Now I can only speak of huskies, I have never owned a Mal but I don’t think they are that much different other than size and a few personality traits. So, temper anything I tell you with your own knowledge of your dogs.
For thousands of years the northern breeds had one job. And that was to pull things, and for that they were fed and protected like any member of the family. The family of humans and dogs made up the pack. Each relied on the other to live in the harsh lands of ice and snow.
This is the essence of these dogs. Thousands of years of DNA drives them in ways you may not have considered. This is what a northern breed does better than any other dog on the planet. They survive and they work just like all of their ancestors did for thousands of years.
They need you, and you need them. A partnership that was formed many years ago. To really understand them you need to understand where they came from. How they survived and the ties they have to man. They have needs that are very basic, and for that they will lay down their lives for you if called upon. They will run until dead if you are a bad leader and ask it of them. That is a husky and probably a Mal as well.
They were bred to think, not go quietly into the night by a Musher with no clue. This saved many lives as the dog knew better than to follow a command that would kill the pack. And that is why a husky will look at you and think about what you ask of him. Then he will make his own decision of what is best and do it regardless of your commands and cussing.
There is nothing simple about these dogs. They think and they have their own way about almost everything. They are not slaves and will let you know it if you are a bad leader. You have to meet them half way. You have to be an active member of the team, and a partner, not a God who delivers ultimatums.
Keep this in mind as you make your journey with them. You want to mush dogs? Then you need to understand them as much as you can.
The first thing is to teach them some commands. This might seem as simple as using a turn signal but this is where it all begins. It’s not really all that hard as they are very intelligent and learn quickly.
Start with this: Gee means turn right. Haw means turn left. On-by, means straight ahead, Leave it, means you don’t want them to eat the dead squirrelly on the road, and “Whoa!” should be self-explanatory.
You teach by walking because speed will kill you. You walk and you give a command like, “Gee!” then you turn 90 degrees and you cross the road or turn a corner. A forceful command, not a wish. Command voice is command.
Then you practice “Haw!” the same way and mean it. They will follow and soon they will be doing it on command.
This is what you do before you ever hook them up to wheels. You walk and you work until you are confident that they will do it out of repetition. To not do so will end in disaster, at dog speed you don’t have time to argue the point. Things happen fast and you better have control.
My little video is very basic, but you will get the idea from it. You follow your own trail and modify it to fit your own dog(s) and then we will get to wheels.
I hope this helps you on your journey. The trail is full of dangerous things for you and your dog. But by training you will get better and better…you will become a team that trust each other. You will reach the point that makes you one, as you overcome obstacles. You will become as one, and that is when the magic happens.