Training An Alaskan Malamute Step By Step Guide

Training An Alaskan Malamute Step By Step Guide


An Alaskan Malamute can present many challenges in the course of ownership. That is if you don’t understand them and how to train them.

If you start early with an Alaskan Malamute, you’ll have a great shot at having transformed one of the dogs listed on the “dangerous breeds list” into a great canine citizen.

The Alaskan Malamute is one of the smartest dog breeds you’ll ever find anywhere and one of the most loyal. That said, you’ll probably never find a more headstrong breed or a more clever breed in getting around training.

Malamutes seem to have a mind of their own, however, in my experience, if you learn to channel that great brain and capture their inherent love of being social with their owners and each other, you’ve struck gold.

Come along with me on a journey in the last week while I train our newest malamute, my little 12-week-old pup Gabby.

Keep in mind these techniques shown are obviously done using my little puppy but they are tried and true for malamutes of any age. They also will work for any dog breed, large or small.

The videos are short and illustrate all the techniques I have described below as well. As you can see, I have a very talented pupil!

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Training is all about trust
Source: Audrey Kirchner


I’m a firm believer in gearing your dog training experience towards the breed of dog that you have.

It’s important to select your “most important commands” around what you plan on doing with your dog. Some are always going to be more important than others and they should be modulated for situations real and imagined. They also need to be geared to your lifestyle and your interactions with your dog.

If you have a dog like I do that is labeled a “dangerous dog”, you should make training a priority. That said, you need to then concentrate on the most important commands that you absolutely must have your dog perform right away and progress from there.

Below is my list of essential commands that my Alaskan Malamutes must have “under their collar” so to speak! I have also included the level of difficulty (for them to perform) from my own experience.

Essential Commands for Malamutes

“Basic Sit”
Dog is controlled and “at ease”
“Sit on Lead”
Dog stops every time when you stop
Medium difficulty
Dog is totally submissive and safe
Difficult to situation
Dog is safe and submissive
Very difficult at times
Dog will come to you no matter what
Extremely difficult
Dog will walk tight to your left side
Medium difficulty
“Fetch” or “Get it”
Dog will retrieve something for you
Medium difficulty
“Leave it”
Dog will ignore whatever “it” is always
Very difficult at times
Dog will shake hands with you
Dog will quit howling or vocalizing
Medium difficulty
Dog will stand still until you release
Very difficult at times
Dog will howl or talk on command
Dog will roll or move in position
Medium difficulty
Dog will stand in position immediately
Medium difficulty
Mushing commands
Dog will go left, right, etc. on command
Medium difficulty


The “sit” command is usually the one I start out with when I’m training any dog. It seems to be the easiest and one of the quickest to learn.

Training any dog to sit is very easy to do.

TIP 1: I always use part of their daily amount of kibble to treat rather than using fatty treats as it can easily add unwanted weight over a short period of time and upset their system.

Start with a piece of kibble.
When your dog is standing in front of you, slowly move the
piece of kibble in your hand back up and over the dog’s head towards his or her scruff of the neck.
The dog will naturally sit by following the kibble.
At the moment that the dog’s bum hits the ground, say the
word “sit”.
Reward lavishly with praise and treat.
Repeat many times throughout the day.

Eventually intersperse non-treated “sit” commands with treated “sit” commands. Work on getting the dog to sit quicker and quicker each time.

You can also incorporate a clicker training method for this command easily. Just make sure to always wait for the bum to hit the floor before rewarding with praise or with treats.

Practice this anywhere so the dog gets used to sitting in multiple situations.

Once the dog has mastered this command well, start introducing different “sit” situations such as someone approaching.

A seated dog is a better dog because while seated, they are under control. They cannot lunge at people, jump up on people, or pull you around.

A good rule of thumb is to also ask strangers to always allow you to have your dog sit before they approach your dog. It is a common sense plan for big dogs so that they are under control.

TIP 2: I always carry little baggies of kibble with me in my pocket so that if needed, I can “entice” my dog into a sit if a situation is particularly stimulating. Success is the name of reinforcing good behavior.

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Strolling by
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Starting to sit
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Almost there
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Treat time?


Teaching any dog to sit is very important but even more important is the sit when walking on lead.

This gives you an advantage and also protects your dog. If your dog has been trained to always sit when you stop, you are protecting him or her from dangers such as cars on the street once you leave the safety of the curb.

You are also learning to employ a great little trick to get your malamute into a controlled position. This handy little command comes in to play time and time again when you are out walking.

It is much easier to control a very large, powerful dog in a sitting position than it is in a standing position so when little 90-year-old Mrs. Pratt comes bustling towards you, 80 pound Gabby won’t jump up and knock her down.

Sitting on leash is also very handy when dogs are approaching or even in the case of loose dogs. It’s an effective way to get your dog under control. It seems irrational if another dog is out of control.  However, if your dog is under control and you have his or her attention, you stand a much better chance of getting out of the situation unscathed.

An easy way to teach your malamute to sit on lead:

Leash up your dog and make sure you have kibbles in your pocket.
Begin walking at a normal pace but stop after a few steps. Issue the command “sit”.
Wait for the dog to sit and then reward.
Continue on a few more paces and repeat this process.
Practice this over and over, with and without treating and soon your dog will begin to get the idea that you want a “sit” whenever you stop.
This is also a prelude to the “heel” command because your dog begins to anticipate that you are going to be wanting him or her close by (and there is the potential for a treat).
Moving on to the heel can be easily done by holding a treat in your left hand as you hold the leash and then finishing off with a stopped “sit”.

TIP: Keeping the treat in your left hand encourages the dog to stay on your left at all times rather than crossing in front of you to sit and get the treat. In this scenario you want the dog to your left.  You should also work with the dog to accomplish a sit in front of you on leash, too.

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Start with a “sit”
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Kibble in hand start to lower the kibble to the floor between the paws
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Keep lowering until the dog begins to assume the “down” position
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Almost there
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Say “down” just as the paws all hit the floor
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Perfect, Gabster!


One of the most difficult commands for a malamute to perform is the “down” command. It is, however, one of the first commands that you should teach.

The reason for the difficulty when it comes to the “down” command is that this is a command that makes the dog extremely vulnerable and some dogs rebel against it.

Obviously, starting out with this command as a puppy is a great idea so this is the second command I teach my pups.

The “down” command is a command that I believe is vital to a malamute’s well being. It can mean the difference between a happy ending and a bad ending in any given situation. If the dog trusts you, the alpha, enough to obey this command, you will always be in control of your dog.

The “down” command is useful for situations where your dog might be having trouble with self control such as kids running at him or her or dangling food around their face. It’s also a great command for any time you need your dog to be quiet and simply “drop”.

This command bears repeating over and over and in all kinds of stressful, noisy situations to be sure your dog has mastered it. Also making them do a “down” command on walks, at feeding times, just any time in general is a really good idea. It keeps them primed and tuned in to you.

We routinely make our dogs do a “sit” and a “down” before they are allowed to eat. Sometimes several of them depending on how exuberant they are to eat! It’s a way of saying human to dog “slow down here, pal and focus.”

How to teach your malamute the “down” command:

Have a piece of kibble in your hand.
Start with your dog in a “sit” position.
Holding the kibble out of reach of your dog’s mouth, slowly bring the kibble from the dog’s nose in a downward motion right between his or her paws.
Go slowly because you want the dog to grasp the concept that he or she is in fact going down.
When you reach the floor, the dog will probably be in the “down” position or nearly there. Try and catch the exact moment when all 4 paws are spread out on the floor and say “down”.
When all 4 are on the floor and the “down” is accomplished, praise lavishly and excitedly. This is a hard position for many dogs but especially malamutes at first and in certain situations.
Repeat this command often with and without treats.
Train the dog to do this command at random in all kinds of situations and you will realize what a valuable tool this command is.

TIP: Make sure you master this command fully before moving on to the “down and “stay”. A “down” that doesn’t hold will not help with teaching the correct “stay”.

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I admittedly am very prejudiced when it comes to the Alaskan Malamute and how smart they are. If you watch these videos though, I think you might agree that my little Gabster is pretty smart. In actuality though, they are all this smart.

Being on the dangerous dogs list is a difficult thing to accept at times because I know my dogs and I know their capacity for intelligence and for socialization. However, that said, facts are facts and in order to ensure that my malamutes represent their breed in the best light, I spend a lot of time training my dogs.

As you can probably tell from the videos, it isn’t work at all. I enjoy my dogs because I see their individual personalities and their love for learning each and every day.

Make training fun with any dog you are working with and your rewards will be twofold. You’ll experience a great feeling of accomplishment but so will your dog! I don’t think there is a breed of dog that doesn’t enjoy being successful or that doesn’t want to please his or her owner.

These are just 2 of the basic commands to teach a malamute but I think these 2 are the most important starting out. They lend you the potential to add in many more concepts and are the springboard for more complicated commands later on.

If you have more training tips for these 2 basic commands, the “sit” and the “down”, please add your comments below.  Stay tuned for more training tips from Audrey and Gabby.

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