How to Train a Husky off Leash

How to Train a Husky off Leash
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-6 Months
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

One of the ultimate obedience goals for any dog owner is the ability to trust their dog to be obedient and loyal while off-leash. Recalling classic canine movie stars like Rin Tin Tin or Lassie paints a fantastical picture of a dog’s loyalty and ability to always be available when needed. But for many dogs, the reality is not quite as brilliant. While dogs are capable of many great feats, there is also the very realistic notion that they are animals and can sometimes do as they please.

One of the breeds who seemingly exhibit grace under pressure is the Husky. As a heavy duty working breed, the Husky is known for his ability to pull sleds along long distances over cold and snowy terrain. While this endurance and strength is excellent when controlled, you may wish to challenge your pup and try to harness that level of obedience off leash. This goal, while rewarding, may prove to be more challenging than you think.

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Defining Tasks

Huskies, while bred for their stamina, also come with one of the more intense prey drives. Prey drive is the instinct to run and chase after small prey-like animals including things like rodents, birds, cats, and even some smaller breeds of dog. This can mean that letting your Husky off leash in an unsafe environment can lead him to placing himself in dangerous situations in pursuit of prey, such as running out the door and into traffic. Because of this, it’s generally not recommended for Husky owners to allow their dogs to go off leash in an insecure environment.

However, if you still wish to train for off-leash obedience, there are methods that can prove to better your pup’s ability to listen when not hindered by the leash. Each of these methods requires caution, but can be started once your Husky is over eight weeks old and vaccinated if you plan on taking him outdoors, but expect to be working with your pup for two to six months on your off-leash training.

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Getting Started

You’ll want to gather up a nice quality leash to begin with. While it may be ideal to try to start training off-leash right away, you’ll want to focus on the fundamentals beforehand. In addition to a leash, you’ll want to get ahold of some treats that your Husky especially likes. These will be useful in reinforcing whatever training you choose to begin. Start your training in a quiet, distraction-free area before progressing to the outdoors and remember to never let your dog off leash unless the area is secured and safe.

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The Recall Method

Most Recommended

3 Votes

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Most Recommended

3 Votes

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1

Use a reward

Use a treat or a toy to entice your Husky to come to you when you call.

2

Call only once

Use your dog’s name only once. Using it repeatedly may cause her to begin to ignore you.

3

Make yourself interesting

Wave the treat or toy up and down or run away from your Husky to encourage her to come towards you or chase after you. Be more interesting than the area surrounding you.

4

Reward for recall

Reward your pup with the treat or toy whenever she manages to catch up to you. Use plenty of verbal praise and affection to show her that recall is fun and great.

5

Use sparingly

Try not to call your dog for unpleasant things or things that may not interest her. This will lead her to start avoiding or ignoring you.

The Transition Method

Effective

2 Votes

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Effective

2 Votes

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1

Start with the leash

Make sure you have a secure leash and collar on your Husky before you begin training.

2

Perfect the ‘heel’

Practice asking your dog to heel by using a treat to get him in the proper position at your side, then rewarding him for walking a few steps. Gradually increase the number of steps you take before you reward him.

3

Use reinforcement

Reward with a treat often to continue to reinforce the ‘heel’ command.

4

Introduce distractions

Take the walk outdoors in a safe area where you can introduce things like sights or sounds that can be distracting. Be sure to reward whenever your dog does well with ignoring these distractions.

5

Remove the leash

In a safe and secure area, remove the leash and practice the earlier learned ‘heel’ with a high value treat.

6

Practice safely

Remember to never let your dog off leash in an area where you do not have control. Practice indoors or in fenced in areas that are safe for dogs.

The Focus Check Method

Least Recommended

2 Votes

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Least Recommended

2 Votes

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1

Observe behavior

Watch your dog for signs of him paying attention to you.

2

Reward for attention

Offer a treat any time he looks up and focuses on you for more than a few seconds. You may need to catch the behavior and reward instantly at first and then proceed to wait a few seconds before rewarding.

3

Repeat on leash

Take your dog for a walk while rewarding every time he looks up at or focuses on you. This will encourage him to continue to look at you every so often.

4

Repeat off-leash

In a safe, secure area, continue to reward your dog any time he comes to you or focuses on you without using the leash.

5

Wean your dog off of the rewards

Start using alternative methods of rewards like a verbal marker such as ‘yes!’ or ‘good!’. Use them randomly with the treats until your Husky no longer relies on food rewards.

Written by TJ Trevino

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Tala

Dog breed icon

Husky

Dog age icon

Eight Weeks

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Question

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I’ve got an 7 month old dog as well and he’s trained off leash fairly well will that also help when off leash training my little husky pup? Or will it cause more problems?

March 12, 2023

Tala's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would still start off-leash training with the puppy with one-on-one practice and not the distraction of the additional dog, so pup learns to listen to you and can obey around distractions, including the distraction of the other dog. Once pup can obey off-leash with just you, then add in the second dog who is already trained. Having the second dog already trained will make that transition to two dogs off leash much easier actually if the second dog is reliable at coming and listening off-leash. You just want to ensure the puppy also becomes trained and you don't end up with a puppy who only listens because they are following the adult dog and then won't listen if the adult dog isn't around. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 14, 2023

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Argo

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Husky

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1 Year

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Hey! So Argos recall is going well. We’ve been training it since we brought him home at 8 weeks in the house to transitioning off lead. He will come back to us 9/10. However, if there are dogs in the area he is unreliable and hard to call away when he is with another dog. We would like higher reliability with him when walking in areas with lots of dogs. We currently use high value treats and our energy and excitement to get him to ‘come’ when called but if he sees a dog he becomes uninterested. We’re also concerned with how far away he runs when he is off lead. Although he will come back no matter how far he has gotten, we want to be able to have him in our sight but he is so independent and enjoys walking miles ahead. Is there a way we can stop him travelling so far from us. He will come when called and then run as far as he wants to when released again. I really appreciate any advice on this in advance, Molly

March 3, 2022

Argo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Molly, Check out the article I have linked below and the section on using a long training leash and the Premack principle. I recommend practicing both of those methods. Once pup has the general concept of the premack principle, right away with the long leash, I would specifically practice around other dogs. With a long leash, a treat and praise can be the reward. With a dog whose recall is already good, I would use a long training leash that's pretty light weight so pup doesn't notice it as much, clipped to a padded back clip harness. Start by only giving pup about 20 feet of line, and make sure you keep it reeled in to where pup can't bolt, get pretty far, then hit the end of the line, jerking you and pup. I wear thick gloves at first for this just in case. Once pup is more aware not to bolt off, I would start giving more of the line, until you are practicing with 40-50 foot of training leash so pup really feels off leash, but when pup tries to ignore your recall, you can reel pup in to enforce it, teaching that the recall isn't optional, even around dogs. For the Premack principle, because the reward is pup getting to where they want (in this case greeting another dog), you will need to recruit a friend with a dog pup gets along well with, to practice around. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ To help pup stick a bit closer, you have a couple options. I would start by practicing following using the long training leash, to simply build pup's desire to stay closer. You practice this by walking around places like your yard or a field with pup on the long training leash and changing directions frequently without saying anything. Whenever he takes notice (at first because the leash finally tugs, but later just because you moved), then toss a treat at him for looking your way or coming over to you - without calling him; this encourages him to choose to pay attention to where you are and associate your presence with good things on his own, so he will want to be with you. When he has the hang of this in a less exciting environment, then find open spaces where there are distractions, like dogs, around to practice also. Finally, some dogs who are very driven to roam, need a high level recall and aren't getting there with current methods, or who are very easily distracted do benefit from "working level" remote collar training. This is different than the old fashion high level shock, requires really learning what you are doing to ensure the training is effective, fair, and pup is still enthusiastic about working with you. It's best done with a good foundation of obedience first, using a long training leash and rewards, then the collar simply becomes a way to interrupt pup and remind pup that they have to respond to you even when far away, to give that added level of consistency to your training to gain full reliability around distractions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtJxSXu4rfs&t=620s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 4, 2022


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