I adopted a stray 4-month-old Siberian Husky and I’ve started to train him. As I’ve read, and am now seeing, they can be quite stubborn dogs. I know he is intelligent and he’s starting to understand what I am saying to him, but of course he is not ready to always listen. I was wondering if you have any advice, specifically for the Husky breed, to teach them to sit, stay and similar common commands. Also, will he suffer too much if I have to keep him tied up while I am away at work? Any tips or advice would help. I am a completely stressed out new mommy! Thanks.
Congratulations on the new puppy! You have a challenging and very rewarding experience ahead of you in training your Husky. It’s imperative you immediately contact a trainer in your area and sign up for a puppy class and in-home training—more on that later.
Here’s the thing about training any breed of sled-pulling dog: You need to be very aware of breed characteristics, including their extreme athleticism. You’ve already discovered the challenge of getting and holding his attention. Rather than becoming frustrated because you know he’s smart but seems to have selective hearing, please study the breed so you can use what he sees as high-value activities and items as a reward system while training, and all throughout his life to help keep him focused on you.
What do Huskies basically want? To pull, of course! So work with a trainer getting “Pull” as a command to use as a reward and method of play. Any behavior that’s annoying to you can be put on command and requested only when you want it, so there’s an on and off switch!
Eye contact is the foundation of any training program. If your dog’s not looking at you, you simply don’t have his attention enough to communicate clearly. Every time he looks at you, say “Yes!” just as he makes eye contact, and quickly praise him. He’ll need fast, intense, short and fun training sessions since he’ll check out when you get boring. And rather than seeing everything and everyone as a potential snag in training and attention, turn it around so you give him what he wants at any particular moment as a reward.
In other words, instead of constantly fighting the environment, keep it in your pocket and use it as a reward. When you see someone heading toward you while out on a walk, immediately step in front of your puppy and very enthusiastically request a Sit. When he complies, say “OK!” and let your pup greet the person. If he loves to sniff everything, then put sniffing on command to use as a reward. When walking with him, constantly talk in very enthusiastic tones rather than relying on the leash to pull him back, which is very frustrating for both of you, and when he walks just a few steps looking at you, tell him “Go sniff!” and toss a few small treats in the grass; give him a minute to enjoy the grass, then say “Let’s go!” and continue the walk by re-engaging his attention using your voice, enthusiasm and treats.
Keep this up so he knows he gets to goof around frequently without being tugged or yelled at because he looked at you! You’ll be doing yourself and your pup a favor by realizing you need to be very vocal and sound like his cheerleader during most of the walk. It’s not a natural thing for humans to do; unfortunately we wait until we need to address some behavior we don’t like before we talk to our dogs. It’s human nature that if we don’t see it, feel it or hear it, we don’t acknowledge it—and that’s a true shame when it comes to our dogs.
Shape, shape, shape that behavior—when he’s doing something the way you want him to, whether it’s walking with a loose leash, sitting quietly at your feet when you’re resting, not chewing something inappropriate, all those things we hope for but take for granted that he’ll just grow out of puppy stuff and magically become perfect. Like it? Praise and reinforce it!
Now about finding a trainer. Please read “Help Me Train My Two Huskies” for more information about training Huskies, and how to start your trainer search.
Please consider crate-training your new puppy. You simply cannot tie up a dog without him developing some major behavioral problems, which often include aggression, hyperactivity, digging/chewing/barking to get away, and he has a big chance of hurting himself trying to escape. Huskies are extremely good at scaling fences, and have a strong desire to roam, so do be sure he’s safe while you’re gone, but please don’t tie him up. Being introduced to the crate the way the informational flyer teaches will make it a very comfortable place for your puppy. He needs to be let out to go potty and get some exercise at least every four hours right now, so arrange for a dog walker if you can’t come home for lunch.
Please keep me posted with your progress!