Huskies seem like really smart dogs, but how easy are they to train? If they can pull a sled then they must be pretty intelligent, right? I did a little research and the answer may surprise you.
So, are huskies easy to train? Huskies are incredibly energetic, willful, and at times, downright stubborn. They are intelligent and ambitious, always seeking to be the top dog. Huskies are more likely to listen to a strong owner, someone they are willing to recognize as the “lead dog”.
Just because it can be difficult to train a husky, doesn’t mean it is impossible. With dedicated training (and some pro tips), you will be training your dog into a champion in no time at all!
Why Aren’t Huskies Easy to Train?
In order to train your husky, you need to understand why he acts the way he does. Huskies are naturally energetic and curious; yelling at a husky for it’s natural behavior will only cause hurt feelings and will slow down your training.
Dog sleds have been around for thousands of years. Anthropologists speculate that as long as humanity has been around, there has been some form of dog sledding.
The Siberian husky was bred by the hardy Chukchi people of North Eastern Asia. The Chukchi valued the dog for it’s loving nature, but most of all for it’s incredible resilience and endurance out on the ice.
The Chukchi bred the Siberian husky to be swift ice runners with endless stores of energy. The Chukchi bred the husky from the original sled dog, the Eskimo dog.
The Eskimo dog or “Qimmiq”is a powerhouse of strength and endurance. It is the forefather of the husky. Over the years, the husky has lost much of the weight and bulkiness of the Qimmiq and is much slimmer than it’s parent breed.
Fun Fact! The name “husky dog” is thought to be a corrupted version of the nickname originally given to the breed, “Eskimo dog”.
Huskies were bred to pull sleds through the cold and ice of the far North. The breeds hardy attitude and natural stubbornness is a reflection of the husky’s Arctic heritage.
Huskies work best as pack animals and follow the lead dog in a sled team. The lead dog is strong and resolute, he needs the power and energy necessary to manage a team of up to 22 dogs.
If the lead dog shows any weakness, he may be challenged for his position.
You will have to be the “lead dog” if you want your husky to take commands from you. Hesitation will be met with insubordination, therefore strong leadership skills are crucial for training this astute animal.
Huskies are also competitive and energetic. Dog sledding is still a popular sport in some of the colder regions of the world, and the Siberian husky is prized as the ideal sledding dog.
While an endless fountain of energy may be crucial out on the unforgiving ice, it may be less desirable if you are keeping a husky in your back yard. Finding a way for your husky to burn off the energy he carries around is one of the true challenges as a husky owner.
Though Huskies are stubborn and mischievous, at the end of the day they are noble, loving, and loyal. Huskies feel most at home when loved by a family and will make a great addition to yours, whether big or small.
Training a Husky
Now that you have a better understanding as to why your husky may behave the way he does, we can dissect just how you should go about training your husky.
Remember that huskies are prideful and stubborn. Training these dogs won’t be something that you can accomplish in a day.
There are 3 parts to a huskies basic training. These are:
- Becoming the Alpha dog
- Basic Commands
- Leash Training
Let’s take a closer look at each step so you can get a better idea of how to train your husky.
Becoming the Alpha Dog
Huskies conform their lives to a sort of “pyramid” hierarchy. At the top of the pyramid lives the alpha male and he calls all the shots.
Loyalty to the alpha male is critical to the success of a dog sled team. If a subordinate dog rebels and the alpha isn’t strong enough to keep order, the entire team could fall apart.
Huskies seem to have a nose for smelling weak leadership and are more than happy to take over if they feel they are being guided poorly.
When asked if huskies are really as stubborn as they some make them out to be, Veterinarian Dr. Pippa Elliott of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons responded:
In order for you to properly train your husky, you will need to assume the role of the alpha male, otherwise your husky will take the position and walk all over you.
Becoming a leader is simple enough in theory but it isn’t always easy in practice. Here is what you need to do to establish yourself as the leader:
- Curtail negative behavior. Huskies love to run around, bark at strangers, dig holes in the back yard, and jump up onto people. Normal dog behavior. But behavior that you will have to fix if you want to be respected as the leader. Correct your husky with a firm “No” anytime he does anything wrong. Don’t allow for any exceptions.
- Stop violent behavior. It isn’t uncommon for a husky to bite, posture, or engage in other violent behavior (especially as a puppy) in order to establish himself at the top of the social pecking order. Do not let your dog continue negative behaviors. Not addressing these issues when they first appear will lead to increased violence and aggression as your dog matures.
- Don’t treat your dog as an “equal”. Huskies follow leaders, not peers. Enter the door before your husky. Make your dog got out of your way and not vice-versa. Do anything that shows dominance and authority. Remember that you can be a strong leader without being a jerk.
- Be Confident. Above all, be confident and sure of yourself. If you act confident (even if you have no idea what you are doing) your husky is bound to believe you (and you may even to believe it too). Practice your top dog attitude and you will find that it becomes more and more natural.
Now that you have firmly established yourself as the leader of the pack, it is time to start training your dog to listen to your commands.
There are 4 basic commands that are crucial to teach to any new dog. They are:
Any dog that can master these 4 commands is ready to take on the world and be taught more advanced tricks.
A Brief Look at Punishments and Rewards
In order to be an effective trainer, you need to know how to properly incentivize your husky. Here are a few things that you need to know about punishment and rewards.
Huskies are social dogs and thrive on praise and social interaction. Here are a few tricks that will motivate your pup to action:
- Lavish praise. Praise should be your go-to reward. Huskies love a good belly rub follow with a chorus of “who’s a good boy?”. Don’t be stingy with praise. Give your dog some lovin’ whenever he does something good.
- Play a game. Huskies are playful animals. Use their natural energies to your advantage by playing a game whenever your husky completes a particularly difficult assignment. Huskies love to play fetch, Frisbee or run around in the park.
- Don’t be afraid to hand out treats. Treats are like manna from heaven to a dog. If your husky is feeling shy or nervous about something, help him out by offering a treat. Treats are a great way to motivate your dog when you first start training. Treats should not be your go-to reward.
Pro tip! Try switching out the type of treat that you give your dog. The novelty of new treat will keep your dog motivated to work and try new things.
Now let’s move on to punishment.
Punishing your dog is just as crucial as rewarding it if you want it to behave properly. Punishing doesn’t have to be (nor should it be) cruel or demeaning. Let’s look at the proper way to chastise a misbehaving husky.
- Never use violence. First and foremost, never use violence to punish your dog. Not only will it zap your dog of willingness to participate in training, it’s just downright wrong. If you know of any abused animals, please contact the humane society who can help connect you with the proper authorities.
- Withholding praise. If your dog ignores a command firmly say “no” and walk away. Refuse to give your dog any attention. Usually, the withholding of praise is severe enough punishment for these very social creatures.
- Designate a “timeout” space. Sometimes a more serious punishment is necessary and in these cases, a timeout is usually the best course. Designate a space in your house to be the “timeout” space. If your husky is especially naughty, put him in there where he will have no interaction until he has had a chance to calm down.
Pro tip! Shouting and finger wagging may actually excite your dog and get him more riled up than before. Ignoring your husky is usually the best course of action.
Now that we have looked at the proper way to motivate your husky, let’s take a look at the basic commands.
We will start with the ever important “stay” command.
You would think that getting your husky to stay wouldn’t be difficult, but these dogs are such loving companions that they love to follow around their owners like flies to a garbage can.
Teaching your dog to stay is simple enough, it only requires some persistence and patience.
- Set your dog in one space.
- Look at him and hold up your hand.
- While slowly walking backward, repeat your command loudly and clearly.
- Start off by walking a short distance. If your husky stays, offer him a treat. If he disobeys, firmly say “No” and walk away without giving him any attention.
- Repeat this process until you are able to walk a significant distance away with your dog without being followed.
Sitting is the natural step that follows the stay command. Having your husky sit will be important in the future to helping your husky learn the heel or stop command. To teach your husk to sit do the following:
- Have your husky “stay”.
- Get his attention with a treat.
- Hold the treat close to your puppies nose and slowly lift it upwards.
- Your dog’s natural reaction should be to sit as the treat travels above him.
- As your dog is making the sitting motion, utter the command “sit”
- If the dog sits, offer him the treat and plenty of praise. If not, withhold the treat and your attention.
A dog that obediently follows his owner is sure to keep out of trouble. Teaching your dog to come will help your dog stay away from places where he shouldn’t be. This is probably the easiest command to teach:
- Whenever your dog come towards you naturally, say your command.
- When the dog comes, offer a treat and praise. If not, withhold praise and attention.
Pro tip! Make sure you practice your commands throughout the day, every day and in multiple locations. If you only practice in one spot, your puppy may think he only needs to obey there.
Huskies are curious dogs with a knack for getting into trouble. Help them out and teach them how to stop before they really screw something up.
- If your dog is doing something naughty, say your stop command.
- Have your dog stay then sit.
- When he stops doing something naughty, reward him.
Pro tip! Hand gestures are a great way to get your dog’s attention and can help your verbal commands be extra powerful.
Leash training your dog is an important part of socializing your dog. A puppy that never goes outside may be unfamiliar with new people and other animals, and thus aggressive towards them when they mature.
From a young age, take your husky out on his leash everyday. Use these walks as opportunities to teach your dog the commands we discussed in the previous section.
While walking, have your puppy interact with other people and animals.
Remember that huskies are prone to running and need to be watched at all times.
Can I train a husky to be a guard dog? Huskies are too friendly to make good guard dogs. Their easy going natures make it so they are more likely to greet a stranger with a tail wag than a bark. These wolf-like dogs make look mean, but they are nothing but lovable hair balls.
Do huskies make good family dogs? Huskies are great for families with kids of all ages, so long as the kids no the difference between a dog and a toy. Huskies are loving and fun; they hardly have a mean bone in their body. Their vast stores of energy and curious nature make them great for families that love doing things outside.