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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.
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.
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.
The Recall Method
Use a reward
Use a treat or a toy to entice your Husky to come to you when you call.
Call only once
Use your dog’s name only once. Using it repeatedly may cause her to begin to ignore you.
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.
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.
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
Start with the leash
Make sure you have a secure leash and collar on your Husky before you begin training.
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.
Reward with a treat often to continue to reinforce the ‘heel’ command.
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.
Remove the leash
In a safe and secure area, remove the leash and practice the earlier learned ‘heel’ with a high value treat.
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
Watch your dog for signs of him paying attention to you.
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.
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.
In a safe, secure area, continue to reward your dog any time he comes to you or focuses on you without using the leash.
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