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Dog training often fails because people expect way too much of their dogs and way too little of themselves. Siberian Huskies are dynamic dogs who are highly pack driven and at times, headstrong.
They make excellent family dogs but are famous for challenging leadership and constantly pushing boundaries. This article aims at breaking down the anatomy of how to train a Husky.
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Understanding the dynamics of the Siberian Husky breed
It is imperative to understand what makes up a breed before getting into the nitty gritty of training it. Huskies have been around for quite a while and they have evolved over the years to be an excellent working dog breed as well as family companions. Here are a few pointers to understand the dynamics of this breed a little better.
Original breed purpose
Siberian Huskies were originally bred by the Chukchi tribe of Siberia to help overcome several obstacles that they faced in the harsh temperature on a daily basis like sled pulling, carrying loads on sleighs, herding their reindeer, guarding livestock, and providing companionship.
They were prized for their resilience and their ability to run long distances at a consistent speed. Later, they were also used for sled dog races where they emerged as consistent winners.
Today, Siberian huskies are used as service dogs, not just as pets.
Further reading: Can a husky be a police dog?
What fulfills the breed
Huskies are highly energetic, resilient, collaborative, and sensitive dogs. They have an inherent need and also the capability to run miles at a consistent speed tirelessly.
Engaging in activities that allow them to run wild and free to their heart’s content is one of the many things that fulfill this breed. They also tend to enjoy games and exercises that mimic pulling like sled dogs.
Dog sports, agility, and enrichment activities are some other areas where Siberian Huskies have proven their immense talent time and again over the years. Huskies are versatile dogs who excel in a wide variety of canine-friendly fields, but would thoroughly enjoy activities that channel their natural instincts.
How much exercise does your Husky really need?
Did you know, Siberian Huskies were not only blessed with the ability to run but could do so on very little amounts of food? They need a good mix of physical and mental stimulation in order to prevent destructive behaviors stemming from boredom. So, it’s crucial to know how much exercise a husky needs.
An hour or two of physical exercises like walking, running, and exploring combined with an hour or more of mental stimulation activities like interactive puzzles, brain games, obedience training, etc may be required to keep your Husky busy and happy.
Siberian Huskies are blessed with excellent temperaments which make them incredible family companions. They are goofy, clever, intelligent, sensitive, playful, friendly, affectionate, and all the qualities you’d want in a companion dog. They have a sense of humor and can keep you entertained all day long.
Siberian Huskies are quite trainable because they are sensitive and responsive to human communication.
However, this dog breed is a wild child and tends to have an independent streak, which may be misconstrued as ‘stubbornness.’ They are born with the heart of an explorer and will take off in search of adventure every chance they get.
Furthermore, they are not really born with the willingness to please. This trait makes it difficult to train them for reliable recall. Being pack dogs, they are also highly communicative, i.e., they are highly vocal.
Setting training goals for your Husky
Before starting training, it is important to visualize the kind of dog you need your Siberian Husky puppy to grow up to be. Every dog’s needs are different and may also change as they age.
Be sure to observe and be aware of the following while preparing a training plan for your Husky.
Training session considerations:
- Their energy levels
- What motivates them
- The activities they love engaging in
- The games they like to play
- What scares them
- What makes them nervous
- Their attention span
- Behaviors that they naturally perform
- Making sure you are comfortable with the dog training method
Based on the following observations and the kind of behaviors you want your dog to display repeatedly, make a list of a few simple commands to begin with that will lay the foundation for your goals for your dog.
Husky Training Tips
One of the most frequently asked questions by pet parents is “How early should I start training my dog.” The simple answer to this question is – the day you bring them home.
Now, training does not just mean obedience training or teaching your husky to talk. Dog training is a whole universe in itself that also includes the simplest of things like setting boundaries, understanding body language, socialization, etc.
Starting early will help your dog make better decisions and nip certain undesirable behaviors in the bud. Make sure to keep it simple and go at a pace that your pup is comfortable with.
Less is more
The indication of a well-behaved dog is not how many commands he knows. It is how well he knows the few commands taught to him.
Teaching too many cues and not practicing them enough may confuse your dog, especially when he is required to perform them in distracting situations.
Start by teaching your Siberian Husky just a couple of important cues but practice them so well that they become a part of your Husky’s muscle memory. In the initial phase, limit training to just a couple of obedience commands and practice them in a wide variety of situations.
Understand what motivates your dog
Every living being has a motivation for which they do everything that they do. Even when your dog is displaying undesirable behaviors, it is because something motivates them to do so.
Most dogs are motivated by food and play. Observe your Siberian Husky closely and use their motivators to the best of your ability to encourage them to perform and reinforce desirable behaviors. This is key to knowing how to discipline a Husky, without being a bully!
Motivators can also be situation-dependent; meaning, what motivates your dog at home may not be good enough outside. You may use high-value treats like raw meat to train but if your Husky is more interested in the ball, you may not get the best results with treats.
Read our guide to the best treats for huskies.
Set your Husky up for success
Setting your dog up for success essentially means making its environment more conducive to learning and performing desirable behaviors.
When teaching your Siberian Husky a new behavior, you can set them up for success by keeping in mind the following.
How to set your Husky up for success:
- Practice the cue several times using the stimulus that motivates your dog
- Start by practicing with low to no distractions and clock in multiple successful repetitions
- Say the cue loud and clear with the help of visual cues if necessary, so that your dog thoroughly understands what you expect of them
- Make it easy for your dog to perform the behavior by practicing at an easy level first and training your way up
- Establish positive association with proper training through high-value rewards and exciting games so that your dog looks forward to it
Establish boundaries from day 1
Training sessions are not just cues and commands. Boundary setting is an important aspect of training. Setting boundaries means teaching your Siberian Husky puppy early on the ways of the household. It helps in setting expectations and helps dogs understand what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable.
Boundary setting may include one or more of the following depending on the household, lifestyle, and preferences of the members.
Boundary setting considerations:
- Whether or not the dog will be allowed on the couch, bed, and other furniture
- Whether or not begging behavior will be encouraged
- Whether or not jumping and greeting guests will be allowed
- Teaching the dog impulse control
- Correcting at the right time
Consistency is known to be the key to successful dog training because, without it, all the efforts invested in teaching the dog new cues may not bear the desired results. Consistency in verbal and visual cues and timing while rewarding the outcome are crucial in gaining success in dog training.
Consistency is especially important when practicing specific behaviors as antecedents to certain events and happenings. Eg, if the dog is expected to stay at the sight of an open door, it is important to proactively teach your dog to do so and consistently practice it every time the door opens.
Focus on quality repetitions over quantity
When training a cue, having 5 successful repetitions over the day is more important than repeating it 50 times in vain. The more successful repetitions your Siberian Husky has, the more likely he is to perform the desired behavior in distracting situations.
Not repeating the cue unnecessarily, practicing in easier environments, and knowing what motivates your dog are ways to ensure quality repetitions. This is a small part of setting your Husky up for success.
How to train a Husky (5 things to do first)
1. Eye contact
Eye contact is the first step towards enabling communication with dogs and building an attention span. The key to eye contact is never to overdo or underdo it.
Expecting your dog to hold eye contact for a long time like several seconds may end up intimidating your dog and give rise to avoidance behavior. Not being able to hold eye contact for more than a couple of seconds may hinder your dog’s ability to focus.
Work on holding eye contact for 5-7 seconds and keep verbally communicating and praising your dog.
2. Impulse control
Say your prey-driven Siberian Husky spots a squirrel, their impulse would be to immediately take off after it. Impulse control is essentially training a dog to not act on its impulse and has greater self-control.
A dog with better impulse control is more neutral to its environment as they have the ability to not take off at the sight of the smallest distraction. Impulse control is key when training your husky to not run away.
Cues like Leave it, Stay, recall, etc do an excellent job of teaching dogs to control their impulse in a distracting situation. These cues can be life-saving and absolutely essential for training a husky to walk off-leash.
3. A fabulous recall
Imagine the kind of liberty your Siberian Husky would enjoy if he could come running back to you at the drop of a hat! Training your husky to come when called is one of the most crucial aspects of dog training and one of the most tedious ones. This is because, between chasing a squirrel and coming back to a human yelling “Come here” at the top of their voice, your Husky will almost always choose the squirrel.
The key to building a reliable recall is starting early and keeping the outcome of the recall ALWAYS positive. Your Husky must WANT to come back to you and not HAVE to do so.
4. Independence training
Every dog breed must be trained to handle a healthy amount of independence from time to time. Puppies that are coddled at every whine never learn to self-soothe and end up with behavioral issues like isolation distress and separation anxiety.
Independence training essentially means teaching a dog to stay alone and be independent for short periods of time. Focusing on crate training can be a blessing when trying to do so.
In order to be independent, your Husky must be good at the art of self-engagement. Interactive toys, feeders, edible chews, etc are excellent starting points.
5. Leash skills
A high-energy dog like a Siberian Husky needs plenty of physical exercises and walks to keep them healthy and happy. Walks are an enormous part of every pet parent’s life and it makes sense to invest time and energy early on to make them enjoyable and hassle-free. The right kind of harness, collar, and leash can make a world of a difference when it comes to leash training a Husky.
Siberian Huskies have a tendency to pull while walking on the leash. If this behavior isn’t dealt with early on, walks can become a matter of stress and danger for the dog and for the dog’s parent. While training your husky to walk on a leash make sure to provide your dog with ample opportunities to sniff and explore.
Loose leash walking can be challenging for a dog to learn because it is not a simple behavior like Sit or Down, but a complex cue that combines multiple simple behaviors to get the desired result.
Training equipment: 👇
Training with the 4Ds
You may have noticed that your dog may be able to perform commands like Sit, Down, etc with treats at home with ease, but may not be able to do so with great success in the park or on walks.
Dogs are not great at generalizing. In other words, when they learn the cue “Stay” at home in front of you, they don’t know that it means the same in a variety of situations like when the doorbell rings or guests come over. They must be proactively taught to respond to these cues with the 4Ds of dog training.
Duration is essentially the length of time for which your dog can perform or maintain a certain behavior. It applies to behaviors like Eye contact, Stay, Hold, where the dog is expected to hold the behavior for a long time. The longer the dog has to hold a behavior, the tougher it gets.
Building duration can help improve your dog’s focus and impulse control. During the initial phase, make sure to keep the duration to only a few seconds. Start building the duration to one to two additional seconds at a time with each successful repetition.
Commands like Stay, Recall, and emergency Stop that require the dog to respond from far away include Distance as a factor. Huskies are explorers and when off-leash, they will not always choose to stay close to their humans.
However, it is crucial for pet parents to be able to communicate with their dogs at a distance in order to keep them safe. When building distance, start with shorter distances like just a couple of feet away from the dog. If your dog is able to respond to you within a shorter range, gradually add more distance with every repetition.
Distractions are the biggest hindrances to dog training. When practicing a cue, even something as frivolous as a leaf moving can turn out to be highly distracting for a dog. In the presence of the slightest distraction, it is possible for the dog to not be able to perform the simplest of cues like Sit or Eye contact.
One of the best ways to set your dog up for success when practicing cues in high distractions is to involve high-value rewards. The higher the distraction, the better the reward needs to be.
Last but not the least, in addition to duration, distance, and distraction, your Husky should be able to perform cues in a variety of situations, places, environments, and settings.
When working on 4Ds with your dog, start by working on only one D at a time and pick the easiest one. Trying to move forward too quickly may overwhelm your dog and eventually you.
It’s worth noting that the fourth D is sometimes overlooked, even by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. But it most certainly should be included, especially with Huskies!
Are Huskies easy to train?
Huskies are a high-maintenance dog breed for first-time dog owners, even those that have read our guide about how to train a Husky!
They are highly energetic and have a wanderer’s soul, which can be a tricky combination to train. They are famous for their ability to pull a Houdini at a given point, which makes it difficult to trust them at liberty. They are smart, maybe too smart for some to handle, which ends up being a cause of nuisance.
Having said that, they are also very sensitive to human emotions and thrive on human companionship. Focus on fulfilling their needs as a breed and keep them amply stimulated. They would do incredibly well in a family that has the time and inclination to understand them and be patient and consistent with their training.
Have you trained a Husky before?
Share your experience in the comments below.
Must read: 👉 Best Husky Training Books
How do I train a husky puppy?
Training a husky puppy requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Start training your puppy as soon as you bring them home and use reward-based methods to teach them basic commands and good behavior.
What is crate training and how do I use it for my husky?
Crate training is a method of using a crate or kennel as a safe space for your husky. It can be useful for house training, preventing destructive behavior, and providing your husky with a calm and secure environment.
Are there any training tips specific to huskies?
Yes, when training your husky, it’s important to remember that they are a breed known for their independent nature. Use positive reinforcement techniques, be patient, and be consistent in your training. Consistency is key when training a husky.
How do I leash train my husky?
Leash training is an important part of your husky’s training. Start by introducing them to the leash gradually and use positive reinforcement to reward them for walking calmly beside you. With time and consistency, your husky will learn to walk nicely on a leash.
What are some basic commands I should teach my husky?
Some basic commands to teach your husky include sit, stay, come, and leave it. These commands are essential for their safety and the well-being of others.
How can I use positive reinforcement to train my husky?
Positive reinforcement involves rewarding your husky for good behavior using treats, praise, or toys. This training approach helps to motivate your husky and reinforces the desired behavior.
How can I train my husky to obey my commands?
Training your husky to obey your commands requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. Use clear and firm commands, and reward your husky when they respond correctly.
How do I handle bad behavior during training?
When your husky exhibits bad behavior during training, it’s important to redirect their attention and focus on rewarding good behavior. Avoid punishment and instead focus on teaching them what they should be doing instead.
How much exercise does a husky need and how does it affect training?
Huskies are known for their high energy levels and need plenty of exercise. Regular exercise helps to keep them mentally and physically stimulated, making it easier for them to focus and learn during training sessions. Adult huskies need at least 1 hour of exercise per day.
Is it important to be consistent in my training approach?
Yes, consistency is key when training a husky. They respond best to a consistent routine and clear expectations. Inconsistency can confuse them and make the training process more challenging.