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It has often been said that when a particular breed characteristic begins to disappear, opinions form that the trait is no longer important.  Tail-set and tail carriage of the Alaskan Malamute has become such a prolific problem that it is not unusual to find only one or two correct tails in a ring of 25 or more dogs.  ringside observers, including some prospective judges, have frequently asked me what is wrong with a certain dog's tail, only to discover that the dog in question was the only one with a correct waving plume!

The standard states that the tail is moderately set and follows the line of the spine at the base.  It is carried over the back and is not snapped or curled tight against the back.  Likewise it is not short-furred like a fox brush.  The tail should be  well furred and give the appearence of a waving plume.  to the 1935 standard gave the tail 10 points out of a 100 on the scale of importance.  In 1982 the description of the tail was clarified. but the numericle figure was dropped to 5 points on the scale.  In retrospect,  I feel that may not have been a wise decision. as it indicated to breeders and judges that tails were the lowest importance. The correct standard no longer uses a point scale, but the description is complete and easy to understand.

Common faults include tails that are tightly curled or even double curled, tail that lay flat on the back of the dog and tails that hangs sharply down one side.  In addition, some tails lack sufficient fur length, and many are too high or too low to be carried properly.  another problem that unfortunatley is gaining notoriety is the tail that is too shot or stubby.  Some actually give the appearance of being half-tails.  Many of these short tails cannot curve towards the back at all.

The ideal Malamute tail will curver nicely over the back, and only the hair on the tip of the tail may touch the back slightly when standing naturally, the tail may hang down.  This is not an indication of an incorrect tailset (in fact, quite the opposite), but rather an expression of mood when the dog is bored, tired, or resting.  When moving, the Malamute may carry the tail up in the waving plume or may trail the tail behind.  Malamutes concentrating hard when sledding or weight pulling will often trail their tails or carry them low.  tails also perform the function of "rudders" in balancing the dog when making hard turns or negotiating uneven terrain if you doubt this, watch any geritric Malamute that is become weaker in the rear and is having more difficulty walking invariably the dog will use his tail like a rudder, stiffening it from side to side for balance and steering.

The tail of the malamute is considered to be important survival characteristic.  a long, well-furred tail serves as an insulator from the cold.  It is generally felt that the tail should be long enough to at least reach the hock or slightly below in order to perform properly and efficiently.  without sufficient length and fur, the malamute cannot effectively use his tail to protect his nose and other vital organs in severely cold temperatures.  In extreme cold, the tail can be tucked between or under the  rear legs. The dog then folds into a tightly curled position, covering his nose and eyes with his tail.  The tail also serves as a mood indicator and communication tool. It can display fear,playfulness, happiness, nervousness, and agression.  there's nothing prettier than a Malamute gaiting around the showring with a correct waving and wagging in the breeze.

The argument that "they don't pull sleds with their tails"lacks merit.  It can likewise be said that the Malamute don't pull sleds with their coats, ears, eyes,bites, or heads, yet each one of those features combined correctly give the Malamute breed Type and are important elements in the standard of perfection.

Author Vicky Jones, first published in the AKC Gazette.

re printed with permission from the above.