Advice From Real Owner: Training Tips For Alaskan Malamute DogsAre Alaskan Malamute dogs easy to train? What are the challenges in training an Alaskan Malamute? In this article, an Alaskan Malamute owner, Lynette will share her knowledge with pet lovers.
Food Excitement/Resource Guarding IssuesWhen Aurora first came home with us, she had extreme food excitement. At the very scent of her kibble, she would go wild, run, jump and claw me just to get to her food. It was so bad that even putting her in her playpen didn’t work as she simply jumps out of it. My children had to remain in their playroom during her meal times. It got to the point where I was forced to leash her to prepare her meals, and she would whine and pull so hard that I really thought she would strangle herself. So, I started to ignore her cries, bring her bowl and made her sit and count to 10. Should she gets up before I’m done the counting, I would tell her to ‘sit’ and recount. Soon she got the idea, only if she behaves will I release her to her food. We kept working on it until I could have her next to me sitting, waiting next to me while I prepare her food. Once that is done, she is to walk next to me, no jumping, or clawing allowed. If she even jumps, I would make her sit and count to 10 again. With resource guarding issues, you can train your dog using several methods: 1. Build trust. ‘You have got to give trust to earn trust.’ A resource guarder is afraid to let his/her guard down or let go of the object whether it is a toy, food or dirt because he/she will lose that object forever. Hand feed your dog to build trust. I can put a kibble between Aurora’s teeth one at a time without worrying about her biting me. I teach my kids to bring her a treat and drop it into her bowl to teach her trust, that she has nothing to fear as we only have her best interest in our heart. 2. Some dogs are possessive over their water bowls. Have several water bowls and put it everywhere in the house. Soon they will realize that they cannot protect and possess everything in their house. 3. Reinforce the ‘drop it’ and ‘leave it’ commands. Give your dog a lesser value treat, once he/she has it, tell him/her to ‘drop it.’ If they do reward him/her with a higher value treat. Keep working on it and always alternate between praises and treats. With ‘leave it’ tell your dog to sit, then put a treat away from your dog. If your dog obeys, and wait for the ‘eat’ command, you reward him/her with a treat, keep working on it as well until you are able to put the treats right next to them. Aurora loves cats, unfortunately, they are afraid of her, and hence when she sees a cat she will try to chase it to sniff it but with the above training method, I can walk her with 5-6 cats on either side of the pavement without her even flinching to chase them. 4. Teach them to trade. I use a new toy for this. I’d give Aurora a new toy, watch her get super excited with it and then tell her to “give mummy” with a high value treat on my hand (always use a high-value treat for a high-value toy, as the barter must be of equal value). If she gives me the toy, she gets the treat. Then to sweeten the deal, I would return the toy to her and say ‘mummy gives you back!” and proceed to trade again with another treat. Work on that until she understands that even if you were to pick anything of hers up, it will still be returned to her later. Always use positive reinforcement and never punitive. If you use punitive, you teach your dog to fear rather than trust.
With Pulling And Lunging IssuesThe best advice ever given to me was trained your dog not to pull and lung while you can still hold your ground. I used a harness with a build in short leash and attached an external retractable leash for this purpose. I know that there are plenty of people who are against retractable but when used correctly, it can be a very effective training tool. Every time your dog pulls, make him/her sit and count to 10. Then shortened the retractable leash. Good behaviour with a result in loose leash walking and bad behaviour will result in a shortened leash. Keep doing that until he/she realized that in order to an uninterrupted walk, he/she needs to behave. Always carry high-value treat when you walk your dog. Sometimes the best walkers can get overly excited, pull and lung to get to another dog, cat or squirrel. This is where the build in leash comes in handy as I will immediately shorten her retractable and grab her in build leash with my free hand to hold my ground. Trust me, at 8 months Alaskan Malamutes have enough strength to knock you off and drag you along when they bolt. When that happens, tell your dog to ‘sit’, proceed to stand in front of your dog blocking its view of the distraction to refocus on you. Then, reward him/her with a treat for good behaviour. Now when Aurora sees her friends, she just sits immediately, called out to them and watch them drag their owner to her. Read more:
Interaction IssuesMalamutes love people, they yearn for nothing more than to spend their time with them. Sometimes in their excitement, they stand on their hind legs for a hug, knocking down a small child or an elderly person. To prevent accidents I trained her to sit in the presence of children and elders. Until unless she calms down, I will not allow her and guests to mingle together. Even while out walking I will tell her in a loud enough voice “you know you need to sit in order to get attention. If you do not sit down, then you will not get any pats!” This is also to caution strangers not to give her any attention until she sits. With children she is to lay down. Children especially the younger ones (4-7 years old) tend to walk about a bit more and by her laying down, they tend to sit next to her to ask questions rather than move about. This way I eliminate the possibility of them intruding into Aurora’s personal space and making her uncomfortable. Aurora knows that she can leave anytime she wants to. Malamutes are very protective of their human child/children. Hence when you’re out with them, no matter how friendly your Mal is, they may go on the protective mode by putting themselves between their human child/children and a stranger if they sense danger. Hence, always be imperative for you to caution strangers from making sudden movements.
Dog FightsMalamutes rarely initiate fights and those that do is due to reactivity. Aurora has been attacked twice by a yellow Labrador. In both occasions, it was due to the carelessness of the owners, one releasing the leash of an aggressive dog and the other walking his dog lead-free. She dislikes them as a result and develops the fear of large breed dogs. It took a month of constant encouragement and reassurance for her to be able to walk past houses that have Doberman Pinchers, German Sheppard, Labradors, and Rottweilers. Now I steer clear of Labradors no matter how their owners claim that they are friendly and nice. This is because Northern breeds have a different stance and body language compared to others. The posture of a northern breed intimidates other (non-northern) breeds. If you really want your Mal to befriend another dog (non-northern breed), make sure both dogs are leashed. Let them greet on the side, tell your Mal “go say hi” maximum 1 minute. After that pull your Mal and the other dog away and go for a walk together keeping a wide distance between them. Slowly build trust to have them walk side by side. This method was taught to me by a very experienced dog trainer. The same lady who told me “they (owners) will tell you their dog is friendly, don’t trust them because most often they really don’t know what they are doing!” Even the most confident dog who comes to initiate contact will have 2nd through the next minute and decide to attack. This was how Aurora got attack the 2nd time.
Sharing Of ResourcesI have a policy of sharing her treats and water with her buddies. If the treat is from me, she gets the first piece to follow by them. Likewise if the treat comes to the owner of her buddies, they get the first piece to follow by her. This is how she learned to share her food with strays or injured animals.
GrowlingMost owners do not permit their dogs to growl. That is bad because barking and growling is their way of communicating. If you stop your dog from growling, your dog will have no way of communicating until it escalates to a bite. By then it is too late as the dog would either be put down or rehome. Allow your dog to growl and learn to distinguish their different growls from playful growl to ‘cut it out’ to ‘I’m warning you to stop it!’. Read more:
——Written by Lynette Yee
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