Malamute Dogs: How To Be Alpha

Malamute Dogs: How To Be Alpha


Training any dog on the dangerous dogs list is going to be a challenge.  In fact, training any dog the right way is fraught with stumbling blocks.

The single most important point you can remember about training an Alaskan Malamute or any dog for that matter is this….being the alpha matters and it matters big time!

In order for dogs to grow into good citizens that can coexist in a human world with the least amount of trouble and chaos, they have to know that their human counterparts are the biggest, the baddest leader of the pack!

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Alpha boot camp
Source: Audrey Kirchner


Many people are under the misconception that in order to be the leader of the pack, one has to be mean or one has to be loud and overbearing.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some of the best alphas out there are quiet, meek souls who handle themselves perfectly in every situation with their dogs but who do it uncompromisingly.  They also do it consistently. 

Being the alpha means being the leader of your pack.  It means teaching your dog or dogs that no matter what, you are in charge and they can depend on you! They also need to be assured that their pack leader is as consistent as the day is long and that good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior dealt with in a fair manner. 

So does that mean that the alpha part of a dog relationship needs to stomp, scream, yell, throw things or resort to other bullying tactics to get a dog to submit to them?  No way! 

It does mean though that the alpha counterpart of this dog relationship has to “bone up” on techniques and exercises that let the dog or dogs in a household know who’s the boss and who intends to stay the boss!

Let’s look at some of the techniques for being the leader of the pack.  Let’s talk about alpha boot camp.


Whether you’re a very confident person or you’re a shy and retiring sort, in order to have any breed of dog behave in an appropriate manner, you have to do the work. You have to put the time in when it comes to playing the alpha game. It doesn’t matter if the dog is a 5 pound miniature chihuahua or a 150 pound Alaskan Malamute.

The best time to become the alpha with any dog is when he or she is a puppy obviously. You have a much easier time of training any dog if you can start as young as possible to train them up in the ways that you want them to go. However, there is no time like the present so don’t let that put you off.

If you are starting out with a puppy, as you can see in the You Tube video of my Gabby, she was not a happy camper when our vet tech Shannon demonstrated the alpha exercise of making her turn over on her back and be held until she calmed. It isn’t a cruelty by any means though the screeching and screaming Gabby was doing would have led you to believe it! However, she learns something very valuable from that every time we go through our alpha training exercise with her. She learns that she is not the leader of the pack and that we humans are. This is the only reason for this exercise and it works.

Why do we need to be the leader of the pack? If humans do not become the leader of the pack in terms of raising their dogs, then trouble starts to crop up. Bad dog behaviors such as destroying property, biting, lunging, escaping, barking and digging (to name a few) start rearing their ugly heads.

Dogs that are left to their own devices can become bullies. Dogs that are not properly trained to show respect for their human counterparts turn into problem dogs or dogs with “limitations”. Dogs that do not know their place in the scheme of the human and canine world react in all kinds of ways that can land them in shelters or worse yet, euthanized. Simply taking the time to make sure you’re an alpha dog owner can save you years of frustration, money, and peace of mind where your dog is concerned.

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Great sit Gabradoodle!


There are many techniques and suggestions for teaching a dog its place in the structure of your pack.

Remember that your home and family is your dog’s pack and they need to be secure in their place within that group.

Ways that you teach your dog that you are the alpha:

Playing games – you should never end the game with the dog “winning.” The last tug should be won by you, the leader of the pack.
Stealing things like socks should not be tolerated. If a dog repeatedly does this and runs away, keep the dog on a leash until the behavior is fixed.
Feeding times and amounts of food should be controlled by the alpha (you).
Dogs should be fed after you or the family eat if at all possible.
Giving treats from the table is contradictory to being the leader of the pack as an alpha would not share their food.
Dogs should not “own” sleeping areas. Allowing your dog to share spots for spaces of time is one thing but allowing them to overtake beds or furniture diminishes your alpha status.
Walking around a dog can be perceived as a sign of weakness whereas stepping over them or making them move is an alpha trait.
If someone is not capable of assuming the alpha position with a dog, the dog should not be left in their care. For instance, children cannot be expected to be an alpha and a dog intuitively knows this.

Basic Alpha Training Techniques


Here are situations that we work on with our dogs. They illustrate how as a dog owner, you have to assert yourself and become the leader of the pack.

These are simple exercises that anyone can do. Rather than being “cute tricks”, they actually teach our malamutes what they need to know to be successful in our world.

Feeding times: We do not let our dogs eat “at will”. We have a malamute who is a rescued dog who has always had food issues. While I imagine that with much more training, we could eliminate those, it has always seemed better in my opinion to feed them when we want to feed them. It is more disciplined and it makes more orderly sense.

Each dog is fed separately. Each malamute must wait at the door until released to come in to eat. We have our dogs do a “sit” and a “down” before we release them to eat the food. We have also trained them to allow us to interrupt their feeding and pick up the bowl, wait a few moments and then give it back to them. In this way, the alpha illustration is that they are receiving things through us and that they must wait for us to give those things to them. They just don’t take and they must obey their pack leaders in order to eat.

Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs: Nothing can be more exasperating than a big dog or two or three who bolt out doors in front of you when going on a walk or who try and run down the stairs ahead of you. It’s dangerous for one thing….if they happen to trip you on the stairs, you could be injured. If they bolt out the front door ahead of you, something could happen like being hit by a car. So over and over the lessons are taught.

They are taught to sit when the door is approached and they have to remain sitting until we, the alphas, go out the door. When they are invited, they may come out or conversely, after we have gone inside, they may come in. (See the You Tube video below)  The same rule applies for the stairs or getting in and out of the car. This is an excellent teaching tool for any dog because it proves once again that you are in charge and you are in fact the leader of their pack.

Submission to the Alpha: The ideal time to teach submission to the alpha is when a dog is a puppy. A puppy will learn to submit to the alpha in many ways. In our case, Gabby has 2 other dogs to contend with on a daily basis so she has had a lot of training in alpha boot camp.  She is learning to submit on many levels.  

She has an older dog to contend with who is never silly and who rarely “plays”. Denaya has nipped at her 3 times in order to teach her what she expects in terms of respect. Griffin is pretty much a gregarious fellow at almost 2 but he also teaches her in his own way what he will tolerate and what he won’t.

The same goes for us, the adult alphas who are in charge of our little Gabby. In order to train her the right way, we must always keep in mind that she is a darling little puppy but she is also our responsibility to train to be the best canine citizen possible. This does mean using techniques such as the one demonstrated on the video. 

We may take her out of her “comfort” zone but we allow her to see that she can be vulnerable with us while at the same time knowing we will not hurt her. Some people would say that this was totally unnecessary but in terms of a large dog and a potentially aggressive dog, it is very necessary. It also has a wonderful side benefit such as being able to tend to your dog if necessary or have other people examine him or her. 

Eye contact is also very important in training dogs to respect the human alpha authority. We train our dogs to always check in visually before releasing them on a command such as “sit” or “okay” to eat their food.

If a dog displays jittery behavior around new people or lunging or barking, the appropriate alpha problem solver is to make the dog go into a “sit” or a “down” until they feel more confident to address the new situation. This also displays to the dog that you are in charge and you have every confidence things can be handled calmly.

It is imperative that anyone coming into contact with your dog or dogs understands the alpha concept. Consistency is the name of the leader of the pack “game” whereas variations in style can confuse a dog and create more problems.

In reality, dogs have similar traits to children. If our son or daughter is jabbering a hundred miles an hour and talking over someone else to get our attention, we would handle that situation by waiting until he or she wound down and was quiet, then answering. Handling a dog should be no different. If you come home and your dog (big or small) is clamoring for your attention and jumping all over you, barking shrilly or just making a huge pest of itself, the best thing you can do is to ignore it until it is behaving normally. Picking it up or encouraging the “bad” behavior is going to perpetuate it. Dogs become spoiled just like children if they get what they want every single time and most importantly immediately.  You can create a monster by giving in to a demanding dog just as you can a demanding child.


There are many training techniques that work for dogs but the Alaskan Malamute can present many challenges in terms of obedience training. However, with a malamute as with any other dog breed, you do not have to be aggressive or abusive to get alpha dog training to work for you.

Always ending on a positive note (a task completed successfully) is my policy in training any dog but especially so for a malamute. I prefer working in short spurts at a time many times a  day rather than doing longer training sessions. 

The funny thing about malamutes is that they will look at you like you’re a bit daft if you keep asking them to repeat the same thing over and over once they’ve mastered it.  Better to come back another time and get them to repeat it than keep drilling away on one point that they seem to have lost interest in.  

Loving and caring for your dogs should include the most valuable gift of all which is discipline. Without knowing their place in the pack, dogs have a tendency to act out or become prone to all kinds of different behavior problems. I am of the firm belief that there are no bad dogs but instead just bad dog owners.

Training dogs to do things is a great way to interact with them. It stimulates them mentally and makes them feel part of a society. Within that society, they need to have a leader though and that leader must be human for the delicate balance of man and dog to work.

If you have ideas and suggestions that have worked for you in being leader of the pack, please leave them in the comments section below.

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