I like to think of it as "manners" rather than obedience...
Obedience is what you make it. Some of the most obedient dogs I know do not have formal obedience training or AKC titles. Many formal obedience trained dogs that live their lives mainly in kennels are poor housedogs. Having an obedient Malamute is a lot of work! Consistency in your training - and being fair and firm - are important when training a Malamute. Your dog should be obedience trained to suit YOUR needs, not the needs of the trainer. What do you consider obedient? Leaping to your every whim? Listening sometimes? Obeying when it's REALLY important? There are many different intrepretations of "obedient". Perhaps you want a dog that doesn't pull on lead, get in the garbage, or steal from the countertops - then THAT is what you should train for. If you don't care if he will stay in the same spot for hours or will do a perfect heel why waste time training those things? On the other hand, perhaps you have aspirations to put an AKC obedience title on your dog. It will take practice and a good bit of frustration as Malamutes are natural comedians and enjoy embarrassing their owners in the showring! A good obedience instuctor will teach you what you want and need to know.
Often we are asked WHY take obedience classes. Usually this person has owned dogs before, maybe taken a class. They have the basics of how to teach the dog to sit, down, come, etc. Actually, the main reason you take an obedience class is to SOCIALIZE Malamutes to other dogs and impress upon them your authority so they will gain respect for you (in a kind way). It is important to introduce your Malamute to various breeds, calm dogs, hyper dogs, small dogs, yappy dogs, submissive and dominant dogs. A Malamute needs to meet other friendly dogs - big and little - so that he neither fears nor needs to dominate them and realizes that they are dogs too - not prey. In a good puppy class, he will be allowed much supervised off leash interaction with other dogs of about the same age and size. Malamutes will often not "play" as in rolling around and wrestling. Many will only go from dog to dog "checking them out" in a very detached kind of way, maybe chasing, maybe ranking. However, they gain much from this interaction. Also, you will learn how to give commands and enforce them so that your dog will respect you. You will learn several techniques to enforce your "alphaness" in a positive way so that your Malamute will not rule the house. Malamutes are dominant dogs, so it is important to gain control and respect early.
- So, what do Malamutes learn in "Puppy Kindergarten"?
- Share the doggie toys without fighting
- Being aggressive will get you chomped by somebody bigger
- Don't fight over treats, everyone gets something
- Don't bite (at least not hard)
- Dog cookies come from the nicest people
- Rest and be still after you play hard
- Most other dogs are friendly and only want to sniff your butt
- Don't let a nasty dog ruin your day, there are more friendly dogs than nasty dogs
- Some dogs have no manners, but they're ok too, just ignorant
- It's NOT ok to teach the ignorant dogs some manners though you'd like to
- I am beautiful and smart and independent, but listening to my owner will get me special praise and treats
- I am NOT at the top of the food chain
- Humans get to go through the door before dogs
- Sitting, coming and stuff like that are dumb human tricks, but they get you treats
We are very proud of Diana and Koani who are working
hard at Obedience and a future Companion Dog Title.
Whereas, puppy class, with the right instructor can teach you and your dog many things - he will learn additional lessons by having an extended "pack" or special doggy friends that he lives with or sees regularly. He will learn much from mom and interaction with siblings before going home from the breeder, if he's not removed too young. These are important lessons, and Malamutes, being social pack animals need to know them. He will expect OTHER dogs to know the rules, and get very ANNOYED when other dogs do not use proper doggie manners. Some of the lessons learned in a friendly pack are:
- It's easier to catch the mouse if everyone cooperates.
- Whoever has possession is the owner of the mouse.
- Never steal someones mouse unless you can be sneaky
- Lick your paws clean after you eat. If a friend's face needs cleaning that's ok too, but wait till he's done swallowing.
- It's a waste to beg for food from another puppy, but it's OK from adults
- Live a balanced life - play some, sleep some and eat whatever you can mooch every day.
- Two puppies together can conquer the world. Four OWN it.
- Show respect to the elders, they get treats first.
- The most dominant dog gets to go through the door first.
- The top dog will always pee on the tallest bush.
- Puppies potty in the middle of the yard.
- Mark your territory outside, not in the den (house).
- Every dog deserves his own space.
- Stay out of another dog's dish.
The most important element in finding an obedience instructor is finding someone that UNDERSTANDS Malamutes. Many obedience instructors are limited in the type of dog they can train well. Whereas a golden retriever is easy to train because they are so eager to please, Mals use a different set of rules. Many instructors have very negative opinions of Mals - they feel they are pushy, aggressive, untrainable and dangerous in a class situation - stay away from these people! Sure they can be all these things in inexperienced hands around ignorant people, but they are also smart and learn quickly if properly motivated and will have the best dog manners in the class.
The most important element in finding an obedience instructor is finding someone that UNDERSTANDS Malamutes. Many obedience instructors are limited in the type of dog they can train well. Whereas a golden retriever is easy to train because they are so eager to please, Mals use a different set of rules. Many instructors have very negative opinions of Mals - they feel they are pushy, aggressive, untrainable and dangerous in a class situation - stay away from these people! Sure they can be all these things in inexperienced hands around ignorant people, but they are also smart and learn quickly if properly motivated and will have the best dog manners in the class, if not always at home!
They will not do something "stupid" in dog language out of ignorance - such as try and take food out of another dog's mouth (unless the dog is an absolutely subserviant quivering mass of shyness - then it deserves not to eat, or live - as seen thru the eyes of the Malamute). Natural selection at it's best. This is a primitive dog. Malamutes live by rules other dog breeds barely understand.
The Malamute uses advanced body language, various sounds and much expression to convey information to other dogs - but many breeds have had their primal knowledge of this "doggie language" bred out of them. A knowledgeable instructor will be able to read dogs and know when a growl is a serious threat or just a "hey, watch it!". With a Malamute you will be embarrassed because he WILL sniff a crotch, mount a less dominant dog (not for sex but for dominance), he will snap at an ill mannered mutt invading his space or mooching his food. These are important dog issues, which sometimes conflict with what people expect of dogs.
It is our job, as people and pack leaders, to teach our Malamute proper "people manners" around other dogs. Not always an easy task as these behaviors are a very strong part of the Malamute psyche. A good trainer will understand and respect your Malamute's excellent dog manners, but gently and postively reward behavior acceptable to humans as well. To forcefully correct a behavior without understanding and respecting it's basis is unfair to the dog. Many trainers have ruined good Malamutes (misusing pinch collars, "stringing them up by the neck" or other severe methods) by trying to force the Malamute to do what the Malamute believes is BAD dog behavior. He thinks, "Why do you want me to do things that can get me killed in the dog world? Are you NUTS?"
Holly in a down stay
It is VERY important you find an instructor that likes the breed. A good trainer will train with postive reinforcement most of the time. The best trainers use little or no negative reinforcement. Consider this when you choose your puppy class. You don't need a resentful, untrusting, confused and angry dog. It's hard enough to train a gentle, trusting, happy dog. A good trainer can READ dog behavior well and see problems coming, but has the tact and information to divert a problem into a good and positive lesson. A good trainer will have more than one positive way to train (because the first way doesn't always work). Most of all, a good trainer will have patience and not label your dog.
Each breed has it's strengths and weaknesses - of course some people will be more partial to retrievers or another to sighthounds - but you should NEVER get this feeling in class. A good trainer will not BORE your Malamute into acting up by talking too much or doing too many repetative drills. Actually, you want a trainer that enjoys your breed for what it is - independent, strong willed, clever and intelligent - celebrating these qualities and using them to advantage.
By now, you're thinking - this will be HARD to find! Yes, it will. But a well behaved, well socialized Malamute is an ambassador for the breed. You want people to say, gee, I want a calm well-behaved dog just like yours! (though you will laugh inside knowing all the work involved). If you can't find a class that meets your expectations - organize your own. There are other concerned pet owners out there that know how to get a dog to sit, but need socializing experiences too. If they are dog-savvy friends that have various other breeds, all the better! Visit some friendly neighborhood dogs (with the owners' permission) for a doggy playgroup! Read a good training book and together with friends and their puppies, begin your own puppy "club".
If you get really inspired there is always advanced obedience of various kinds including Agility and Rally where the dog jumps, goes over ramps and through tunnels.
This site has a nice list of trainers for most states (I don't know any of them so it's up to you to screen them, but it's good starting point). http://www.dog-training.com/trainers.htm
Congratulations Graduate! (Koani)
Koani receiving her 1st leg toward an obedience
title at her very first show!
Way to go Koani and Di..!
More Pups in Obedience!