Is it a good idea to let your Siberian Husky (whether puppy or adult) off lead? The short answer is “no”, but the long answer is “maybe”. Here’s why…
Among many dog lovers, there is an opinion that huskies need to be walked only on a leash, and never let them off the leash because this is an extremely “runaway” breed, whose representatives are prone to escaping at the slightest opportunity and never return. Of course, there is some truth in all this, as no smoke without fire, but the devil is not so black as he is painted.
Why do Siberian Huskies run away?
The Husky’s heritage is as a sled dog bred for endurance. That means they were “built” for running at a high pace over an extended period. Furthermore, their natural prey drive means if a smaller animal is insight there is a good chance they will run after it. That could be a squirrel, a cat, or a small dog. Whether they intend is to attack or just play with the other animal does not matter, they will just go for it.
Compare this behavior, as an example, to a Labrador Retriever, who were bred to retrieve birds during a hunting expedition, returning the prize to their owner. Quite different to a Siberian Husky, who is mischievous, independent, crazy, fun loving, hyper, weird and so much more!! They were bred to RUUUN!!!
What this means for Husky owners is that their dog tends to have a one-track mind to chase. Dangers such as roads and cars may be oblivious to a running Husky. Even in a secluded area do you really want to spend the next few hours (or worse, days) searching miles around for your dog? Probably not. For this reason, you need to consider the possibility that your Husky will never be allowed off-lead when outside your property. The risk of your dog getting into trouble is quite high.
Can you train a Husky to behave off-leash?
Just to let go for a walk off the leash, such a curious and adventure-seeking dog is the top of irresponsibility.
But if you are disciplined in training your puppy effectively and have your Siberian Husky come to you on demand, you might just be able to pull it off. After all, Husky’s temperament is typically kind to strangers and you are not expecting your puppy to cause problems with people or other dogs.
By way of their independent nature, Huskies can be stubborn to train. It takes many months and years to earn the respect of a Husky, and many dogs will still not obey their owners 100% of the time. If your dog is off-leash you need that 100% assurance he or she will follow your command, instantly. Exercising your Husky every day, providing the physical and mental stimulation to avoid bad behavior is key to earning this trust, and moderating the desire to bolt.
Where to train your Husky off-lead
Have a look around for sporting grounds such as baseball parks or specialist dog training parks that are set up for this kind of training. That means no gaps, and a fence high enough for a Husky to jump over. You might be lucky enough to have such a place near you. Ideally, as your confidence grows you want to try larger enclosed parks, preferably with people and dogs around, and we will explain why later.
What about outdoors areas with no fences and boundaries? At the initial stage, always choose safe places, away from cars and highways. Take your husky into the open field once you gain enough confidence. This madness is worth seeing! Husky racing through space at sound speed. Nature is the best place to practice obedience. He/she will be grateful to you. It is noticed that the Siberian rarely escapes from open, viewed space.
What do you want is to avoid the areas in which you might lose the visual sight of your dog. Also places where small animals roam such as squirrels or cats.
How to train a Husky to come?
Husky recall training is the key to reaching the end goal of feeling comfortable having your dog off leash. The ability to call back your dog on demand is critical to keeping him or her out of danger and not be a nuisance to you and others around you.
Your work starts in your own yard. You should be able to call your Husky to you at any time and they will arrive. Initially, you might need to use food rewards to associate your words with the desired behavior. For example, if you yell “Cassie, come!” you want your dog Cassie to stop what is she doing, run up to you, stop and sit.
Start by reward the dog with a small food treat when they come. When they get the hang of that, only issue the treat if they stop and obey your “sit” command. Eventually, you should be able to recall your Husky and not have to issue food rewards at all. This will take time, potentially many weeks or even months. Use our ideas on giving feedback and general training tips to help get you started. Persistence and patience will be required, but the result will be a happier relationship between you and your Husky.
Once you feel your Husky is responding well to you, maybe you try recall training out of your yard. The key here is to change the environment and have your dog learn that your recall command applies everywhere, not just at home. This may require a few more food rewards.
Siberian Husky should get used to freedom – and it is advisable to start this process in company with other dogs, who already trained to walk without a leash and returning to the call of their owners (This does not necessarily have to be a Siberian Husky).
Then, as your dog settles in the company and begins to respond to the call to come back together with other dogs – and this will certainly happen, because the dogs are pack animals and learn from each other very fast, you can proceed to the next stage – start letting the dog go off-leash, somewhere in the field or in a forest. But again, it is highly desirable to do so in the company of other, already experienced and trained dogs. Call your pet along with the other owners calling their dogs – and be sure to positively reinforce the correct behavior.
What to do if your husky runs away?
What if your husky suddenly rushed after someone and does not respond to a call? In no circumstances should you run after him/her. Huskies love to play catch-up and your dog will think that this is a game, and winning the race with husky you have little or no chance whatsoever.
The best solution in this situation is to call the dog and run in the opposite direction – as soon as your dog sees that you are running away, I assure you, she/he will run after you with a 95% probability.
However, there are always that 5 % of chances, when your husky may or may not hear you, or still decide to run and mind their own business:). What to do in this case?
The best solution is to stay in place and continue to call your pet. Some “escapees” return within an hour to the place they left. Keep this in mind! If you run after him – there’s a great chance that you will miss each other when the dog runs up and decides to return to you, as it happened to me once (I will write about this story one day)
The next very important thing to know – when the dog returns, never scold him – on the contrary, praise! After all, he returned to you and about the fact that he ran away, he has forgotten already – the puppies have a short memory;))
And the last but not least – the Siberian Husky can not get lost, they are well oriented, and definitely able to return to the house or the place where he ran away from you – but for this to happen, your husky should want to return to you, and this implies that he/she considers your house as his home, where he feels comfortable and safe.
Few tips to prevent huskies to run away or get them home ASAP if this to happen:
- The more exercise and impressions your dog will get, while interacting with you, the fewer reasons your dog will have to run away.
- During walks on a leash or without, sometimes let your husky choose the walk route – thereby you will find out which places your dog is most attracted to. This will give you a clue, to where you should look first in case your Siberian is gone;)
- It is also advisable to explore your neighborhood and the surrounding area, let the dog roam around and the further from your home, the better.
- Get a Personalized Dog Tag for your husky. There are plenty of choices on Amazon and you can customize it on the spot while ordering. Dog tags work perfectly. This option is cheap, reliable and operates regardless of how far your Husky might run away or any technical problems that might occur with your GPS tracker (if you have one).
Believe me, there are enough kind people and just simple dog lovers in the world, who will call and delight you with good news, regarding your lost husky.
You may never reach the point where you are 100% comfortable letting your dog off leash in urban environments but with a lot of practice, you can probably have your husky run around an open field and come back to you on demand.
So if you had visions of purchasing a Siberian Husky and having it follow you around and chase balls like a Golden Retriever, Labrador, or Border Collie, you need to re-think the situation. Most Husky owners will never let their animal off-leash outside their home. Sorry to disappoint but that’s one of the trade-offs of the breed! It isn’t cruel to protect your dog from harm.
However, if you are disciplined to deliver consistent, regular recall training over the dog’s life you might just be able to let your dog off leash in some environments. Use our training tips, particularly with positive feedback, and you will give yourself the best chance at success!