Siberian Huskies are not easy to train.
Training for Huskies needs to be both gentle and strict. No one can train a Husky overnight.
But the reward for training your Siberian Husky well is a happy, well-socialized, safe, and non-destructive dog who will give you and your family years of loving companionship.
Know Siberian Huskies to Train them Better
There are many aspects of training that are the same for every breed of dog.
Siberian Huskies, however, have their own peculiar traits and characteristics that make them unique. These unique Husky traits become very important in the training process.
Siberian Huskies compared, say, to Pugs or Chihuahuas, are obviously closer to their wild wolf heritage.
Like wolves, modern Siberian Huskies still live in packs. They aren’t happy on their own.
They have trouble recognizing other breeds of dogs as members of their pack. It’s easier to keep Siberian Huskies if you have two, not just one.
Siberian Huskies aren’t a great “starter dog.” They are best for people who have experience with dogs.
Your Siberian Husky will need consistent and authoritative leadership from the time she is a puppy.
Pack animals intuitively know how to manipulate any weakness to their advantage.
Huskies are dependable. They are reliable. They are friendly. They need attention and affection.
They are naturally friendly even to people they do not know, like burglars. This makes them great family dogs but terrible watchdogs.
Huskies were bred to pull sleds. They need more than just a daily walk to stay happy and healthy.
They are great companions for people who take long runs and long bike rides.
Most Huskies love to hunt. You need to have underground barriers about 20 inches (50 cm) beneath the surface of the ground to keep them from digging their way out of your backyard.
If you keep them on a patio or a balcony, you need to have netting that they can’t chew, pull, or tear their way through to keep them from getting away.
You will probably make some mistakes with your Husky. Your Husky will forgive.
Siberian Huskies are uniquely challenging but supremely loving pets. If all of that appeals to you, then a Siberian Husky is a good choice!
Training Your Siberian Husky Puppy
The single most important decision you will ever make in training your Siberian Husky is choosing a compatible Husky dog to bring into your home.
Your Husky will live for nine to 12 years. It is important that the breeder knows about you and your home to make sure you are making the right choice in the dog.
It’s also important to choose the right breeder. A red warning light should be blinking if you discover that the breeder keeps Huskies in kennels.
Huskies are not kennel dogs, and puppies that are raised in kennels will have adjustment issues their entire lives.
You want to meet the parents, and make sure they appeal to you. Then you want to meet the puppy between the ages of four and seven weeks.
This is the time in a Siberian Husky’s life it is learning how to trust people and other animals, and it is learning about the things in its life that are OK.
This is the time your breeder should be introducing your future dog to as many different kinds of people, places, and things as possible, so your dog will feel comfortable with them later in life.
Unless you are a canine mental health expert, don’t go out of your way to adopt a Siberian Husky that has been obviously traumatized in early life.
Siberian Huskies are challenging enough when they haven’t been abused.
If you want to help a Husky puppy that has been abused by a breeder, report the breeder and make your contributions to your local animal shelter.
But very, very few breeders will abuse these lovable and beautiful dogs.
What to Do When You Get Your Husky Puppy Home
With Siberian Huskies, it is important to understand that “little” obedience training is never enough.
It isn’t enough, for example, to train your Husky to come to you when you call.
It’s not enough to persuade your Siberian Husky to come with you when you are holding a treat under her nose.
You need to train your Husky to come to you even when he is playing with other dogs, or picks up the scent of a rabbit, or sees a car coming down the road (actually, especially when your Husky sees a car to chase).
No matter how fascinating the diversion, your Husky’s obedience to you must be immediate and absolute.
To accomplish this, you must establish yourself as the leader of the pack.
Establish Yourself as the Leader of the Pack
From the very first day you bring your Siberian Husky home, you must be the leader of the pack.
You must always be in charge. You must always know what you want your Husky to do. You must not accept a subordinate role to your dog, ever.
Your Husky needs you to be in charge. There are many kinds of dangers of which your dog will not be aware.
Your Husky will not recognize the danger of running out into traffic. Your Husky will not be aware of the dangers of eating food intended for humans like, for example, a chocolate bar.
Six Commands Every Husky Must Obey
You must, no matter how much effort it takes, train your Husky to obey six important commands:
- Your Husky must respond immediately when you say “Come“. Obeying this command can save your dog’s life.
- Your Husky must respond when you tell her not to pull on her leash. Siberian Huskies are powerful enough to pull sleds, so they are powerful enough to pull their humans to the ground. Training your dog to obey this command can prevent injury to you.
- Another three commands are often taught together: Your Husky must sit and lie down on command. Even if you are at a distance, your dog must obey this command. Then your dog must move only when you allow it.
- Finally, your Husky must be able to spend several hours alone without howling, crying, barking, or tearing up furniture.
Your dog has to obey these commands everywhere you take her.
Your dog must obey these commands regardless of what other dogs are doing, regardless of enticing smells or exciting events going on nearby, in your home, and away from home.
And if you can also train your Husky not to jump up on people, not to try to eat human food off the table, and not to chew on things, you are making good progress.
How Do You Train Your Husky?
As hard as it may be for young dog owners to believe, there was a time when dog training experts recommended pain and punishment as methods of teaching all kinds of dogs, and especially pack dogs like Huskies, how to behave around people.
There was one major problem with this approach. It largely didn’t work.
Dogs don’t have a sense of good and bad behavior.
They don’t have the same values as humans.
Your Siberian Husky isn’t going to realize that Great-Grandma’s collection of Hummel figurines have sentimental value, or that it isn’t natural to relieve himself on the Persian rug.
And even if your Husky did have a sense of objects you value that dogs don’t, a dog’s life is much more directed by what is smelled than by what is seen or even heard.
Siberian Huskies are pre-programmed to respond to “Food!” and “Play!” than to the objects their human’s value.
Punishment may be effective if it is:
- Delivered immediately after a bad act, that is, in five seconds or less (which is not always possible)
- Delivered exactly the same way after a bad act, and
- Delivered every time the dog does the bad act
This means you would need to observe your dog 24 hours a day to use punishment as a training tool.
You simply can’t do that.
It’s more practical, as well as more effective, to use rewards as the basis of training your Siberian Husky.
Two Approaches to Training with Rewards
One approach to training your Husky with rewards is called operant conditioning.
Operant conditioning just means associating pleasant conditions with behaviors you consider desirable and unpleasant conditions (but not a punishment) with behaviors you consider undesirable.
For example, if you give your Husky a treat when he obeys your command to sit down, you are using operant conditioning to reinforce good behavior.
When you loudly say “No!” when your Husky attempts to eat the chicken on your plate, loud enough that the dog finds the sound unpleasant, you are using operant conditioning to extinguish bad behavior.
There is also an approach to training your Husky known as classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, good behavior is “caught” rather than “taught.”
Your Husky observes things that always happen the same way.
For instance, if you always put on the same pair of Skechers sneakers every time you take your Husky for a walk, your dog will learn to be ready for walk time every time you put on your Skechers and head for the door.
I had one growing up and she used to rush to the door whenever she saw me approach the drawer that has the leash
Happy owners of happy Huskies use a combination of both methods to train their dogs.
They provide pleasant and unpleasant conditions that reinforce good behaviors and extinguish bad behaviors.
And they provide rituals and routines to help your dog know what is expected throughout the day.
It’s important to be consistent. Train, train, and train some more.
Always reward, never punish, but be careful not to reward bad behavior with too much attention.
And don’t forget that your Husky lives in the moment.
The Bottom Line on Training Huskies
It is very, very rare for even the most dedicated dog owners to train Huskies to perform tricks.
In the 2019 Agility World Championship, for example, there were hundreds of Border Collies and Australian Shepherd Dogs but only one Siberian Husky.
Canadian canine psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren and the over-100 dog trainers who did a research study with him determined that Huskies rank 74th among the 138 most common breeds of dogs on their measures of intelligence.
It takes a Husky between 25 and 40 training sessions to learn “Come,” “Sit,” and other vital commands.
Even after years of training, Huskies will still fail to obey about 30% of the time, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Huskies are lively dogs that love to hunt. You will have difficulty keeping them focused if there is a bird, or a rabbit, or a cat nearby.
They are prone to disobey when there are opportunities to play.
The same Dr. Coren who found that Siberian Huskies aren’t the smartest dogs also found that Siberian Huskies become a member of the family.
If you can keep your Husky safe from the dangers of living in the city, there is no more affectionate, playful, loyal, and fun breed for family life than a Siberian Husky.
Just be ready to assert leadership over and over again through the many years you will live with your happy Siberian Husky dog.
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