Jordie is a rescue from Nunavut, Iqaluit – Jordie and his siblings had two days to get out of Nunavut or they would be shot to death. No one in Nunavut felt like looking after another litter of puppies – a common problem in Canada’s northernmost territory. Jordie was one of the lucky ones – he got out just in time, escaping a cruel death fostered on many innocent dogs for no reason of their making. A traumatic plane ride for a litter of frightened puppies so they could escape certain death – the day after Jordie arrived in Ottawa I picked him up and brought him home to my dog pack.
On the behavioral scale Jordie was in the high intensity zone
On a scale of 1 to 10, he was a 5
A Little About Jordie’s Heritage
The Alaskan Malamute is named after an Inuit tribe called the Malhemut, who lived in northwestern-Alaska. This tribe was nomadic. They used the dogs to haul the tribe’s possessions. The Alaskan Malamute is an Arctic Spitz dog and is considered to have descended from the boreal wolf. The breed has a long- standing history with the North American First Peoples who used the Alaskan Malamute to hunt polar bears and wolves, to guard herds of caribou and pull sleds.
The Alaskan Malamute is a physically powerful dog bred for stamina rather than speed. They are tenacious in nature, posses an excellent sense of smell and direction. They are extremely loyal and intelligent and if treated properly are very sweet of nature and friendly to humans. True to their ancient heritage they retain pack instinct; this can make them prone to outbreaks of aggression when in the company of other dogs. Due to their strength and general attributes, an education consisting of firm, calm assertive direction and correction from their human pack leader is essential and will ensure that the best of this breed’s nature is brought out.
It is thought that the German Shepherd dog (GSD) may be a descendent of the wolf – some say the Bronze Age wolf. Around 700 A.D. there was a similar sheepdog with a lighter coat than the present day Shepherd. By the onset of the 16th century the coat was of a darker shade. The present day German Shepherd was bred in the 1880’s by a German Cavalry officer named von Stephanitz. During the 1920’s, the breed was imported to Britain and the Commonwealth. Up until the 1970’s, in Britain the GSD breed was known by the name ‘Alsatian’ or ‘Alsatian Wolf’ Dog. These alternate names for the German Shepherd were used to avoid the negative association attributed to the GSD post World War I.
The German Shepherd is an intelligent, loyal, faithful and obedient dog with highly developed senses. The German Shepherd is an energetic dog and as such requires a lot of exercise. These attributes make the dog an easy breed to train as a working dog and a companion dog. German Shepherds were used extensively in World War I, and are employed today as police dogs, seeing-eye dogs, avalanche dogs, herding dogs to name a few occupations. This is a breed that loves children. Many think of this breed as an aggressive dog; however aggressive tendencies in this dog are present only when induced by intentional or unintentional mishandling/misdirection by humans.
Not long after Shanny (my first German shepherd x Malamute dog) passed away, I contacted a local rescue group and asked that if they ever came across a German shepherd x Malamute that they please give me a call. Not long after the rescue group called me back – and that is where Jodie’s story begins…
Jordie joined my pack when he was ten weeks old. Jordie is a rescue from Iqaluit. The rescue group received a call from their contact in Iqaluit. The contact let the group know that there was a litter of German Shepherd x Alaskan Malamute pups who were going to be shot within the next few days as no one wanted to take responsibility for these puppies. The puppies were thrown food once a day and then left to fend for themselves – and as no one wanted to expend any more food resources on them the pups’ time of grace was at an end. I let the rescue group know that I would take one of the puppies. The rescue moved quickly to make arrangements to have the pups flown out of Iqaluit. The litter of puppies arrived in Ottawa and I adopted Jordie the next day.
Jordie arrived from Iqaluit in August, it was 30 degrees in Ottawa and he was one hot puppy! He was only ten weeks old, but he was already 20 pounds – he was just like a little tank – first I named him Jordie and then I gave him his first nickname ‘Tonka Tank’.
On the way home from picking Jordie up he threw up in the car – this little guy had motion sickness! When the puppies were flown out of Iqaluit they all threw up on the plane – I realized that I would have to cure Jordie of vehicle anxiety motion sickness and his aversion to traveling by means other his own four legs! This would be a case of proving that ‘persistence really does pay’. Although he was not initially thrilled (he would foam at the mouth, drool and throw up) at the notion – I persisted in taking Jordie with me in the car. As Jordie associated travel with stress I needed to show him that travel was OK. I persisted, and after about twelve months Jordie became comfortable with vehicles and the symptoms of his travel stress – motion sickness disappeared.
Jordie was immediately accepted by the other dogs in my pack. He was an easy-going puppy who just loved to play with the other dogs. Although Abby at 18 months of age was considerably older than Jordie, the two immediately formed a close bond.
Jordie was excellent with all of the dogs in my pack – if another dog tried to engage Jordie in a challenging manner, Jordie would act to diffuse the situation with non-contact physical and verbal communication.
At six months of age Jordie started to show signs of dog to dog aggressive reactivity. Jordie’s reactivity was not directed at the other dogs in my pack but instead at some dogs we would encounter when we were out (i.e. in pet supply stores, dog parks).
His reactivity was acute and I immediately put him on a course to correct his behaviour. He was soon back to his normal, friendly state of being with everyone.
When foster dogs arrived Jordie was always the first to greet them and offer to play. If another dog tried to engage Jordie in a challenge Jordie would diffuse the situation with calm. Jordie is a big sweet, loving and lovable boy.
Dog to Dog Food Aggression
As a result of having to fend for himself (along with his puppy pack-mates in Iqaluit), particularly for food, Jordie started off with some food-related behavioral issues.
Jordie was openly aggressive if any other dog was nearby when he was eating. When he had bolted his food down (in such haste he would choke), he would then proceed to the other dogs’ bowls and try to steal food from them. He would grab treats with such haste that fingers would be bitten. He would counter surf, grabbing anything he thought was appealing (only when you’re back was turned, smart guy). Jordie needed to be taught a full range of manners and limits around food.
Gifts Offered by a Gentle Soul
Like all dogs, Jordie has many gifts to give if you are listening and paying attention. Dogs will forgive your mistakes, show and tell you many things about yourself – if you are alert to them. They will work for you if you ask them too. They will also work for you even if you do not ask them; however if you are not aware you will not see how they seek to help you.
Jordie’s greatest gift to me and the other dogs in my pack is his heart of gold, his willingness to accept others and the graciousness he employs when engaging with other dogs.
I put Jordie and his gift to work. Both Robbie my Boxer x Pit Bull and Sarah my German Shepherd x Husky had no idea of how to play with another dog.
Both Robbie and Sarah, associated being off-leash and interacting with another dog as time to go berserk, over-threshold at an intensity that was dominating and aggressive. In this state, Robbie and Sarah where a poor choice of play partners as they brought out the worst in each other and enabled the association of play = aggression. This association can make a dog, as it could a human very dangerous.
This state is so close to crossing the line to full-blown aggression which can and often does result in fights among dogs of the same household – add a few other tendencies, such as insecurity and the dangers become real. The threshold between intense aggressive play to a fight can happen quickly – presenting a real danger to the dog, other dogs and the human.
Because Jordie can be both gentle and firm, and he knows when to engage, disengage and defuse, he is the perfect teacher’s to assist. In a situation such as Robbie’s and Sarah’s over-threshold style of ‘play’ Jordie was a good candidate to assist me.
This process would not work if I allowed fear to enter my mind – fear feeds aggression. When working on issues like this, I need to be grounded, confident in myself and the dogs. I have to believe and appreciate the present and not dwell in the past.
Interacting with Wild Animals
Jordie has another gift. Shanny had this gift as well – to even a greater extent than Jordie. Wild animals tolerate his immediate presence.
Jordie loves to play and he can get excited at times, but his natural disposition is calm and gentle. Evidence of his gentleness is his innate ability to adjust his manner of play, to suit his play companion. If the other dog is small like Carmen, Jordie will get on his back and just duel with his mouth and paws. Jordie would never knowingly hurt another being. Jordie is happy, curious and confident canine.
I have been out with the pack, on an off-leash walk and as we often do, we encountered a small group of deer. I instructed the dogs to stay and be quite. Jordie was permitted first by me and then by the deer to approach, he then stayed with the deer for a while as the rest of us watched. When the deer decided to walk off (not run), Jordie went for a short distance with the deer. When I called him back he immediately returned to the pack.
On the road and trails walks, we frequently encounter deer – sometimes crossing the road just in front of us, or we turn a corner on the trail and suddenly come upon the deer three or four feet away from us. There are no issues over these encounters. I provide my dogs with direction and they are all calm. If one dog starts to get excited, I shut the excitement down – this prevents escalation or transfer of the excited state to the other dogs in the pack.