How to Train a Siberian Husky
A beautiful breed of dog, Siberian Huskies are independent, athletic, and intelligent. Despite their relatively gentle demeanor and affectionate behavior, they are not easily trained. Because Siberian Huskies are pack dogs, they will challenge your leadership and test boundaries. They will become destructive if not exercised. In order to avoid an unhappy experience with a Siberian Husky, it is important to understand their temperament in order to properly train them for all experiences and situations.
Training Your Siberian Husky
1. Establish yourself as the strong leader.
Siberian Huskies are notorious for being difficult to train. They are a pack dog with a hierarchical order of leadership and, therefore, are stubborn, strong-willed, and independent. Because huskies have natural behavioral traits that can be destructive if not properly trained, it is important to get an early start on minimizing bad behavior to establish a foundation for a well-behaved dog.
- It is important to have knowledge of a Siberian Husky’s temperament. Confidence and a strong-will are important qualities to have as an owner to establish obedience in your dog. Huskies will only respect or listen to commands coming from a strong leader.
- Treating your husky as an equal is not a good idea because huskies are hierarchical pack dogs and only follow leaders. You must demonstrate yourself as the leader at all times, whether that is eating first, entering doorways before your dog, or making your husky move out of your way, it is important to establish this tiered relationship.
- Sometimes huskies become aggressive in an attempt to establish a pecking order of leadership by biting, posturing, or engaging in other violent behaviors. In this case, demonstrating your dominance as the leader is imperative to curbing this behavior. Permitting your husky to continue this behavior or not addressing will only encourage stronger aggression towards other people and dogs.
- Siberian Huskies sometimes engage in behavior that is very natural for them but unwanted by people. The leader position will also provide you the authority to train your husky not to engage in bad behavior such as jumping, digging, biting, and chewing. A Husky will only obey the leader.
2. Reward good behavior.
Good manners are the foundation for a well-behaved dog. Providing tasty treats and using an encouraging voice is an effective combination for your husky to repeat good behavior. This is called “positive reinforcement” or “respect training.”
- Make sure to quickly dish out rewards so that your husky understands which behavior to replicate. Waiting too long will only confuse your husky. Once your husky masters a command, the treat will no longer be needed.
- Redirect bad behavior into good behavior. Focus the dog’s attention away from being naughty towards a good behavioral act. This shows a dog what can and cannot be done without discipline.
- The lure and reward system is safe because huskies will not become fearful, aggressive, or stressed from abuse. Instead, of performing violence on your husky, you are simply withholding treats that your husky failed to earn.
- Keep training simple and set goals. Your husky, like any other animal, has a learning curve. Start out easy with minimal commands and build up to more complex ones and reward at all stages.
3. Discipline your husky without using violence.
Along with praise and rewards, huskies must also receive discipline for bad behavior. As with praise, corrective measures must be taken immediately, be consistent, and redirected towards performing good behavior. To avoid going overboard with physical or abusive discipline and losing your husky’s willingness to obey, control your husky’s resources, such as treats, toys, play, and affection until the dog responds with corrective behavior.
- Be firm in your discipline. Use words like “no” or “stop” with strong assertion but without anger in your voice.
- At all times, make sure you are exhibiting strong leadership by firmly controlling the training and by giving commands authoritatively.
- A given command must be obeyed. If your husky refuses, then walk away and ignore him without giving him what he wants. After a few minutes, give the command again – be persistent and patient until he obeys.
- If your husky continues to be stubborn and refuses to obey after several attempts, remove him to a “time-out” designated area where he cannot interact with people until he settles down.
4. Build a useful vocabulary with your husky.
Just like communicating with another human, useful vocabulary is the basis for comprehension and a good relationship with your husky. A strong vocabulary will make your husky smart, well-mannered, and most importantly, get your husky to understand what you want done.
- Simple words like yes, no, sit, stay, come, or short phrases are best when trying to communicate with your husky.
- Familiar words and phrases build trust – a husky builds confidence knowing who their leader is and what is expected of them.
- A good vocabulary provides your husky with knowledge and, eventually, the ability to piece together words and phrases to complete complex tasks.
5. Be consistent and balanced in your training.
Although huskies are known to be intelligent, good behavior is a response to repeated conditioning in a consistent environment. Setting a routine is the best way to accomplishing consistency. Routines are good for both dog and owner because a regular schedule of training, playing, potty, and exercise maximizes time together and relaxes expectations.
- Commitment to a daily routine is the biggest hurdle to effectively training your husky. Be aware that sudden changes in a schedule can irritate and confuse a dog, making him more vulnerable to break the rules you established during training.
- Make sure supplies, such as food, toys, collar, leash, treats, and cleaning materials are readily available so that the daily schedule is not interrupted or place stress on either the owner or the dog.
- Always remain calm and plan for success. Siberian Huskies must realize who is in charge and that commands are to be followed and are not merely suggestions. Make sure that rewards and discipline are equal to the achievement or infraction. Love and tenderness are always good qualities to share with your best friend.
6. Make some rules and try to stick with them.
Although huskies are known to be intelligent, good behavior is a response to repeated conditioning in a consistent environment. Therefore, it is important to make rules and stick with them and to communicate these rules to all family members who come into contact with your husky. Most likely, a husky will not follow commands that are inconsistent or confusing.
- Decide what rooms the dog can access, which furniture will or will not be available for your husky to lounge on, and where sleeping quarters will be.
- There will be times when you have to leave your husky alone. In this case, make sure boundaries are established to protect your property from an overzealous or bored husky. Consider a place like the kitchen where it will be easy to clean up accidents, low-risk for destructive behavior, and close to family activity to prevent loneliness.
7. Exercise at least thirty minutes a day to burn off excess energy in addition to play time.
Remember that Siberian Huskies have been trained for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to be sled dogs, which has built up their endurance level. A lack of exercise will do more than make your husky fat and lazy, it will provide motive for mischievous behavior such as escaping, howling, chewing, crying, and digging.
- “Walking your dog” is not good enough for a Siberian Husky. They were bred to run for several miles a day and, therefore, require large amounts of exercise. At the very minimum, you should be prepared for a good run every day or at least a brisk walk to tire your husky.
- Siberian Huskies prefer to howl than to bark. Excessive howling troubles neighbors and brings complaints. Exercising will release their pent up energy and minimize excessive howling.
- Siberian Huskies have a reputation as “escape artists.” Huskies are creative when it comes to finding a way to leave the yard. In most cases, your husky will only attempt to “escape” if under-exercised or bored.
- Other outdoor activities such as bikejoring, hiking, or even a game of fetch, flyball, or Frisbee will help tire your husky and provide solid alternatives to running.
- Huskies are used to traveling long distances, so be prepared to go on longer walks than you would if you had something like a Chihuahua.
1. Get your husky comfortable with the crate.
The crate should never be used as punishment as in a cage, jail, or time out. Instead, let your husky become comfortable with the crate by keeping the door open. Always use a gentle voice and give praise when your husky is in or near the crate so that fear does not creep in. Avoid forcing or tricking your husky to enter the crate.
- If your husky refuses or fears to enter the crate, place a tasty treat inside as a lure. Let him discover the treat on his own. Do this several times a day as necessary.
- Word associations are important. When your husky enters the crate use the same word to make a positive association with entering the crate. The best method is to use the key word or phrase as the treat and husky enter the crate.
- On the first day, in particular, repeat these procedures often so that your husky recognizes and becomes comfortable around the crate.
2. Prepare to close the crate door.
At the end of the day, place the familiar treat inside the crate, after your husky enters, close the door. To ease anxiety, place an interesting new toy inside to focus attention away from the closed door. Continue to provide company outside the crate until any crying or whining subsides. Keep your husky in the crate until there has been at least 30 to 60 seconds of silence. Resist the urge to let your husky out of the crate before reaching the minimum amount of time of silence or using corrective language to keep quiet.
- Always have an extra toy available if the treat and initial toy fail to keep your husky from whining or crying. It is important to keep the focus off of the closed door.
- A good strategy would be to exercise or play with your husky until they become tired and then place them inside the crate when they are sleepy. If your husky falls asleep inside the crate, let them sleep there overnight.
- Be mindful not to praise your husky in the morning for staying peacefully inside the crate. This gives the dog the illusion that it is better to be out rather than in the crate. Indeed, pay little attention to your husky for the first couple of moments after exiting the crate to reduce this illusion.
3. Place the crate in your bedroom if your husky fears being alone.
Siberian Huskies are pack dogs and like to be close to their leader, plus this gives them reassurance that they are not being abandoned. Use your voice or place your fingers inside the crate to comfort the dog’s fears. Unless your husky has to potty, keep the crate door closed for at least 4 hours.
- Comfort is the key. Therefore, if your husky soils the crate do not scold or discipline.
- Keep the crate in the bedroom for a few nights until the routine becomes familiar. Once your husky no longer whines or soils the crate, you can place him somewhere else in the house.
4. Leave the house without your husky.
This should not be treated as some special event; rather, it is best to leave without calling attention to your departure so your husky does not fret.
- Practice first until it becomes routine. Increase the time increments that you pretend to leave the house during training until you achieve 2 hours. Remember, if you have a puppy, they have to potty every 4 hours. Therefore, during training, make arrangements to come home or have a neighbor let the puppy out of the crate to potty.
- It is a wise idea to inform neighbors that you are crating your husky since extended “howling” is natural when feeling lonely.
- Siberian Huskies are masters of escape. When you leave the house, make sure that all unsafe toys, collars, and cords are removed from or near the crate so that the husky does not get injured.
1. Build mutual respect between the dog and children.
The Siberian Husky, although generally child-friendly, needs to have social boundaries – no jumping, grabbing, chasing, bolting, or pulling – established. Children should follow similar boundaries – no teasing; roughing; chasing; pulling hair, tail, or ears; or tug-of-war.
- Children should help train your husky under adult supervision so that the husky becomes comfortable and familiar with all family members.
- Teaching children to gently pet and touch a husky, instead of pulling or hitting, helps build a trusting friendship and affection for each other.
2. Identify potential risk factors.
Other than bringing home a puppy, an unfamiliar husky’s background should always be taken into account around children. Find out if the husky was raised or socialized with children previously to bringing them home. Check to see if the husky ever received training for contact with children. Visually watch your husky around children to identify irritability, nervousness, or growling.
- Naturally, Siberian Huskies have an instinct to chase small animals and sometimes children. Because huskies see small animals, like cats, as food, they might mistake babies or toddlers as part of the pack (family) and mistakenly attack them.
- Always have a new dog on a leash around children so that you remain in control and can prevent any injury.
3. Understand your husky's body language.
Few children will understand the meaning of a dog’s body language unless they are taught to identify aggressive behavior. Angry dogs typically bark, growl, show their teeth, and stare at their target. Children should never approach a dog under these circumstances. Instead, the child should immediately stop moving, stand up straight with arms at their side and legs close together, and look away from the dog to avoid eye contact. If the dog attacks anyways, the child should drop to the ground, curl up with knees to the chest, and arms covering the face with fists over the ears. Disengage by being quiet.
4. Get your husky ready for the arrival of a newborn.
Training should begin several weeks or months prior to a newborn’s arrival. Obedience training – how to sit, stay, lie down, or approach – should commence immediately and continue until your husky becomes reliable.
- Practice at home with a baby doll to simulate situations, smells, and new sounds where it is essential for your husky to obey a command. Make sure not to get lulled into a false sense of security. If your husky is not obeying commands completely and regularly it might be best to seek out a good obedience school or trainer.
- To prevent the dog from jumping, wildly sniffing, or misbehaving in general, the mother should greet the husky upon arrival without the baby for a few minutes until the excitement winds down. This also presents an opportunity for your husky to sniff mom’s clothes for new smells. Once your husky is relaxed the baby can be introduced.
- It is natural to give more attention to your newborn baby than to your dog. Nevertheless, do not neglect your dog or make him jealous. Prepare in advance by gradually reducing the amount of attention the dog normally receives a few weeks in advance of the baby’s arrival.
- Infants are different from children. Dogs usually identify children as people but this is not always true with infants. Become familiar with your dog’s “typical” behavior and reactions around children. Check to make sure the dog imitates this behavior around the baby.
- Every Siberian Husky is a skilled escape artist. Unless you are very cautious of where your dog is, you might want to build an eight foot fence around your property. If not, your Siberian Husky will only be amused and laugh if he could.
- Keep your dog attentive and active by engaging in many short training sessions throughout the day instead of 1 long session. This will also help control your dog's behavior by keeping focused attention away from mischief.
- Siberian Huskies can be good watchdogs. They get most excited when friends show up and might alert you to their presence; they may be less responsive to strangers who aren't in their "pack."