Mastering the Basics
*Your dog should learn these five essential cues for good behavior: sit, lie down, stay, come and heel.
Where to Begin?
The common denominator of the five basic behaviors is attention to you. While that alone may seem insurmountable, it really isn’t. Once you have solid focus from your dog, the rest is easy. I like to use a clicker (a small, plastic device that makes a sharp click sound when pressed) for a novice dog, because the click makes everything crystal clear to him: that specific behavior what you want, and that he will get rewarded for doing it in the future.
You can also use a verbal signal (such as yes!), although our words can sometimes get lost after all, dogs don’t speak English! You won’t have to use the clicker forever; just in the beginning stages of teaching new behaviors. Repeat each step for a few minutes every day in five-minute increments, twice a day for at least two weeks, and then two to three times per week for the rest of your dog’s life. This way, eye contact, name and word response will remain strong throughout your husky’s life.
Prime the Clicker
Start off by “priming” your clicker. Have about 60 pea-sized treats in your hand, click, then give your dog a treat. The treat should follow the click by no more than a half second so that the correct association can be made. Now wait for eye contact, and click when your dog looks up at you. Believe me, after feeding 60 treats, if all of a sudden nothing is happening, your husky will look up as if to ask, “Why did you stop?” The instant he does, click and treat.
Practice Name Response
Next is name response. Say your dog’s name the instance he looks up at your face, then click and give him a treat. Be sure to say his name when he is looking at you, rather than to get him to look at you-one way is teaching, the other is nagging. Repeat this for a few minutes, as well.
Teach the Recall Cue
Now you need to teach your Siberian that the word “come” is the best thing since sliced bread. When he looks at you, say his name and “come” then click and give him a treat.
Focus His Attention
Because Siberians weren’t bred to be focused on their owners at all times (they can’t pull a sled if they keep looking back), in addition to the exercises above, hand feed your dog his daily ration of food, one kibble or treat at a time for a t least two weeks, so that he learns that all good stuff comes from you. Every time he looks at you, hand him a treat. I promise that this will not ruin his mushing if you do sledding with your husky, and, in fact, teaching basic skills will help your entire hobby, from getting in out of the car, through the crowd, to the sled and then hooking up his guideline.
Basic Cue No. 1: Sit
Once of the easiest and most useful behaviors to teach once you have your dog’s undivided and willing attention is a sit. The sit cue is beneficial in countless ways. It is the antithesis of jumping, it is great for the visitor for etiquette, it’s helpful when putting on a leash or harness and it’s just polite behavior.
Have a treat in the palm of your hand and hold it slightly over your dog’s head. Use canine physics: head goes up and rear end goes down. When your husky’s rear end hits the ground, say sit then click and treat. Be careful that you wait until he actually performs the behavior before naming it otherwise, you are naming the wrong behavior! After a few repeats, you won’t need to have the treat in your hand; just use the same hand signal and your dog will sit.
Basic Cue No. 2: Lie Down
The lie-down cue is functional for greeting young children, staying for a long period, getting your dog to lie down on his bed and for spot checks for ticks, fleas, and rashes.
To get your dog into a down position, ask him to first to sit. Holding a treat between two fingers, lure it in front of your dog’s nose, straight down, slowly (you can let him nibble the treat to keep him interested) until he is in the down position. Once he’s lying down, name the behavior (lie down), click it and give him a few treats.
If your dog doesn’t understand the behavior right away, don’t despair or think you have done wrong. Break the behavior down into smaller pieces and click and treat as your dog lowers his head until he performs down. Be sure to only say lie down. When he actually does the action. Don’t get lured into thinking you need to push him into a position that will only make him resist.
Basic Cue No. 3: Stay
Stays are essential for multiple dog households or for going in and out of doorways. Also, if you happen to drop something poisonous and don’t want your dog to get, stays can be a lifesaver. If you do musing with your dog and happen to fall off the sled, you most definitely need your Husky to stay. You can teach your dog a sit-stay, down-stay or stand-stay.
Here’s how to teach your dog to do a sit-stay, the most common kind of stay: Stand in front of your dog and ask him to sit. Turn your head and shoulders slightly away from your dog. Turn back instantly and give him a treat (We are not working on duration just yet, so turn back quickly.) Repeat this until you see that dog is comfortable staying in place while you move.
The next step is to turn farther away. Turn away and lift a foot as if you are going to leave. Then actually take a step. Then another one, and so on. Each time, go back quickly so your dog remains successful. As you are about to leave, give your verbal reminder cue sit. If at any time your dog gets up, go back and ask him to sit again. It’s no big deal if he breaks his stay-hen just doesn’t understand it yet.
Try not to get angry with him because that may make him nervous about staying. Once you are about 10-15 feet away and your dog is rock solid, you can start to add your stay cue. Ease into it by saying, sit, stay.
Be sure to practice the sit-stay cue amidst distractions. Once your Siberian is acting like a statue, allow the distractions to become louder, closer and faster, but always set him up to achieve success. Heavily reward him for remaining in position. If you have a pack of dogs who all need to stay together, practice with each dog separately, then two dogs, then three and so on, all through your distance, duration, and distractions.
Basic Cue No. 4: Come
You can teach your Siberian to come on cue by making it into a game. Play in a fenced-in area, or attach a 50-foot-long line to your dog. That way, you’d have to hold the leash, but you can always step on it if you need to keep him safe. Once your dog knows that the word “come” pays off, pair it with the actual behavior. You can try playing the “drop-the-cookie-and-run-like-heck” game.
To do this, simply:
Drop one treat (To get a head start and tell your dog “get it”) Run away fast. As your dog is coming to you, say his name and your come word. Give your husky a jackpot of treats, feeding one treat at a time (which will keep him with you longer) Feel free to be generous; your dog will remember when it really counts! To make sure your dog won’t think that your running away is part of the cue, start to throw the treat farther so you don’t have to run. Just like with the stay cue, work in distractions gradually and always heavily reward your Siberian when he comes to you.
Basic Cue No. 5: Heel (Loose-leash Walking)
All breeds will push or pull against anything that is pushing or pulling against them. Equipment doesn’t train your dog you do. However, a harness is comfortable and will take the pressure off his neck, so at least you know you won’t be causing tracheal, neck or spinal damage.
You have two options for a harness. If you are musing with your dog, use either a standard “H” harness or a leather tracking harness (the kind with a padded breastplate). If you are doing track, then use an X-back sledding harness.
To teach your Siberian how to heel:
Maneuver right and left as your dog follows and/or chases you. Click and toss him a treat. Repeat until you can’t get rid of him. Back up in a straight and sometimes wavy line and click and treat your dog for following you.
Be sure not lure him-let your erratic body movements attract him. Put the leash and clicker in your right hand, treats in your left. Pivot so your dog is on the left, then click/treat each step forward if he is looking up at you. After a few repetitions of this, click and treat every second step, every third step, etc., then mix it up so he never knows when you will click.
In between clicks place your left hand up by your stomach (this becomes your hand signal for the heel). Gradually add in distractions and heavily reinforce your husky for staying with you. If he loses focus, jump around between steps one, two and three. Once he is heeling beautifully, start to add in your cue word. As he is looking up at you, say “heel,” then click and treat and repeat often.
Teach Your Husky to Walk on a Loose Leash
Once he has mastered the heel, attach a 15-foot leash to him. That way, he will have some room to choose to be with you. Heavily reward your dog with lots of treats for sticking around. Your job here is to be proactive and click and treat (toss it toward him) before the leash gets tight. Sounds easy, and it is but it takes a great deal of practice on your part to get the timing correct.
If you miss it and he starts to pull, stand still and wait. When he comes back to you, change direction and start over. Be careful not to get into a pattern of pull-come-back-get-a-treat-pull-again. Don’t give him a treat right away; get in a few steps of loose-leash walking before rewarding him. You can also add in a verbal cue such as “let’s go” or “with me” it doesn’t matter what the phrase is, just make sure it’s different than your heel word.
*Knowing a few basic cues helps your dog become a well-mannered member of the family. *
Even if you sternly tell your dog “off,” glare at him and push him off your legs, you’ve looked at him, touched him and spoken to him. For many dogs, this is more than enough attention to reinforce the jumping behavior and encourage them to do it again. Instead, avoid doing all the good stuff.
When your Siberian starts to jump:
Without making eye contact, say “Oops!” to mark the unwanted behavior. Turn your back on him and step away. If he keeps following you and jumping on you from the behind, walk through a door and close it behind you, with your dog on the other side. Repeat as necessary.
When your dog realizes that jumping up makes you go way, he’ll start offering some other behavior. If you’ve done a good job of rewarding him for the sit cue, sitting becomes his default behavior-the behavior that he chooses when he doesn’t know what else to do. When jumping stops working for him, sitting should be the behavior choice that leaps to his brain. When your dog offers to sit, be sure to reward him with lots of attention. With practice, he’ll greet you with a sit instead of a jump.