, very bright, bright, average, and not-gifted. The Alaskan Malamute as a breed is on the higher end of the intelligence scale with the majority of dogs being bright or above. The intelligence factor is genetically passed. My foundation sire, Ch. Heritage’s Sparkling Orion CD CAMO, was a Canine Einstein and his high level of intelligence has definitely been passed down through the generations. (I usually find one or two Canine Einsteins in a litter of eight.)

While it may seem “neat” to live with a Canine Einstein, believe me that it can be very challenging. These individuals have incredible minds that are coupled with quick understanding, high level of reasoning, and are prone to mischief when bored and a high level of awareness of their surroundings. This high level of awareness can easily tip Canine Einsteins into sensory overload with their cognitive powers shutting down and their more primitive fight/flight reactions taking over. In my experience, Canine Einsteins are not a novice owner’s dog but should live with dedicated and experienced owners. (I currently live with five Canine Einsteins four of which are directly and generationally related. With two “bright” exceptions, the rest of my dogs are all very bright.) Even very bright individuals can be a challenge, but they can also be a delight to work with,

Confidence level

Confidence level is an important third basic factor in understanding our dog’s basic personality. A very confident dog can meet all activities and situations easily. The dog with little or no confidence requires intelligent handling so he can develop his confidence.

In assessing a dog, the basic profile may read: Beta/Gentle, very bright, confident. This profile would make an excellent show/working dog. Another profile may be Gentle/Beta, bright, fairly confident. This individual would be an excellent companion that also has potential to do a variety of activities. The two most difficult profiles are Alpha, Canine Einstein, very confident and Alpha, Canine Einstein, little confidence. Both of these dogs are, in my opinion, disasters waiting to happen with a real probability of aggression. The third profile that is also an undesirable one is Beta, Canine Einstein, little confidence. Like the two Alpha profiles, this one could also become difficult/ dangerous to live with if not handled extremely carefully.

Personalities can begin to be profiled as early as one week of age. At the one week assessment, my pups are turned tummy side up and held securely in my hands. Their wiggling, tail position, vocalization, and how quickly and completely they relax are assessed. The wiggling tells me they are uncomfortable in that position and the tail position (over genitals or loose) tells me if the discomfort is from strength of character or fear. The vocalization gives the same message. Loud and long complaining with wiggling is the sign of a strong character. The softest pups’ vocalization will be higher in pitch (sounds scared), they will wiggle, and their tail will be firmly planted over their genitals before relaxing. The degree of relaxation is also a clue, The easy going pup will quickly relax completely with head falling down, legs, and tail completely relaxed. This first evaluation is a big clue as to how the pups will react as they encounter new experiences.

My next major evaluation is at three to four weeks when the pups are carried from the whelping room and placed in a group in a different place. This could be a different room or outside (weather permitting). The more confident pups will leave the group and start exploring. Watching tail carriage is a big clue as confident pups will also carry tails high. The super bright and Canine Einstein pups will also appear at this time, I’ve spotted a certain look or shine in their eyes as they look directly at me. These pups are also the first to investigate different things such as a bell hanging from a drawer pull.

The following weeks allow a more complete assessment of the pup’s basic personality before the pups leave for their new homes. I’ve found the personality profiles extremely helpful in assisting new owners plan their pup’s education.

I would be remiss in not emphasizing that while a pup is born with a particular “personality profile”, environmental factors can radically affect the dog’s development positively or negatively.

Is it necessary to “profile” our dog’s personality? Probably not. But in doing a personality profile and assessing it from time to time, we have a small tool available to us in helping us understand our dog. This understanding of our dog’s personality helps us increase our awareness of our companion as an individual as well as help us to plan our dog’s education.

“As a dog’s owner becomes more knowledgeable and understands him more, the better the chances are for the dog to become and remain a Happy Dog!”

Copyright © 2002 Ruth Kellogg. All rights reserved.

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