The Siberian husky is a powerful sledding dog with great stamina, originally bred by the region's Chukchi tribe. Although these dogs make great pets, their instincts tell them to pull. This problem is compounded when using a harness, as it offers no checking motion to correct the pulling. Extra training might be required to temper this behavior.
When the Chukchi tribal membersa were developing the Siberian husky 3,000 years ago, they selected the strongest dogs, as well as those that showed the most inclination to pull for breeding. This selective breeding process benefited the Chukchi, who required dogs to pull heavy sleds long distances in harsh conditions. In fact, huskies are among the strongest dog breeds around. In 1963, a husky called Charlie set a world record for strength when pulled a sled weighing 3,142 pounds. Today's domesticated Siberian husky retains those instincts and strength, but doesn't have an outlet to work. The instinct is at its strongest when he is with other dogs, but even on his own, he’ll naturally want to surge ahead.
Your Siberian husky can weigh up to 60 pounds: Untrained, he is difficult to control, especially because of his propensity to chase other animals. Don't take him outside off-leash in the vicinity of temptations such as cyclists or other dogs. These strongly pack-oriented dogs look to the pack leader for guidance, and if your dog is pulling and dictating the pace, he will assume he is pack leader. This makes it harder for you to assert your dominance and deliver further training.
The most effective way of stopping your Siberian husky from pulling is to give him a reason to walk at your side. Hold a treat in your hand at his nose height. He’ll naturally show an interest in the treat and will walk alongside you to keep the scent. As he walks by your side, say “heel.” Continue saying this for approximately 30 seconds. After a sustained period of walking by your side, say “good boy” and release the treat. In doing so, you are demonstrating that walking by your side has a positive outcome. Repeat the exercise five times a day, each time extending the amount of time he must remain by your side before receiving the treat. Eventually, he’ll begin to associate the word “heel” with the treat and will happily walk by your side. Once he’s used to this exercise, you can rely solely on verbal praise, rather than using the treat each time. If you'd prefer not to use a treat, you can use a clicker instead. By praising him at the same time as clicking, the sound becomes a positive stimulus in its own right.
Effective Anti-Pull Equipment
A standard harness fits around your dog's chest, offering very little scope for administering a corrective check when a dog, especially a powerful beast like a Siberian husky, pulls ahead. A Martingale collar is a humane, double-looped collar that discourages pulling. If your dog pulls, the loop around the neck becomes tighter, though it doesn't cinch as tightly as a choke collar. Only when he stops pulling does the tension abate. Over time, your dog will learn that pulling is uncomfortable. Non-pull harnesses are also effective, designed so that when he pulls, the tension transfers to his body under the arms or on the sides instead of the leash, forcing him to turn toward you or slow down instead of pulling ahead. The Martingale collar and non-pull harness are training aids, but can be used on a long-term basis.
What Not to Do
Never yank on the harness. This can injure or startle the dog. Doing this also has a detrimental influence on any attempts to stop him from pulling, especially if you do it at the same time as saying “heel,” as he’ll come to associate the command with the discomfort of being yanked rather than the positive stimulus of receiving the treat. Instead, when your dog pulls ahead, quickly reverse your direction, so he is suddenly the follower rather than the leader. Say "heel" and slip him a treat as he comes alongside you, but don't allow him to nudge ahead. If he does, turn around and reverse your direction again.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.