Tips on How to Train a Siberian Husky Dog

A training session with Sophie, my Sibe.
So many people are always commenting on how beautiful my Siberian Husky, Sophie is and then proceed to tell me how much they really do want to get a husky. That last comment always causes me to cringe a little inside each time I hear it and prompts me to ask the person if they have ever owned a Siberian Husky before. If they say no, then I lead them down the path of the pros and cons of Siberian Husky ownership.
Don't get me wrong, I love this dog breed and one of the main reasons I love them so much is the very thing that unfortunately causes so many of these beautiful dogs to become abandoned and in shelters. Their independence and stubbornness. The only other dog breed that I know of that even comes close to these traits in the Siberian Husky is the Alaskan Malamute.
People see movies like Snow Dogs and Eight Below and become enchanted by the breed's charm and good looks. Hollywood has a way of making any dog breed popular by featuring them on the silver screen. People go out and purchase these dogs thinking they are coming home with their own personal Nana or Demon when in reality, they are purchasing a dog that will challenge almost everything they want the dog to do at every turn and moment.

The Challenges of Training a Siberian Husky

My husky, Sophie, was adopted from Indy Homes for Huskies when she was two years old. Since she was already an adult when I brought her into my home, this posed a bit of an extra challenge for me. If a husky doesn't respect you, they will literally ignore you and go about their business in your home. Training a husky begins in the dog's mind long before you pick up the first dog treat and start teaching them the commands.
You have to take on the task of becoming their pack leader in order to gain their respect. This is why it is very important to start training as early as possible. I found that with Sophie the best way to help her understand the order in the home was to make her literally work for her kibble. At feeding time, she had to sit since it was the only command that she knew when I got her. I would stand right in front of her with the bowl in my hand, give the command and she would have to follow it before the bowl would hit the floor for her to be able to eat. It took a couple of weeks but eventually she started to sit without me having to tell her.
Training a Siberian Husky is a challenge that really is never ending. Their independence and stubbornness combined with a short attention span when they become bored with what you are doing can frustrate anyone attempting to train these dogs. You have to keep their attention, have already established yourself as the leader and have the dog's respect in order to be successful.

What You Should and Shouldn't Expect

When training any dog, there are certain expectations that unfortunately just aren't going to be able to be reached because of the dog's instinct, breed traits and physical limitations. The husky has those limitations and even if you think you are successful at training them beyond their known instinct drive and breed traits, you are certainly setting yourself up for disaster. These dogs are independent thinkers, great at problem solving and in their world, it's all about them.
Don't expect to be able to have your husky outside of the home without a leash. It only takes a cat, squirrel or a blowing leaf for their "catch and kill" instinct to kick in. You can call them all you want but when a husky is in pursuit, they are a deaf as a door nail. What makes this even worse is that since these dogs were bred to live with nomads, they have no sense of home. Once a husky is loose, unless you are able to track them down, they are most certainly lost. I can not stress that enough and it is one of the most common reasons Siberian Husky owners lose their dogs.
Don't expect the Siberian Husky to want to perform what I call "parlor tricks." This dog breed does not want to amuse you by dancing in a circle on their back legs. They will certainly protest performing for your friends for everyone's amusement. It's odd, but they do understand what is going on and remember, in their world it is all about them, not you.
You can expect to train your husky to do certain things to keep the dog safe and working. Sophie knows sit, lay down, speak, get out (exit the room), move (stand anywhere but there), shake and she knows that when she is on a leash, if I stop walking that she is supposed to sit. She knows she is supposed to come to me when I call her but even six years later she thinks coming to me when called is still optional.

The Basics of Sit and Lay Down

Training my Sophie
The easiest two commands to teach any dog are sit and lay down. Sophie already knew sit when I got her, but occasionally I have to refresh her memory, a common occurring phenomenon for the husky. It all starts with a bag of dog treats.
Most dogs are food motivated so using dog treats to reward them while training is very helpful. Their attention spans seem to get a little longer too when food is involved. I trained Sophie in ten to fifteen minute intervals a few times a day. I found that at feeding time and when we were out on our walks were great opportunities for training.
When teaching a dog to sit, of course you want their attention as you give them the command. Say it firmly but don't yell at them. The dog can be put into the sitting position by guiding the treat backward just a little bit above the dog's head. Too high and the dog will step back instead of sitting down. Too low and you'll end up with a confused dog because the treat is in a position for them to take it but you won't give it to them.
Pushing on the dog's back right above their tail isn't a good method to teach them to sit because you are putting pressure on the hips. Huskies are known to have hip problems later in life so you want to avoid causing any unnecessary stress on their hip area.
Once the dog has learned sit, the next command is lay down. Have the dog in a sitting position and again, say the command for lay down with the treat at eye level so you have the dog's attention. Bring the treat to the floor and then away from the dog, toward you. The dog will follow the motion of the treat and if done correctly, the dog will end up in the lay down position.
These tips work for any dog breed, not just on huskies.

Leash and Crate Training

It is generally suggested that a Siberian Husky be kept in a crate or kennel when you aren't home. There is a very specific reason behind this recommendation. If the dog becomes bored, they will take out their boredom on your belongings.
Crate training with the husky is rarely done with the dog protesting to some degree. Before putting them into the crate, make sure that they have had a very recent potty run outside and something to occupy their time inside. I use the Kong filled with peanut butter or liver paste for Sophie's crate time and it makes it a lot easier on us both. They do eventually get used to it and you'll sometimes see your husky laying in their crate for no reason. They do this when they have taken ownership of their crate and that's always a good thing!
Walking on a leash can be trying for the Siberian Husky. Their natural instinct is to pull because that's what they are supposed to do. Pull a sled. Corrective action when the dog starts to pull is easy. Stop walking, get the dog's attention with a firm no and a tug on the leash and go again. When the dog starts walking next to you, give them oodles of praise and an occasional treat. No one likes to be pulled down the street by a wild child husky that is gagging on their collar as they go.
Choke collars and spiked collars are best left off of the husky. They are SO determined to pull on that leash when first being trained that these items prove to be ineffective with this breed. You'd be better off taking the time to teach them how to walk next to you as mentioned above. It will save you time, money and a lot of frustrating moments.


3 comments:

  1. My 6 month Shiloh got out of the back yard because I didn't close the gate properly. I was in the house and didn't know it. 20 minutes later I saw her playing in the front yard. She came right up to me and came in the house. I was lucky, because like you say, she is a runner.

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  2. So... I don't know if you are going to read this but my dog is around six years old and me and my parents got him when he was a puppy. The thing is that in all this time he has grown into being disrespectful to me and frankly quite selfish. I can't even begin to train him better (he knows some basic commands) but the thing is he won't listen to me and I know me and my parents messed up with him but I'm really trying to do something but as you said he'll whine for me to take him out and such but he really won't for lack of a better term, love me. If you are still reading these comments please write back and help me out.

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  3. The dog's mind long before you pick up the first dog treat and start teaching them the commands.dog harness with front clip

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