MALAMUTES OF DISTINCTION
Camborne
Cornwall, ENGLAND
e info@zenfro.co.uk
irene bessem
sonja bright

The Zenfro Breeding Philosophy


1) BREEDING IS THE ART OF COMPROMISE.


We do not live in an ideal world where absolute perfection is obtainable. Therefore, when breeding dogs, we must exercise selective judgment, common-sense, a wealth of practical knowledge based on years of experience and research, be able to prioritize all the information we have at hand when planning a particular breeding, and last, but definitely not least, a good dose of LUCK ! In practical terms, the knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder stacks his/her hand with breeding aces (pedigree and excellent quality dogs) and hopes for the best.

Breeding is not just a question of indiscriminately mating two animals together without any rhyme or reason, but it encompasses both the science of genetics and the art of the breeders creative flair. Breeding dogs could well be described as GENETIC SCULPTING. It is both an awesome responsibility and one of the greatest joys known to mankind.

2) UNDERSTANDING THE BREED STANDARD.

The standard for the Alaskan Malamute is not an easy one to understand. There is no way any of us can have first hand experience of the environment in which the Alaskan Malamute evolved in, over thousands of years, therefore all we really have to go on is the breed standard and what it means in practice. Herein lies the problem. The standard is not a standard for perfection as for some breeds (e.g. German Shepherd) but was written as a COMPROMISE between the different strains that make up the modern day Alaskan Malamute. These strains were quite different from each other and because of this factor the standard allows for a fair amount of latitude and flexibility. This is not to say the standard is not a good one, but simply, that it allows the breeder flexibility to produce their own style of Malamute.
The only guideline is to intelligently interpret the standard and measure our malamutes against it without personal prejudice. For example, we may prefer a 27 in dog or a 26 in bitch but as responsible guardians of the breed we must put our prejudice aside and aim for the ideal.

First of all I want a malamute of strength and sound structure. When I watch a malamute move I want to get the impression of unusual strength and tremendous propelling power. To achieve this I want a dog where all the different parts are integrated to produce a completely balanced symmetry. I like heavy coat, bone and substance with good "snowshoe" feet. I want a broad head with well placed dark eyes and small ears. I believe bad temperament is a no go area and no matter how nice the dog is, if it is temperamentally unsound then it should be euthanized..

3) GENETIC DEFECTS.

CHECKS FOR GENETIC DEFECTS ARE TOOLS, NOT ABSOLUTES.

No sane person sets out to breed dogs with genetic defects. In an ideal world we would breed Malamutes that are free from all genetic problems. But the knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder realizes this is not possible and that all living organisms carry lethal genes. The art of breeding is to limit the physical and mental effects of these genetic glitches. When we are breeding dogs that are closely related genetically there is obviously a greater possibility of these defects surfacing. However, if we wish to establish a line of dogs that are similar in type this is our only option. It really is a catch 22, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Therefore the knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder must be aware of these defects in their lines and be careful not to perpetuate these problems. This is where it is vital to select only the best dogs for breeding.

THE KNOWLEDGEABLE AND PRAGMATIC BREEDER ASSESSES THE WHOLE DOG.

If we eliminate a dog from our breeding program based on just one problem, then we are "throwing out the baby with the bath water". This is where the knowledgeable and pragmatic breeder must exercise good sense and judgment. They must prioritize limits and what is acceptable. For example if a top quality bitch has a hip score or rating that we consider marginal do we not breed her or do we use this knowledge and select a stud for her that has apart from all the strengths that she requires, excellent hips from a line of dogs with excellent hips? I prefer the latter option. Or if she has cataracts does this necessarily eliminate her from our breeding program? I don't think so. If we eliminated every dog with a genetic defect from breeding then there would be no dogs left to breed. Unfortunately there are literally dozens of genetic diseases affecting the Malamute including for example, thyroid, coat funk, immune deficiencies - and the list goes on. The trick is to prioritize these problems based on how they affect the quality of life of the dog. For example, I regard hip dysplasia as a far more serious problem than cataracts, as a blind or partially blind dog can still have a good quality of life, as the hearing and smell senses are as important to a dog, if not more so, than sight, whereas degenerative joint disease means the dog is in constant pain and discomfort. The dog with degenerative joint disease has an infinitely lower quality of life than the dog with cataracts.

My breeding stock are all scored for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, and although the results are not used as a determining factor, they are part of the assessment of the overall picture pertaining to the suitability of the dog as a breeding animal.

My dogs do not have probability numbers for the genetic condition of Chondrodysplasia, because of exactly the fact that they are only a probability and not as some would have us believe a clearance for this condition. In fact dogs with a rating certificate have produced Chondrodysplastic pups! When the proposed DNA test is available I will then test my dogs.

SOME BREEDING PRINCIPLES.

1) BREED ON YOUR BITCHES.

GOOD BITCHES PRODUCE GOOD DOGS.

When I breed my stud dogs to my brood bitches, they produce better puppies than bitches bred outside my kennel who are put to these same dogs. Why? Simply because my bitches are superior and their pedigrees match with the dogs. These people generally would be better advised to purchase a bitch puppy and start again.

2) BREED FOR SOUNDNESS.

THE FOUNDATION OF SELECTIVE BREEDING

Type features such as head, coat, tail-set, pigment, etc., can be bred in more easily than sound structure and movement. Movement is the most important factor of sound conformation (If a dog can move with a steady balanced gait then it follows that it possesses sound structure).

3) KNOW YOUR PEDIGREES.

THE DOGS ABILITY TO PRODUCE (GENOTYPE) IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE (PHENOTYPE)

Knowing your pedigree doesn't mean just being able to reel off a bunch of names, you must know the dogs in the pedigree and what those dogs have produced.
For example, my pedigrees are based on the famous stud dog Am Ch Uyak Buffalo Bill. Among the many outstanding progeny he produced his most famous producing son was a dog called Am Ch Karohonta Skymaster, who in turn produced the stunning Am Ch Kiwalik's Snobear of Kipnuk. All of these outstanding dogs more importantly produced outstanding dogs of the same type. These lines have consistently produced the top winning and producing dogs, such as the current number one malamutes, Am Ch Kinik's Rough Rider (Teddy) and Am Ch Snoklassic Above The Rim (AJ).

4) GRANDPARENTS NEED RESPECT.

The influence of the grandparent generation cannot be overestimated. It is my belief that the progeny more often than not resemble a grandparent more closely than either the sire or the dam. When planning a breeding do not just consider the suitability of the parents for one another, but also try to imagine each parent being bred to the opposite grandparent and also the opposite grandparents being bred together. This may give you a more accurate picture of how the progeny is likely to turn out.

5) KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING.

Always keep an open mind. None of us know it all. As you gain experience and knowledge, your understanding of the breed will deepen and evolve, and your dogs with it.
I am aiming to breed Alaskan Malamutes who primarily could fulfill their working heritage as freighting dogs in the arctic. There is much talk about the "show dog" versus the "working dog". My observation is that here in Australasia a successful working malamute is one that can run the fastest and win races which is in fact contrary to the original purpose of the breed enshrined in the breed standard. The Malamute is NOT a racing dog. However the 'racing' malamute more often than not is a poor example of the breed and if it can't win in the show ring, because of this, then, suddenly it becomes deified with the title of "Working Dog" which miraculously turns it into a "Proper" malamute.

6) ASSESS THE WHOLE DOG.

THE FOUNDATION OF SELECTION.

Being blind to the faults of your breeding stock is known as being "kennel blind" and is just as detrimental as being over critical and being blind to their strengths.
When you are breeding two animals together you must select one with the strengths to compensate for the weaknesses of the other. Don't breed to a dog just because he is a winner or an expensive import. Choose a mate that best complements your bitch.

7) ALTERNATE BREEDING STRATEGIES.

THE K & P BREEDER IS CREATIVE AND FLEXIBLE.

The k & p breeder always has alternate options to their main breeding plan in case of failure either through bad luck or an unintentional mistake. It seems sometimes that "Mr Murphy and his law" is running the breeding program instead of the breeder. It is prudent to have at least two other options "up your sleeve" besides the first choice. A dose of lateral thinking certainly stands the breeder in good stead. The old saying about "Mohammed going to the mountain" is certainly applicable in this instance.

The k & p breeder needs plenty of intestinal fortitude to withstand the heart-break and disappointment that may beset them at any time and the intelligence and flexibility to overcome these obstacles. This is the hall-mark of a successful breeder.

8) DON'T BELIEVE YOUR OWN PUBLICITY.

If you rely solely on your wins in the show ring to evaluate the quality of your dogs then you are in trouble.

9) MOST OF ALL - GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

Zenfro Alaskan Malamutes