Tips on training recall
Most Siberian huskies cannot be trusted off leash simply because they will not come when called.
Yet there are Siberian huskies that are quite trustworthy off leash. We have several to prove this.
The secret is training a solid recall.
Here’s how we do it:
We start training immediately, at 8-12 weeks of age.
We train a solid recall before our pups are four months old.
Normally I train our dogs.
I teach the puppy what the command means by showing the puppy that I have a treat and saying the recall command when he is right in front of me.
Recall must be worthwhile for the dog. I use a high value treat that the puppy loves.
Once he gets the idea, I gradually call him from a greater distance or when he is not paying attention to me.
To teach, I reward the puppy with a high value treat from one hand and as he is eating it from my hand I use the other to gently grab his collar or scruff under his chin, praising him highly when he starts to eat the treat.
The puppy must learn that the command involves me holding onto his collar. But it is important that I do not ruin the recall command by reaching out or grabbing him before he learns that it is rewarding.
Ultimately, I want to be able to grab his collar and THEN reward him.
I make sure the pup doesn’t get to eat any pieces of the treat that may have dropped to the floor. I want him to learn to look to my hand for a treat, not the ground.
I teach recall inside the house with no other distractions. Then we practice outside or with other distractions or in as many situations as we can.
We practice regularly.
I use a long line attached to a regular neck collar.
A long line lets the pup be loose yet lets me remain in control.
Siberians that are always restrained by a leash typically never learn recall. We let the puppy have more freedom so he can learn.
I increase the length of the long line, let him drag it around, or eliminate it entirely once the puppy obeys consistently.
If the puppy doesn’t obey once I have detached the long line, I reattach a long line immediately.
The trick to the long line is to keep it slack. I don’t call the pup if the line is not slack.
I say the command ONCE and if the pup chooses to not obey, then I make it happen. Repeating the command over and over in hopes that the pup will eventually listen will ruin the command or teach him to ignore me when he feels like it.
The puppy is not deaf. He heard me. And it is not a request. So I make it happen. Letting him get away with the wrong choice teaches him that he has other choices, such as totally blowing me off when he feels like it.
When the puppy does not respond to the command, immediately I pick up the long line and correct him with a quick tug on the line. This correction is NOT meant to be a punishment. It is meant to simply orient his attention to me, the scruff that his collar is touching being an orientation spot. Then once I have his attention, I back up as I encourage him to follow me.
I give the pup a second to make a choice. I don’t correct him with a tug on his collar as I tell him to come; that will teach him to come only when I que by tugging on his collar, which won’t work when he is loose. I tell him to come and then give him a second to respond.
If he chooses to obey and then changes his mind before actually getting all the way to me, I remind him to pay attention with a tug on his collar.
I don’t reel him in like a fish.
Trying to drag an untrained pup to me by his line will only tell his brain to move in the opposite direction.
Backing up when calling my pup encourages him to make the right choice.
I repeat the lesson until he does it correctly.
I always try set up the puppy so that he does it right.
If he does it wrong after a few tries I make it easier for him so that he can do it right.
The pup must make the correct choice on his own. He won’t learn if he has to be forced to do it.
The idea is to make him want to make the correct choice, and to set him up so that he does it right.
After rewarding the puppy for letting me grab ahold of him, I let him go or ignore him so that he runs off to play again.
That way I don’t ruin the recall command for him by ending his fun every time.
Siberians that are always shown treats before they are called learn to only come when you have treats. They learn to check to see if you have treats before making their choice. Then they elect to not come when they figure out that you don’t have any!
Therefore, once the pup is consistent when I have treats, I call him when I don’t have treats. I want him to THINK that I have treats, I don’t want him to be sure of it by showing one to him. When he obeys, I grab ahold of him, praise him highly, and then I go and get him a jackpot of treats. That way he learns that he gets paid later, AFTER he allows me to restrain him.
Siberians that are conditioned to think that they MIGHT get an awesome reward will come when called every time!
It is important to remain positive no matter how frustrating the dog is.
Until the pup is reliable, I make sure to create situations where I am in control so I don’t have to get frustrated or angry. Otherwise, I try to stay positive, and then I make sure that next time I can be in control.
Frustration or anger will ruin the recall command.
It is not fair to consider a pup reliable until he is an adult. For Siberians that is around 2 years of age.
Furthermore, this is a breed that matures very slowly. It is typical for Siberians to be unreliable or immature until they are around 4 years old.
Your Siberian WILL get loose accidently at some point in his life. It is best to train a solid recall.
Frankly, I think it is convenient and SAFE to have a dog that will come to me when I call, a dog that I can trust loose with supervision, a dog that I do not need to always keep on a leash, a dog that is not a complete pain in the ass to manage. Those frustrating few months of patience and training are absolutely worth the 15 years of life and convenience.
…The dog thinks so too!
It is very difficult to train a Siberian to not chase after wild game, critters, other dogs, or other people. While I can eventually call her back, even my most well-behaved girl occasionally cannot resist. I teach a “leave it, that’s not for you” command however it is best to notice these distractions before the dog does and restrain him before he reacts.
I always play it safe and restrain my Siberian husky when in doubt.
Finally, ALWAYS be positive for recall. DON’T ruin your recall command by following it up with something the dog perceives as negative!
If you are having trouble training recall on your own, or with other behavioral issues for that matter, please do not hesitate to seek the coaching of a professional dog trainer through your local obedience kennel club!