Tips for dealing with a Husky?

darenkaJuly 13, 2009

My husband brought home a Siberian Husky that needs to be taken care of for three weeks. I have no experience with this breed and I guess I'm looking for insight. Are they all Naughty? I swear this one can get into trouble in a padded cell--if I could keep him in there. He seems to escape out of everything, has absolutely no recall, and after 3 days of working with him--still has no recall. The 1st day walking, he jerked the leash out of my hand and it took 2+ hours to get him caught. The problem solving abilities prove that he's very bright, I just cannot seem to teach him anything that he can retain. It's almost as if he has ADD. Is this typical? I exercise my dogs actively for 1 1/2-2 hours a day, do Huskies need more (no sled for him to pull). He's completely uninterested in puzzles like the buster cube--his one interest seems to be in shredding everything he can find from dog toys to shoes. Supposedly he's six, and from clues I can see, that seems about right. I am unable to contact the owner to ask him questions. (Just another shocking thing as far as I'm concerned--I probably overload my doggy sitters with information.) He's quite adorable in many, many ways...but he's driving me a bit batty. He doesn't want to eat at scheduled meal times (I cannot free feed because I have a lab that thinks he's a Hoover) so the Husky picks up the bowl and drops it at my feet 20x a day. I keep reasoning that he'll learn to eat in the allotted 15 minutes I'm willing to bowl sit. Am I completely deluding myself? I certainly don't want to be cruel. I've had many dogs through my house as rescue dogs, but all of them were retrievers. I thought I was relatively good with dogs, but this one has me flummoxed. So... are there any Husky secrets you could provide? And do they all shed 1000 percent more than the average dog? As a side note, are there any husband training techniques you know?

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oh boy.
First go get yourself some Natural Balance meat sticks, cut them into diced pieces and get a training bag or an old fanny pack, load it with the NB cubes and go out with that for training.
I would suggest the duck flavored one since Huskies are more prone to liking wild flavors
This is not a sure thing. My Husky is not food oriented no matter how good the food. If you can get something the dog likes, use that as training treats all day long and dont worry about bowl feeding unless you can really run that dog out.

Huskies are notorious for destructive behavior and escaping just because they ARE bred to work 10 hours a day non stop. My friends neighbors dog goes missing for days at a time. He has gotten calls from people checking out the dog tag who are over 10 miles away, he ust tells them to let the dog go, it will find its way home, which it does after 3 days of being away.
Know anyone with a treadmill??? Are you physically fit enough to take that dog out for a 2 hour brisk walk every day? Does it get along well with other dogs, can you take it to a dog park and have it play hard for a couple of hours. It sounds like the dog is really bored to death and is not getting enough trail time.
YES, they shed outrageously all the time on top of having 2 blooms a year (spring and fall) where it seems ever hair comes out 2 times.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 10:52PM
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Just my luck--I was sort of hoping no one actually owned a Siberian (had just worked with them). But at least you don't sound insulted as that was never my intent. I've been feeling like marking days off (as they are rumored to in jail) and the other dogs are feeling my stress which is not good for anyone. We usually do 5-12 miles a day depending on time and terrain, but I'll certainly step it up for the younger crowd if it's going to help. I'll be hunting for the wildest flavor I can find because this guy isn't a lab--that's for sure. I didn't think a light food intake could effect the coat that quickly (all the shedding) but I was concerned. It's a good thing he's such a beautiful dog with so many winning ways, or I might have strangled him by now. Until someone is reliable with house rules, I don't give them the run of the place, but this dog is impossible to contain. Thanks for the information and the shoulder to cry on. I'm impressed all over again, because I have a new motto: got to be super sharp to stay on top of a husky.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 5:14PM
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Everything mazer has said is true.

Retrievers and huskies could not be any more different. A retriever spends his life seeking out your praise and trying to please you. A husky is not interested in pleasing you, just pleasing himself. He does not care whether or not you think he's a good dog, or if you like him, or if you give him treats or praise. He does what he wants, when he wants, because it seems like fun at the time. Here's the secret: all you have to do is convince the dog that what YOU want him to do is the most fun thing in the whole wide world, without him knowing that he is being tricked.

You can't rely on the same training methods that you used for the retrievers to train a husky. It's not working, so you have to change your methods.

As mazer said, huskies were bred to work- a LOT. They were also bred to think on their own. Sometimes they got fed from the people they were working for, but for the most part, they hunted their own meals. They were not made to be particularly obedient because sometimes humans want them to do stupid things, like drag a fully loaded sled onto thin ice. A husky has to know how dumb that is and act accordingly- by disobeying the order. So they are of very independent mind, as you have witnessed.

As far as destructiveness, he is just keeping his hunting skills fresh. Pick up everything you want to keep intact and give him MANY fun soft toys to destroy. Toys that squeak seem to garner attention for a good long time, at least until the squeaker is destroyed.

Oh, and mine are all shedding again too.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 10:30PM
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My daughter has a husky that sounds just like yours except he is also very aggressive. I am a dog lover, but I thought she should have put the dog down as soon as she realized he was a lost cause. Some breeds were never meant to be house pets and I worry always that this one will hurt somebody.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 9:37AM
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Thanks so much again. We are making progress. I think I'm able to outsmart him about 10% of the time--maybe by the time he leaves, I'll be up to 30%. You are absolutely right, retrievers and huskies distinctly come from different planets. He's still not food motivated as far as training goes, but he's not starving. Today, I found him in the basement having gone through 24 oz of smoked salmon, and starting on another. I doubt if he would have been all that keen if I put it in his bowl, but stolen food is delightful. I'm going to pass on the training tips to the owner, so hopefully, he'll continue to work with him. It's quite humbling to have a dog around who just isn't that interested in me. One of my dogs is trying to imitate his yodel and it sounds more like injured cow. I suspect many of them are surrendered because people go for the looks and have NO idea what they have gotten themselves into. They seem to be a fun and comical breed--but certainly not easy. I'll try to enjoy him more, because I don't think I'll ever adopt one.

Carmen, I hope you encourage your daughter to find a trainer who has worked with Huskies a lot. From what I've seen, the average PetSmart-type trainer wouldn't be appropriate.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 5:59PM
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We have had a number of Siberians over the years. At some time we have raised, shown (conformation and obedience), and ran the dogs.

I can realte 100% to your situation - heck, I could write a book about living with Siberians.

Siberian's have a very strong pack instinct, so when dealing with one keep in minnd that YOU have to be in charge - YOU are the Alpha. He has to understand that.

Keep in mind that in a sled team, the lead dog(s) is/are boss and the others need to listen to him/her. I am not suggesting the Jack London approach of the lead dog being the "toughest" or the old "out-fighting" the other dogs. That sort of attitude is self-defeating and is more fiction than fact.

However, if you see an experienced sled team, you KNOW which dog(s) are in charge - very distinct. And while I might have said that the lead dog should NEVER enforce its postition by fighting, a lead dog can be very dominant when dealing with other members of the team.

And, getting a couple of dominant males together can be an "interesting" (and potentially scary) experience - especially to someone who doesn't know the breed. Or, it might be like old-home week and everybody is having a great time and getting along like long lost friends and relatives.

Treat a Siberian like you would a lab, or a retriever, or even a German Shepherd and he will own you. As you have seen, he doesn't particularly care what you want. I have never known a single Siberian (never) who was food oriented to the point where you could use it for training. In my experience, trying to train a Siberian with food is a waste of time. He may take your food, and he may do what you want a time or two, but ultimately, when he tires of your game he will still ignore what you want if what he wants is more important to him.

As other folk's have mentioned, it sounds like he is really bored. Siberian's are highly intelligent dogs, but their intelligence is based on independent thought and not on how quickly they can learn to do cute tricks - or whatever it is that you want them to do. They tend to get bored very quickly if they can't find something that interests them - such as chewing up your new living room chair for example - they are prone to getting into real trouble...

Also keep in mind that Siberian's tend to be very prey driven. They also have zero traffic sense. The gentleman who let's his dog wander for days at a time shouldn't have this dog because either it will be killed on the street one day and/or it is very capable of killing other animals that it comes across - cats in particular.

Siberian's are very rarely aggressive towards people. Any Siberian that is people-unfriendly needs some serious work with a trainer or behaviorist who KNOWS this breed. A vicious Siberian can be a very dangerous dog. Typical Siberian's tend to be very people-friendly and this attitude makes them terrible watch dogs simply because if someone is breaking into your house the dog's reaction is to "watch" as everything you own is hauled out the door. Heck, he may even jump into the burglar's car just to go for a ride.

I suspect that I haven't helped much, but primary is that he needs to know that you are the boss and he isn't.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 10:18PM
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That Husky just taught you something, it ikes salmon. SO no food in the bowl, training treats only - in otherwords, nothing for free. The dog must perform in order to be fed. Feed it bits of salmon....good luck

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 10:37PM
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Gosh, I like Jack London--as a novelist anyway. Not to worry, I wouldn't use his story as a training example. It actually does help, even to hear what their character is like. For instance, this one has no traffic sense either. When he did get away from me, he just stood in front of a car. It's more of a lane without much traffic, but I was horrified. "Idiot Savant" has come to mind about 100 times. I'm so awe struck by his brilliance in some ways, and then he wanders in front of a moving vehicle. This wasn't a 'deer caught in the headlights' move, it was a casual stroll. I'm certain he thinks he owns me, but after a rough start, I'm trying to outwit and out-alpha him. We are actually much improved in the last few days. I've upped his exercise to about 3+ hours a day (how do Husky owners work full-time?) and I can set a pretty brutal pace (or so teenagers tell me all the time.) I figure the extra time in exercise alone is halving my time spent in disaster clean up.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to help me out.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 6:37PM
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Glad to hear that things are improving for you!

Your post is right on from my experience. Siberian's can be loads of fun and they can also be the biggest headache imaginable. I recall many more good times than bad with mine, but some of the things that make us laugh today were more like a kick-in-the-gut when they happened.

Prey drive? We once had a Siberian female who "raised" a dozen chickens. Somehow she decided that the young chicks were "hers". We were fearing the worst, but she actually slept next to them in the barn and even let them crawl and sleep on her when she was lying down.

Eventually, she would help me round them up and put them away in the coop for the evening. I never had to count because she wouldn't come with me until every chicken was locked up for the night.

We lived in a very rural area at the time that was filled with preditors (at least for chickens - coyotes, racoons, hawks, and so on, including other Siberian's!). We never worried about preditors since no coyote or racoon or other typical smaller preditor (or other Siberian's) would come around when she was with "her" chickens - she was chicken friendly, not chicken-eater friendly.

So one day we come home and she is laying in the driveway with a dead chicken between her legs.

I was livid - and I got out of the car and way over reacted (I was young and stupid - and wanted to make sure she never harmed another chicken. We had other Siberian's a few years before that had gotten loose and got into a neighbors chiken yard - not pretty).

She was so upset after I came down on her that she hid in the barn. And just about then our nearest neighbor came over and told us of one of the most amazing things he had ever seen.

It seems a hawk came down and grabbed one of our chickens. As it was tryinf to fly off with the bird, our dog came charging inn and chased off the hawk. He said that the dog quite literally pulled the chicken right out the hawk's talons as it was trying to fly off.

Okay, guess who felt like a total jerk?

Anyway, just a rather long story (of many!!!) about living with Siberian's.

And that turned into a serious life lesson for me - don't jump to conclusions before knowing all the facts!!!! It has stuck with me for many years.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:33AM
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Lot's of exercise. And do any training only after he has had a good run. He'll be way more responsive, and that sets him up for success.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 8:54AM
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Oberon, I just know I'm going to remember this like a Charles Dickens novel "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." That dog makes me laugh and cry every day--at least I'm laughing more now. I LOVED your story. It's also one of the many reasons I really love dogs. Ultimately, I know I am a better person because of them. I've learned so many important life lessons from them and my character has been tempered so much by them. What makes me most ashamed is that even when I've been unjustly harsh or quick to judge, they continue to love me. Outside of my parents, I don't think I've ever had such unconditional love. (Of course these are retrievers....) This Siberian Husky seems to laugh at me more than adore me, but I'm sure with the right owner, they are equally devoted. But after two weeks, I have managed to claw my way up the evolutionary scale; I merit a bit more respect than when I started.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your post. I hope still have some of these outrageous characters. They would certainly keep you young.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 7:12PM
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It is great to hear that things are improving. As you have found out, a sense of humor is a must with Siberians!

However, "devotion-to-owner" simply isn't in the Siberian vocabulary. A Sibe can be a great family dog and can be your best friend for life, but devotion in the sense of retrievers simply isn't part of their make-up and anyone who is looking for that with a Siberian is looking at the wrong breed! ;-)

I am glad that you enjoyed my story. Obviously it wasn't strictly a Siberian story (it would be more likely with a German Shepherd for example), but I think it shows that each dog has its own personality despite breed characteristics.

I am curious if you are in Hawaii? I lived on Oahu, near Pearl City, for three years back in the 80's and during my time there I belonged to the Siberian Husky club of Hawaii. A bunch of really great people.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 7:28AM
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I'm reading this thread with a smile and a shake of my head. I wish I had known all this when Wolfy came into our lives. He's a Husky-Shepherd, and since I've had experience with German Shepherds I kind of ignored the Husky part. Big mistake!

From reading the above, I can see Wolfy very much resembles his inner Husky. Somehow, we've muddled through, though. He's 14 now, and at least he's less likely to go exploring these days. :-)


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:54PM
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You have received a lot of accurate information in the responses to your question. My favorite dog is the Labrador but I have adopted four Sibes. I didn't plan to do that but after I rescued my first one from a hideous life of neglect (his owner bought him for his looks but soon decided the dog was too much trouble) I became active in Siberian rescue and quickly found three more who "needed" me. Siberian huskies are extremely difficult dogs to own responsibly. Successful Sibe owners are a dedicated group of people. Sibes do all the things you complained about in your post as long as their very special and demanding needs aren't met. Sibe owners say a good Sibe is a tired Sibe. They have incredible energy and stamina, are too damn smart, blow their coats twice a year, and behave nothing like Labs or Goldens. We who are happy owning Sibes have a specially developed respect, awe and love of their intelligence. There are huge numbers of Sibes who are given up or abandoned because they turn out not to be a good "fit" with their owners. Anyone considering getting a Sibe needs to do hours of careful research prior to making a commitment to the breed, or else they will find owning these fabulous dogs a chore. I hope the dog you are sitting for has the right kind of person as an owner. I love my dogs and am dedicated to providing them with a proper "Sibe" home. I moved to the country and bought enough land that I could fence an entire acre for them. A quarter of my garage has been converted to a kennel and that room has a doggie door in it that allows the pack to have 24/7 access to the acre. The acre is fenced with 6 foot chain link and there is a "hot wire" at the bottom of the fence to prevent the dogs from climbing or digging out. Some Sibes can even jump a 6 foot fence--fortunately mine can't or don't realize they can. My cats and dogs NEVER see each other because I know at least two of my four have killed cats. I could go on for several pages listing all the things I have done in order to keep my Sibes in a suitable environment. Thank you for your interest in this fabulous breed. I hope you will join the Sibe owners who have responded here in spreading the word that potential Sibe owners really need to carefully research the breed before getting one of these very challenging dogs.

Nancy in New York's Finger Lakes
Rescued Siberian huskies Zeke, Vixen, Duke and Moxie
Rescued DSH cats Timmy, Toby and Madeline-Rose
Volunteer transporter of rescued/adopted pets
Please Google to learn about prosopagnosia, a neurological condition also called faceblindness.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 7:50AM
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i've read this whole thread with amusement and memories have been flooding back to me of my years with 2 sibes. my very dignified female who was as aloof and she was beautiful and my silly male who was as clownish as he was handsome.

DEFINITELY not a breed for everyone!!! i wish i had a nickel for every person i met who had brought home the adorable sibe puppy, tied it to a tree in the back yard and ignored it for 6 months or a year or 2 years and ended up with an unsocialized, unmanageable, miserable, PITIFUL dog. every chance i get, i will discourage a person from even considering this breed unless and until they have spent time with a sibe or two and read everything they could get their hands and eyes on and then gone back and did it all over again at least 10 times. far too many people get this breed strictly because they are beautiful dogs...i mean, c'mon, have you EVER seen an ugly sibe??

as much as i loved them and as much joy as they brought me, i'll never have another simply because i no longer have the time to devote which would be unfair both to them and to me.

thanks for the memories!!!! :)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 4:05PM
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I found this thread by searching for the "Siberian Husky" and have laughed my way through the entire thing. I have a wonderful 6 y/o Sable colored, Blue Eyed Female Sibe named Lydia. She's everything everyone has mentioned here and then some but I love her dearly. I acquired her after my house was broken into and my mom, who at the time had absolutely NO idea what she was getting me into, gave me the pup. She had gotten her from a gentlemen that was tired of trying to sell the pups he had.....or something like that. I started reading everything about Siberian Huskies that I could get my hand on. She gets lots of love, LOTS of exercise and is treated like the special breed she is. Huskies are demanding, far from loyal, very funny, can drive you crazy at times but can give you more joy than you could imagine if you're willing to put forth the time. And it takes a LOT of time. I would NOT recommend this breed to just any person. Not even someone with the absolute most perfect contained yard, padded room or other wise because as my Lydia has proven, Huskies are Houdinis ..... they'll disappear in a heartbeat. She's never been destructive though. I've left her indoors alone for lengthy times and she had never bothered anything. She's never shredded her toys or anyone else's for that matter BUT moles, chickens and cats do NOT stand a chance around her. Squirrels drive her batty hahaha I figure it's payback for when she's chased them. Anyway, I know this thread is quite old but I just wanted to add my 2 cents worth. You don't own a husky.....a husky owns you.....if you let it ;)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 7:13PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Wow it sounds like you have your hands full! LOL! But it does sound like you are coping with the challenge! I love the northern sled dog types, but from everything I've ever heard, they *are* a handful. I wish you luck!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 12:47PM
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Also ran into this looking for something else and it brought back some good memories. I was one of those who bought the adorable puppy and then realized how DEMANDING she was. Sasha needed lots of exercise. Sasha chewed up a door frame, chewed up carpeting, dug up vinyl flooring, dug up the cement underneath and that was just one evening.,,,, She howled and howled. Wouldn't eat anything that wasn't soaked in bacon grease. Blew her coat twice a year.... I could have stuffed pillows. I could have spun yarn from it. I don't recall her digging much but given the opportunity she would be gone like a bolt of lightening. I would chase her and get her back. She would dash off for days and then return all tuckered out. Once she returned with a deer leg. Yccch. When I was pregnant she wouldn't run away from me, she'd just saunter away because she seemed to know that I couldn't chase her. She got into the trash, she tore up the floor pillows, she made us laugh. I definitely could have used a dog trainer. Thanks for the memories.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2013 at 5:29PM
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My new dog is half husky.

He is very hyper, will chew anything all all, but is smart enough not to swallow it. This dog will not obey commands as well as other breeds. Sits but only 'stays' for a second. Very short attention spans. Very alert to sounds.

He loves to play rough with other neighborhood dogs. Many dogs we encounter will react with aggression to his antics. He dances, twirls, twists, darts around. Even attaching a leash can be a big deal.

He needs constant reassurance that you love him. He needs to be stroked, and will run pull his body across you leg as often as you let him.

He is a good watchdog, although both halves are rated by my dog books as below average watchdogs.

For a single person, I feel there are better choices than a Husky. My last dog was a mix also, a high energy dog mixed with a low energy dog. He had just the right amount of energy for my life style.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Darenka - I know this is an old & very enjoyable thread.........but I don't see where you ever got any of the husband training techniques..........

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 6:42PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Yeah, husbands can be more of a challenge to train than Huskies! LOL! Must be no one has found any techniques that work!

Hopefully the OP survived her 3 week caretaking stretch with the errant husky and has moved on. I didn't realize how old this thread was until you mentioned it, kitas.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:18PM
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