Behavior Issues

 

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 (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

Routine change

Lack of Communication (timing is everything -- they may become frustrated) 

Traumatic experience (thunder, something scary occurs, etc.)

Stress (potty accidents, chewing, destruction, nervous zoomies, jumping biting)

Separation Anxiety versus Independence issues (there is a difference)

Resource Guarding (always trade up, become a giver, let your dog eat in peace)

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, etc.

 

Be mindful that if your dog is not feeling well, he or 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 or shorten exercise.

 

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, lip licking, freezing, air snap, growl), a Malamute will escalate with an air snap and possibly bite. Once a dog has a bite history (no matter the reason) his/her chance of being rehomed or taken into rescue is slim.

Learn how to read dog body language

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

 

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. 

Alaskan Malamute Training Facebook private group (just request to join)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/alaskanmalamutetraining/about 

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

https://www.instinctdogtraining.com/pupline/

Resources

Dog Aggression and Separation Anxiety

Dog Training & Behavior Seminars Website:  https://thelooseleashacademy.com/

https://thelooseleashacademy.com/resources-1

https://www.youtube.com/c/AggressiveDog/videos

https://muzzleupproject.com/resources/
https://muzzleupproject.com/muzzle-training/

https://drsophiayin.com/resources/dog_behavior/

Your Dog's Friend has a lot of videos by pet professionals including Vet Behaviorist

https://yourdogsfriend.org/videos/ 

https://www.youtube.com/user/YourDogsFriend/videos

Online reactive dog course:  https://yourdogsfriend.org/reactive-dog-classes/

General Behavior Issues

https://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup/videos  

https://www.youtube.com/c/DogLiaison/videos

https://www.youtube.com/user/attapuptraining

https://drsophiayin.com/resources/dog_behavior/  

DOG NERDS online resource for dog behavior solutions:

**FREE** Online Training by Instinct Online School 

https://onlineschool.instinctdogtraining.com/pages/courses

https://www.youtube.com/c/InstinctDogBehaviorTrainingLLC/videos

  • Leash Reactive Dog course:  Does your dog lunge and bark at other dogs or people on walks? Get step-by-step training help for your leash reactive dog and enjoy more relaxing walks together. Learn through instructional video, handouts, and quizzes. 

  • Dog Enrichment course:  Your dog's behavioral health is dependent on providing them with outlets to engage in important natural canine behaviors. Learn how to use enrichment games & activities to fulfill your dog's behavioral needs & reduce problem behaviors.

  • Patient & Polite Dog course: Teach your dog impulse control around treats, toys & doorways, and enjoy a more patient, polite companion!

  • DOGS & KIDS course: The essential guide for parents & guardians of dog-and-kid families. Practical strategies to help kids and dogs live together, safely & happily.

Online Training

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/

 

Grisha Stewart Dog School for Professional Dog Training Education

https://school.grishastewart.com/

 

Online Dog Sports & Mindful Manners taught by a Malamute Mom & Professional Dog Trainer:  https://www.pawsitivefutures.com/onlineclasses

Suggested Reading

Training Videos

Dog Training 101 - a DVD by Jean Donaldson Can be found at https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/dog-training-101.html

Blogs

Sign up for free newsletter from Whole Dog Journal:  https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/