Q: My active four-year-old Alaskan Malamute and Husky hybrid loves to go for walks. When I bring him around the neighbourhood, he is familiar enough with the environment and comfortable enough with me such that I can walk him without a leash. He responds to my command. However, when we go to an area that he is new to, he does not listen to me at all. I understand this could be because he is excited being in a new environment and may only calm down and listen to me when he is done exploring. How do I train him such that he will always listen to me regardless of where we are?
A: It's great to hear that you can walk your companion without a leash! You must be the envy of many malamute and husky owners. That said, I cannot stress how important it is for owners to walk dogs with the leash on at all times (with muzzle too, if required), especially when you are not in an enclosed environment. This is even more important as you have an Alaskan Malamute and Husky crossbreed as they are known to run free and possess independent thinking. Though your companion is considered an adult, please understand that some traits of such breeds will never go away; its high prey drive will remain ‘til death do us part’. Thus, rigorous training may need to be implemented.
From a behavioural standpoint, any dog that gets excited will be least likely to heed your calls (if not adequately trained). Your canine companion would probably be racing around, pumped with adrenalin and trying to catch its own breath. Ideally, in an unfamiliar environment, always make sure he is leashed. Ensure that he is calm and settled. Try walking slowly and allow him to look around and make frequent stops. Rather than stopping your dog acting on its instincts, you could look at distracting your dog with a reward and release him repeatedly.
In addition, I would suggest that you review your approach in calling out to your canine companion: Was it endearing enough? What benefit would your dog get heeding your call in comparison to its will to explore the surroundings? Start observing his response at home and determine your success rate in calling for your Malamute: does he respond immediately or did you have to repeat several times before he responded? Next, has your dog gotten excited at home and how did you address that? Get your canine companion to submit to you in respect to your leadership and not fear. Once you can confidently address these questions, put this into practice outdoors (in an enclosed area) and set yourself up for successful training. To do this, you would require 20/30 feet leads and tasty treats.
Find various opportunities to train your canine companion to understand that if there was ever a choice to make, that option would be to run back to you whenever you call for him. If in doubt, call your behavourial trainer to show you how it’s done. Perfect practice makes for a perfect outcome!
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