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Teaching your Husky puppy recall is a critical life skill that will serve you and protect your dog for her entire life. It is never too early to start working on this behavior. Even at 8 weeks old, you can start to get your Husky puppy used to her recall command and the rewards that come with it.
Keep in mind that Huskies are a breed that can be independently minded, bore easily, and have a high prey drive. Because of this, it is always going to be a risk to let them off-leash, particularly if there are potential dangers or irresistible distractors near-by.
That being said, Huskies can still be trained a fairly robust recall, especially if you start early. A good recall can:
- Call your dog away from danger before he gets
- Get your dog to bring something dangerous to you
so that you can get it from him.
- Find your Husky in the dark or heavy brush.
- Regain control of your Husky if he happens to slip the leash.
Read on to find out how!
In addition to the training steps in each method listed below, we have a few pointers to make the most of your recall training with your Husky puppy:
Don’t call your dog then punish her when she gets to you. This will only teach your dog that they are possibly facing punishment for following your recall command, essentially the opposite of what you want.
Touch the collar, then reward. Simple, but easy to overlook. If you get your Husky used to having her collar grabbed before getting the reward for a recall, then you can count on the fact you will be able to get a leash on her in an emergency.
Say your recall command only once. Repeating your command breaks its power. You can entice your dog to come after saying the command with gestures, sounds or tempting rewards… but only say the command a single time.
If you will not enforce the recall, don’t use it. This is tricky, but once your Husky is at that stage in his training where he is expected to come or be punished (usually with a "time out"), then you need to be consistent. If you see he is into something you know he won't leave behind to come to any reward you have to offer, use another method to get him attention such as running away, putting food in his dish or squeaking a favorite toy. If you do use the recall word and he does not come, you will have to put your shoes on and go after him to enforce the behavior.
There are a few essentials you'll need to get started training recall with your Husky pup:
High-value food rewards. Make sure the rewards you are using are very exciting and tasty for your dog. In addition, once you are beyond teaching the basics, you will want to start adding in other rewards like a game of tug or a toss of the ball so your Husky will be interested in learning what she will get when she comes.
Stash treats around the house. Training recall is impossible if you only do it in official training sessions. You must start to randomly call your dog to you with a reward ready. Try stashing some treats in different rooms of your home so that you can pull a fast challenge to reinforce this behavior outside of training sessions.
Long line. Huskies come with a more than average risk of running off. When you are ready to take your training outside, make sure you have a long leash or rope (25’-50’) to keep her safe when outside of a fenced area. Just let it drag on the ground when working with her, it is just so you can regain control over your puppy if you need to.
The Basic Skills Method
Your overall goal with recall training your Husky puppy is to teach him what the recall command is, and then show him over and over that coming when called always pays off big. Start in a low distraction environment in your first training sessions. Be sure to keep sessions short enough that your puppy won't get bored. The length will vary on your puppy’s age and experience with training.
In the first stages of teaching recall, you want to get your puppy running to you before you actually use a recall command. There are a few ways to do this, and luring or baiting with a treat or a favorite toy is perfectly fine. Just know that your goal is to transition away from luring towards saying the command before your puppy comes running. This process can take anywhere from 10-30 tries with a gradual shift towards your end goal.
Another way to trigger your dog to come to you is to run away. Almost every puppy will see this as a fun game of chase. Like luring, you will want to fade away from tricking your dog into coming to you towards getting the response based on the command alone.
Over time, another goal of training recall is adding distance to your drills. You can do this by moving your drills outside, using a long line for safety. Start reeling your puppy in if they fail to come within a few seconds or get caught up with a distraction. For now, don’t punish him for failures.
When to add punishment
Only after your Husky puppy is at least 4 months old, and has tons of practice under his belt with plenty of reward for success, it’s time to start thinking about enforcing the recalls with punishment for failure. Once you start, you need to continue to enforce from then on. This means if you know you will not enforce a failed recall, you need to use other means to get him to come.
The Recall Games Method
There are several fun games to include in your training program to train your Husky recall. When you turn training sessions into games, it reminds you and your husky puppy that learning is fun. Meanwhile, each game will add a new context to practice recall, which will strengthen the behavior overall. Once he understands the basics of recall, try these games on for size!
Back and forth
With two or more people, take turns calling your puppy. Only use the command once, but after that it is okay to use other means to entice your Husky puppy to come, including running away, luring with a reward, or acting a little crazy to get his attention.
Hold and release
A variation on the 'back and forth' game is to hold your pup for a few seconds after rewarding for the last recall. This is likely to get her riled up to race to the next call. Every time you add excitement to recall, you are strengthening the behavior.
Can't find me!
A game of hide and seek is always a hit with puppies. Try hiding behind a piece of furniture, a door, or in a different room. Make sure you have a huge reward ready for when he finds you!
This game will give your Husky puppy a vital skill: the willingness to come when called, bringing whatever is in his mouth with him. In order to play this game, you will want to start at very close range when your puppy is chewing on a favorite stuffed animal. Have a high value treat in hand. Ask your pup to “drop it” and bribe with the high value reward. When he drops the toy, pick it up as you give him the high value reward. Give him the toy back (critical). Combine this with your recall drills so that your dog will grow up knowing that giving up something gets him a bonus reward.
The Advanced Skills Method
There are two basic stages to training your Husky puppy recall. First, you will teach that basic skills using the other two methods in this guide. Then you will need to “proof” his recall with progressively more difficult challenges added to your training program. This method will show you how to approach methodically adding distractions so he will come when called, no matter what.
People and places
The easiest way to add some distraction to your recall drills is to practice in some new places, with as many people as you can enlist in training with your puppy. Use the long line for safety if you are working in an unfenced area.
Every dog has different things that they find most appealing. Since you want to be sure nothing will stand between you and your Husky when it comes time for a recall, you will want to start adding those distractions to your recall drills so he can get some practice ignoring them. Slowly introduce the distraction by starting with it far away, working closer as he gains confidence. Use the long line to pull him away from a distraction if it proves too tempting.
It is critical to start adding random recalls throughout the day. Make sure you have a treat handy before calling your Husky puppy when he least expects it. Make sure you practice from different places inside and outside.
Raise the bar
Eventually, after months of practice, you will start fading the food rewards, moving more towards non-food rewards such as praise, throwing a ball, or tugging a toy. In addition, you will want to decrease the overall rate of reward to about 10% over time. Start to get picky and choose only the fastest recalls to reward big, and simply praise the rest of the recalls to let him know you are happy with him.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021