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

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Most Recommended

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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

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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

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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.

By TJ Trevino

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Argo

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Husky

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1 Year

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Question

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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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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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Darla

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Siberian Husky

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4 Months

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We are trying to get are puppy use to her case. We have started putting her in there once a day for a hour and all she does is bark while we are home and in the room with her. When we aren't at home then she barks for hours. We have put her toys in there with her and she does even play with them all she wants is out. What can we do?

Oct. 1, 2021

Darla's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

Oct. 1, 2021


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