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It is easy to underestimate how strong Huskies are. But when you have one, you realize they have some serious power. In fact, you can think of numerous times he has nearly pulled you into a road or down the street when out on a walk. It was manageable when he was a puppy, but now that he’s an adult at full strength, he could really hurt you. That is part of the reason you need to train him to heel.
Training will also protect him too. It will stop him leaping into a road and potentially losing his life in a collision with a car. Even if he survives a collision, you could still be looking at hefty vet bills. This type of training will also instill discipline that can be used to stamp out other bad habits in other areas of his life.
The command may be straightforward, but actually getting a Husky to follow your instruction can be challenging. This is because his walk is probably the highlight of his day, so he wants to charge around and sniff as much as possible. This means you will need to take a number of steps to deter him from pulling in the first place. You will also need to use obedience commands and positive reinforcement to keep him close to your side.
If your Husky is a puppy he should be responsive to training and keen to please. This means you could see results in just a couple of weeks. However, if he’s got years of no leash rules behind him then you may need a couple of months. Get this training right and you can return to those relaxing strolls you first envisaged when he arrived.
Before you get to work, you will need to gather a few bits. You will need a short training leash and you may want to invest in a body harness. This will reduce strain on his neck while increasing your control.
You will also need a generous supply of treats or you can break his favorite food into small chunks. You don’t need to set aside specific time for training, you can train when you’re out on your daily walk.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and an optimistic attitude, then work can begin!
The ‘Heel’ Method
Secure your Husky to a harness and short leash and head out for a normal walk. However, make sure you stay relatively calm and quiet. If you get him worked up he will only be harder to control.
As soon as he pulls, issue a firm ‘heel’ command. Give the instruction in a stern voice. You can use any word or phrase you like. Huskies can learn hundreds of different commands.
As you give the command, stand firmly still. He will eventually stop and look around at you puzzled for a while before returning to your side. Do not move until he is back next to you and hold eye contact throughout to keep his concentration.
When he does come back to your side, hand over a tasty treat. You can also give him verbal praise. The reward will get him associating staying next to you with mouthwatering food.
Continue walking again
Once you have given him his treat, you can then set off walking again. However, as soon as he pulls again, repeat the steps above. You need to do this at all times until he stops pulling altogether. It may take a while, but he will gradually improve, so be patient!
The U-Turn Method
Fit him to his leash and head out for your walk as you normally would. You don’t need any treats for this method. However, a harness is advised as you will be pulling on the leash and you don’t want to cause him any injury.
As soon as he pulls, briskly turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. You do not need to say anything or call his name, he will quickly catch on.
Pull on his leash
As you turn, give the leash a firm jolt. This will signal to him he has done something wrong as soon as he walks ahead. Just be careful not to pull hard, you don’t want to hurt him.
You now just need to repeat this whenever he pulls. It may mean you look like a crazy person walking backwards and forwards, but he will quickly learn. Huskies are bright, so try not to get too frustrated at the beginning.
Don’t punish him
Huskies do not respond well to punishment, it could make him aggressive. Instead remain calm at all times. Positive reinforcement will yield results much sooner.
The Treat Temptation Method
Open the door and start your walk as you normally would. However, hold his favorite treat in your hand at his head height next to you. Always keep him on the same side and make sure he can smell what is in your hand. Often the smellier the treat, the more effective it will be.
Walk 10 yards
Now slowly walk 10 yards with the treat in your hand and your Husky trying to get to it. If he loses interest, show more of the treat to lure him back over.
If he walks the 10 yards without pulling, give him the treat in your hand. You can also give him verbal praise and play with a toy for a minute. You really want him to associate staying at your side with positive consequences.
Increase the distance
Now repeat the process but walk 20 yards before you give him his reward. The time after that walk 30. Keep increasing the distance slowly until you can do the whole walk with him by your side.
Lose the treats
Before you know it he will be in the habit of staying by your side. Even other pets and people won’t distract him. At this point, you can slowly cut out the treats. He will no longer need an edible incentive.
By James Barra
Published: 02/21/2018, edited: 01/08/2021