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Solutions to Common Dog Problems

Pulling on the lead

There are a few choices for training collars. The most commonly used is the choker chain. The choke chain is also the most commonly MIS-used collar. A dog that is permitted to lean against and pull against a choke chain will damage its trachea and have breathing problems in the future, and when used in this manner the chain is serving no purpose whatsoever. A choke chain should hang loose around the dogs' neck as he walks on a slack lead beside you, and a short, sharp correction given when the dog lunges at something or pulls away from you.

A better option is a "Halti" or "Gentle Leader" head halter. These are just like a halter for a horse, and make it impossible for the dog to pull. Some dogs don't like the feeling at first, but with some treats and keeping the dog moving, most soon get used to it. If Halti = walk and treats, then the Halti is happily worn!

There is also a harness called a "Lupi" harness - it pulls tight under the front legs when the dog pulls and greatly reduces the amount of power they have. It isn't very suitable for aggressive dogs however, because if your dog has a spat with another dog you cannot turn him away, only pull him backwards which will likely make things worse.

Some people use a car-seatbelt / walking harness on their Malamutes for walking their Malamutes. These harnesses are designed to keep the dog safe on the back seat of the car, and for walking small dogs. Expecting a dog bred to pull in harness not to pull when put into a harness for walking seems more than a little unrealistic. It also may cause confusion when it's time to put the dog in front of a bike or rig. "She doesn't want me to pull in harness, but now she does" rather than the dog simply wearing a collar when walking, and a harness for pulling.

The other option is to train the dog not to pull on the lead at all. This takes patience and consistency but can be well worth it in the long run. A basic run-down:
The dog pulls because he wants to get somewhere - to the tree, to the cat, to the next corner etc. If the dog learns that when he pulls you stand still ('be a tree') until he loosens the lead, then he will cease to pull. If you allow him to walk when he is on a loose lead but you stand still, or back up, when he tightens the lead, then he won�t pull any more as it no longer achieves anything. Remember, dogs do what works! To reinforce and speed up this lesson, treat him when he is on a slack lead as well. If you are inconsistent with this lesson, it will not work.


Digging

First of all look at the amount of exercise the dog is getting - usually this behaviour comes from too much pent-up energy. If you are unable to exercise him/her enough on a lead (quite likely) then contact a member of the Northern Alaskan Malamute Club for information on where to buy a harness. A dog in harness can be attached to the front of a mountain bike and run flat out for 2 - 10km. This is by far the most effective way of exercising your dog (and its fun!). Sled-dog races are held up and down the country throughout the winter, so if you want to do this competitively there are plenty of opportunities. Otherwise, just go in the evenings or on your days off and run the dog in your local forest (Woodhill, Riverhead, Hunua and Maramarua, being the most commonly used Auckland forests).

Alternatively, try putting some of their own poo into the hole, or filling it with rocks. DO NOT fill it with water and try to hold the dogs head under, as has been suggested by certain sadistic dog 'trainers', as you will end up with a scared dog that doesn't trust you and may even bite you, but you will still have holes in the lawn.


Howling/Barking

See "Digging" for ideas on exercise - a tired dog is a good dog.
Alternatively, give frozen cannon bones (the long cow leg bones you find at the supermarket), or buy a rubber Kong toy from the pet shop and stuff it with cheese/meat etc then freeze. Also check if the dog is barking at something - perhaps a cat is taunting him from the top of the fence, or a neighbours dog, or a person. As a last resort a bark collar can be used.


Running Away

Simple answer: don't let your Malamute off the lead.

Malamutes that get on the road get hit by cars and die. Malamutes that wander off lead get on the road.
It has happened to many Malamutes in the past, and if people continue to allow their dogs to escape from their property and/or run loose, it will keep happening.

If necessary, professional help can be gained to train your dog to come back when called, but why not go to a boat shop and buy a 75� water-ski line (about $25) and keep one end of it tied to the Malamute when at the beach or at the park. He/she can still run around but will be safe as you can grab the end of the rope if (when) they take a run for it. This is also a good time to practise coming when called (always with high-value treats).

The Malamute's tendency to run means that you must always be vigilant about doors and gates being shut. Always have a flat buckle collar on your dog with an ID tag, and the council registration tag, so if your dog does escape he will find his way back to you. Malamutes that end up in Pounds and SPCAs more often than not get euthanased, so it is a life or death issue.


Obedience

Understand that dogs do what works for them. This means that if a dog is rewarded for behaviour, it will do it more. A reward can be given by you, or it can be given by the environment. This is why a dog learns all day long, whether you train him or not. The best idea is to train him yourself, so that he is learning what YOU want him to learn.

Rewards for dogs include:
� Food
� Playing/talking to other dogs
� Chasing balls / playing tug (depending on dog)
� The opportunity to come in the house, or go out into the yard
� Pats and scratches etc

Experiment to find out what else your dog enjoys and USE that knowledge to train him.
If he really wants to go out into the yard, ask him to sit before you let him out. Reward him for sitting by opening the door.
If you want him to come back when called, NEVER punish him after he comes to you (no matter what the circumstances), but always give him a treat or a scratch. Similarly, don't ever call him to you, and then put him back in the car to go home, or give him a bath etc. You are punishing him for coming back to you. Find some other way of getting him into the car or back on the lead.

Remember:
Dogs are not born knowing the words "sit", "down", and "stay" and if you shout the command louder and louder sixteen times...... the dog will still not know what it means.

So don't chant the word "sit" at him or get angry at him for not sitting if you haven't taught him what that word means. To teach him, take a piece of food, raise it above his nose until he sits then give him the treat. There's no need for manhandling, no need for pushing on his butt or pulling on his collar. Just encourage him to give you the behaviour, say the word "sit" as he sits, and treat him. Same goes for the other commands. Then gradually fade away the treats (out of sight in your palm, in your pocket, on the table). Be understanding of the fact that in a new and exciting environment it is going to take a bit more effort on both your parts to have him obey you - (imagine getting a child to do times tables while at Disneyland). Don't get frustrated or angry with him, simply use it as a training opportunity.

The most common reason given for not using food in training is this:
"I don't want to use food because then he will be doing it for the food, and not for me". The people that say that are almost always the same ones that employ choker chains and other punishment-based methods to get the dog to behave. So essentially their thinking is that it is okay for their dog to "sit" because it doesn't want to be hurt by the choke chain, but it is not okay for their dog to "sit" because it wants a treat. Think about that for a moment. Do we love these furry little guys, or not? If not, why are we wasting our time and money on them?


The dog won't do as I say

First question: would you bet $1,000 that your dog knows exactly what that word means (in other words you have actually sat down and taught it to him)?

Next question: Are you sure that he has a good enough reason to do as you say (the rabbit over there isn't distracting him)? Remember that child doing her times-tables at Disneyland...

Most people don't teach their dogs to 'sit' (for example), they just chant the word at them and expect them to understand it. And remember it. (If you don't train regularly, that dog is going to forget what 'sit' means, just like any human would in a similar situation).











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