The Siberian Husky is breed of dog from the Spitz group. They are extremely active dogs, not suited to every owner, or lifestyle. They are a physical dog, needing exercise consisting of several mile runs every day. Training a Siberian Husky is much the same as any dog, with notes that they are more independent, and more active.
Like any dog, Siberian Husky pups should not be weaned (taken from their mother) until 8 weeks of age, and provided they are fully vaccinated can begin puppy socialization and training at 12 weeks of age. Until they are fully vaccinated Siberian Husky puppies should not leave their home or yard. This will help keep the pup safe from highly contagious diseases such as Parvo.
The Siberian Husky puppy's first lesson, which should occur prior to taking it for socialization or further training, is to get it accustomed to wearing a collar. This is generally done when the pup is young. The collar should be checked regularly to be sure it has not become too tight as the puppy grows. The puppy may fuss at first but usually will ignore the collar after a day or two.
To train an Siberian Husky puppy to walk on a leash soft treats are needed, these should be cut small so the puppy does not get fat. Use the puppy's name and offer a treat while gently tugging the leash (but not so hard you actually pull the pup to you). As soon as the puppy steps towards you, release your tug so the pup learns to understand that when it does the right thing pressure is released. As the puppy approaches you reward it with a soft treat and praise. In the first days failure should not be an option, the puppy should start only a few feet away. Keep the training session is kept short, and always end on a positive, so that the puppy does not become stressed.
Next Steps in Training a Husky
After learning to walk on a leash the Siberian Husky puppy can be trained to sit, down, come, and so forth. Socialization is also a critical step, not only for Siberian Huskys, but dogs of all breeds. Owners may select to take their pup, or adult dog, to proper obedience classes, or continue at home. It is worth noting that formal classes allow for more socialization than most owners can give on their own and help the dog learn to be obedient amid distractions. Classes also offer a guide to correct owner errors. Clicker training, or other positive training methods, should be used.
Keep in mind that Siberian Huskies are not motivated by a need to please their owner (unlike some dogs such as the Retriever breeds). Huskies are motivated by a need to be active, so incorporate a lot of activity in your lessons, and make sure the dog's need for physical activity are met every day.
Sit and Down
To train a Siberian Husky dog to sit, it should be standing up, and facing its owner. The owner should be prepared with a bag of small soft treats in their pocket. Right handed people should hold the dog's leash in their left hand and use their right hand for giving rewards. The dog is shown the treat in the owners hands. The dog is told to sit, while the owner moves their hand over the dogs head, from nose to forehead, low enough so that the dog can smell the treat. Since the dog cannot reach the treat without jumping up (which should be corrected immediately, and never tolerated) it is forced to put its bum into a sitting position, at which time the dog is rewarded and praised. The handler should never pull on the dogs neck, nor push on the dogs rump – as this is an outdated training method.
To get the dog into a down position the treat is held in a down turned hand, again after the dog is made aware that the owner has treats. The hand is lowered to the floor in front of the dog while the dog is given the “down” command. As soon as the dogs front and rear hit the floor the dog is rewarded with the treat and given enthusiastic praise.
Note: The command “down” should be used only to mean lay down, not to get off furniture, or to stop jumping on somebody. Also note that saying “Sit Down” is sending two different messages to the dog.
Socialization is how a dog learns to interact with other dogs, and people. This is best done at a proper obedience school where the dogs can be watched by several knowledgeable dog people. Socialization may be accomplished by taking the dog to areas where several dogs are, such as the dog park. The dog must be allowed to interact with other dogs and learn from them what is acceptable and what is not.
One of the areas where socialization is a problem with Siberian Huskies is with cats, and other animals. They have a high prey drive and will often chase small animals (even livestock). Socialization at a young age is key to controlling these desires. Even a playful Siberian Husky can kill a cat simply out of an effort to play with it.
Siberian Huskies are independent dogs who often bond to one person, as such it is very important that Siberian Husky owners socialize while the dog is young, and that the owner is knowledgeable enough not to create a situation for their dog where it can fail.
To socialize a dog to new situations the owner must have total control over it, and expose it to many different situations in a way that the dog does not think these are scary. Even a trip to the veterinarian is a socialization lesson.
Beyond the basics, which we have mentioned, there are other training steps that should be taken, such as recall, in which a dog is told to “come”. This is done by continuing on with getting the dog to respond to coming to its name. Owners of a Siberian Husky should not off leash their dog unless it has perfect recall (the ability to come when called). This breed is highly noted for running away, not out of malice or betrayal, but simply due to their independent streak and a love of running.
Further training is needed for moving a Siberian Husky up into becoming a sled dog. This is often accomplished by attaching a younger, untrained sled dog, to partner up with a fully trained, experienced, sled dog.
Siberian Huskies are often kept as outdoor dogs but they can be house trained.
Crate training is a whole other issue unto itself so will not be covered fully here, however it is important to note that it requires time, commitment, and consistency. By rewarding the dog for going to the bathroom outside it learns that this is where it should go. Owners must be willing to spend some time outside with the dog to accomplish this, as rewarding it when it comes in to the house only teaches it that coming into the house is good.
Note: Owners of dogs such as Siberian Huskies should avoid playing games of dominance with their dogs. Such games include tug-of-war. These dogs are large and if given to think they are the dominant member of the house/family, they can become problem animals.