Activities you can do with your Malamute


Day walk at ToolangiBackpacking is an enjoyable, albeit sometimes strenuous, activity for you and your Malamute. Anyone can join in as long as they and their dog are in good health, are reasonably fit and have the right equipment.

The only specialised equipment you'll need is a canine backpack for your dog - these can be obtained through the club and are made from heavy-duty cordura with adjustable straps so that the pack can be fitted to your dog. Apart from that you'll require a sturdy lead (6 - 8 feet long is ideal) & collar, weight for the backpack (if you are seeking the Working Pack Dog title), water & water bowl for your dog, rubbish bags, sensible footwear, warm & waterproof clothing, human backpack, food & drink, sunscreen, hat, insect repellant, etc. Walkers must also carry their own basic first aid items. Be aware that dogs are to be kept on lead at all times and always remain the responsibility of their owner.

BackpackingIf you are just interested in hiking with your dog for fun, then you can put items such as food, drink and clothing in his pack - as much or as little as you like. Anyone is welcome to join in on our walks - your dog doesn't have to carry weight if you are not seeking to obtain a title, and you don't have to complete the full distance.

Training should begin with walking you dog with a lightly loaded pack to get him used to the feel of it, and to ensure that the pack is fitted correctly and is comfortable for the dog. Once the dog is used to wearing the pack, gradually increase the weight in the pack and the distance of your walks. By building up the weight in this way, any problems with your dog or the backpack should become apparent before you find yourself miles from anywhere participating in a backpacking event. A badly fitted pack will not only be uncomfortable, but may rub the skin raw or cause injury, so if you're not sure that you've adjusted the pack correctly, please find someone to assist you.

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Picnic Walk at Mt MacedonWorking Pack Dog Title:

The AMCV offers a Working Pack Dog title which is available to registered Alaskan Malamutes who have met the requirements set out under the AMCV's Working Dog Title Program. The rules and application forms for the Working Pack Dog (WPD) can be obtained from the Backpacking co-ordinator or the Secretary. To qualify for the WPD title your dog must carry 30% of its body weight for a minimum of 16 km on four occasions - a dog weighing 40 kg would therefore have to carry 12 kg of weight, which is the equivalent of 12 litres of water. We do not recommend that you and/or your dog attempt this unless you are both fit, healthy and have done some training.

Obviously you will require a sturdy backpack which is sufficiently large to hold the required weights. The weight is usually made up of something that is dense yet can mould to the shape of your dog: bags of rice, bags of damp sand and/or a soft pack of water (similar to the bladder of a wine cask) are suitable. It is also important that you know how to adjust the pack so that it is fitted correctly and is most comfortable for the dog.

The AMCV holds several backpacking events each year at various venues around Victoria (usually within 2 hours drive of Melbourne), and anyone with a healthy and fairly fit dog is welcome to come along. Further information about backpacking with your dog and AMCV backpacking events can be obtained from the club newsletter, The Malamute Mail, or by phoning the AMCV Backpacking Co-ordinator.

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Sled dog event at HeathcoteSledding

Sled dog racing is one of the many activities that the club is involved in and it is a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your dog. So, what do we need and how do we do it?

You will need the following to get started: a racing harness (which ideally should be custom made for your dog), a scooter (usually a modified BMX bike), a bungee line (a 2 metre length of poly-rope incorporating a short section of elastic shock cord), a bike helmet and, most importantly, a dog over 12 months of age (can be either entire or desexed). Your dog doesn't need to be particularly fast, in fact most Malamutes will just plod along at their own pace, but your dog does need to be in good health and reasonably fit (and so does the musher!) to compete.

You will need to teach your Malamute commands such as left turn (or "haw"), right turn (or "gee"), go ("hike up", "let's go", etc.) and, most importantly, stop ("whoa up"). A lot of this basic training can be done with your dog on lead.

Snow sledding at Dinner PlainThe number one priority with any of our events is the welfare of the dogs, and the rules reflect this. Anyone who jeopardises their dog's wellbeing may risk disqualification. We are not out there to win races, but primarily to have a good time working as a team with our dogs. To prevent the dogs suffering from heat stress there is a maximum temperature restriction of 15oC, so sled dog events are only scheduled from late autumn to very early spring and commence early in the morning or in the evening.

Venues for the sport are limited as dogs are not permitted in National Parks. The only snow area that allows dogs (with the relevant permit) is Dinner Plain, near Mt Hotham. This is the venue of our club's annual Snow Trip which is a fun weekend Sledding 2-dog teamthat provides a good opportunity to try your hand at sledding on snow. Currently a majority of our club races are held on dirt tracks at the You Yangs Reserve near Lara, and in the state forests near Heathcote. Trail distances start at about 3 km for the 1-dog class in sprint races, and can be quite a lot more for larger teams, and for freight and endurance runs.

The club provides brochures and an Introduction to Sledding booklet to those who attend Acvitities Introduction days and are newcomers to sledding events.

If you think that you and your dog would like to try sled dog racing, we encourage you to come along to a race event or training day. Training days are held at the beginning of the season (late April/early May) and a calendar of events can be obtained from the Secretary or the Sledding Co-ordinator, and is also published in the AMCV's bimonthly newsletter, "The Malamute Mail".

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Dog Show at Bulla Exhibition CentreDog Showing

Your Alaskan Malamute needs to be purebred with ANKC registration papers (main register) and must be an entire dog or bitch (ie. not desexed) a minimum of 3 months old. Your Malamute needs to conform relatively closely to the Breed Standard, which is the written description of the ideal Alaskan Malamute (see elsewhere in this info pack), but keep in mind that no dog is perfect and that every dog will have its good and bad points. Your dog will, of course, need to be clean and nicely presented.

Equipment: You will need a suitable show lead and collar. Choose something unobtrusive but strong such as a reasonably fine correction chain or nylon collar and a thin nylon lead in a colour that blends in with your dog or outfit. Clothing and foot-ware should be sensible, clean and neat, and should complement (not hide or distract from) your dog. Always take water and a bowl, some form of shade and some means of confining your dog – a dog crate is ideal for this.

Show details: Show Schedules are published in "VicDog", the monthly magazine of the Victorian Canine Association (VCA). You will need to be a member of the VCA to receive this publication. The schedule will include the time, date and venue for the show, entry fees, where to send your entry, who the judges are, closing date for entries and other details. Entries for a show usually close about one month before the show is to be held, so you have to plan one month ahead.

Dog Show JudgingEntry forms: Booklets of show entry forms can be obtained from the VCA for $3.00 for 50 forms or $5.50 for 100. They can also be purchased from other outlets that sell dog related goods, such as the vendor caravans which come along to most dog shows. All dog show entries must be filled out on these forms and most of the information you need to complete the form will be found on your dog's registration papers. You will also need to know which age class to enter you dog in – keep in mind that this is based on the dog's age at the commencement of the show.

What you need to teach your dog: Your dog needs to be tolerant of being handled and having his teeth and testicles (for male dogs only of course!) checked by the judge. Your dog must also have a good temperament towards other dogs as they are often placed in very close proximity to each other in the show ring, and may be confined at a dog show for long hours close to many other dogs of all breeds. Your dog will need to be trained to stand still in a show "stack" and gait at a "show trot". It is almost impossible for a judge to assess a dog that won't stand still and otherwise misbehaves in the ring.

Other requirements: A good sense of humour and sportsmanship is a must. If you are going to get upset if you don't win, then dog showing is probably not the hobby for you. Remember that when you enter a dog show, you are paying for the judges opinion of your dog relative to the others in the competition on the day. What one judge chooses one day could well be the opposite of what a different judge chooses the next day, so it pays to persevere. Whether you win or lose, you will still have enjoyed a day's outing with your dog.

Dog Show at KCC ParkYou will also need to be prepared to get up early on the weekend. Most dog shows commence at 9 am and, as Malamutes are the 2nd breed in Group 6 after Akitas, you will usually need to be at the venue well before the show starts so that you and you dog are ready on time. Always check the show schedule: occasionally shows have reverse order judging, sometimes Group 6 is divided between two or more judges, and sometimes the Alaskan Malamute Judge may also be judging other breeds or groups prior to judging Group 6.

More information: For advice about any aspect of showing and hands on practical training, bring you Malamute along to the Activity days or contact the AMCV Show Secretary if you have any queries. Dogs Victoria produces a booklet called "About Dogs N' Shows" which they will send to members on request - see their website for contact details.

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Weight Pull eventWeight Pulling

Weight pulling is a timed event in which each dog is allowed 60 seconds to pull the weight-pull trolley a distance of 16 feet. The dog must qualify for the event by first pulling the empty trolley, which weighs 160 kg. After each dog has attempted the pull, the trolley is loaded with more weight and each dog who successfully pulled the previous weight is again given 60 seconds to pull the higher weight. A dog is out of the competition if it fails to pull the loaded trolley, and that dog's result gets recorded at the highest weight that it successfully pulled. In the event that two or more dogs finish up the competition having pulled the same weight, then the dog that pulled that weight in the quickest time is placed the highest.

To be successful in weight-pulling, your dog needs to be trained to pull on voice command, as the handler is not permitted to use any form of bait or enticement to get the dog to pull in competition. The dogs that generally perform the best are not necessarily the largest dogs, so don't think your Malamute won't do well just because it is not a particularly large or strong-looking specimen of the breed. The dogs that perform well are more often those with good pulling technique and the right attitude – these dogs really want to pull and have learnt to lean into their harnesses to get the weight-pull trolley moving. The AMCV offers 5 weight-classes for the dogs competing in its events so that smaller dogs are not competing against significantly larger dogs. The results of the competition are based on the overall weight that the dog pulled within the class, as well as weight to weight ratio, that is, how much the dog pulled relative to its body weight.

Weight Pulling eventAll that you need to compete in AMCV Weight-Pull events is a dog over twelve months of age and a correctly fitting weight-pull harness. Your dog does not need to be registered and does not even need to be a Malamute in order to participate in events, but keep in mind that as a breed club, the AMCV is only able to offer major prizes for the purebred, registered participants. Minor prizes are however awarded to dogs that do not fit this criteria. It is also advisable that you have your dog's hips x-rayed and assessed for soundness before participating in weight-pulling or any other strenuous activity.

The AMCV has several harnesses that members are able to borrow, but you must make sure before borrowing any harness that it fits your dog reasonably well. An ill-fitting harness can make weight-pulling uncomfortable for your dog, and may even cause injury. For this reason it is best to have your dog measured and fitted for a weight-pull harness by someone who has experience in this field, and Activity days are an ideal place to have this done.

For more information on weight-pulling contact the AMCV Weight-Pull Co-ordinator, or come along to a Activity day (see this info pack for details) or harness work training day – details of these are published in the AMCV bimonthly newsletter, The Malamute Mail.

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Malamute obedience classObedience

The Alaskan Malamute can be a very independent and stubborn breed that often won’t do anything without good reason. It is important that all Malamute owners obedience train and socialise their dogs from an early age for this reason, preferably with a reputable obedience club or organisation.

Obedience training, as well as teaching good manners and house rules, should start as soon as you get your puppy.  An untrained Malamute may be cute when they are still little, but will soon turn into a large, energetic, uncontrollable, destructive dog if left undisciplined - hence the numerous phone calls and emails the club receives from people wanting to "get rid" of their adult Malamutes. Often these people have not done their research into the breed or been prepared to discipline, socialise or obedience train their dogs.

This doesn't mean that an older dog can't be trained, the Malamute is a very intelligent breed that will learn very quickly no matter what age, particularly if food rewards are given at the right times during training as an incentive!

Obedience - StandIt is very important early in your Malamute's life to establish yourself, your family and any other human being as being higher in the pecking order than your dog. You must show your dog that you are the "pack-leader". This does not mean using physical punishment, but it does mean that you have to earn your Malamute’s respect by being extremely firm and letting him know that you mean what you say. Once you have issued a command, don’t let him get away with not doing what you have asked. Every time you let your Mal get his way you are undermining your authority and you will end up with a dog that thinks he’s the boss, which can be unpleasant to live with when its a large, strong dog such as the Alaskan Malamute.

Remember that when you go to obedience school with your dog, YOU are the one who will be receiving instruction on how to train your dog - the dog is not there to learn from the instructor. For this reason obedience classes usually last for about an hour - your dog may not have such a long concentration span (especially a puppy) but the handler should! 

If you would like help or advice about obedience training your Malamute, no matter how young or old, please feel free to contact the AMCV Obedience Co-ordinator, or join in our obedience practice sessions and Activity Days. We also recommend that you and your Malamute attend a weekly all-breeds obedience club so that you can learn how to train your Malamute and, at the same time, socialise your Malamute with people and other dogs.

We recommend any of Dogs Victoria affiliated Obedience Clubs - go to their website at for details.

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