The Siberian husky is the UK’s 18th most popular dog breed out of a total of over 240 breeds, and they’re a common sight across the country these days, with most regular dog walkers coming across at least one Husky on a regular basis. However, they are also among the most challenging of dog breeds to own and manage, and even husky owners who do a lot of research into the breed before making a purchase so that they know what they’re getting in to may run into some problems along the way.
Huskies can also be one of the most challenging dog breeds to teach reliable recall skills to – and recall is the ability and willingness on the part of the dog to stop what they’re doing and return to their handler when called, no matter what is going on around them.
However, the Siberian husky’s core traits mean that being able to achieve good, reliable recall within dogs of the breed is also really important, and in this article we’ll look at how to go about it.
Read on to learn more about training the Siberian husky for reliable recall skills.
Why is recall so important for the Siberian husky?
Recall is perhaps the most highly-loaded – and so, important – command to teach any dog, but it is also usually the most challenging too, regardless of the dog’s breed.
Owning a dog that won’t return to you when you call them can cause a huge range of problems, from meaning that you can’t put your dog on the lead and take them home until your dog decides that they’re ready, to posing a real risk to your dog’s safety, and that of others.
If your dog is chasing a cat, running at full tilt towards a road, or otherwise loose and out of control, they might seriously injure themselves, another animal, a person, or property. As the owner of the dog, liability for all of these things will fall to you – which might result in severe penalties including the death or destruction of your dog, prosecution, and a large fine or even jail time.
You will also have the knowledge on your conscience that your dog or another person/animal was harmed due to your inability to control your dog – which you will of course be keen to avoid.
Why training a husky for recall can be a challenge
As mentioned, training any dog breed for reliable recall can be a challenge, but the Siberian husky can be more challenging than most for a variety of reasons.
First of all, they are an extremely high-energy dog breed that needs lots of exercise and time spent each day running around, which increases the chances of them getting into hot water – or being so lively and excited that they don’t listen to commands.
Secondly, Siberian huskies are very inquisitive, adventurous dogs that will often happily make new friends and wander off with people or other dogs that they meet, as well as sometimes having a tendency to escape their gardens or homes to go off looking for things to do.
Dogs of the breed also have a naturally high prey drive, which means that they can be apt to take off in pursuit of prey and not listen to you calling them back, as well as not paying attention to their surroundings and safety when they do so.
The beginnings of teaching effective recall
You should begin teaching your husky the recall command from virtually as soon as you get them, and the earlier you can implant the idea of recall in their minds, the more effective this will be.
Your recall command must be very clear, distinctive, and not easily confused with other words – and you must use it consistently.
Begin from the very basics – calling your dog to come to you when at home, from a few feet away and when they are resting. When you give the recall command and your dog complies with it, always give them a treat and lots of praise.
Next, work up to calling your dog within a safe, enclosed environment with a little stimulus – such as when they are playing with something or concentrating on something else. Again, always reward and praise.
The key to good recall is convincing your dog that the reward they get for following your command is always better than the reward they have for ignoring you – which is why good recall training means offering lots of praise and high-value rewards that your dog really wants.
When you can get your dog to return to you quickly in a controlled, low-stakes situation without a lot of external stimulus, you can move on progressively to more challenging environments.
Moving on to high-stakes situations
When you’re out walking your dog off the lead, recall is the last command they will receive from you when it’s time to go home, and this signals the end of their play. This in itself can serve to compromise your dog’ willingness to come when called, as they may begin to associate recall with the end of their fun.
In order to avoid this, call your dog back to you several times when they are off the lead outside just to give them a treat and some praise, before letting them carry on. This teaches your dog that recall doesn’t always mean the end of their fun, and keeps them guessing about what’s going to happen next.
When your dog is playing with others or is in an open space with other things catching their attention, recall becomes more important – and challenging. Again, recall your dog now and then and treat and praise them every time, but don’t keep doing this every five minutes or your dog may start to ignore you.
If you can’t get your dog to return reliably when other stimulus is present, move back a step and keep building their responses before you try again.
Progressively increase the stimulus over time to encompass busy, noisy areas and places with lots of dogs and people, and don’t be afraid to slow down or move back a step if your dog isn’t complying reliably.
The ultimate test of recall for the Siberian husky is if your dog is pursuing something and concentrating all of their attention on it – in which case, they might not really hear or register your command. You can’t safely practice recalling your dog when they’re pursuing another animal or running towards a road, but you can practice in other ways – such as by using a ball or frisbee that can be thrown a long way, and recalling your dog in the middle of their flight.
If you go about training your dog for recall in the right way, you might well be able to stop them in their tracks when something exciting is happening, or they are pursuing something – but unless this has been tested out in practice, never assume that it is the case.
If you have any doubts about your Husky’s recall in high-stakes situations, you will have to mitigate the risks in other ways. These may include muzzling your dog when they’re off the lead for the protection of other animals, and/or ensuring that they are only allowed off the lead in securely enclosed fields or spaces.