This has always been the most controversial topic of husky ownership. It’s the one topic where everyone thinks their view is the correct one and that any contradicting view is completely wrong and either dangerous or cruel.
We do not advocate allowing Siberian Huskies to go off-lead in most public places. But that is just our opinion. What we’re looking to achieve here is explaining why this train of thought exists, in an impartial way, so you’re aware of the facts before making your own decisions.
What makes them so bad off-lead?
Well, the most-cited reason is a lack of recall. In reality however, huskies can be taught recall almost as easily as any other breed. The real problem lies in their ancestry and native urges.
Things that are true of most Siberian Huskies; they love to run, they are stubborn, and they have a determined prey-drive. It is primarily these attributes alone that result in huskies not being good off-lead. Once any of these urges kick-in, selective hearing is almost certain to follow – making all of that hard work during recall training ineffective. You should of course still go through regular recall training with your dogs in case of an emergency situation.
Why do they want to run?
It’s pretty obvious when you think about it; the breed has been developed over hundreds of years for the purpose of pulling sleds. It’s pretty safe to assume that those dogs with the stronger urge and ability to run would have been selected to breed and improve their lineage. Many generations of selective breeding has resulted in huskies we know today; dogs who just want to run!
Why are they stubborn?
A huskies stubbornness is again a a result of selective breeding, and is genuinely considered an attractive trait, especially for a lead dog. Of course, stubbornness in and of itself is not very helpful, but huskies have been bred to think for themselves, which manifests itself as a stubborn nature. Sled dogs that are capable of thinking for themselves were proffered and utilised in their native lands, as they were able to prevent a sled going on to unsafe terrain, such as melting ice. It’s a fantastic attribute to have when attached the front of a sled. Not so much when running free across the British countryside.
Why do they have such a strong prey drive?
The cause for huskies immense prey drives is a little more obscure. It’s frequently referenced as being that their in someway more primitive or somehow closer related to wild wolves than breeds that have developed elsewhere. This has been proven not to be the case.
The most plausible reason for it is more interesting, and believable. During the transition that saw wild canines eventually become the modern husky, their relationship with humans differed significantly from that of other breeds until relatively recently.
Whilst most established breeds, and their descendants, had been fully cared for and fed by their humans for potentially thousands of years, huskies have not until the last few centuries. Prior to this, the native people that used huskies for sled work and transport would only feed and house dogs during the winter months when they required them to transcend the snowy wilderness. During the summer months, the dogs would be set free to roam and fend for themselves.
It stands to reason that the better hunters would be the most likely to survive throughout their time fending for themselves. Leading to dogs with the heightened impulse to hunt that we see today.
It’s safe to say that most dogs today would still be capable of fending for themselves should they be required to, it’s just that a husky’s basic instinct to do so is a little more fresh in their memory.
My dog doesn’t do any of these things, are they an exception?
There are exceptions to the rule, some huskies are just born different. Others have other tendencies which over-rule all of the above. But the chances are, yours are no different, you just haven’t seen their trigger yet. The sad reality of many off-lead huskies is, that when their trigger does eventually kick-in, it’s too little, too late.
We hear many stories along the lines of; my husky has always been great off-lead for many years, but one day thy just took-off. Too often to be found having been hit by traffic, or shot by a farmer protecting their livestock.
Should I ever allow my Siberian Husky off-lead?
We would encourage all husky owners to provide their dogs with occasional off-lead exercise provided it can be done within a fully enclosed and inescapable area.
Huskies are notorious escape artists, so what qualifies as secure and enclosed really depends on each individual dog, and you would always be wise to be cautious when deciding if an area is suitable.