Alaskan Malamutes are large, strong dogs that were bred for their endurance. They are patient, friendly, and powerful enough to withstand various games with kids, which is why they make such great family dogs.
However, when it comes to their training, they are anything but easy to train. They do not take instructions well, and are known to be rather stubborn dogs. They may also break their restraints from time to time and just do whatever they please. This is why the Alaskan Malamute is a challenging dog to train. Besides, several studies haven’t been too kind to its intelligence ranking, all of which start to paint a picture of what you can expect with this breed.
That being said, being difficult to train does not make them untrainable. This article will explain why this breed is so difficult to train, along with tips on how to handle such a challenging dog breed.
What is the Best Time to Start Alaskan Malamute’s Training and Why?
The best time to start training is when they are young.
The Alaskan malamute has retained the pack mentality from its wolf ancestry. Therefore, they either have to be the alpha, or allow another animal to play the role. This is where you come in.
You have to remember that to train you Mal better, you have to firmly take the position of Alpha. It is only when you take the position that you get to earn their respect.
Another reason why you need to start training them early on is because of their intelligence. Alaskan malamutes rank low in the working obedience intelligence ranking. Working and obedience intelligence is the dog’s ability to learn from humans. The Alaskan malamute is ranked at a distant 95 in this regard.
Therefore, it is considered an average intelligence dog breed. You need to repeat commands a lot to get it to learn them. Plus it will only respond to them half of the time. This is why it will be more challenging to teach a low ranking intelligence Adult Mal than a younger one.
Why Aren’t Alaskan Malamutes Easy to Train?
As has already been mentioned, they aren’t easy to train because of their low ranking intelligence and their wolf-like characteristics.
Their wolf tendencies make them stubborn. Even though they don’t rank well in the intelligence ranking, they are not actually dumb. They are simply smart and independent thinkers. They love to question everything and easily get bored and destructive.
This means they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. They’ll hunt or scavenge whenever they get the opportunity, and they are escape artists even in well-fenced backyards.
It helps to start their training early, set ground rules and socialization structure. Ironically, they are not great watchdogs. However, they are very affectionate and protective of their owners.
Alaskan Malamute Training Challenges
As you can see, the training and socialization of the Alaskan malamute is one big challenge. It is even harder to train an adult than a pup. This breed loves to assert its dominance, and it does not get along well with other dogs.
Training challenges are compounded by the fact that Mal is a restless dog. Regardless, of the training, he will still run off if not in a well-secured place. Remember, he is an independent thinker and deserves a more refined training methodology. Training should be done in bits. Focus on the situations he’s responding positively to.
Furthermore, mals hate boredom. This also extends to the training itself. If he is left alone and happens to get bored, he might get destructive, ripping apart stuff around the house. Similarly, if the training is boring, he will just give you blank stares. If you feel tired and bored, do not train your Mal. They will immediately notice and it will be the end of that training.
Also, you should include your children or any other member of the family in the dog’s training. They could be involved directly if they are old enough. For children, it’s more about socialization. Younger children might not be able to handle a large-sized dog like the Alaskan malamute. You therefore need your dog to behave well whenever he goes out with the kids.
The aspect of alpha dog is crucial while training the Mal. Lay much emphasis on this to avoid frustration later on. You are the leader of the pack.
Things to Remember When Training the Alaskan Malamute
So far, it is clear that the Alaskan Malamute is a very interesting dog. Here are a few tips that will help you master its training methodology.
Restraint Its Domineering Character
While this might seem like a good way for you to pull out your “claws”, you shouldn’t. It’s unnecessary. You can achieve impressive results by being non-confrontational. Do not react angrily towards your Mal. There are more detailed specifics points on how to restrain its dominating character.
Ultimately, though, you have to approach the restraint with a lot of caution. For instance, never allowing the dog to occupy human spaces is will send the right message. Also, you can gain respect by ensuring the dog gets in after you. You lead he follows.
Approach the Alaskan Malamute as a Unique Dog Breed
Do not approach your dog’s behavior as a defect. It is a unique dog and its behavioral patterns are all hereditary. Occasionally, the dog might act wild or stubborn even after continuous and thorough training. When this happens you need to reinforce its trust in you positively.
Remind your mal that they are part of the family. Do not be too hard on him if you don’t want them to be rebellious. Remember to be kind, loving, patient and understanding with the Mal during training.
How to Reward the Alaskan Malamute During Training
Even though we will look into positive reinforcement in the following section, it’s good to know that malamutes respond well to rewards. At the same time, they are stubborn, so they will not follow commands as required. Dogs get naughty sometimes, when they do, again, do not be so hard on them. There is mild punishment that can work with Mal.
Punishment should be frowned upon when dealing with an Alaskan malamute. Instead, make the training interesting and fun for the dog. If he is punished, he loses faith and becomes anxious.
Every Dog is Unique in Its Own Right;
Despite everything we have discussed each Alaskan malamute is unique. That’s why in the previous point we stated that you should formulate your training plan according to the dog’s response. The mal could even behave differently from what we have been discussing here.
In such a case, you are supposed to create a training plan to suit them. Some dogs might be overly destructive. If you notice that you should make sure that they are not bored or they remain locked up. If the dog is an escape artist, you should ensure your back yard is properly fenced. The bottom line is that you know your dog better even than any studies you’ve read out there.
Becoming the Alpha Dog
This is the most interesting fact about the Alaskan malamute. They only bow to the alpha. Becoming an alpha should start early. You set the ground rules when they are puppies. What are some of the things you can do to become the alpha?
For one, make sure you lead in everything you do including simple things such as who’s first to enter between him and you. In a sense, you need to make the mal to see you as the guide. For example, you need to teach him to move for people (on furniture) and not the other way round. You can also tether the dog through a belt loop. That way he feels the need to follow the owner. This is a great way to restrain his dominant nature.
Restrict his access to the yard. Alpha dogs are territorial. Allow him to access the yard with your permission. Feed your dog with a schedule so that you know when he needs to urinate to decide whether to let them out or not. Additionally, you should limit their playtime as well.
In any new environment, teach him to request permission before going out to explore.
Positive Reinforcement is Crucial
The concept of positive reinforcement in training works well with all dogs including, the Alaskan malamute. In actual sense, these methods rely on a reward system rather than punishment. Technically, when a dog learns a new command well, you reward them for it. This method motivates them to want to learn more commands.
The opposite of positive reinforcement is a method that relies on a punishment system. If a dog does not perform as commanded, they are punished for that mistake. This method demoralizes dogs. Your aim should be to avoid punishment as much as possible.
Typically, through positive reinforcement, the dog connects their actions with the rewards they get. They are aware if they perform a task well, they will get a reward for it. This method of training can be supplemented with clicker training.
Clicker training is the use of sounds such as whistles to notify your malamute when a particular activity has been done. Clicker training gives the dog a specific moment that a particular task is accomplished.
Commands That All Alaskan Malamutes Should Be Taught
Some of the most basic commands to teach your malamute include Sit down, wait and stay. These basic commands are easy to teach. The wait command is useful when going out or rushing to their food.
The other basic commands include staying, (insert dog name) come, drop, off, and leave it. Stay commands means they have to wait a little longer. Of course, the “come” command teaches them to come to you.
The off command is a bit firm, telling your dog to sleep or get off the furniture. Similarly, the leave it commands is also firm. They shouldn’t dare touch what they were planning to.
The other commands include out, spin, hold, roll, shake, quiet, go get it, and bring it. Out simply means that they should get out of the car or outdoors. Hold, roll and shake are also great commands when training your malamute.
Establish a Training/Exercise Schedule
As you can see, training Alaskan malamute is a lot of work that needs a lot of dedication and patience. That said, you need to break down all your training into easy step by step processes.
Remember, you must put your heart into it to ensure you get the best results. If you are not into the training process, you will get frustrated.
The training can be designed to fit your ideal schedule. However, create a specific schedule for your dog depending on their personality and temperaments. Set a goal for each new command because there will be a lot of repetitions with the Alaskan malamute. Therefore, the trick here is to be patient.
How Long Does it Take to Train an Alaskan malamute?
They take about 8 months to 2 years to learn most of the basic stuff. During this period, they might start behaving like teenagers do, ignoring any new lessons they get. They become stubborn and prefer to do things on their own.
However, the training is ongoing and cannot be stopped. You should continue training them as long as they can learn new things.
Training the Adult Malamute Dog
The best approach to training the Alaskan malamute is using the information you already know about the breed and your training goals. Be ready to contend with their instincts, which might kick in at any time. They’ll want to catch some small game or even run off when you are outdoors, so watch out for that.
When in public, you have to tame their aggression, which is often brought out by external factors. They will drag you around when they get aggressive or run off to hunt at home, in the yard or at the park. However, with proper training, this will happen less and less.