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How to Train an Alaskan Malamute to be a Guard Dog

How to Train an Alaskan Malamute to be a Guard Dog
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Time icon1-6 Months
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Introduction

Your Alaskan Malamute always draws attention. Such large, strong dogs aren’t an everyday occurrence in the US. Then there are their ice cool eyes which pierce straight through you. All of this means that passers-by are desperate to say hello. However, they will proceed with caution as Atlas is not a dog you would want to mess with and it is exactly that quality that you want to use. You may have a family you love dearly and a house with possessions you’ve worked hard for. It’s perfectly natural, therefore, to want to keep them safe. That is where Atlas comes in.

Training your Alaskan Malamute to be a guard dog will be the perfect burglar deterrent. It means you’ll be able to sleep easy knowing you’ve got a guard dog pacing the perimeter downstairs. This type of strict training will also allow you to build a bond with your Malamute, ensuring that any training later on will be just as successful. 

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Defining Tasks

Training an Alaskan Malamute to be a guard dog requires hard work and persistence. The first thing to do is start boundary training, for Atlas will naturally want to guard anything that falls within his territory. You’ll also need to encourage and develop the defensive behaviours that will make him an effective guard dog. On top of that, you'll need to use obedience commands to train him to bark on command.

If your Alaskan Malamute is just a puppy, then training could take just a month or so. This is because Alaskan Malamutes are at their most receptive when they are in the puppy stages. However, if Atlas is older, stubborn, and his days of learning are behind him, then you may need several months before you see consistent results. If you can master training, you’ll have an effective way to keep both persons and property safe. This sort of training also makes for some great bonding time with your canine pal.

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Getting Started

Before you set to work, you’ll need to make sure you have a few bits. Stock up on delicious treats or break his favorite food into small pieces. You will also need a toy and a clicker for one of the methods below. 

A long leash or rope will be required. It may also be worth investing in a body harness. This will reduce strain on his neck while increasing your control. Then set aside around fifteen minutes each day for training. Note that the more often you train, the sooner you will see results.

Once you've collected the necessary tools, you can start to train!

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The Bark Method

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Monitor

Watch your Alaskan Malamute for a couple of days. Look for situations that naturally cause him to bark. You’re going to use these to teach Atlas to bark on cue and at strangers that approach. Common times that dogs tend to bark are before a walk or before meal time. Try to capture this behavior.

2

‘Bark’

Once you’ve identified a situation, put Atlas in it. However, this time give a ‘Bark’ command just before or as he begins to bark. Give it only once and give it in a clear, playful voice. Note that you can use any word or phrase you like for the command. Alaskan Malamutes can learn hundreds of different commands.

3

Reward

As soon as Atlas does bark, swiftly give him a reward. If you use a clicker when you train, click and then hand over a treat or a toy to play with. Just try to make sure he receives the reward within a few seconds of barking. Any longer and he may not associate the behaviour with the praise. Now, simply practice this command in different situations over the next week. Continue to practice until he follows your command every time, even with distractions around.

4

The approach

Secure your Alaskan Malamute to a leash and take him to the front door. Then have a stranger or friend approach and knock on the door. As soon as he does, point at the door and give Atlas the bark command. Now have the person yell and run away. It’s crucial your Alaskan Malamute knows that he needs to bark until the intruder flees.

5

Reward

Once they do run away, you can praise your Alaskan Malamute. Remember that the happier you make him feel, the more eager he will be to play again. Now you simply need to practice regularly. You can practice at the back gate and with windows. Just try to use different people each time. Keep practicing until Atlas starts naturally barking at strangers without your verbal cue.

The Watch and Learn Method

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Preparation

Secure your Alaskan Malamute to a leash and head out for your daily walk. Organize the walk so a friend or a person Atlas that does not know too well will meet you halfway. This will help your training process.

2

Capture his interest

Now, slowly approach the person. Start whispering, pointing, and walking around the person. Then start getting animated to capture Atlas’s attention. This technique works because Alaskan Malamutes mirror their owners behaviour.

3

Bark

Keep getting worked up and eventually start shouting at the person. Keep doing this until Atlas follows your lead and barks too. Don’t be put off if it takes a little while to begin with, as your Alaskan Malamute will soon catch on.

4

Reward

As soon as your Alaskan Malamute does bark, give him a generous reward. This could be a tasty treat or you can play around with a toy for a minute or so. Make sure you have tight control on his leash as you don’t want to risk him getting too worked up and trying to bite the person.

5

Practice makes perfect

Now you simply need to practice regularly. Have different people meet you each time and always try to make sure your Alaskan Malamute does not know them well. If Atlas always sees you getting worked up by strangers, he will soon get into the habit of it too.

The Boundary Method

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Morning prowl

Each morning, secure your Alaskan Malamute to a short leash. Then quietly walk him around the perimeter of the space you want him to guard. This will drill into him where his territory begins and ends. Anything within that space, he will then naturally want to guard.

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Evening walk

Now you simply need to repeat this again each evening. Before you know it, people, toys and anything within that perimeter will feel like part of his territory. Even though it can be time consuming to walk him around twice each day, the more consistently you do it, the sooner you will see results.

3

Obedience classes

It’s important you take Atlas to group obedience classes. This will help socialize him with other pets and people. Fail to do this and he may become too aggressive and hard to handle, particularly because Alaskan Malamutes can grow so large and strong.

4

Avoid punishment

Some owners turn to punishment techniques to train their guard dog. This is a mistake. Not only will controlling your Alaskan Malamute become more challenging, but he may also become aggressive towards people he does and doesn't know.

5

Reward

It’s also important that throughout the preceding steps that you reward any interest Atlas takes in strangers. If he sniffs or barks at a stranger, he must be rewarded. Hand over a treat, play with a toy and/or give him some verbal praise. Do this every time and he will associate investigating strangers with positive consequences.

By James Barra

Published: 06/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Stabler

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Alaskan Malamute

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8 Weeks

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Question

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I just got him

May 11, 2022

Stabler's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Stabler, Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you during the next six months - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Good socialization also boosts confidence. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. At this age, you will simply work on the normal puppy things though, like pup learning bite inhibition, potty training, and socialization. Once pup is starting to learn some of those, you can start more formal obedience. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 11, 2022

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Heidegger

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Alaskan Malamute

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2 Months

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Want to convert him into a watchdog

Nov. 5, 2020

Heidegger's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Alerto, As a puppy, pursue socialization - so pup knows what's still normal human behavior vs. suspicious, a high level of obedience, and general manners. Also, work on some guard dog specific behavior though. You can either hire a professional protection trainer to train pup formally, or you can work on teaching pup to bark when someone comes onto the property and generally be more alert of surroundings, on your own. For any bite work, you will need to hire professional help though. To teach pup to bark and be more alert, first, teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 6, 2020


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