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
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.
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
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 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.