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For as lovable and amazing as they are, huskies are not beginner dogs. They require a lot of time, attention, and patience in almost every regard. Many first-time husky owners return their dogs to breeders or rescues once they discover how demanding this breed is, but more often, negative behaviors are cited as the reason these dogs are “too much to handle.”
So what is an owner supposed to do when their husky acts up? How do you discipline a husky?
To properly discipline a husky, you should firmly establish boundaries and then withhold attention from them when they are crossed. You should also try to identify any underlying issues, prevent them from doing unwanted behavior in the first place, and reward them for engaging in better behaviors.
Rather than using punishment or harsh domination, we’ll go over productive ways to discipline your husky. But first, this article will look over reasons huskies often act out, things to avoid, and how to identify problem behavior.
Why Are Huskies So Naughty?
From making messes to ignoring commands, it may seem like huskies find trouble more easily than other breeds. Especially extremely eager-to-please breeds like Rottweilers or Pitties. There are several traits that make huskies more likely to exhibit problem behaviors as a household pet.
Full of Energy and Easily Bored
Huskies have been bred for centuries as sled animals. Throughout their entire existence, huskies were bred to run for hours on end, and their ancestors have been working dogs for millennia.
In other words, living indoors doesn’t come naturally to this breed and they can’t be expected to be content as a lap dog. If a husky isn’t properly exercised or entertained, they will quickly find ways to amuse themselves and get energy out on their own. Typically, this involves destructive behaviors such as destroying carpets or excessive digging.
According to the American Kennel Club, huskies are friendly, lovey-dovey dogs that thrive on interacting with loved ones and strangers alike. At first glance, it may be strange that a dog bred almost exclusively to run would require so much social interaction, but looking more carefully at their origin reveals why huskies need so much attention.
With their nimble, light frame and ability to run long distances, huskies are bred to pull light weights over long distances in groups. While the exact number of dogs on a sled team varies, many huskies work with as many as 11 other dogs at a time.
Because of their natural pack tendencies, huskies require a lot of attention and will act out if they aren’t receiving it. Furthermore, dogs that are experiencing separation anxiety or boredom are likely to engage in destructive behaviors. While having companion dogs around can help lessen this anxiety and boredom, a husky can’t be left alone all day with nothing to do.
There’s no way to put this nicely: huskies are stubborn. Not only do these intelligent and reactive dogs know what they want to do at any given point, but it often seems like huskies go out of their way to disobey.
Vocalizing, stomping, and general dramatic behavior are to be expected when it comes to huskies, and it isn’t fair to expect a dog bred to have high intelligence and a low desire to please to behave every command.
Huskies even outshine other dogs with a reputation for being stubborn like Boxers.
How NOT to Discipline a Husky
Before explaining how to discipline a husky, it’s important to point out things to avoid. Much of the advice often given to husky owners on how to stop problem behaviors is ineffective or outright detrimental.
Don’t Try to Dominate Them
Despite how commonly it is referenced, dominance theory is an outdated concept that has even been discredited by its own creator. Wild wolves do not demonstrate a hierarchy of alpha, beta, and omega dogs, but instead have small family groups of two parents and their pups.
Similarly, there is no alpha dog in a group and attempting to dominate your dog with dangerous techniques such as alpha rolls will only serve to frighten your dog and damage your bond.
Don’t Use Harsh or Physical Punishment
Shock collars, hitting, screaming, and other punishment methods based on scaring or hurting your dog may work in the short term, but these actions will cause anxiety, ruin the trust between you and your dog, and may even result in injury.
Aside from all of these negative outcomes, punishment is not an effective tool in the long-term and will not teach your husky to substitute negative behaviors with healthy ones. Instead, your dog will have increased anxiety and stress.
Don’t Accidentally Reward Bad Behaviors
There are many ways that trying to fix bad behaviors can unintentionally have the opposite effect. One of the most common ways owners accidentally reward their dogs for bad behaviors is by yelling at them or otherwise giving them attention when they are behaving poorly.
For a dog as social as a husky, any attention is better than none, including yelling or fussing. Going over to scold your dog when they weren’t being given attention prior is a great way to teach your dog to do that behavior again.
For as backwards as it may seem, praising and rewarding your dog once they stop doing a behavior you don’t like is another way to encourage that behavior. After all, how can you get treats for stopping barking if you don’t bark in the first place? Instead, unwanted behaviors should be prevented in the first place and desirable replacements should be rewarded in advance.
Steps to Take Before Disciplining A Husky
Before you actually discipline your husky, it’s important to know that you are correcting the right behavior. Identifying what behaviors are actually problems as well as identifying the cause of these behaviors are two important first steps.
Identify Problem Behaviors
If you’re reading this article, chances are you have a specific behavior in mind. That said, not every behavior that you think of as bad is necessarily problematic.
It’s all too common for owners to not realize that their husky acting out is just the result of an issue elsewhere, or to think that a completely normal behavior is something that should be punished.
For instance, vocalizing and howling are simply natural behaviors for a husky, and running around wildly indoors is a symptom of another issue rather than a behavior to solve.
Identify the Root of the Behavior
Often, the negative or destructive behaviors a husky displays are actually indicators that there is an issue elsewhere. As mentioned above, huskies are energetic dogs that require a lot of exercise, enrichment, and socialization.
Many destructive behaviors your husky may display are signs of boredom, pent-up energy, or separation anxiety. Even if you stop your dog from engaging in behaviors you don’t like, you aren’t actually fixing the problem.
How to Discipline A Husky
Now that we’ve gone over what not to do and steps to take before disciplining your husky, it’s time to talk about how to discipline your husky. This includes non-destructive techniques to punish your dog, such as ignoring their behavior, as well as productive ways to replace poor conduct.
Teach Your Husky the Boundary
When it comes to letting your husky know what behavior you don’t like, it’s key to be as straightforward as possible. Huskies are intelligent dogs, and a firm “no,” or “down” can be easily understood by your dog.
As long as you are consistent with your dog in terms of scolding them when they have broken a rule, it should become clear to your dog what you do and do not want them to do.
Ignore Them For Bad Behavior
Once you have communicated the boundary to your husky, the best thing to do is physically turn your back on them and ignore them.
For a social breed like a husky, withdrawing attention is a strong incentive to stop engaging in whatever bad behavior they were doing. Of course, for this to work, you can’t budge. Even scolding your dog if they start barking at you or jump up will be counterproductive.
Once your dog has stopped doing the behavior, you can pay attention to them again, but be careful not to excessively praise them, as this will reward them for stopping the behavior rather than not engaging in it in the first place.
Prevent, Reorient, and Redirect
Sometimes, the best way to deal with an instinctual, uncontrollable, or unsafe behavior is to simply prevent it from happening. If your husky will not return to you when they are off-leash, the best solution may just be to never take your husky off-leash on a walk.
Similarly, if your husky has a strong prey drive and won’t leave your chickens alone, your best bet is likely to just never allow your husky to come in contact with your chickens.
Of course, many uncomfortable situations are impossible to escape completely, such as tail trims or vet visits. In these cases, using tools such as food or praise to reorient and redirect your dog toward positive behaviors may be your best option.
Find a Replacement Behavior
As we said above, praising your husky for stopping an unwanted behavior actually reinforces that behavior. Instead, you should find a behavior to replace the undesired behavior in advance.
For instance, a dog that is praised for laying down when you enter the room won’t jump on you, and a dog that is rewarded for laying in their own bed won’t try to sneak onto yours quite as often.
When it comes to destructive behaviors like scratching or chewing, it’s best to find a replacement behavior that is similar to the negative one. Huskies that scratch the floor should be given digging toys and dogs that chew on furniture should be given chew toys.
Be Consistent With Your Expectations
For as intelligent as huskies are, they aren’t mind-readers. Your husky won’t be able to understand nuanced boundaries and giving them contradictory or inconsistent instructions will be frustrating for everyone involved.
You need to communicate your expectations to your husky or better yet, draw clear lines. For instance, if you don’t want your husky to jump on you when you’re wearing a nice suit, you need to tell them to sit or lay before they jump. Alternatively, you can not allow your husky to jump on you in general.
Reward Good Behavior and Establish a Training Relationship
Like any other dog, huskies thrive off of positive reinforcement. Rewarding good behavior has a variety of positive effects. For a start, training is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your husky as well as keep them entertained.
Furthermore, establishing a training relationship with your dog will make them more likely to respect and listen to you when it comes to stopping bad behavior. Finally, the only way to keep your husky happily engaging in positive replacement behaviors is to reward them.
At the end of the day, huskies are a naturally stubborn breed. While all of the above can help establish clear boundaries and communication with your husky, it’s to be expected that your husky will act out and be disobedient at times.
Being patient and understanding with such a mischievous breed is important for maintaining your bond and training relationship. Most huskies will never be as eager to please as a German Shepherd, but that doesn’t mean they won’t respond well to positive reinforcement and consistent training.
Tips for Training Good Behavior in Huskies
Huskies are infamous for being difficult to train, but there are a few tips and tricks that can make things easier.
Start Early On
Although it is very possible to teach an old dog new tricks, training a husky to engage in good behavior early on is much easier than training poor manners out of a husky. Early obedience training is a great way to establish a training relationship and set your husky up for success.
What you should focus on during training depends on your puppy’s age, but basic good behaviors to train include sit, down, and stay, coming when called, walking on a leash, and dropping things on command. Crate training should also be considered too and can be rolled into overall potty training.
Keep Sessions Frequent, Varied, and Short
When teaching your husky a new trick, it can be very tempting to have a long training session to let them master the trick. But it’s all too easy for your husky to get bored or frustrated with long, repetitive sessions and to dread training altogether.
5 to 15 minute sessions where a variety of tricks are practiced are a good starting point, but cut a session short and end on a positive note if you ever see your dog getting bored or frustrated while training.
The most efficient way to master new tricks while keeping your husky happy is to implement several short training sessions a day. As the video below shows, it’s very possible to train a husky to be obedient, but it just takes a lot of time and patience!
Socialize Your Husky Frequently
Huskies are about as friendly of a breed as it gets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be socialized. Huskies should regularly interact with a variety of people and animals and be taught to mind their manners with strangers.
You might not mind your husky jumping on you, but they should learn to keep all four paws on the floor when around guests or children. Although they are rare with this breed, any signs of aggression should be dealt with immediately.
You don’t have to have a training session every hour on the dot, but having some consistency with training is still required. Half-learned tricks and unfinished training sessions are both unproductive and frustrating, and regular practice of learned tricks is still required for proper maintenance.
Whether you set a specific schedule or train when it’s convenient, consistency is key to keeping up good behavior.
As an intelligent breed, huskies can pick up tricks quickly. That said, you can’t expect a husky to learn complex tricks in a day or listen to every single command. Part of having a good training relationship with your husky is just knowing where their limitations lie.
With so many contradicting ideas and philosophies, it can be difficult to know exactly how to discipline your husky. But with a combination of ignoring bad behaviors and reinforcing good ones, it’s possible to shift your husky’s behavior over time.