Can You Train Your Husky Off-Leash? [An Inside Look]
Ask any husky owner what they worry about the most and you’ll likely hear some variation of the same answer: that she’ll escape, run away, and get hurt. Why? Because, to paraphrase Springsteen, they’re “born to run.” So, it’s natural to assume the answer to “Can you train your husky off-leash” is a resounding “no!”
Not surprisingly, though, the real answer is far more complicated, with both opponents and proponents weighing in. Take a look at what each side says, then read on for some things to keep in mind if you decide to try to train your husky puppy off-leash.
So, Can You Train Your Husky Off-Leash?
Siberian husky owners seem split right down the middle in regard to whether the breed is capable of going leash-free. Some feel that a husky’s urge to run is more powerful than their desire to listen. Even the AKC states that “an overwhelming desire to run, and they should be on a leash or in a securely fenced-in area at all times and never allowed off lead.”
Others disagree. Proponents of training a husky off-leash feel that it’s not just possible, but imperative. After all, once your husky learns to listen even when she’s not contained, your chances of stopping her from running away rise exponentially.
It really all comes down to what you’re comfortable with and how well you know your dog. The cons of training a husky off-leash are many, and definitely nothing to sneeze at. However, the pros can also be hard to dismiss. If you do decide that it’s the right move for you and your dog, here are some important things to keep in mind.
5 Tips If You Decide to Train Your Husky Off-Leash
1. Start With the Basics
Training a husky off-leash isn’t something that you just dive right into. First, your dog needs to have a very firm grasp of basic commands. At the very least, she’ll need to master “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel.”
“Focus” or “look at me” are also valuable commands for training any dog with a strong urge to run. It’s significantly easier to prevent your dog from running off when you can divert his attention from distractions with a well-timed “focus” command.
Of course, even a firmly stated “focus” won’t always stop your dog from tearing off after a squirrel once she’s spotted it. So, along with training your husky, you’ll also need to “train” yourself to be constantly aware of your surroundings.
2. Socialize Your Husky
Socialization is equally as important as teaching your husky basic training commands. That’s fairly common knowledge. If you’re even considering eventually training your husky off-leash, it’s absolutely vital. A socialized dog knows how to act and react around other people and animals without aggression.
While puppy training classes are a great start for dog socialization, you’ll want to go beyond the hyper-controlled environment of a class. Remember, your goal is to ensure that your dog reacts well in all situations.
Take her out for walks around your neighborhood or on trips to your local pet store. Expose her to situations full of distractions, such as a dog park. The more opportunities she has to meet others on-leash, the better he’ll behave when she’s off-leash.
3. Reinforce Your Bond
Just like socialization helps your dog learn how to act and react to others, a strong bond reminds her of how to act around you. Reinforce that bond by continuing your training even after she’s learned all the basic commands. Try trick training, agility courses, brain games, and other routines that engage both her mind and her body.
Consider this, the more bonded you are to your dog (and she to you), the more likely she is to listen to you both on and off-leash.
4. Consult an Expert
It’s entirely possible to teach your dog basic commands on your own or with the help of a book. However, when it’s time to get into the tougher stuff, like off-leash training, consider consulting an expert trainer.
It’s absolutely vital to choose a trainer who understands huskies. It’s not a bad idea to enroll in an advanced training class with your dog. Both group classes, as well as one-on-one training, can be incredibly helpful.
Just make sure you choose a class that allows you to take an active role in training your dog. In other words, don’t just drop your dog off at a puppy boot-camp and call it a day.
5. Test the Waters
So, you’ve decided to give off-leash training a try. You’ve taught your dog the basics, socialized her, and reinforced your bond. You’ve consulted an expert, went through rigorous advanced training. Now you’re feeling pretty confident that your husky is completely capable of obeying off the leash.
Before you head out to test that theory in the wild, there’s one more thing you need to do: test the waters in a safe and controlled environment.
Some dogs have a perfect recall in their own yards but next to none in strange environments. Try taking her to an enclosed dog park you don’t usually visit, a friend’s fenced-in yard, or another place that’s relatively new to her. Then, let her off-leash and see how she reacts.
If she still obeys even with new distractions, you’re ready to decide if letting her off-leash in an uncontrolled environment is something you’re comfortable with.
Training any dog to work off-leash is a challenge and something that’s best done with the help of a professional. When it comes to huskies, though, it’s absolutely vital to weigh the pros and cons.
It’s also important to take their basic instincts into account. Even the most well-trained dog faces challenges fighting genetic urges.
Can you train your husky off-leash?
Theoretically, yes. After all, anything is possible. The better question is, “Should you train your husky off-leash?” Only you can decide that, as only you truly know your dog.
However, unless you have a reason for doing so- perhaps because you’re training your husky to become a therapy dog- it’s usually better to err on the side of caution.