Training Notes: December 17, 2016

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Today’s topic is about training. Even though I train my huskies to be sled dogs or urban mushing machines, you can take these ideas and apply them to your own situation. Training to follow commands works in more ways than one.

My disclaimer is that just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it works for you, or your husky. Just like people… dogs each have their own personality, and you have to understand your own dog to find what works.

To start with I have three dogs. They are all very different from each other. My first husky Sammie (now 10 years old) is not a normal husky; she is an outlier from the norm. She likes to bake herself in the sun, doesn’t want to pull, and for the most part is a normal dog, but far from what you would expect from a husky.

Honestly this is probably the result of over breeding, and the loss of real husky traits like “Pulling.” I’ve been told that this can disappear in 3 generations if they don’t work.  I didn’t know that when I bought her. In spite of that she is a great dog…just not a working husky. She would be more suited to an apartment than a sled.

Imagine my surprise when I got Cooper!

He was the total opposite and I had to learn fast what the hell was going on. Cooper was my first insight into what a real husky is. Driven is the best way to describe him. He wants to go and if he has to drag you along with him…so be it. That is what a husky does when they pull and run.

His first year I walked him three times a day. Always correcting him and teaching him what I wanted. It was a battle of wills, but I won in the end. We walked an estimated 1000 miles his first year.

Cooper also slept on my deck at night, and to this day he prefers to be outside. By himself because I didn’t want to clean up any messes. (Yes, I was learning as well.)

As a puppy Nikki slept on our bed from day one, and to this day she prefers to be inside at night, but not on the bed any longer because she gets too warm.

Now the results of these two extremes are easy to see now that they are adults.

Cooper is quite content to be outside provided the temperature is cold enough to keep him comfortable. In his case the colder the better. Nikki on the other hand likes to be with us even if it is too warm for her in the house. She is more attached to us than Cooper. It took Cooper two years before he showed attachment like she has. And that only came from the bond we formed running together as a team.

There is a lesson in this. And that is what you do that first year leaves a lasting impression on these dogs. Both are very loving members of our pack, but they have different taste in sleeping arrangements. They also have different levels of attachment to us.

So, my assumption based on them is that huskies in that first year can be raised to be like normal dogs for the most part. Meaning indoor members of the family, or they can grow up thinking outdoors is king. Never mind the chewing, destroying toys and beds, and zoomies etc. Some things don’t change.

Cooper will be 3 this December. Cooper is so well-trained that just a little grunt of a command he reacts. His job is to go down the road and he takes it very seriously. I’ve not spent as much time walking Nikki like I did the Coop, but all is not lost. The work I put into him that first year made training Nikki much easier.

The time I spent with him makes it possible for him to actually train Nikki.

I tied her with a neck line to him, and off we went. He teaches her, and has the strength to make my life easier. Instead of two dogs pulling on me, Cooper resist her pulling and he deals with it instead of me. He pulls her back into formation or applies the brakes if needed.

Let’s face it, he has more strength than me, and all I have to do is follow along. Both of them learned directional commands right away. Cooper leading the way.

I always work directional commands. Because the dogs are in front of me at all times. It comes in handy even if you are not on a sled.

I hear a car coming behind me and give a “Haw or Gee” command and they switch sides of the street like clockwork. The same thing happens when we are approaching someone else walking their dog. One command and they switch sides of the street and we pass. All done with one word, no pulling and yanking of leashes etc.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that your dogs should learn their directional commands. It comes in very useful for many things. The command to slow down or stop is something that huskies don’t appreciate too much. Huskies want to run, and the faster the better as far as they are concerned.

Why is that important? This is the part about understanding the husky. This is where you need to get into their mind and understand why they do things. For if you understand the “Why?” you have a clue as to how to use it.

Huskies have a great desire to see new things. To explore, and to have new adventures. This is what drives them to escape and run for miles. This is what drove them to pull sleds and see new things. It’s the free spirit in them that makes it possible. Just like their masters, they were explorers and adventurers. They don’t care about risks as much as seeing what is around the next bend in the road. Pulling a human with them is just a minor inconvenience. They are strong enough to drag you along since we are too slow for a husky’s taste.

So now that we know that, the only way to teach “Whoa” is to give the command, “Whoa!” in my case, and pull them to a stop. Then when they want to take off again, you turn your back and go the opposite direction, or just stand there with your back turned. Not obeying means we don’t go forward. Obeying means we do and you dogs get to see more new things.

Even refusing to move until you are ready works. When they have given up hope you say, “Hike” in my case and off you go. They have to learn that you are in command, and it takes time. It takes a lot of time and repetition. In time they will get it, if you don’t give in. Most things with a husky are a test of wills.

Who is the boss? You or the husky?

They will test you every day until they realize you are in command. You don’t have to be mean, but you have to be firm and steadfast in what you want. Huskies understand strength, and will eventually accept you as the leader.

You earn this respect and obedience, and it is not easily won. Winning over a husky with your mind will give you a dog you can count on more than if you beat them into submission. They will accept you as a leader but only if you show them you are fair and consistent.

I think the biggest mistake all people make with dogs is they fall so in love with them that they give up who is in charge. They fall into the trap that dogs think and reason as well as we do. You cannot let this happen. They are not humans…they are dogs. And to hope that they will think like us is a huge mistake.

You have to think like a husky! Because they are not going to think like you!

I love my dogs to death! I want to give them the benefit of doubt because I love them so much. The hardest thing you will ever do is remember they are not human. You have to guide them into your world. You have to be strong first, because a husky will not accept a weak leader. And they will not accept an abusive one either.

Unlike us, the husky will not hate you for being strong and giving direction. In fact, they will love you more because that is what they understand. That is about putting yourself into the mind of the husky. That is about meeting them half-way. Understanding what they need and want, and teaching them what you need and want in return.

It all starts with understanding where this dog came from. For thousands of years he did one thing and you need to know why. That is the secret… if there is one to huskies.

I’m not here to tell you how to raise your dog. I’m just pointing out lessons I’ve learned along my own journey. You will learn your own lessons as well. You and your husky will run your own trails of life.

May your trail together be blessed with good fortune and fast snow.

TJ

One Comment on “Training Notes: December 17, 2016

  1. Thanks for this I have 2 very different huskies and I think I understand why although they have the same father ones calm and content to sleep mostly the younger one who is male is nearly 3 and as started to be more bossy with his sister and with the humans I suppose at first we found it a bit funny his back chat but not now and your article has opened my eyes thank you I just hope me being a lot firmer with him and more training hopefully he’s not to old to learn better manners

    Like

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