Alaskan Malamutes have a reputation for being difficult to train and handle, due to their stubbornness. But is this a fair representation of the breed?
The truth of the matter is that Alaskan Malamutes are very intelligent dogs. This is not necessarily reflected in the rankings of intelligence in the different dog breeds that you will find in books and on the internet, and the reason is this: Malamutes are not always the most obedient of dogs, and it is obedience that counts in these rankings. But what Malamutes do have is the ability to think independently. Their intelligence goes beyond blindly obeying any command given. They have the capacity to look at situations, and assess for themselves whether or not it is to their benefit they should comply.
You need to understand the history and evolution of the breed to get a grasp on what makes them tick, because training Malamutes is all about psychology. The largest of the five Kennel Club recognised Arctic breeds, the Alaskan Malamute is an ancient breed, developed in the harshest of conditions, where strong instincts, versatility, and survival of the fittest is what counted above all else.
A dog who would blindly obey, and move forward on command no matter what, would have been a danger to the Mahlemut tribe. Rather, smelling thin ice and sensing danger ahead, a Malamute’s intelligent, independent thinking would mean in such a situation they would not obey, and this “stubbornness” saved lives.
Nowadays, the vast majority of Malamutes are pets. And this independent thinking often has their owners at their wits’ ends, mistaking this attribute for a character flaw.
Rather than seeing training your Malamute as a battle of wills, work with what you know of the breed. Positive training methods such as clicker training often work wonderfully for Malamutes, as do systems such as the Nothing In Life Is Free method.
Despite their large size and impressive looks, Malamutes are very sensitive animals and they crave love, affection and respect. So treat your Malamute well, teach them right from wrong using positive methods, be calm, firm and consistent, and you will have an amazing companion whose quirks you can appreciate and work with.
And when your Malamute chooses to ignore a command? Well, sometimes you just have to see the funny side 😉
Enjoy the video!