How to Train Alaskan Malamute Dogs

Updated on August 13, 2019
akirchner profile image

Audrey has owned and trained Malamutes for over 15 years from puppyhood into adulthood. She has also rescued many other dog breeds.

Alaskan Malamutes: About the Breed

Before we take a look at how best to train an Alaskan malamute, the topic of the specifics about this remarkable breed must be addressed. In order to train a malamute, one must understand this ancient breed's background and inherent behaviors.

Malamutes are one of the oldest working breeds and one of the most intelligent group of canines you will ever encounter. That said, when training a malamute, you must never expect them to be like your old black lab, Molly who was content to please you at every turn and who seemingly artlessly learned commands she never forgot.

The Alaskan malamute is known for several traits, and it is the wise owner who knows these traits from the beginning as it will make training for you both much simpler. The mal is best known (sometimes only known) for its pack behavior. Whether people like it or not, these dogs are used to a pack hierarchy mentality, and in order to communicate with them and get them to obey you, there must be a human alpha.

That extends to every part of the human family that comes into contact with the dog. This alpha position is earned by the smart owner who knows how to keep the malamute in line and garners that essential position of respect through actions and interactions with the dog.

Malamute Training Challenges

Socialization and training for the malamute can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you are not dealing with a pup. However, even starting out as a puppy in dog training classes, as the mal matures, depending on circumstances, he or she can exhibit behaviors of dominance. This does not mean that the dog is abnormal in any way. It simply means that the hereditary behavior characteristics of the dog make it more difficult to get along in a society of dogs that are not of the same temperament or "way of thinking."

If you decide to train your malamute with the idea that once trained, he or she will be 100% dependable to go to dog parks and/or run off-leash and play like other dogs, think again. In most cases, this just doesn't happen. It doesn't mean again that the dog is aggressive or defective. It simply means that this breed needs more structure than most. The key is to train the dog for the situations that do work and get he or she to behave at all times but without the illusion that the malamute will behave like other dog breeds.

Boredom is perhaps the greatest challenge in training an Alaskan malamute. This extends beyond the norm of boredom from not enough exercise, socialization, etc. A malamute is one of the most stubborn breeds you can ever deal with but again, with their high degree of intelligence, if you don't keep the training interesting, you'll be just as frustrated as they are. They will adopt the "dumb" face and act like they do not know what in the world you want from them, so always keep it interesting. And if you aren't in the mood to train your mal, don't do it. Wait until a time when you are going to be fully engaged in the training with the dog because believe me, they will know a half-hearted attempt a mile away.

Remember that all members of the dog's family must be equal participants in its training. That doesn't mean that children should be training the dog, however. Remember that these dogs are wickedly big for the most part, and small children should never be expected to "handle" these dogs or enforce behaviors. However, including children in the teaching is an excellent way to maintain the dog's "low spot" on the totem pole and convey the fact that the dog is not the alpha in the household. Participation with and respect for children in (and out of) a malamute's home are essential pieces of the puzzle that must be addressed to make living with this dog breed workable for all.

Commands to Teach a Malamute

When training any breed of dog, the goal is to selectively pick out the most important things you want them to know or the commands you feel are top priority for your mal to respond to. In determining those, you will need to have a laundry list of activities that you plan on doing with your dog. Then base the teaching of commands around those activity potentials, so when the time comes, you and the dog will be ready, and you will have a greater chance for success.

When we got two of our malamutes as puppies, we decided for instance that we would walk them a lot because they need exercise and lots of it. We decided we would walk them in busy places and we would occasionally sit outside and eat meals at cafes or drink lattes with them in tow. They therefore have to possess very good manners.

We also planned on bikejoring or scootering, snowshoeing and backpacking/hiking with them, so there of necessity needed to be some mushing commands taught. We added those to our list.

Our dogs are also part of our family, and we happen to have a lot of friends and family who visit, some with dogs. We also travel everywhere with at least two of our mals, so in addition to all the above commands, they needed to be taught manners in the car and traveling behaviors.

Our malamute need-to-know list included:

Teaching the Sit Command

  • Start with the dog in front of you while you are standing or sitting.
  • Have a piece of kibble in your hand and slowly move the kibble from the dog's nose backward over his or her head.
  • Their natural inclination will be to follow the kibble, and they will "naturally" sit as they watch it go over their head, and their body has to sit.
  • Just as the butt hits the floor and they are in the sit position, give the command sit.
  • Repeat many times and then leave it alone.
  • Randomly issue the command (with and without kibble) and keep practicing.

After you've taught your malamute this command, it's easy to move on to the next logical command, which is the down command. Simply extend the command by using the kibble, lowering it slowly from the dog's nose, between the dog's front legs to the floor. As soon as the dog is spread on the floor, say the command down.

Now move on to leave it from there or wait (putting it on the floor in front of them and not allowing them to take it until you say so) or the roll command or a variety of other commands.

Basic Obedience and Behavior Commands

  • Sit: good anywhere and easy to teach—see inset
  • Down: also good anywhere and harder to teach a mal
  • Wait: applies everywhere from going out a door to attacking their food
  • Stay: much like the wait only for longer periods of time
  • (Dog name) come: priceless—they must come to you immediately
  • Drop it: this can save a life—drop that poisonous bottle you picked up
  • Off: off the bed, off people, off the furniture
  • Leave it: do not even think about touching that or going after it
  • Out: out of the car, out the door
  • Spin: for fun and amusement—teaches them balance and makes them think
  • Hold or stand: works for exams or grooming—stand up
  • Roll: great for exams and brushing or grooming
  • Shake: just for fun—both paws—or together for more fun
  • Quiet! (good luck): just because but some are more talkative than others
  • Go get it: playing fetch—some will do it
  • Bring it: bringing it back—some will do it
  • On by: go past someone or dogs— great for close quarters
  • Up: for jumping in the car into the crate or on a low table (or their chair)

Simple Musing Commands for Mals

  • Whoa: stop!
  • Gee: turn right
  • Haw: turn left
  • Giddy up or let's go: pour on the steam—run
  • Over: move over to the side of the trail or road

That might seem like a long list but working down the list some, though similar, are unique to certain situations and others are usable anywhere and any time. Most are geared towards safety of the dog and safety of others. And some are just plain fun.

Malamutes like other breeds do have a humorous side and enjoy some activities just for fun. The important thing to remember is never to have an activity that overstimulates the dog or feeds into aggressive behavior. For instance, tug-of-war could get out of hand with the wrong malamute.

All training should be done with the idea in mind that the owner is alpha and the session begins and ends with him or her being in charge...period.

Training a Malamute Puppy

Obviously, life is much simpler when you start training a malamute as a puppy. It isn't easy, but it is easier than trying to teach an old dog new tricks...literally. However, it can be done. My oldest mal is a rescued malamute who was abused and over the course of a year, I was able to train her very well. It did take an inordinate amount of patience, however, as she fought me every step of the way.

The most important point to remember with training any dog but especially malamutes is to always end on a high note. The high note means you win, not them. Sometimes in the course of a training session, in fact almost always, if you require a mal to do a command more than once, you will meet with resistance. Or they will become very creative in the way that they execute that command. For instance, sit becomes a down, etc.

The key is to keep it ever-changing. Take them to the park to train them one day, take them out in the garage the next day. Never do the same routine of commands exactly the same way. Mix it up and interject some playtime in between. You will accomplish the same objective, but you will do it without going one on one with what I like to call the malamute frozen brain. When they decide they are done with something, it is a trial to get them to keep moving in the direction you want them to go. I have found though that as long as I end up "getting my way" that is all that matters, and it never hurts to throw some distraction into the mix.

Where to start with training?

I consider the first few items on the basic command list vital to their safety and mine. I have to know that they will sit if someone small or frail walks in the door or someone approaches suddenly around a corner with a very small dog. It is self-preservation for them and since I'm attached to the leash or they are in my circle, for me.

If I feel that they need to down in order to maintain self-control, this command is also vital to their safety and my peace of mind.

Most important of all is the recall command. I carry treats on my person at all times and randomly call one or all the dogs to me wherever I am. I try to do it from far away as well as close by. They do not always get a treat but just as randomly as I invite them to come to me as soon as I call, I also randomly give them treats for obeying on a dime.

Another great teaching tool is mealtime. Malamutes should be taught from the beginning that when a command is issued, they need to look the person issuing it in the eye. This is a form of dominance and lets them know that you mean business. Before our dogs are allowed to come in for their dinner, they are required to sit at the door calmly and quietly while the door is opened wide. They must look whoever is feeding them in the eye and hold that gaze for several seconds. They are released only after the feeding person is comfortable with releasing them. They then go to their bowl and are not allowed to just eat. They sit at their bowl and then are given a command or two—to down or sit or both. They are told to wait. Then they are released with "okay" so that they may gobble up their food.

Little encounters like the above reinforce what you want from your malamute and says clearly to them, "this is what I expect from you if you want to eat." They understand this kind of relationship, and it is a pretty effortless way to reinforce commands that they know.

We use all kinds of commands throughout our interaction with them at all times of the day and in all situations. The important thing to remember is that if you issue a command, it must be followed; not 60% of the time, not 80% of the time but 100% of the time. If your mal gets away with disobeying or ignoring you once, he or she will do it repeatedly because he or she does not feel you have earned their respect.

If you tell your dog to down and he or she refuses, you must physically help him or her to assume the position and stay there until released. This does not mean that you have to manhandle or wrestle a 40-pound puppy or a 100-pound adult male. You simply make it work by using a treat or using whatever means you feel appropriate (except physically hurting the dog by kicking, hitting, beating, etc.) to get the dog into the position that you commanded and then releasing the dog when you are ready, not when the dog is ready.

Failure to make a dog of any breed follow through on a command is trainer suicide. You are wasting your time (and the dog's) if you do not intend to have them follow the command...and the first time. In the beginning, you may have to issue the command more than once, but try not to do that if at all possible. Once should be the rule and then wait for it to be obeyed; if not obeyed in reasonable time, assisted obeyance should follow immediately.

Training the Adult Malamute Dog

At roughly 8 months to 2 years, your malamute no matter how well trained will go through a period I like to refer to as "my brain is in the mail." They somehow decide that their masters know nothing and they become much like teenagers, wanting to do things their own way and in their own sweet time. This is the time when it is essential for the mal owner to be consistent and reinforce commands each and every time. When they do receive their brain in the mail at 2 years old, it all begins to click in, and they do resign themselves to the fact that much as they would like to be in an alpha position, they didn't make the cut.

When training a malamute, you have to apply what you know about the breed and then balance that with what you are trying to accomplish. You can have the most well-trained malamute on the planet, and you still will probably not want the dog roaming in an open pasture hoping that he or she will respond to you when you give the recall command. More than likely, your beautiful malamute will take off after rodents or the neighbor's cat or as mine have, simply disappear into the hills. This is a story all too familiar with many malamute owners who regret ever trusting their dog off-leash thinking that they were trained well enough to obey.

At some point, instinct can override training, and it can result in tragedy. I've been warned by local police that because of the breed of my dogs, if they are loose and they do go after livestock or people's pets, people here will shoot first and talk about it later. They would be within their rights to do so. The solution? I simply don't allow my dogs to be at such high risk. It isn't cruel, and it isn't setting my expectations too low. It's just the reality of the situation. I try never to give them the opportunity to fail.

The same theory applies when it comes to dog parks. While as puppies we did frequent dog parks and did attend training classes, we simply don't take chances there unless it is a class being taught by someone who deals with northern breeds and there are dog owners who can control their dogs.

Dog parks are one of the biggest setups for disaster when it comes to malamutes simply because by the time there is a problem, it can be too late. Usually, it isn't even the malamute's "fault," but they have responded negatively to an aggressive dog who thinks it appropriate to take on a breed who is made for pack behavior. Aggression of any kind is received very poorly by a malamute. They don't care if it's a small dog or a huge dog. Our Griffin was bitten in the face by two tiny dogs at the dog park enough that it drew blood. He never forgot that. I have worked and worked with him but any sign of aggression from the smallest growl to out and out snarling sets him off. I thus avoid situations where I know he will be stressed to the point of overreacting. I can still train him without putting him face to face with aggressive dogs. We can pass them on the street, and everyone is safe. Would I turn him loose and hope he does okay? No way!

One of the most frustrating things of having a well-trained malamute is having people unknowingly undo all your hard work. Because a malamute is such a bright creature, he or she will go with the flow and take every liberty afforded him or her. For this reason, it's important to convey your training techniques to family and friends. Remember that behavior is a learned thing, and the bad behaviors one person allows them to get away with will carry over into other situations.

A good example of this is the approaching person squealing at the top of her lungs "Oh my Gawd...that is the most BEAUTIFUL dog—come HERE baby!" all the while she is enticing my 95-pound dog to jump up on her. There isn't too much you can do about the person who doesn't realize what she is doing (or undoing in this case), so I quickly assert myself and make the dog sit and stay. When I get the "Oh— it's really okay—I just GOTTA hug this beautiful boy" I just politely say that he's in training and he needs to listen to me and behave. Other people cannot assume the training (or untraining) of your dog, especially a malamute.

Training Tools for Malamutes

I've given you a basic overview of how to train a malamute. It is by no means an easy task, but it is a very rewarding task. Malamutes are one of the most intelligent dog breeds I've personally ever worked with. I take a great deal of pride in everything I've been able to teach my mals, but it is never over. Training goes on for their entire lifetime.

If you find that your dog is not responding as you think it should, enlist the help of a trainer. Read books, watch videos, and get ideas on how to engage your dog. Usually, it is simply a matter of finding what works. Griffin my 3-year-old is extremely food motivated. I can get him to do anything (including posing for photographs) with a kibble. My 1-year-old Gabby on the other hand is not interested at all in the kibble method. With her, I've had to up the ante a bit with more delectable treats just to get her to respond at first - until the behaviors become second nature.

Even all that said, because of their large size, I was not accomplishing what I wanted in terms of walking behaviors. There was too much pulling and distracted behavior going on for my tastes. So I enlisted the help of a local trainer.

We started first with a choke collar, then went to a pinch collar to reinforce commands, and finally, when all else failed, we went to the e-collar. This is an electronic collar that delivers a pinch/small electronic pulse to the dog's neck. The owner has a remote control that you administer the reprimand or the reward with. I had thought these collars barbaric, but on trying one with my dogs, I wonder why it took me so long to come around to it.

The goal of the training, even the e-collar, is to simply get the malamutes to obey you. If all else fails and you find you do need some additional help, I feel that it is appropriate to employ whatever means it takes to keep the dogs under control. Malamutes out of control end up in shelters or euthanized. That is the pure and simple truth. Or they end up never seeing the light of day and being confined to their own backyards for their entire lives because people simply can't deal with them.

That's a lot of information, but I do believe every word of it. I've had more than 10 years of training with my own mals from puppyhood to old age, and I wouldn't trade a bit of it. They are a fascinating dog breed and so full of life and joy that it's hard to imagine my life without them. They are a gift that I cherish. However, much like children, these dogs definitely need a firm hand and a guiding hand to shape them into respectful, tolerable pets. As dog owners, that is the deal. We have to be the ones to teach them in the way that they must go. I guarantee if you keep that in mind, your walk with your mal through life will be one you will never forget and best of all, never regret.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • How long does it take for a malamute to trust you and start coming around not to not be afraid of you?

    That sounds like a dog who has been abused somewhere along the line. Malamutes are extremely social dogs and want nothing more than to be part of a family/group. I would just work at it gradually with treats and/or praise and just try and consistently reinforce that coming to you is a safe thing to do. I had a rescued malamute that was terrified of many things. I just had to work with her over and over again (many weeks and months) and she turned out to be the most wonderful dog in the world. It can be done but patience is the key. Baby steps as they say.

  • We adopted a year old male Alaskan Malamute and we haven’t had him for long but want to know the best way to get him to obey us and think we are the alphas. He can sit and shake but doesn’t respond to his name all that well and gets over-excited really easily and isn’t fond of any other dogs. How and what would be the best way to teach and train him??

    The best way is to involve yourself with a good trainer. Someone who definitely understands malamute mentality as they quickly can become overly aggressive or they can tend to think THEY are the alpha if not properly trained. You do not have to be mean or powerful with them - you just have to be totally consistent. With mine, the best way to train them has been with rewards - food or praise or anything that makes them happy. If they are doing what I want them to do, they get rewarded - if not, they do not. We are always consistent with them and do not put them into situations where they can fail. Sometimes that is hard - like with other dogs or kids even. You have to do the work with them as they are very bright dogs and can easily become bored. Again, I sound like a broken record, but get with a GOOD trainer and you will all be happy and healthy!

  • I have a 9-month-old malamute male. At around 8 months he started showing signs of destructive behavior whenever we would leave the house for a few hours. He has chewed on baseboards and all of our wood furniture. He does not do this when we are home. He used to be crate trained but we don't put him in there anymore. Do you have any advice on how to deal with this? Is it a phase?

    Malamutes are really funny about things like that. Our female will go into the bathroom and start eating toilet paper or unrolling it if we leave her home alone. I don't think it is a phase so much as just their nature to be stressed sometimes when we leave them alone. We generally take ours with us all the time in their crates in the car. Sometimes that isn't possible though and I understand that. I would just make sure you leave for only a short period of time and come right back. Make sure he has some kind of healthy chew toys - like a Kong. Maybe a treat-filled Kong would be a good idea. We put tiny bits of carrots or peas in them and let our dogs roll them around on the kitchen floor. If he associated you leaving with a treat and/or knows you are coming back 'soon' - and then extend the time gone - he may relax and not become so destructive. I think it is just that they are mad that we left them. I also try and walk mine a LOT and tire her out before I leave her, leave a light on, noise like the TV, etc.

  • My nine-month-old Alaskan still goes potty inside. she will go outside, but still doesn't understand its not right to go inside. In fact, when she does go inside she almost seems purposeful, like a big "screw you". Do you have any advice?

    Actually, my female was the hardest of all to potty train for going outside. I finally got really upset one night and jumped up off the couch and yelled "NO" and threw my arms up in the air. It scared her pretty much half to death! I don't think she ever forgot it. I immediately deposited her outside on the deck while saying "NO" and "BAD DOG" very loudly. She never did it again. I think she just didn't think I was going to get "that mad" about it but when I did, she got the message. The weird thing is my husband always shouts "NO" in a loud voice if the mals do something and while I might once in a while, I don't raise my voice. I have a feeling there might be something to that yelling thing - when we really do not want them to do something we have to make it pretty clear. It doesn't happen often, but they do get the message I think? Currently enrolled in a class with both of them, and the trainer said the same thing - you can't say 'no' and not mean it - you want them to know they did a bad thing so perhaps being a little "out there" with the NO might help. Good luck! I think girls are harder to potty train than boys (dogs) and not sure why that is!

  • How many miles can a Malamute run a day? We have a beautiful girl of twelve-months, and I don’t want to overwork her

    I would probably ask a breeder or a vet. It is, of course, best to work up gradually - here is a great website on malamutes, though. I imagine you will find loads of helpful information there!!

© 2012 Audrey Kirchner


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      3 weeks ago from Washington

      Hi Katie

      That is the prey instinct kicking in and it is very, very strong in malamutes I have found. They just want to go where they want and do what they want. It can be particularly awful if it happens to be a dog that is snarling at them or gives them a stink eye I have found!

      I worked over and over with mine - for instance, there was a store in town that had a small dog that literally tried to attack my big guy through the door the first time I walked past with him and he never got over it. He was looking for that dog and wanted to lunge at him in the worst way. I made us walk that route every single day just so I could expose him and train him. I had treats at the ready - I held one in my left hand right above his nose or so he could see it as we went by so that he would focus on THAT rather than the dog on my right. I would not tolerate him even LOOKING at the dog. He had to focus on the treat and my voice. I also gave the command LEAVE IT loudly as he tried to engage with it. I just kept doing it and doing it until he quit responding. He wanted the treat bad enough that he eventually got the point where I had no treat in my hand - just he knew he was going to get one if he did it successfully. He would not even attempt to look at the door and he would ignore the beast inside. I did the same thing with a place where he had been enticed to jump up and get a treat at a local fast food place. We just did it until he got the message. No matter what you do, you are not going after that 'thing' whatever it was - but you will get a treat for being good about it and paying attention. That is the trick of it - they have to be FOCUSED on you and listening to YOU rather than looking at the thing - whatever the thing is.

      If the dog is particularly hard to get attention with - sometimes you have to go to a highly motivating treat - such as pieces of hot dogs or cheese. Whatever works to break their attention and get them to start focusing on you each time - it will help.

      Hope that works for you!

    • profile image


      3 weeks ago

      Hi I have a 4 year old malamute and she pulls and trys to run at any other animal on her walk. Eg dog, sheep, cows, horses. I try to get her to sit but there is no way of getting her attention once she has spotted them. She is fine listening to commands when nothing is there and responds well to treats. How do I get her to listen when she is distracted and to stop pulling on her lead?

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      4 weeks ago from Washington

      Hi Rachel

      I had a similar experience with Max at about that age. He all of a sudden just decided he was going to be a jerk to put it mildly and not do anything I said/we said. I do not think it is necessarily missing another person. They just go through those 'stages' of rebellion because they are malamutes in particular and also their hormonal age. Females can really be tougher than males sometimes - Gabby was very, very stubborn in other ways that none of my dogs ever were.

      That being said, what I did with Max was just give up on the crating for that moment, as much as I did not want to let him 'win' that round. It was better than leaving him outside. I just made sure that everything was picked up (so he could not get into everything like he was famous for doing!!!!) and made sure I had blocked the door to our bedroom so he had to be in there with us. He seemed to accept that and just went about his business then and did not try to win about going outside. It had to do with crating. It may make you wonder though - oh no - will she now not go back into the crate? That didn't happen. Once I/we established that hey dude - you are not sleeping outside - no matter how much you think it is fun and you want to do it - but here's the concession for now. He rides around in our car ALWAYS in a crate and never makes a fuss. He can also sleep in the crate but as he grew older and more responsible, we let him sleep in our room with us on the floor.

      I would suggest trying something high pay-off like a hotdog to get him in and then praise. If the refusing to eat though continues, I definitely would have her checked - just in case. It could be a stomach thing going on. Max has had those and is quite vocal when his stomach is bothering him. The few times we did not pay attention - we were very sorry - he pooped on our bed once and on the carpet another time. Sometimes they are having digestive problems we are not aware of so would keep that in mind too if the behavior continues.

      You will find that they do go through phases of trying to be dominant or not listening to you. It is in my mind 'a test.' They just get it in their canine brains that maybe today, she'll let me be the alpha. If you just keep consistently working at it, not losing your cool (easier said than done at midnight - been there and done that!!!) - you will remain alpha. Good luck!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      3 months ago from Washington

      Hi Wolf

      Any dog that is hit for any reason will not end up responding in a positive way. A malamute especially will see this as very negative behavior and will confuse the dog. I applaud that you realize that it is wrong. I think any time we lose our temper with someone or in this case a pet, we realize our mistake. That should not happen and I do encourage you to look for positive ways to interact with your dog. It is not unusual for any dog to have separation anxiety if they are left alone. That is really hard on a dog but especially a malamute. They are social/pack animals and do not understand being left to their own devices. I would try and get some help from someone who trains dogs, or look up training methods online. Any dog needs regular exercise, needs potty breaks on a regular basis, and at 6 months old, will need appropriate chew toys, etc. It would be better to have him in a kennel when you are not there rather than having free reign in your house or apartment. Malamutes are basically members of the family - that is how THEY perceive it. They want your affection, your training, and most of all your leadership. The way that you treat them will mold that dog into who he should be. Again, a malamute left to his own devices will get into all kinds of trouble. You have to be the leader and make sure that you are providing him with situations where he cannot fail or embarrass himself. Good luck! There are many great articles on how to train malamutes on the Internet and/or just puppies in general.

    • profile image


      3 months ago

      What I am about to say should be thought about in a different perspective. I am from Morocco- one of the third world countries- where animals are not given any importance, dogs particularly ( religious background) . I bought a 6 months Mal , I was happy to do that, I had a problem with my family about him. I had to leave home and rent , my Mal has separation anxiety ( scratching the door howling....) I am nee to the neighborhood I don’t want to cause trouble, today he made me really angry , I applied some methods to help him with the anxiety , when I returned I found that he urinated on my bed , and in many other places mostly corners ( why the hell he did that?!) I lost my temper ( I wasn’t in control) I slapped him, I realized my mistake I went back to him after a while asking him to come but he refused/ maybe was scared . What should I do , thanks.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      4 months ago from Washington

      A malamute will try and be alpha and the only way to fix that is to be alpha. Interestingly, our 4-year-old male will try and nip at my husband if he goes to grab his collar sometimes as in I don't want to move right now. He has never actually bitten him or done anything, but just the fact that he thinks he can do it is of course not acceptable. We always say firmly, loudly NO or something like Knock It OFF and the make him do what we wanted him to do in the first place. We then praise him for doing what we wanted him to do without any reaction on his part. It is important though especially with any dog that tends to show grumpiness or wanting to play alpha to just rehearse at odd times. Make them do things that you want them to do without question... And then praise them for listening to you. That reaffirms that YOU are alpha and what you say must be obeyed. That in my opinion eliminates problems later on. What is strange is that I do not get those behaviors from our 4-year-old whereas my husband does get those behaviors from him. I relate it to when our kids were small - good cop bad cop. Malamutes will always push to see what they CAN get away with. The important thing in my mind has always been stopping it before it gets started. If you reinforce good behavior here and there without it being a 'situation' I think you have more success in getting them to do what you want when there is something important going on. Good luck!

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      We have a 2 year d and he thinks he is the Alpha sometimes. How do you discipline one that occasionally snaps or lightly bites when you grab his collar because he is doing wrong or won't do as you say?

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      19 months ago from Washington

      Yvonne - that is too cute - we actually had a mal who screamed all the time in the car and the squirt bottle did the trick. Our current female hates this little sonic sound tool I bought on Amazon and can get her to stop what she is doing instantly. It is funny what works - but once you find that 'thing' - it is golden! I love to hear people say they are on their 4th or 5th dog...and it is a malamute! Praise be!

    • profile image

      Yvonne Cohen 

      19 months ago

      Everything you said was exactly what we have experienced with our 2 year old male. This is our 4th

      malamute and our most difficult. He honors my husband

      more than me but I walk with a squirt bottle which he has

      learned to respect. Thanks for all your advice.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This helped a lot thx!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Loved this article thank you!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      usefull info!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My question is this.... Our 12 month old malamute dug out of our yard this week. She was only outside for 20 minutes! I have thought about installing an electric fence along the 6 foot cedar fence we have so that she will receive a shock if she tries to dig at the fence line, but a malamute owner friend of mine said shock collars do not work with malamutes because they have too much fur. Is this true?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi! thanks a lot for all the info you are sharing. Mi mother just adopt and adult alaskan malamute male (7-year-old), the first one she has ever had, and he howls every single time he is "alone" at home (my mom have other dogs), so this is bothering my parents neighbors. Would please give some advice on how to help our new mal, we don't want to take him to a shelter :(

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Oh, great

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      P.S. Meant Dorsi - I really can spell - just not enough caffeine yet~

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks for your kind and insightful comment, Dori...and glad Indie can enjoy some of those commands - most are really pretty basic but I add a lot just because my dogs are way too smart. Gotta keep them engaged and whatever that takes~

      Indeed, though - that is always the object of my somewhat lengthy hubs on mals~ They are of course always on the dangerous dogs list which makes them very vulnerable to say the least. They are also one of the most misunderstood dog breeds on the planet. If you have a malamute and you do know what he or she is about, I swear that you will never be able to not get another one, in spite of all the training and in spite of all that grooming.

      They are truly one of the most social breeds, but then again, they can be one of the most comical, the most trying, the most loving, the most stubborn, the most's kind of a half glass full kind of deal for me. But then again...they had me at the first howl~

    • Dorsi profile image

      Dorsi Diaz 

      8 years ago from The San Francisco Bay Area

      Awesome hub, very thorough and well written. I have learned about a breed that I knew very little about! These commands are also helpful for me to use with Indie. Mals are a dog that I look forward to learning more about. You have given information here that will help a lot of Mal owners and hopefully keep them out a backyard existence or worse yet getting sent to a shelter because their owners don't know how to train them. Rated up up up!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      BJ - I thought maybe I would not receive a welcome let alone a warm one but you amaze me~ Thanks for being such a true friend. Sorry I kind of crashed and burned with my writing and went in a few (thousand) directions.

      I now teach on line as well and own a photography biz as well as all the other nonsense that I do - good grief. But...all that said...a part of me did miss the writing though I truly need to figure out what I need to do to be better at it - so here I am again! Like the proverbial bad penny I return...missed you as well - you are a dear friend and I still haven't received that car....drat~I need it with my magnificent mals though Griffin is really holding out for a convertible. He finds it so much easier on his hair blowing in the wind. Sigh - the guy is just unreasonable as heck eh? Bob probably wouldn't mind it either though he has far less hair than my Griffin...and then Gabs would probably eat the seat - or the mirror - or something...she is still a pup and if I get the chance, I shall have to write a piece on hillbilly decorating a la malamute~

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Just wanted you to know, Audrey, m'dear, that I am delighted to once more see you in Hubland. You are still my Hubbuddy even though it appeared you had forsaken us.

      With this fascinating hub, you have re-established your place as the Malemute Maven of all time. Griffin and Gabby are fortunate to have you. So is hubby.

      Welcome back, m'luv.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Hi Virginia - yes indeed, I have a very strong ethic about people and dogs. I think it's vital that someone understands what they're getting into before they do it and if not before, certainly WHEN. Dogs are just like kids and unless you train them properly (which differs from breed to breed in my humble opinion), you're in for a nasty bit of rough road. Dogs don't act up because they are stupid or mean or anything else really. They act up because someone hasn't taught them properly. Especially mals! So that is my mission this late in life, teaching people what I've learned I guess and hoping so to prevent any more discarded malamutes. They truly are one of the most pure breeds and one of the most intelligent around but you gotta be on it like a hawk from the beginning or they will run right over the top of you. Thanks so much for stopping by~~

      Hi Pamela~ Can you believe it? Like rising from the ashes here I am again. Hope I do okay this time around as I did have a terrible time of it last year and just couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. Feeling good about it right now though - so going to take it one word at a time and one day at a time~~~ Thanks so much for stopping in to say hi, too!!!

      Kristy - Thanks so much for stopping by. I love the sit command because it illustrates really how easy it is to train a dog - it just takes a bit of time and ingenuity is all - and repeat, repeat, repeat in the most unusual circumstances and times - I really enjoy my dogs' success...can you tell?

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      akirchner--this is a fabulous hub. I love the way you explain why the dogs act the way they do in order to help owners know the reason for the training techniques. We had a bad experience in trying to train a Lab puppy when I had 3 preschoolers. We didn't know what we were doing or how to untrain the dog from some bad habits. Luckily, we found a family that knew more about it. I wish we'd had thought about what it required to teach a puppy before we got the dog. Your advice will also help people decide if this is the right dog for them. Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Audry, It is good to see you after such a long time and with a hub about your beloved Malamutes. Your hub was very thorough with great information as usual. I hope you are doing great. Pam

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is an excellent hub! How you broke down teaching the sit command is perfect for first time dog owners!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      CR - OMG - someone who GETS them!!! Wow - I hear you completely and on so many levels. Poor Griffin has been traumatized multiple times by dogs and their aggression so it is an ongoing deconditioning now for him but I keep at it all the time. I refuse to let him be relegated to staying home because of the stupidity that other people kind of spilled onto my poor dog!

      I have heard this same argument - leashed dogs are more aggressive - right! Do you really want to see what his incisors can do to your dog when I let him OFF the leash? I doubt it!!! I always say there are no bad dogs just bad dog owners. If they don't get it, poor them. I just try and maintain a cool and calm presence - ha ha - most of the time when people who don't know anything about the breed try and tell me how I "should" be training them - and then walk away with my mals muttering 'idiot' or something more colorful.

      I agree with you completely as well - these guys are soulmates of mine and even my husband who after ALL these dogs and ALL these years of dogs says "I'm not really a dog person" - hilarious! He is so bonded to these guys he weeps like a girl (nothing wrong with that) when we lose one of them. And definitely - these dogs are not going to ever be happy being ignored! Gabby comes to under my office window with something in her mouth ON PURPOSE that she is not supposed to be messing with and tosses it up so I can see it just to say "hey - could one of you please pay some attention to me like NOW?" They do keep you young, I'll say that! Love meeting fellow mal appreciaters and thanks so much for leaving such a great comment. Audrey

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 

      8 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      Wow, you really know these dogs! I love the part where you talk about the 'stupid face' as anyone who owns a Malamute knows exactly what you mean by that. You know they know, but they're telling you, I'm bored, I'm doing something else in spite of you.

      It took me a good year to get our Malamute to behave on a leash, and that was a year of working on it every day. The worst part, as you mention, was other people and their cluelessness, especially people with off-leash dogs. One person even said to me, "Leashed dogs are more aggressive, you shouldn't keep you dog on a leash," and I said, "I keep him on a leash for YOUR sake, not mine," but that wasn't entirely true.

      Now, he will not go after a dog, even if it charges right up to him, which very few dogs do anymore. I just say no, and he stays calm. But you are so right, dog parks are not for us! Still, he is the best friend I've ever had. These dogs are magnificent. I hate to see people get them and then not interact with them, as if they are furniture. This is not a dog you can do that with. Thank you! Thumbs up. :)


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