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Training your Husky recall is one of the most important behaviors you can teach. If your dog reliably comes when called you can call her away from potential danger, keep her from darting off if she slips her leash, or find her in the dark or dense woods.
Huskies are extremely intelligent dogs. However, they can also be independently minded and even stubborn. In addition, some Huskies have strong prey drive. These factors mean that although you can get a strong recall, you may not ever be able to rely on it near dangerous conditions. Keep this in mind when deciding when to let your Husky off-leash outside of a fenced area.
Teaching the basics of recall is not complicated. However, you will need to plan to practice for months under a variety of conditions to get a solid recall. The methods below will show you how!
The steps for how to train your Husky recall are included in the three methods offered below. Here are some tips to make sure you are making the most of your recall training:
Touch her collar before rewarding after a recall. This will make sure that you can regain control of your Husky in an emergency situation.
Don’t repeat your recall command. Say it only once. If your Husky does not respond immediately, you can try other ways of getting her attention, or enforce the command by going to get her and then administering a “time out.”
Say your recall command in a positive, enticing tone. If you sound angry when you issue your command, it can make your dog a little bit leery about getting closer to you.
If your dog comes when called, never punish him or take away something he loves. Your goal is to give your Husky the notion that he will always get something nice when he comes when called. You can break his recall with even a single instance of calling him and then punishing him when she arrives.
High value motivators: You will need to have some food or toys to use as a major reward during your training. In the beginning, stick with food. Once she has the basics down, start to randomize rewards to include a game of tug or a toss of their favorite frisbee or ball. You want her to be excited to think about what she might get this time.
Have treats stashed in different rooms. This way you can do some random recall training outside of official training sessions. You will want to be able to reward your Husky’s recall from any room in the house.
Use a long line for training outdoors. You will eventually need to move your recall training outside. A long rope or leash (35’-50’) will help you to grab your dog if he tries to chase a cat or otherwise ignore your recall command.
Plan on practicing recall a great deal. In fact, you will want to continue random recall practice over the course of your dog’s life to keep her recall strong and reliable.
The Recall Basics Method
The main goal you are striving for when training your Husky recall is for her to know that coming when called is going to have a bigger payoff than whatever she happens to be doing, or whatever distractions may be present. The steps in this guide will give you ideas on how to get started with this training and make sure your Husky learns the basics.
In the very beginning, you want your Husky to be already running towards you when you use the recall command. This will help him associate the command with the action of coming to you. One way to get him to come is to lure him with a treat or a toy along with an excited tone. Once he starts coming to you, use the recall command. Repeat 10-20 times, working towards the goal of saying the command before he starts coming, and fading the lure so he comes without being baited (still reward heavily when he gets there).
Most dogs can’t resist a game of chase. Running away from your dog in an excited way is another method to get her to come to you so that you can issue the recall command while they are actually coming towards you the first few times. Again, repeat this method 10-20 times, working towards saying the command earlier, and only running away if she doesn’t immediately respond to the recall command. Also, make sure your smart Husky never turns recall drills into a game where you chase her!
Outside and distance
Once you have trained the basics of recall indoors, you should move the drills outdoors so that you can add both distance and some level of distraction. This is where your long line will come in handy. Just let it trail around on the ground and your dog will forget about it, but you will have the peace of mind knowing that you can regain control over your Husky in an instant should you need to.
Only after you have been practicing recall for a few months should you get to the stage where it is time to start adding a punishment if your Husky refuses to come. For example, reeling her in and giving her a 3-5 minute time out in her kennel is a good consequence. Once you add this layer to your training, you can’t go back. After this point, do not use your recall command unless you are able and willing to enforce it.
The Fun & Games Method
The purpose of games
Professional trainers like to invent games to reinforce behaviors in a way that keeps things fun and motivating, both for the canine and the human. These games are all great to add to your recall training program. Better yet, get the kids involved so they can develop some leadership with your family dog.
Monkey in the middle
This game is pretty self-explanatory: Have two or more people take turns calling your dog with her recall command (only use it once!) and then dispensing rewards. This game is great outside. Remember to use a long line for safety.
Another variation on the Monkey in the Middle game is to hold your Husky between calls, letting her get very excited after the recall has been given by the next person. This will make her jump off the line and sprint to the next person, adding excitement to recalls in general.
Hide and seek
Add another level of challenge to your recall work by hiding behind a door, a curtain, or a piece of furniture before issuing the recall command. Make sure you have a treat or other reward ready, and really heap on the praise for each success. This can also be combined with Monkey in the Middle outside as long as you have either a secure area, or are using a long line for safety.
One of the things you want to build into your Husky’s recall is for her to come even if she has something interesting in her mouth, AND to give it up to you willingly. To do this, pick a moment when she is nearby chewing on a favorite toy. Ask her to “drop it” and bribe her with a very high value food reward. After she drops it, take the toy. Once she is finished with the treat, give the toy back. Combine this with your recall training once she understands to 'drop it' at close range.
The Advanced Skills Method
The steps in this method are about making your Husky’s recall strong enough that you can rely on it no matter what. Only work on these after he has lots of practice and success with recall, inside and outside.
New places and people
Make some time to take your Husky to some new places and around new people in order to do recall training in a variety of different contexts. Each new situation your dog has a successful return in makes his recall that much stronger.
Think about what your Husky is super interested in--that is, things that could distract him from paying attention to your recall command. You want to add these distractions to your recall training. Start at a wide enough distance from them that he ignores the distraction, working closer and closer until he is successfully focused on you right next to the distraction.
Random surprise recalls
One mistake novice trainers sometimes make is to think they can train recall using only official training sessions. Nothing could be further from the truth. You need to do random surprise recalls when your Husky least expects it. Otherwise, if you really need your recall in an emergency, it may not translate to your dog since they only ever practiced recall in the context of drills.
Fade rewards and refine
After your dog is reliably giving you a recall inside and outside, and along with distractions, you will want to start to refine his recall so that it is very quick and snappy. To do this, gradually decrease the rate of reward, working to where only about one in ten of the very fastest returns are given a big reward. Continue to praise successful recalls every time.
By Sharon Elber
Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021