When troubleshooting behavior issues, please pause and remember that your dog is not giving you a hard time, he/she is having a hard time. They need YOU to help them feel safe. Be calm and take a breath. Your feelings and emotions impact your dog, too. Always rule out medical issues first. You may need the help of a professional dog trainer (Behaviorist or Vet Behaviorist) to help identify the root cause of unwanted behavior.
Stage in life affects behavior
Puppies may have growing pains
Teenagers have raging hormones
About 8 years+, dogs may begin to experience arthritis
Senior dogs may lose hearing, eyesight, hip dysplasia, etc. become jumpy and sensitive
Pain affects behavior (check their teeth, rule out any health issues)
Change in routine may cause stress and anxiety
Lack of Communication (they may become frustrated - what do you want me to do?)
Lack of or Interrupted Sleep (dogs get grumpy too, let sleeping dogs sleep please)
Traumatic experience (thunder, something scary occurred, etc.)
Stress & Anxiety (may create potty accidents, chewing, destruction, nervous zoomies, jumping biting)
Separation Anxiety versus Independence issues (there is a difference both need your attention)
Resource Guarding (always trade up, be a giver, let your dog eat in peace)
Resource Guarding in Dogs: A Fear Free Approach: https://youtu.be/LnSUerpBt1U
"Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs" By Jean Donaldson
If your dog is acting strange (i.e. is overly excited, grumpy, or nervous), pay attention. Most likely, your Malamute is trying to let you know that something is wrong. They may be stressed, bored, frustrated, or not feeling well physically. Work on finding the root cause for the strange behavior. Your dog may have an injury, need more exercise, need time alone, or is anxious about a storm. As a dog enters different stages in their life, they may develop fear or hesitation towards things, sounds, that were ok before. Dogs will have their guard up to protect themselves if they feel vulnerable or are not well.
Be mindful if your dog is not feeling well, he/she may feel vulnerable or scared around strangers or other dogs even though he or she is comfortable with you. Of note, as your dog gets older, be sensitive to their changing needs. Arthritis is painful! Adjust your routine and consider reducing exercise and increasing mental stimulation.
If your dog is not feeling well, is unhappy, or is scared, he/she may growl. It is important to never punish your dog for growling. It is your dog’s way of communicating his or her discomfort or stress. It is a warning that prevents a bite. Give your dog "space" and think about how you feel when you are not well. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/understand-why-your-dog-growls/).
Find out the reason he/she is growling. You may need to adjust the environment to help your dog. Your dog may need to build confidence. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/fear-confidence/building-your-dogs-confidence-up/
I wish my dog could speak . . . Good news, dogs do speak by using their body. Are we listening? If we fail to "listen" to our dog's body language (head-turning away from you, stiff posture, lip licking, freezing, air snap, growl), a dog will escalate with an air snap and possibly bite.
"Touching a dog increases, approximately 20 seconds before a bite, as does standing or leaning over a dog." Dog Bites: Behavior of Dogs and Humans Before an Attack
Learn how to read dog body language
Canine Body Language Guide: https://www.pawsitiveconnection.com.au/articles
Dog Body Language: https://eileenanddogs.com/dog-body-language/
Helping Your Fearful Dog Navigate the World: https://youtu.be/DXCI6hT_60Q
How to Speak Dog: http://www.ispeakdog.org/how-to-speak-dog.html
Silent Conversations: https://www.silentconversations.com/
Doggie Drawings: https://www.doggiedrawings.net/freeposters
Body Language Video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8bg_gGguwzg&t=2s
Dog Body Language QUIZ: https://dogknowledge.thinkific.com/courses/dog-body-language
Learn to read your dog App: https://www.dogdecoder.com/
Schedule and Routine
Create and maintain a schedule and routine. “Many dogs find “living in the moment” and spontaneity to be nerve-wracking. In fact, much of a dog’s life is about anticipating future events. Dogs thrive off of predictability and routine.” Dog Liaison, Jenna Romano
Create a Spa-like environment
We go to the Spa to relax, decompress from stress, and take time to heal. Your dog's cortisol levels are probably high. Similar to the straw that broke the camel's back, a dog may become overwhelmed by a lot of little things (trigger stacking) and blow up (over threshold).
Reduce and/or avoid excitement to prevent your dog from reacting.
Control the environment by reducing distractions (noise, motion, and commotion). You may consider covering your dog's crate and using white noise such as a fan to reduce stimulation.
Provide mental stimulation (stuffed Kong, natural chews, sniffing games like "find it")
“A dog that is “over threshold” isn’t necessarily afraid.
Sometimes it’s frustration, overjoyed excitement, or simply sensory overload.” Dog Liaison, Jenna Romano
1. Be perceived as the giver of good things rather than the taker.
2. Always do an exchange or trade when objects are taken from the dog.
3. In games of tug and fetch, let the dog “win” the object.
4. Don’t chase your dog. Teach him to bring objects to you and release them on cue for a reward.
5. To prevent food guarding behavior, add extra palatable treats while the dog is eating.
Prevention and Management
Remove opportunities to make bad choices (put away temptation or block off areas).
Offer “choice” for your Malamute to retreat to their safe place (crate or quiet area in your home) or increase the distance from the thing or person that is upsetting them.
Use positive reinforcement to communicate to your dog the behavior you wish for him/her to repeat (instead of yelling, “No!”). Living in a world of "No!" is like living life walking on eggshells. This creates insecurity and fear. "No!" may temporarily suppress behavior but your dog may explode and may even bite (which can be a death sentence depending on local laws).
Please do not use aversive (force, fear, shock, choke, intimidation) methods or equipment. Doing so may temporarily suppress behavior or cause the dog to feel they must defend themselves with aggression.
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham Maslow
Help for my Malamute!
Most aggression is fear-based. Depending on your situation, there is hope. We have several wonderful resources so you can educate yourself and seek the assistance of a professional dog trainer experienced with your specific issue. Prevention and management are critical to keeping you and your dog safe. Please consider muzzle training using positive reinforcement. You may also need to seek a consultation with a Vet Behaviorist who may recommend medication to help your dog while you work on training.
If you have an urgent need, Instinct Dog Training has live, on-demand access to certified dog trainers & behavior consultants. Their Pup Line is open 7 days a week, from 10am - 4pm ET. Call 1-833-PUP-LINE
“Success in aggression cases starts with the humans.”
Dog Liaison - YouTube
General Behavior Issues
DOG NERDS online resource for dog behavior solutions:
**FREE** Online Training by Instinct Online School
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Grisha Stewart Dog School for Professional Dog Training Education
General problem solving, clicker training, grooming/vet instruction, and the specific technique of Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT).
Monthly membership and access to training courses: https://grishastewart.com/training/
Introduction to Online Dog Sports
Dog Training 101 - a DVD by Jean Donaldson Can be found at https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/dog-training-101.html
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