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
Question: Why does my Malamute howl every time he is alone in the house, or while I am going to school? My dad says it's because yesterday we took him on a walk, is that true?
Answer: Malamutes are just very, very social animals. They probably feel the pain of being alone a wee bit. It is not a bad thing for a mal to howl, as they do that rather than bark (most of them anyway). Unless it is a disturbance to someone, we let our dogs howl when they want to express something. However, if we want them to be quiet, we train them with that command - quiet. We reward them when they obey. We have a lot of friends (and neighbors) who actually love to hear our malamutes howl, though.
Question: Is it okay for a six-year-old malamute to jump?
Answer: I'm not sure what you mean - if you mean jump on people - no - because they are big and they can knock people down. You have to train them the 'off' command. If you mean to jump over things like obstacle courses for dogs - yes - if they don't have trouble with it - they love stuff like that!
Question: Can you teach Malamute dogs to attack on command?
Answer: I'm not sure, and I'm not sure I would want to. They actually should never be taught to attack in my humble opinion as they have a bad enough reputation already just because of their size and big teeth. They are not notorious for being guard dogs of any kind. They should be trained to be social and good citizens (my humble opinion). You could always ask a trainer. I just would never advise that kind of behavior in a malamute as they are not 'made' that way.
Question: Would you recommend any books or websites on training a 1.5-year-old Alaskan Malamute?
Answer: I've written some other articles on Hubpages also about training - it sounds like she is bored without them. They are very social animals. Ours like being outdoors but come indoors all during the day because they want the interaction with us. They do not like being 'left behind' so to speak. We walk ours as well or play 'ball' with them - they are not great at it but the exercise distracts them a bit and keeps them in shape - and us too! She also might have a separation anxiety from something that happened to her in the past - being left behind or alone. You never know sometimes because they can't tell you what they had in their 'past life' before us! We also have always taken ours to obedience training and that really does help as they can be at odds sometimes not knowing what we expect from them. There are some good books like this one on Amazon also. https://www.amazon.com/Alaskan-Malamute-Training-G...
Question: 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?
Answer: 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!
Question: 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
Answer: 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!! http://alaskanmalamute.org/working/working-dog.
Question: I've had my husky malamute for a few months now. We got him when he was 4, and he turned 5 in August this year. We found out he has not had any training apart from going to the toilet outside. I have aggression problems, and it's a nightmare walking him. He is so unpredictable it's like he is Jekyll and Hyde. One minute he's really friendly and the next, he's trying to go for your face. Can you help?
Answer: Northern breed dogs are really tough without training. You may not realize it, but something is triggering the aggression. Sometimes they are fine in certain situations, and sometimes they are NOT okay with a situation. It has to do with what they perceive as a challenge. If a dog looks at them funny or they get a weird vibe from something or someone, they can be aggressive. There is a common saying at least for malamutes - they generally never start a fight, but they will finish it. That doesn't mean they will fight to the death or anything, but they do not like challenges. The best and only way (as far as I'm concerned) is to know your dog. Once you have a dog, it is my deepest conviction that only you can do the work and fix bad situations. It doesn't really matter what went before because now you have this dog and it matters what YOU do going forward. The best way is to get with a good dog trainer and start deconditioning him. Be sure that he understands walking isn't a threat - you have to start small and work up. You'll never know what he was exposed to and what sets him off until you just begin deeply working with him and working him consistently - baby steps. You should never put a dog into a situation where he or she CANNOT be successful, so if you know that the dog is having issues with walking him, you will need to figure out baby steps to start with. Where can you walk him without incident? Then you build on that. If you do it that way, you will be happy - he will be happy - and he will feel safe and secure. He will know that you are with him all the way and that you are in charge. There just is no replacement for training in my humble opinion when you have a dog that has the potential to be aggressive. You are doing him (and yourself) the greatest service by making sure that he is trained and he is not a threat to anyone or anything. Even if a dog comes at your dog first - say an off-leash dog attacks your husky/mal - if your dog hurts that other dog, you are still liable. That is how the laws work, and I don't want my dog ever to be euthanized because of someone else's stupidity. That's why I try and train my dogs to the best of my abilities and have them deconditioned enough to withstand threats and/or challenges like that. If you want your dog to be out and about in the real world, it is a must. They do not simply absorb it by taking them out again and again - they really need to have specific training to feel confident and to look to you - their leader/alpha- so that they will always have a positive outcome. I hope that helps - I only say this from experience. There are a lot of really goofy pet owners out there who think every dog is going to be nice all the time and that letting them get together face to face is really the goal - it isn't!! I don't take my dog out to socialize - I take my dog out to train him and to exercise him - and the socialization comes with people I might want to interact with or situations I might want to expose him to - but it's not about my dog 'making friends' with other dogs. I think that is dangerous no matter what breed. I also would never consider taking my dogs to a dog park as too many dogs are not trained properly, and their owners seem oblivious to anything except the size of my dogs and their behaviors - not their own dogs' behaviors that can cause serious problems.
Question: I have a 6 month old malamute who shows aggression towards me when I’m applying medication to her hot spots, and once when I was giving worm medicine. I understand that she is in pain, and also she always gnaws on me, but this seems harder than usual. She hasn’t broken the skin, but she gets very vocal and mouthy. Is this something she may outgrow as I continue to work with her?
Answer: Some malamutes are very mouthy and others not so much. Sometimes if you put a cone on them so that they can't do that when applying meds, that can help - or a soft muzzle is also a good thing. I would just say NO and mean it - very loudly. Make a word for it - no BITE or just NO - that should make her stop it. For the gnawing on you - some mals are again very oral that way and like to nibble at you. It can be aggravating just because if they do it to kids or people who don't 'get' malamutes - they think it is aggression. For mine, I just take my fist and shove it right in their mouth when they do it and say loudly NO - NO NIBBLING - or just NO - they kind of get the point when you have a fist in their mouth!!! It only took a couple of times with Max but it prevented a lot of anxiety from my daughter as she was convinced Max was trying to bite her son's arm off!!! It is a bad habit sometimes. Anything you do not want your malamute to end up doing as an adult needs to be shut down while a puppy. Just be firm and don't let her get away with behaviors now because it is unlikely that she will stop them when she grows up. I don't mind the vocalizing...although we also have a command we taught ours early on - NO - QUIET...if they get out of hand and want to just keep bugging us because they want their way. I try and always have a command to identify with something - something I want that is good and something I want them to stop doing. Whatever works best for you. I used to rap one of my mals under the chin lightly for nibbling or biting when he was a puppy. That didn't work too well as he bit his tongue and I felt terrible. I like the fist method much better and it worked in just a couple of times!
Question: Do you think male or female Malamutes are harder to train?
Answer: I actually had more trouble with my female malamute than with any of the males. However, that being said, the males can be variable (malamutes anyway) in their 'response' rate. My current young male who is 3 is very stubborn about the 'come' command and tries to cut me off at the pass when I'm asking for him to do something. It's like he has ADD but I think he just is stubborn. Meanwhile, the female, who is very, very smart does typical malamute things like doing a command 1 time correctly and then if I ask her to repeat it, she does another one instead of the one I asked for. They are extremely intelligent dogs and I have found that the best way to work with either sex is to just do lots and lots of quick bits of training multiple times throughout a day rather than longer periods at a time. They seem to perform 'better' though they definitely have a sense of humor!
Question: We have a 3 almost for year old male malamute and we are looking into getting a shock collar. We like to have him off the leash and when he's good he's great but eventually, he takes off. He'll sometimes look at us calling him and right when we think he's gonna come back he's gone. He eventually comes home but it's incredibly frustrating. Do you recommend a certain shock collar?
Answer: You have to make sure that the shock collar is made for thick fur as it sometimes can be a challenge to get through the fur. We used one for a short period of time with our mals and had varying degrees of success. It scared my male to death because we had to turn it up to get his attention through the fur - and then my female started walking sideways, doing things like that when I used it - I think she was mad at me for using it! There is also a citronella collar you can get. I do know some folks have had success with them. In general, malamutes are just not good off leash - that is the rub of it I guess. They are born to run and I think that sometimes it is fighting their nature to let them loose and expect them to execute a perfect recall. I really worry about mine taking off so I'm very hesitant to ever let them off leash. That's just me as I've spent too much time trying to find them when they DID go off leash!
Question: We have recently adopted an 18 month old male malamute and he is beautiful although I don't think he had any training at all during puppyhood. My question is he has recently been jumping up on my 15 yr old daughter and growling which makes her quite anxious. I immediately have to step in and say No and remove her from the situation. Do you have any tips or helpful hints that might stop this from happening?
Answer: Malamutes are funny breeds. They know when someone is afraid of them. Mine do the same thing with my daughter and she has not understood it and I don't think ever will. She labels my dogs as 'bad dogs.' In fact, all she would have to do is step up to the plate so to speak and take control of that situation. Malamutes more than a lot of other breeds need to know who is boss. They should not be around people who do not understand them and know how to be alpha. The typical response to a dog jumping on anyone should be stepping into THEM when you see them going to jump - and firmly and loudly saying NO - even yelling it at them - and/or the technique of putting their knee up and hitting them in the chest when they begin to jump, knocking them back. The reason a dog jumps on someone is to test them and see if they can get away with that. Sometimes it can be affection or excitement, but it should not be tolerated because if it is a small child or a frail adult, it can knock them down and hurt them of course. However, your 15-year-old daughter needs to be 'the boss' in this situation or it will never stop. My daughter (who is 40 by the way) does not 'get it' and my dogs still continue to react to her. It is just a situation where I have decided that SHE cannot be around them because she doesn't get it. A trainer can help as well giving her techniques to combat the situation. The dog just needs someone to be assertive and unafraid. If someone is afraid, any dog will sense that and respond accordingly. Also, my daughter mistakes my Max especially as 'growling' when it is in fact just his vocalizations as a malamute. He is not growling at all and wants to actually have her pay attention to him - but she doesn't like him especially and is totally freaked by him - and he reacts accordingly. Sometimes, we simply cannot make people 'get' our dogs, too and that is very difficult. Again, working with a trainer can be the solution. My daughter refuses to do that so again, I just do not let the 2 of them interact but it is my choice. I keep my dogs outside when she is here or in their kennel. Sometimes that is not possible so again, depending on your situation, would recommend you try and problem solve it with someone.
Question: I've just got given a Malamute who was chained for over two years, How do I train them to not be so aggressive to other animals?
Answer: I would suggest working with the poor thing in baby steps. That can be a hard thing to do to any dog but especially a malamute. The dog will be very stunned for quite some time, because it puts them in a vulnerable position. It takes a lot of calm work with a dog that is used to being chained to get them back to square one. I would not expect miracles overnight as chaining creates self-protective behavior. I would really recommend training with a person who knows how to deal with malamutes and especially one that has been chained. While some people may not think chaining a dog is a bad policy, it creates reactions in the dog that are there for a long while. I did have an abused malamute who was severely beaten, starved, and chained. With lots of patience and little-by-little work with her, she became a saint. She was an excellent dog and lived to be 16 or 17 years old. It was not easy at first though as she was so confused. Mals are super smart and want to please YOU and be social so that it can be done. Even though I had trained lots of dogs, I went and did some training to get ideas from a reputable trainer who understood the breed. Then I had a place to start from - I also talked to breeders about how best to 'decondition' her when she had anxiety over things. It worked! Good luck and I'm thinking positive outcomes for your malamute. He/she needs you to reverse some behaviors that are merely coping mechanisms for them when they are put in that situation.
Question: We’ve recently adopted a 2.5 year old malamute who lived with an elderly woman before. When we try to take her on a walk, she constantly “woos” and vocalizes loudly and doesn’t stop. This is very disturbing for our surrounding neighbors as her 1st walk happens around 6 AM before we go to work. How do we control her vocalizing?
Answer: It is just like any other behavior - you want to reinforce the quiet periods. So if she is being quiet, you say 'good quiet' and give a treat. If you get her into the habit of only 'wooing' when you want her to by another command - then you will reinforce it further to her. Like 'speak' and then she does and you treat. I use the Spanish word for quiet with my big boy because he is constantly talking. It is just natural for some of them to be more vocal than others. Most of my neighbors (fortunately) do not mind but maybe try the above and see if it works. You can also use a tool - like a bark silencer - or even a collar if you are really adamant about not having her do it.
Question: Why does my malamute panic when I leave, freak out and goes nuts, squealing? His heart is beating so fast and hard. I'll only be gone for an hour at most.
Answer: Malamutes, despite their 'rugged' appearance, are very social animals. They tend to want to be with us except when they decide they don't want to be! Perhaps giving him something to distract him for short periods at a time while you go outside or leave and then come back will help ease his anxiety. You can get a Kong toy and put things like frozen peas inside or tiny carrot pieces, etc. and give him something to work on while you are away. If you extend the periods of time and show him when you come home all is well, I think he'll eventually get better at it. "They say" that we should not leave malamutes alone for more than a few hours because they can become restless and destructive due to anxiety. I know this to be a truism as my female does not like to be left alone. Even a good chew toy is a good distraction but I kind of prefer having them have a veggie treat to work on instead.
Question: I have a 6-month-old Malamute. He is so friendly with strangers but bites us all the time without any reason. He won't stop no matter how much we yell, scream, say ' NO." What are the reasons and how can I make him stop?
Answer: It is hard to tell from what you describe if he is 'gnawing' or 'nibbling' on you - as many malamutes do this type of behavior to get attention. If he is truly biting, it is because he is playing or does he just come out of nowhere and bite you? That really would be an unusual behavioral trait for a malamute as they are very loyal to their pack - which is you - his family. They do have these nibbling behaviors that people sometimes perceive as biting. A good way to stop that is to say no as you are doing - and every time he does it - you put your fist down into his throat. I did that with Max and it stopped him from doing that. As he is only 6 months old, he needs something he should be nibbling on - they will keep on wanting toys or something to chew on until they are at least 2 years old. If you substitute something for your hand or whatever he is biting, it will help to show something he can bite, that isn't you. I also have a clue word that I always use in lots of situations with my dogs - easy. If they are getting too carried away at anything, I say easy and expect them to take it down a notch. I have also put a hand under my dog's chin before and given them a little 'love tap' upward when they were being inappropriately aggressive - but I don't particularly like that maneuver because once I made my dog bite his tongue. That made me feel awful. Those are some of my suggestions - and here are some by the ASPCA as well. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog... and for good measure, one by Cesar https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/biting/nipp...
Question: We have a five-month-old Malamute who is afraid of all outdoor noises. She freaks out if we take her outside when the school bus or garbage truck goes by. Today she is freaking out because someone is cutting their lawn. She is in the house and still is anxious. What can we do?
Answer: I definitely would try some deconditioning training but start small and work up. Something must have freaked her out at an early age. We adopted a malamute who was afraid of EVERYTHING - the grass - stairs - noises. I kind of think she was a puppy mill dog or something was wrong there. I just kept working with her - giving her treats, walking her on to the grass, for example, walking with her on the stairs. I gradually got her to 'normal' except for food issues. I considered that a miracle! It just takes a lot of time. If you don't know how to decondition a dog or work with them, you can find some great articles online - or get some advice from a trainer. Then you can work with her on your own. Good luck - there is just something that is INCREDIBLE about healing a dog!!! My Denaya lived to be 16 or 17 years old - and she was the epitome of awesome. I'm so glad I worked with her and got her to great! You will feel the miracle as well if you just keep at it - a bit at a time.
Question: Our family just got a puppy and we have had him for about 3 weeks and he is 3 months old. He has been pretty quick to train with basic commands, he is a total foodie. Our only real problem is how much he bites and sometimes gets aggressive. Our son loves him, but any time he comes in the room the puppy goes straight for him. How can I curb this quickly and effectively without causing more aggression?
Answer: Sometimes it can be confusing with dogs in general but especially with Northern breeds. Is your dog a malamute? I am assuming so because of the article~! Especially as puppies, they have a lot of mouth-on behaviors. That can be interpreted as biting but sometimes it is just them wanting to play. However, because of the size of their teeth, it is super important to nip it in the bud right away. Putting your fist into the puppy's mouth when they go to bite will effectively stop the behavior or should - and you can reinforce by saying a command like 'no bite' to get the point across. You don't have to be overly loud about it or mean about it - just encourage the dog to NOT put their mouth on anyone for any reason. You can also replace with a chew toy and distract their attention to that behavior instead. It should be mentioned (not knowing how old your son is) that malamutes (or really any big dog) should never be alone with children because their behavior can be unpredictable. They do not understand children in general - their noises, quick movements, etc. It is through integration that they become GREAT family pets - but we have to be on top of them at all times so to speak. We have to train our big dogs to obey and be polite, be gentle. I use words like 'easy' or 'no bite' or even 'no paws' to train them to do what they should and should not do. I hope the above helps! Consistency is the name of the game with any dog and the more you work with them, the better they will always become.
Question: We have a 5 month old Mal who loves to dig holes every time he goes outside. He loves the outdoors but I can never leave him alone for 2 minutes outside cause he is digging big holes. When I go out to get him he lays flat out and I can't pick him up. He starts to bite at me when I do. How I can get him to stop digging and biting?
Answer: Unfortunately, they love to dig. If you have an area where you CAN let him dig, that is probably the best solution. If he starts to dig somewhere you do not want him to dig, snap a leash on him or a rope and take him to the area you will allow him to dig and reward him in some way - praise or small treat. It is a natural instinct for them to dig and make a 'den' no matter their age or if they are spayed or not. It is about trying to get them to do something else. Trying chew toys - big strong ones - or bones can be distractions but always ask your vet or even a breeder for help with what they think might be appropriate for your dog, its size, age, condition, etc. Our dogs have lots of toys about the yard so they are less 'apt' to dig - although about every week, they have dug a big hole next to the house that we regularly just fill back in.
Question: How long does it take for a malamute to trust you and start coming around not to not be afraid of you?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: I bought a crate for my four-year-old Malamute. He doesn't have any crate training, but when I did put him in the crate, he started whining, barking and howling. What should I do?
Answer: You will have to be patient and consistent in your crate training. Most dogs do not readily take to crates, and we have to gradually train them to spend time in there. Start out slow and make sure that it is a positive experience for him. If you do that and associate it with good experiences (such as feeding or playing with a favorite toy), they become more familiar with it and tend to resist it less and less. Ours are veterans at crates because we have spent so much time working with them at it. Here is a great link from the Humane Society:
Question: I have a 3 year old rescue Mal who I assume was crated as a form of punishment, so he refuses to even go near one let alone enter on his own free will. If I am able to get him in by enticing him with treats, within 5 minutes he’s able to escape out of it by tearing walls out. In short, crate training has been somewhat of a nightmare. Do you have any tips for crate training adult mals?
Answer: That is really sad. You have to get him to the point where it is a GOOD thing to go in and stay in. I had a female rescue who was terrified of her crate. I actually got in there with her - I'm not sure I would do that again but at the time, it seemed like a good idea! I would use an open crate - one that he can see out of and REALLY make it enticing. If he goes in, he gets a whopper of a treat - or even a bone or a chew toy to keep him in there. Make sure you get him OUT before he goes berserk over it though - that's the trick. If you stay right there with him, it might be easier as well. Just set a timer and do 5 minutes - then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. Then eventually move further away from the crate and repeat the above. Lengthen the amount of time. If you can find a chew toy or something that amuses him - like a Kong with little pieces of carrot in it or peas - that will sweeten the pot and maybe make him want to stay in there. It's all about them - why do they want to be in there if it is going to be stressful? They just have to associate being in there with good things. We take ours in our SUV all the time in their crates - they love riding around with us - so that could be another option. It will take time to dis-associate crates with bad memories but if you work at it, it will work.
Question: I am getting a 4 week old malamute in two days, I have been doing research and have noticed hip dysplasia and other diseases are common in malamutes are they any foods or snack that will help my dogs become strong and healthy?
Answer: Just in general, bigger dogs are prone to this kind of thing. If you have a reputable breeder, hopefully they have bred for 'exclusion' of these traits as much as possible. Hip x-rays can also determine early on if the dog is prone to that. I would ask your vet for any ideas on supplements and when to start if worried about that. I've had some who got it and some who did not - in other large breed dogs. Thankfully, my malamutes have never had that particular thing - and I've had 4 thus far.
Question: Do Malamutes need to learn how not to pull on a leash so they can go in the snow and be safe on icy roads?
Answer: Yes - that is the trick. When a malamute is on a leash, they have to learn that it is not the same as being in a harness. They have to be taught to heal and to obey, as being on icy roads become a real danger to the human attached to them! We have one of our mals who is horrible at pulling. I have to literally walk a few steps, make her sit, try again until she figures out we are not moving forward until she stops trying to pull me down the street. It takes a lot of training with some of them to get them to the understanding that a leash is NOT the same as a harness! Turning quickly from one direction to another with a treat held in your hand and them on a short length of the leash is a great training exercise to do with them. Anything involving 'heel' is the way to go. Letting them go too far out in front of you really spikes the behavior and increases the risk of them getting away with a pull rather than a heel.
Question: I have a 3 year old male Malamute who still goes to the bathroom in the house and is destroying pillows, bedding, and the couch! Any advice?
Answer: I would enlist a trainer to help you with that as that is very bad behavior. It sounds like he is bored and/or not potty trained. In order to train a dog to go to the bathroom outside, you have to make sure that you are taking him or her out regularly and giving a command like 'go pee' and then rewarding them for doing it. They cannot learn it on their own. They get to the point then that they will do it on 'command' if they have to go and you will be able to trust them to behave. As to being destructive in the house, that again is boredom. By 3 years old, he should not be doing that. The key there is to have something that it is OKAY to chew on - if it's a bone or it's a toy but make sure it is SAFE for a dog with teeth that size. You do not want them swallowing things like tennis balls, etc. and toys need to be appropriate for Malamutes. You just have to find the right ones for your dog - a vet can give you great suggestions as well as pet stores for your breed. We use Kongs a lot - we use some that are just plain to chew/gnaw on and then we use some with treats in them like peas or carrots. Boredom is a tough problem to solve and usually has to do with lack of exercise in a big, active dog like a malamute. Is he getting regular exercise and attention? They require that daily and without that, they tend to get into trouble very easily. Good luck - again, consult a trainer as well and get him to the point where he is being rewarded for things rather than messing up and you'll be a happier pet owner! They are super intelligent dogs but need guidance and have to have an alpha - doesn't mean you have to be mean - you just have to be IN CHARGE at all times.
Question: 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?
Answer: The very best way to train a malamute is to be consistent and to make sure that if you feel he is having issues, engage a trainer - at least for a lesson or 2 just to get a sense of his ability to listen to you. Malamutes HAVE to have an alpha or they get themselves into the worst messes you can imagine - with people, other dogs, destructive behavior. They are easily bored and want a companion as well as a leader. Our mals have always been food motivated - treats are their kibble (we just reduce their daily portion and use part of it for training) and then add in a few 'major treats' like little pieces of hotdog to really get their attention. You have to be consistent and train him like you mean it. I prefer short sessions as they do NOT like repeating tricks and commands. If they do it right once, they don't want to do it over and over - just the breed. However, always, always end on a positive note - end the session after he has done something right and praise him to the moon and back. They are super smart dogs but they have to be trained more so than other breeds. A group class might also be helpful WHEN you have him trained to obey you. Also a pinch collar is a good idea to get their attention. Just be firm and positive and you will have a good dog at the end of it!
Question: 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??
Answer: 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!
Question: I have malamutes brothers 2-1/2 years old and am 7-1/2 months pregnant, and the two have started fighting each other so aggressively as if they are fighting for dominance against each other. I need help and to gain control before my child is born. What can you suggest?
Answer: I definitely would get with a trainer or a breeder of malamutes and get some strategies. If you have food out or toys out, that can be a real problem, and they can fight over those types of things. Definitely, though I would contact someone and have them give you some good ideas as you obviously do not want a child in the middle of malamutes fighting. They could also be bored and needing 'work' as sometimes happens with these highly energetic dogs. Good luck - but you are on the right track. Solve the problem now rather than later!
Question: I have a seven-year-old Mali mix who just recently has become increasingly stubborn about getting into the car. Do you have any tips?
Answer: We use carrots, strawberries, a dog biscuit - whatever it takes to get our 8-year-old into the car as she does not like getting into the crate in the car anymore. It works like a charm. You just have to figure out what they like and it should work!
Question: We’ve adopted our Malamute who is one year old. He socializes with other dogs and their owners at the park. He will lean against other owners as he does me but growls at them. We don’t know why and it can intimidate others into thinking he’ll attack them. He likes to stand next to them. Can you give us the reason as to why this could happen?
Answer: I would make sure that it is actual growling. Malamutes vocalize - especially males - all the time. It can be misinterpreted as growling when in fact it is just 'talking' to you or someone else. Mine do that all the time. A trainer could tell you as well if he or she thinks that the dog is being aggressive or protective. By nature, Malamutes are not 'overly' protective. They are extremely social and love people. If he is not really attacking, I would tend to think again that it might be vocalizing but to be on the safe side, a little chat with a trainer couldn't hurt!
Question: How to stop biting during walks? Excellent information! We have a 5-month malamute who is biting in his walk. He will see the leash attached to your hand and bite your hand and jump on you and start biting. I have tried to turn my back away from him and give him treats to change the topic but when he sees the leash again he will start jumping on my hand and biting my hand.
Answer: That's obviously something he really, really wants to do - go for a walk. I would try just training him with the leash say in the backyard and NOT going for a walk. Make him sit or down and reward for being quiet rather than trying to abort the behavior once it starts. Maybe have a different leash that you work with and try putting it on to just go out and walk around or walk from room to room even. The leash should become something that isn't quite as much associated with fun, fun, fun - I get to go somewhere - and then the behavior will probably disappear.
Question: We have a husky girl and would like to add a malamute beginning of next year so she can have a playmate (she will be 10 months when we bring the malamute) I’ve read that Malamutes are not great with other dogs. I was wondering if buying a malamute puppy and obviously training him/her and he/she grows up with our husky, do you think it's possible to have the two live in harmony?
Answer: Totally! My breeders have always told me that the best thing to do is have 'opposite sex' dogs. Females in general can be highly more aggressive than males and compete between themselves for dominance so would try and go with a male - of course being sure that both are neutered. Look for a reputable breeder to get your mal puppy. In my humble opinion, they are far more docile than huskies and not quite as hyper. You want a malamute though that is bred for temperament - meaning that they are trainable. That is the key - no matter what breed you have - but huskies and malamutes in particular. You want to train them early and work with them consistently throughout their lifetime. Also be sure that you do not put them into situations where they can be aggressive - toward each other or anyone or anything else. I don't give bones to them for that reason when they are together - only when separated in their own kennels - and I do not ever feed our dogs together. It has worked beautifully. Knocking on wood, we have never had our dogs have any skirmishes so I know it is completely attainable.
Question: Is it possible to socialize a four-year-old Malamute who hasn't had any training?
Answer: It is indeed! You just have to start small. Things with Malamutes can be challenging as they are brilliant and can, unfortunately, be rather stubborn. I always recommend working with a trainer - even a lesson or two can help you discern what traits your dog has and give advice on the best way to go forward with socialization. I am always cautious with my malamutes - I don't 'assume' that they will just walk up to another dog and be friendly. Not because they are bad dogs but because sometimes other people's dogs are very aggressive. Especially dogs off leash! I would ask a trainer for a couple of pointers and even to work with your guy and see how he does and then go from there. You can do socialization from 'afar' as well - walking 'near' other dogs and people and seeing how he reacts - but not right up to them or in close quarters - just in case it does not go well! You always want to be able to be in a situation where you can control YOUR dog no matter what someone else's dog is doing. Again, I don't like off-leash dogs and hate it with a passion when I have to deal with that with my dog or dogs. I think it is beyond rude and very dangerous for everyone concerned. Baby steps are the way to go when training any dog, especially one who is several years old. Basic obedience training is super important and then working on all the bells and whistles falls into place more easily.
Question: Why is there not better information given to vets who are going to put Malamutes down? There is a huge Malamute refugee farm in Virginia that cares and rehabilitated mals. There was one wandering my parent's neighborhood. The people in Virginia took her, got her back to health and found her a great home.
Answer: I think some are just better than others. I have always had great luck with vets I think because I ask a lot of questions and I also always refer back to my friends who are malamute breeders lest I miss something. Great that there is a place for mals! One of my oldest Malamutes was saved by someone from being euthanized at less than a year because she was starved and beaten. She lived to be 16 or 17 we think. What a gift!
Question: Why does my Malamute looks exactly like a wolf but other Malamutes do not? The ones I saw on this website don't? (Sasha has a thick black stripe across his snout).
Answer: You will see all different markings on malamutes. It is just a matter of their breed and usually a litter has similar traits/facial markings. However, you can have a completely different malamute with totally different markings from every other dog in its litter. They are not 'twins' when they are born - they are all unique. That, to me, is what makes them so beautiful. Just as their coats can be all different kinds of thickness!
Question: Is it better to start with one or two puppies?
Answer: I've had multiple dogs always so I am probably prejudiced. I have always had less trouble with 'boredom' but that is not to say they still don't sometimes find things to get into trouble with!!! My dogs have always been fast friends and totally in love with each other (knocking on wood right now). I have been very lucky that way. I've had pups several times that grew up together and it was wonderful. Do be prepared though when you have 2 dogs, if you lose 1 of them, it usually is heartbreaking for the other so you may have to always have 2 of them. I mitigated any fighting or troubles by having them never have food down or toys that they could covet/fight over. Otherwise, it has been wonderful to see 2 dogs grow up together and be BFFs.
Question: Why would someone put an out of control Malamute down when the owner can just train the dog to behave correctly? That gives me the shivers since my Alaskan Malamute is sometimes out of control, but I still love him!
Answer: It is never the dog. Unfortunately, it always comes down to the owner. If we do not train our dogs properly and let them persist in bad behaviors - or merely put them in situations where they cannot be successful - it is totally on us, not the dog. I always recommend that anyone with ANY breed of dog who feels that their only step is putting the dog down please, please, please contact a shelter or a rescue agency for your breed dog and let someone with experience save that dog! There are other alternatives - you just have to have patience and actually train a dog in the ways that you want it to behave for the dog to be successful. Again, I do not believe there are bad dogs - just bad dog or pet owners. We can learn to train any dog if we take the time.
© 2012 Audrey Kirchner
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 17, 2020:
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!
Katie on July 17, 2020:
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?
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 10, 2020:
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!
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 16, 2020:
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.
Wolf on April 15, 2020:
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.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on April 10, 2020:
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!
ROGER D WATTS on April 09, 2020:
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?
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on January 05, 2019:
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!
Yvonne Cohen on January 05, 2019:
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.
Sasha on April 22, 2018:
This helped a lot thx!
Melissa on March 30, 2018:
Loved this article thank you!
mel on January 16, 2018:
Carla on June 14, 2017:
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?
ana on May 30, 2017:
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 :(
Manic on April 26, 2017:
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 06, 2012:
P.S. Meant Dorsi - I really can spell - just not enough caffeine yet~
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 06, 2012:
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 amazing....it's kind of a half glass full kind of deal for me. But then again...they had me at the first howl~
Dorsi Diaz from The San Francisco Bay Area on July 05, 2012:
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!
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 05, 2012:
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 and sherry from south Florida on July 05, 2012:
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.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 04, 2012:
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?
Virginia Kearney from United States on July 04, 2012:
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!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 04, 2012:
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
Kristy Sayer from Sydney, Australia on July 04, 2012:
This is an excellent hub! How you broke down teaching the sit command is perfect for first time dog owners!
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on July 04, 2012:
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
Pamela Hutson from Moonlight Maine on July 04, 2012:
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. :)