How to Train a Husky Puppy to Heel

Easy
2-5 Days
General

Introduction

Your Husky pup was bred to pull, he is a sled dog after all, and he is going to grow up to be big and strong... really strong. Walks on a leash will be challenging once your bouncy ball of fur grows up to be a large Siberian Husky if you don't teach him to heel first. 

Most dog owners, especially those with large dogs, need to teach their pet to walk on a loose leash, but the best way of ensuring your dog walks safety and in control with you is to teach him the 'heel' command. 

Huskies are “into" pressure, prey-driven dogs. They have a tendency to respond to tension with tension, which is super handy if he is pulling a sled across the frozen tundra, but not so handy when you are walking through your suburban neighborhood and the neighbor's prized Persian darts out in front of him. It will very useful to plan for the day when physically restraining your Husky puppy will no longer be as feasible, by teaching correct leash manners and the 'heel' command.

Defining Tasks

The best way to teach any dog to stop pulling on his leash is to teach the 'heel' command. Traditionally, the 'heel' command involves having your dog walk on your left side with his head even with your left leg and often his nose a little in front. The distance between you and your dog in the 'heel' position depends on your activity. Sport dogs often have a little bit more room and are focused forward doing their job, looking for game. Herding dogs check in frequently with their owners, looking for direction. You and your Husky puppy can choose a distance and style that works best for you.  

The left side heel position was originally established to allow hunters with dogs to have their right hand free for shooting. If you're not trying to bring down game on your walk down your street, or planning on competing in obedience classes, you can select whatever side is more comfortable for you and your Husky pup. You will want to avoid creating tension on the leash or punishing your Husky, as Huskies do not respond well to these tactics. They are independent minded, sensitive dogs, and positive reinforcement is much more effective in achieving desired results.

Getting Started

Avoid training to heel when you are rushed, impatient or irritated, as your sensitive Siberian Husky puppy will quickly pick up on your mood and it will impede training. Make sure you are in a positive mood and projecting good energy and confidence for 'heel' training. Remember that your dog’s walk is probably the highlight of your puppy's day, you do not want to make it unpleasant for him.  

To train the 'heel' command, most methods require a short to medium length lead, although some methods use longer leads. You should have a well-fitted collar; some owners use a choke collar for training 'heel', but any collar can work if used correctly. Avoid pulling back on your Husky during training. Try correcting him by pulling to the side, as pulling back creates tension that can cause your sled dog Husky to instinctively pull back.

The Shape 'Heel' Method

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Step
1
Start off-leash
With your puppy off leash, start in a quiet room in your home or yard, without distractions present. Stand with your left side near a wall or fence with just enough room for your dog to stand next to you.
Step
2
Lure with right hand to left side
Hold two treats, one in each hand, and show your Husky puppy the treats. Hold the right hand out to your pup but do not give him the treat. Instead, move your right hand around behind you over to your left hand until your puppy follows behind you and can see the treat in your left hand. As your Husky puppy moves to your left side say “yes” and provide the treat from your left hand. Repeat several times. Start to move your right and with no treat in it. This will establish a hand signal for heel.
Step
3
Add verbal cue
Remove the lure once your Husky puppy is reliably following your hand signal around behind your back to move to the 'heel' position and add the verbal cue “heel” .
Step
4
Move forward
With your dog in the 'heel' position that has been established, and a treat in your left hand, begin walking forward. When your Husky pup follows you for a step or two, treat him. Gradually increase steps required before receiving a treat from your left hand. Continue to use the hand signal and verbal “heel” command. Take your time establishing these first few steps. Repeat over several sessions.
Step
5
Add leash and distractions
Once your Husky pup is following your verbal and hand signals to the 'heel' position, and walking at your side reliably off-leash, you can add a collar and leash, change directions, and add distractions. Stop, start, practice frequently. You may need to switch to a higher value treat at first when distractions are present. Gradually, as your Husky puppy understands the 'heel' command you will reduce use of the treats while heeling.
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The Change Direction Method

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Step
1
Have treats at hand
Have your Husky puppy sit or stand next to your left leg while on a long leash with a pouch of treats on your belt.
Step
2
Hold treat in left hand
Proceed forward and say “heel”. Hold a treat in your left hand. If your dog stays at your left side, provide the treat.
Step
3
Change direction
When your dog proceeds in front of you, let out the long leash while you turn around and walk the opposite way.
Step
4
Reinforce walking at leg
Call you Husky puppy. When your dog turns and catches up to your left leg, say “heel” and provide a treat.
Step
5
Practice
Repeat, gradually increase the length of time your Husky puppy needs to walk next to your left leg before he gets a treat. Gradually extend walking on heel, and replace food treats with praise and affection. Avoid punishment--make learning and leash time a pleasant experience.
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The Create a Goal Method

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Step
1
Create a goal
Play with or exercise your Husky puppy so he does not have too much energy. Have an assistant stand in front of your puppy with a favorite toy to create a goal.
Step
2
Proceed to goal
Walk towards the goal with your puppy on a leash at your side.
Step
3
Impede progress for breaking 'heel'
As soon as your Husky rushes in front of you, stop and say “no” or “stop” calmly and halt your dog’s progress. Step backwards a few yards away from the goal, to provide a penalty for pulling on the lead.
Step
4
Proceed in correct position
Whey your Husky puppy is calm and focused on you again, proceed forwards towards the goal. Say “heel” as your dog walks forward with his head near your leg. When he pulls in front, repeat stopping and stepping away from the goal. Continue saying “heel” as your puppy stays by your side and correcting by saying “no”.
Step
5
Reward and repeat
When you reach the goal with your Husky puppy near your leg, give your puppy a big reward and play with the toy. Repeat every day for several days until your puppy learns to walk next to you in order to reach the goal.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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