Does your Mal have a Job?Mulan doing her job

One thing I've touched on here and there throughout the website is that every Malamute needs a JOB. So I thought I'd elaborate on what I mean by that... A job can be anything that your Malamute does every day, takes pleasure in doing, and he feels makes him a contributing member of your pack. Here are a few examples:

Riggs' job is Alpha dog - running the pack and watching over the other dogs. He is also "waker-upper" - as soon as he knows we are waking up he puts the word out to the other dogs (so they can all howl and carry on for breakfast). Riggs is also the one that tells us when someone is sick or not feeling well. He takes that job very seriously, even now that he's older and isn't feeling well himself some of the time. He also has a night job. After we go to bed, he leaves the bedroom and sets up camp in front of the main door. No one can come or go without his knowing - he thinks he's protecting us - the Alpha dog's ultimate job! (He also follows the Comcast guys around when they come to fix something - he has his favorites - like Jesse that he just sort of watches...but others he keeps a closer eye on and even makes a point of being between them and us just to make sure we are safe.)

Pod's job is "Yes Man" and co-waker upper, and more recently "Spokes-Dog". Whenever Superman starts howling, she chimes in with a "yes, baby...he's right...we want to go out...I agree". She NEVER starts the complaining, but she does finish it. She also did this for Gracie as well. She also is yes-man when Riggs starts the wake-up howling, and will be one of the first to start the pack to howl.

Gracie's job was being "Showdog" and 2nd pack enforcer. Every week she went to dog class to practice her "showing". She has to stand on the grooming table and get "Pretty". She considered showing her job and woooos like crazy on the days she knew she was going to class. She was also the enforcer of the sub-pack of Pod, Superman and herself. If she felt either of them were doing something they shouldn't, she'd yell at them to stop. Without Gracie, Superman and Pod have been absorbed into the larger pack - which is quite interesting in and of itself.

Mocha is official cuddlier. If I don't feel well, she will sit in bed with me and watch over me. That used to be her mom Jazzy's job, but now it's hers. She has extended this to being right next to me on the toilet (which is not always appreciated). She has recently made herself a new job - Bunny feeder. She reminds me every morning to feed Pig the bunny - and her reward is being able to come in the room and talk to Pig (though Pig considers her more of a nuisance than a friend).

Theodore and Simone are still looking for jobs...though Theo thinks counter surfer would suit him just fine. He tries to be the "good boy" to Simone's "bad girl". Not really a job, but it's funny watching him try and figure out something he can do to fit into the pack. I have been bringing them into the bathroom with me when I take a shower - I call them my "shower dogs" - which gives them a job (to keep me company at a specified time). It's made a big difference in their behavior.

Superman is the investigator. Before having to be leashed when he went outside he would be the first to investigate something unusual or interesting. Unfortunately it's difficult to do that when you must be leashed or you will go over the fence. While Superman also goes to dog class, being "pretty" is not enough for such a busy guy who really needs more than one or two small jobs. To add another, we've been having him sit next to us (on leash so he stays out of trouble) while ether of us is typing on the computer. It's made a big difference in his personality and he often asks to do this "job", as simple as it is.

Jazz is the primary enforcer and the new Alpha Bitch. She makes sure everyone follows the rules (even if she doesn't). She inherited this job from Holly who used to have it. If someone misbehaves she will correct them. Unfortunately, this job is interesting because what the enforcer considers misbehaving is not always what WE would consider misbehaving and can also start a lot of trouble. She is particularly hard on Pod and Simone, because she doesn't like them much so they have much more stringent rules to follow (in her eyes). Being a female Alpha is not a role I'd choose for her mainly because she's an "insecure" alpha - but the others acknowledge it so it is. Insecure alphas tend to cause more problems than they fix - but since the others let her (especially Mula & Mocha)...there's no harm in letting her think she's that important! She likes the power trip I think.

Holly was kitchen dog but has since passed on and the job went to daughter Mulan. Mula is still learning how to clean a yogurt container better than the dishwasher without any toothmarks - like Holly could. If I'm cooking she is right there catching anything before it hits the floor, just like Holly did. Sometimes she is TOO enthuastic. She gets to lick dishes that require licking. This is THE most important job in a pack of housedog Malamutes, next to Alpha. While Holly considered herself Alpha, Mula doesn't much care (she lets Jazzy have that job). Mula just likes that she has special status in her new job - and the perks are great.

Mula's first job was to take care of her puppies - and that has recently evolved to taking care of Riggs when he goes out at night. If he goes outside, she wants to go out with him and keeps an eye on him and scans the yard perimeter. I think they all realize Riggs is getting old, so they all in some way or another watch over him even though he's "alpha". Mula used to be "Spokes-dog", telling me when someone in the pack wants to do something - such as go outside, but now that she's been promoted to Kitchen Dog, Pod has taken that job. After all, she has one of the most prestegious jobs in the pack...she gets to lick the dishes before they go in the dishwasher. She LOVES her new responsibilities.

Some of the jobs that I've seen consistently over the years are Alpha, Yes man, Waker-upper, Kitchen dog, Spokesdog, and Enforcer. Since we have more dogs than jobs, it's common for a dog to invent a job based on what they think needs doing (such as Mocha determining that I should feed the bunny every morning. She knows I tend to forget, hence she reminds me). She has also determined I require cuddles in the evening and has also made that her job as well. It's also common in small packs for each dog to have more than one job. The jobs the pack seems to feel are most important are Alpha and Enforcer. I personally think "enforcer" is a pain in the butt - from a human perspective it just makes for trouble (the enforcer thinks they have to "teach" the other dogs their place in the pack and enforce "rules" by picking fights) - but it is apparently VERY important to the dogs. We've always had an enforcer even though it's a job description that I would love to eliminate!

Your dog may do other things as well. For example, in Alvin's home - he is the kid waker-upper - making sure the teenagers get up for school. Tova made it her responsibility to raise and watch over orphan kittens. Jack and Frosty both watched out for the cats and made sure they had no fights (an "Alpha" job).

Max is still looking for a job. He's only a "puppy" still at 1 1/2 so I'm sure he'll get one soon - he's been trying out different jobs such as Pod-Protector and Toy Killer but none have really worked out just yet. As for Superman and Theodore, their jobs are mainly "heir apparents"...in other words, Superman knows he get the Alpha job after Riggs so is content being "alpha" of his little pack of Pod or Mocha & Jazzy. He also thinks he's THE "stud" after the unplanned breeding with Pod. Theo is also Alpha of a micro pack - Mulan & Simone. Both are content with their minor-Alpha status for now since they are cool with Riggs being the big Alpha.

A Malamute needs a job because it's part of his identity. It gives him purpose beyond just existing. It's not optional. They are "working" dogs so it's necessary that they work - even if it's something we'd consider silly or unimportant. It doesn't have to be a real job (though some dogs have them and that's even better) such as pulling a sled, hauling wood, or protecting puppies. The thing you have to be careful about is that you can accidentally create "bad" jobs - such as garbage rummager or counter surfer if you aren't careful and don't correct. While the mal may think this is a very important and necessary job, it's usually not as appreciated by humans.

Some other family jobs have included helping Mom walk the kids to the bus stop (Harley) or helping me walk my kindergarden kids to school (Penny), though you should never allow a mal to do this alone - they probably will not come back! Walks to the mailbox for the mail. "Supervising" while you do yard work (Koani). And one of their favorites, accompanying you to the grocery store to bring back the food (if trustworthy in the car with groceries). Bringing home the groceries is quite a high-status job in the Mal kingdom because it's not just a job - but a status job. The hunters have brought back food for the pack! Even if you just go for walks with your dog, put a backpack on him - he'll feel like he's doing a job and will be much less "spastic" running to and fro looking for smells - somehow the backpack helps him feel like he's working, so he settles down and gets to work and takes the walk seriously as a "job".

Going to an obedience class weekly, or doing a classroom demonstration for your child's school can also be a "job". If you have young kids the number of jobs is endless - watching over them while they play, floor clean up, "helping" pick up toys (I call this supervising...), keeping them occupied (playing), and more. It just takes some creativity.

By the age of 2 every Malamute should have a job of some sort, if nothing more than sitting under your desk at regular times while you read your email (a great job for senior mals)! It's the consistency of doing something day after day, something perceived as important, that makes it a job. A Malamute with a job, no matter how small the job is, is a better behaved dog because he has a routine and knows what to expect. He has a purpose. He is a working dog true to his heritage.