Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Rachael_Astro

Letting Huskies Off Lead

Recommended Posts

A really good article about the topic from the Sibes and Sled Dogs website:

Why Can’t Siberian Huskies Safely Go Off-Lead?

This is one of the constant questions raised about Siberian Huskies.

You would think it would be enough that: every responsible Siberian Husky owner will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area, every ethical Siberian Husky Breeder will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area, every single Siberian Husky rescue organisation IN THE WORLD will tell you that it is not safe to let a Siberian Husky off lead in an unenclosed area; and that every single Siberian Husky Club IN THE WORLD will tell you exactly the same thing.

Now these people and organisations don’t take this line for fun, or to “big up” the wild nature of their dogs, or to try to keep the breed exclusive. They take it because it accurately reflects the bitter experience of thousands of owners worldwide over a long period of time.

However, this obviously is not enough because there are still a steady stream of people who just don’t believe this unanimous and ubiquitous message. When you give examples of Siberians which have been killed, caused accidents or been shot by farmers for killing/savaging livestock, the doubters come back with, “But you could say the same about any breed!” – and to be honest, in many respects they would be right. Too many irresponsible owners of all kinds of dogs let their dog off lead with little thought for their dog’s safety, the safety of other animals, or the safety of the public. That is not for discussion here though. I want to explain why, in my opinion, it is never safe to let Siberian Huskies off lead in unenclosed areas.

So, why is the off-lead thing such a big deal with huskies? What makes them different from other breeds? There are two major factors, both embedded deep within the history of the breed. The dogs we now know as Siberian Huskies were originally developed by what are known as the “maritime” Chukchi people of North East Siberia who relied on dogs for transportation during the frozen winter. Other Chukchi groups relied on Reindeer for both food and winter transportation. The maritime Chukchi lived in fixed summer villages along the Bering Sea coast, but during the arctic/sub-arctic winter, became nomadic – following and hunting whatever game was available. The Chukchi would load their whole families on their sled and using teams of up to 20 dogs, would hunt all winter, sometimes covering 100 miles a day in their search for food. It was originally estimated that the Chukchi’s dogs had been in existence for some 3000 years, but recent archeological research has found the remains of sled-type dogs going back well over 10,000 years. Indeed, the Siberian Husky has been recognised as one of the oldest dog breeds known to mankind, so they have had a long time for their instincts and behavioural traits to become hard-wired into them. The two major factors I mentioned above are: an extremely strong Prey Drive; and a fiercely independent intelligence.

Prey Drive – The source of their prey drive is simple. During the summer, when they were not required as transportation, the Chukchi dogs ran free around the summer villages, rarely being fed by their owners, but existing (if not prospering) on what they could steal or catch. As winter came and food became scarce the dogs once more became sled dogs (of course not all the dogs returned – accidents and natural predators accounted for some, but at least there were no roads for them to be killed on). This pattern of behaviour was built up over a period of time which has been estimated as long as 10,000 years. As a result of millennia of such behaviour, these dogs now have a fearsome prey drive and the hunting skills to match. It is very common to hear that someone’s huskies have killed cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds (ours have taken birds out of the sky as they fly over our garden at low level) and even sheep. It is rare that they regard even small dogs as “prey” as they seem to be able to recognise a fellow canine.

Independent Intelligence – You will occasionally hear dog trainers complain that huskies are not “trainable,” and you will consistently see them left out of lists of “The Ten Most Intelligent Dog Breeds” etc. The problem with such trainers and such lists is that they confuse obedience and “biddability” with intelligence, and, in reality they are not at all the same thing. Train a Border Collie to fetch a ball and it will tend to retrieve the ball time after time after time. Train a Siberian Husky to fetch a ball and it will do one of two things – either eat the ball, or bring it back once. The next time you throw it the sibe will look at you as if to say – “You threw it! YOU get it back! Do you think I’m that stupid?”When you give a trained Border Collie a command, you usually get instant obedience. When you give a command to a Husky, the Husky actually thinks about it before deciding to comply or ignore the command. This may sound like bloody-mindedness, but it is in fact a deeply ingrained survival trait for arctic sled dogs. Think about it. You are the lead dog on a sled team pulling your Chukchi owner and his family across the frozen sea ice. Your owner shouts for you to turn right down a trail between a line of ice seracs as he knows this is the way to get to a safe camping area for the night. As lead dog, you can see that a right turn leads you to the edge of a deep crevasse and you refuse to make the turn. It is this intelligence and independence of thought which has been bred into Siberian Huskies over thousands of generations. An example of this came from Leonhard Seppala’s famous lead dog (and hero of the 1925 Dipheria Run – Togo. One day, Seppala was running his team, led by Togo, over the sea ice of the notorious Norton Sound,

“Togo had been leading his sled across the sound during a northeastern gale on another occasion when, a few miles from shore, Seppala heard an ominous crack that let him know the sea ice was breaking up. Togo headed toward shore even before Seppala could give the command, but drew up short so fast he nearly flipped backwards. A yawning chasm of water had opened almost at Togo’s feet, but the dog had reacted quickly enough to avert immediate disaster. Seppala looked around and realized with dismay that he and his team were trapped on an ice floe and headed out to sea. They spent more than twelve hours on that raft of ice, waiting as it drifted in the icy waters. Finally it neared land, but ran up against another floe that was jammed against the ice still connected to shore. They stopped moving, but there was still a five foot gap of water that Seppala couldn’t hope to cross. He tied a lead onto Togo and heaved the dog across the water. Togo landed on the ice and sensing what Seppala intended, the dog began pulling with all his might, narrowing the gap between the two ice floes. Then the lead rope snapped. Seppala thought he was a dead man. Then Togo, showing himself to be possessed of more intelligence and resourcefulness than most men could expect from even their lead dogs, leaped into the water and grabbed the broken end of the lead rope in his jaws. He clambered back onto the ice and continued pulling until he had narrowed the gap enough for Seppala and the sled to cross safely.”

As it was with Seppala’s Siberian dogs, so it is today with our Siberian Huskies. No matter how well trained your Sibe is, there is always a part of his/her mind that, when he/she hears an instruction thinks, “Is it a good idea to follow that order?” and also, “What’s in it for me?” – When you combine that independence of thought and keen intelligence with the high prey drive, you can see that obedience when off lead is a very dodgy prospect indeed.

Huskies don’t help themselves in this regard. It is often found that husky puppies will act in extremely obedient ways for the first few months of their lives. I have lost count of the number of owners who have told me their Sibe is the exception that proves the rule and is ultra-obedient. Upon further discussion, it almost always transpires that the dog is a puppy – 4 or 5 months old! Sibe puppies can lull you into a false sense of security – then puberty hits, they realise that they don’t need you, and all bets are off!!!

We have been interested in Siberians for 20 years and have owned them for 17+. During that time we have personally come across at least one owner each year whose “highly trained” Sibe has “gone deaf” for the first and last time and ended up dead under a car, shot by a farmer for savaging livestock or having caused a major traffic accident. The common theme is that all these owners quite genuinely believed that they could train this trait out of their dogs; that their relationship with their dogs was so good that their dogs would always respond to the recall command; and that the recommendation of every husky related organisation IN THE WORLD was nonsense and that they and their dog were somehow special. Unfortunately, these owners learned the hard way with tragic consequences for themselves and their dogs. The plaintive, “He/She’s always come back before” is a common refrain in these tragic cases.

This is exactly the naive “I know better than every Siberian Husky organisation in the world” attitude which unfortunately leads to the deaths of too many Siberians each year. My wife is an expert dog trainer. I have seen her achieve things with Sibes (and other dogs) that I would have thought pretty near impossible. All our adult dogs have excellent recall and obedience and are often a source of amazement to people who regard sibes as untrainable. Yet neither she nor I would ever let our dogs off lead in an unsafe/unenclosed area because we know that their recall can never be 100% and they are much too precious for us to risk.

Having said all that, we believe strongly that all Siberian Husky owners should train their dogs in recall. We always recommend that people train their Siberians to recall IN SAFE ENCLOSED AREAS to as high a level as possible. Even in the best regulated worlds accidents sometimes happen – dogs slip their collars, snap their leads, escape from cages etc etc – and if you have trained your dog to recall, at least you have a chance of getting it back. Such training cannot be guaranteed, but at least it’s a form of insurance.

Talking about insurance – a message to all those who, despite all the evidence and arguments, still insist on letting their dogs go off lead in unenclosed areas – get some public liability insurance. If your dog goes off lead and causes an accident or kills livestock – YOU are liable. On second thoughts, maybe it’s not worth it! The fact that every single Siberian Husky organisation in the world advises against letting them off lead, the owner whose dog caused the crash or killed the livestock could be liable for huge damages, as in legal terms, it could be argued that by acting against such universal informed advice, they had been incredibly negligent in letting their dog off lead in an unenclosed area and that this obvious negligence would invalidate their insurance. Just a thought!

– Mick Brent Dreamcatcher Siberian Huskies The Siberian Husky Welfare Association (UK)

Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app

  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article Rachael. Thanks for posting.

Going off topic and rambling here a bit but have you noticed that the only time e collars are mentioned is always in relation to off lead? No one ever mentions it for training other more realistic tasks such as sit/wait. That kind of speaks volumes in itself about the off lead issue to my mind. If you're having to go to extreme measures for this one issue when you clearly don't with others, then perhaps the expectation you have is simply not realistic.
Just something that's been in my head for a while, feels good to say it out loud somewhere. Lol.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great article Rachael. Thanks for posting.

Going off topic and rambling here a bit but have you noticed that the only time e collars are mentioned is always in relation to off lead? No one ever mentions it for training other more realistic tasks such as sit/wait. That kind of speaks volumes in itself about the off lead issue to my mind. If you're having to go to extreme measures for this one issue when you clearly don't with others, then perhaps the expectation you have is simply not realistic.
Just something that's been in my head for a while, feels good to say it out loud somewhere. Lol.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app


I agree!


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It baffles me how people think that a few months or years of training with override thousands of years of instinct! If you want a dog you can let off lead, get a Labrador.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app

  • Thanks 1
  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good read....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gonna stick a pin in this one :up:

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great read thank you for posting, I'm one of the naive owners as ours is 5 months old and recall is ok, she listens to most commands if food is involved.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am from the other camp.   I am a first time sibe owner  - but the very first thing I said to my husband on bringing him home was that he must never, never, never be let off lead.    He is 15 months old now  -  and I have just found a secure park  -  he will be getting a look at it tomorrow as he is going for further training (2 hour stint -  121 training) and I want to look over the park myself.   I believe it will pass muster though as they have been training dogs for the last 20 odd years and have never lost a dog from the park  -   and I have met other sibe owners who recommend the park.

 

Marley is the most wonderful dog I have ever had   -    I cannot tell you how much he means to me  -  he has me right where he wants me   -  at his beck and call  -  and I love him far too much to take a risk with his life.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great read thank you for posting, I'm one of the naive owners as ours is 5 months old and recall is ok, she listens to most commands if food is involved.


They are great at that age, but like the article says as soon as they hit teenage years it's a completely different story


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for explaining this topic in such wonderful detail. I was also told never to let Louie off the lead, ever. It's such a temptation at the beach to just let him run and play in the water. I used to have a wolf malamute that was well behaved off leash and thought I could accomplish this with Louie but I see in your explanation why this is not possible. I appreciate you taking the time to share this information.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if you want a husky or malamute to run use a dog park with secure fence or invest in a 50 or 100 meter lead

very good read just wish people would learn even when shown something like this you will get the but i know best idiot that causes problems for the rest of us

  • Thanks 1
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I have only have Mowgli 9 weeks I am very glad to have come across this article even though it was a few weeks late from me nearly loosing him.

I walk him every lunch time with two jack russells and have let him off the lead three times in a unsecure field (Near a motorway :() This was on advise from my friend and he told me just to bite the bullet and let him off. The first time was fine and he just played with the other dog and recalled ok ish. The second time he saw a horse in the field next door and ran to it and tried getting though a fence and got caught in brambles. The third time off the lead in the same field I thought the horse was not around, but to my horror he was. Yet again he went after it and once he released he couldn't get near, he belted over a mound heading towards the motorway!. That was then the LAST EVER TIME he was going to be off the lead!

Later that day I went and brought a 5m, 10m and 25m lead and to be honest the 10m is more than enough for him to have a run and play with the other dogs. The 25m can be a pain but is fine in larger fields. I have now found a secure dog friendly field you can rent which ill be taking him to every weekend I hope.

Thanks for the great read.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
55 minutes ago, DanUK said:

As I have only have Mowgli 9 weeks I am very glad to have come across this article even though it was a few weeks late from me nearly loosing him.

I walk him every lunch time with two jack russells and have let him off the lead three times in a unsecure field (Near a motorway :() This was on advise from my friend and he told me just to bite the bullet and let him off. The first time was fine and he just played with the other dog and recalled ok ish. The second time he saw a horse in the field next door and ran to it and tried getting though a fence and got caught in brambles. The third time off the lead in the same field I thought the horse was not around, but to my horror he was. Yet again he went after it and once he released he couldn't get near, he belted over a mound heading towards the motorway!. That was then the LAST EVER TIME he was going to be off the lead!

Later that day I went and brought a 5m, 10m and 25m lead and to be honest the 10m is more than enough for him to have a run and play with the other dogs. The 25m can be a pain but is fine in larger fields. I have now found a secure dog friendly field you can rent which ill be taking him to every weekend I hope.

Thanks for the great read.

Oh, Yeah we've all learned the hard way from experience.

We then try to pass on that wisdom to newer owners, . . . but they always know better, because it's "cruel" not to let them run

Unfortunately in too many cases it's the dog that ends up suffering, either by running into a busy road or getting into a farmers field and getting shot, 

Or worrying at a farmers livestock then the owner gets a hefty fine and the dog gets put down.

But of course it's "cruel" not to let them run

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only listen to other people if they own a husky now and ignore the rest. It seems that all the advice I have received from people with other breads of dogs seems to be wrong. :)

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great topic and very insightful
Bandit is a perfect example of this particularly out of our boys! He's had rabbits, birds and even threw a few hedgehogs around (luckily the hedgehogs all survived) and he's the one who works out the weak points in the fencing or push past us and get out of the house and he's also had a cat and a sheep!
I've done the off lead with Gizzy before but learnt through Bandit and now unless it's fully husky safe they are on leads


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it safe to let my 5 month old Storm off leash in a dog park with other dogs? He plays rough with my 2 years old Shiba in unenclosed area Infront of my condo but goes home when I call him to. I am worried that if I don't socialise him early, he may not be accustom with other dogs.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it safe to let my 5 month old Storm off leash in a dog park with other dogs? He plays rough with my 2 years old Shiba in unenclosed area Infront of my condo but goes home when I call him to. I am worried that if I don't socialise him early, he may not be accustom with other dogs.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners

If it's fully enclosed then yes , if not I would recommend it , socialising with other dogs doesn't always mean running around playing , it can be walking past others without playing up , it can be saying hi on lead n then walking on without playing etc too

Sent from my E6653 using Husky Owners mobile app

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have an enclosed park near me that i am lucky enough to go to twice a day with Chase, generally if we are alone i let him off but with others around i don't, people or dog he won't listen and will just hassle them rather than come back. But mine is nearly 8 months and tbh his teenage years have hit and he can be a nightmare.

 

He did exactly as everyone says was great for 5 months or so then hit 6 months and just ignores us and is naughty. But we love him and wouldn't change him for anything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Is it safe to let my 5 month old Storm off leash in a dog park with other dogs? He plays rough with my 2 years old Shiba in unenclosed area Infront of my condo but goes home when I call him to. I am worried that if I don't socialise him early, he may not be accustom with other dogs.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners


I would say no. Even if they are with other dogs it doesn't mean they will come back! Astros dad was with Astros mum when he ran off and got shot by a farmer, the mum came back and he didn't.

You can socialise on the lead, that's how I've socialised mine. Astro has been to doggy day care from an early age which has helped


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners mobile app

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had been out walking at our local park last night and a fellow dog walker stopped us who had a border collie type dog, and asked us about ours and we explained the whole not letting the Husky's off lead. He then stated "oh there is a husky further up the park off and it seems fine " on queue the said husky was flat out bolting with the owner chasing and screaming for the dog to come back. Enough said I really don't think it's worth the risk and mine has no issues with socialising on the lead. Yes sometimes it would be easier to let them tire out but ours knows no different and is content. I'm even concerned letting her off in secure parks if the fencing is not high enough. They did retrieve their husky thankfully and all was ok, but could have so easily been a different story.


Sent from my iPhone using Husky Owners

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only safe way to let Huskys and Malamutes off lead

Inside a very tall fence this ones a tennis court

its also handy to hang your bags up on the fence so they do not get pee'd on

photo_2016-11-04_13-46-52.jpg

photo_2016-11-04_13-46-56.jpg

photo_2016-11-04_13-47-00.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-39-58.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-40-23.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-40-30.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-40-35.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-40-42.jpg

photo_2017-05-10_20-40-48.jpg

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would never let mine off leash only in a dog park. I walk him on a 50 meter rope leash and he comes back when I call  while on leash. The minute he sees a hare or a pheasant he's off usually with me 50 metres behind 😬. I book a dog park for our own use he is fully off leash and ironically he does not run off but I know if there was not a fence he would. I spoke to a man recently who let his 13 year old sibe off leash and never got it back. 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.