By Joe Henderson Mushing.com
“Hey! Knock it off!” I scolded Johnny as he slapped the harness out of my hand and peed on it. He knows that harness is a good thing. He loves it. It’s his harness and he wants everyone to know it!
Johnny’s the boss. He’s the kingpin of the dog yard, or so he thinks. The other males keep their distance from him and they don’t dare cross his path or growl at him. They know he’ll just pin them to the ground. Johnny’s a typical dominating Alaskan malamute with a passion to indulge in a good fight once in a while. With most malamutes, this raging hormonal fighting stage lasts only a year or two, unless of course they’re Johnny, who lingered in that phase for eight years. Thank God he’s finally settled down at 10 years of age! But not all malamutes play this dominate role and have a temperament like Johnny. In understanding this behavior, let’s take a stroll through Johnny’s canine cranium and try to envision his lust for life through his eyes.
Johnny sees himself as an impressive malamute specimen. His black and white mask and black coat glistens in the morning sun. Johnny’s deep chest is supported by wide, muscular shoulders and his brushy tail curves perfectly over his back. Johnny enjoys being next to the young gals in the team and feels that no one else should be around them but him. If the other males get close to his girlfriends, Johnny reminds them who they’re messing with through a deep growl. When the other males hear his warning, they back off immediately, leaving the old grump alone. Johnny’s gotten used to be treated so well by others in the team and his ego has grown ridiculously large. Even while Johnny is hitched in the team he’s constantly showing off.
A typical day running the team with Johnny starts something like this: I hitch Johnny in wheel position. “Johnny you’re going next to Nikko…and be nice to him.” Johnny recognizes my commanding tone, yet he doesn’t understand all my words and he doesn’t care anyway. Nikko is a younger dog who’s just getting integrated into the team. He stands excitedly next to Johnny, wanting to run. But Johnny’s somewhat intimidated by Nikko, who’s grown up to be quite a large male. So, Johnny anticipates a good fight, or at least he’s looking forward to giving Nikko his best growl so he can watch the young rookie cower. At two years old, Nikko’s powerful chest and shoulders are starting to be a dominating feature of his physique, presenting a threat to Johnny’s domain.
Johnny hopes Nikko squares off with him. “Damn I’ve been looking forward to putting a scar down Nikko’s muzzle for quite some time now,” Johnny grumbles to himself. Nikko glances at him. Johnny rolls his lip above his sharp canines and lets out the snarliest growl he can muster. Nikko ignores the snarl, stiffens his legs trying to look taller than Johnny and thinks, “some day, buddy, you will be old, and then we’ll see.”