Why can’t Siberian Huskies go off-lead? An impartial view. 

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.

85 thoughts on “Why can’t Siberian Huskies go off-lead? An impartial view. ”

  1. I can run both my Siberian Husky’s off lead. However I did start when they were pupies, and I also run them with a shock collar on. They have only ever needed to be shocked the once but they do remember. I have had others that I couldn’t run off lead, although the breed is indapendent they are all different. Very well writen artical WTG

    1. Hi Marni, thank you for your feedback. We love to hear owners experiences and especially that you thought the article was well written. We wouldn’t condone the use of shock-collars for any purpose, but we really appreciate your honesty and feedback. Have a great day!

      1. Why not? It is a corrective action that rarely needs to be used after the dog realizes what a beep or vibrate means beforehand. My husky isn’t scared or me or the collar but on the contrary comes running to me when she hears the collar come on. Because of this my dogs are able to run the woods in my property where other dogs may not be able to and the shock can be reserved for emergency selective hearing situations such as chasing deer.

        1. I have a husky that is I use a shock collar on when we go hiking and he is off leash. Like you were saying I hardly ever have to shock or pre beep him after he learned to understand how his “shockie” worked. In fact, when he sees the shock collar come out he actually gets excited and runs to the door because he knows he is going somewhere!

          1. Mine love their training collars. They know that when they come out that it’s time to listen and work. They are a 1/2 mile leash.

            Blow off the the misinformed masses. I’ve worn the collar. My wife has worn the collar and my kids have felt the stimulation. Notice I said felt not worn. They need to know what it does and how to use it as well. They are 100% safe to use when used properly and anyone who says otherwise has been misinformed. The settings that my dogs feel is nowhere near the setting that I even start to feel stimulation. It is almost off. Besides what happens when your mutt pulls the collar our of your hands? Are they trained to stop then??????

          2. Alyssa
            My GSD is the same way. His electric collar means we are going to do something FUN! Car rides, hiking, dog park and long walks. He has also figured out that when I put on my old tennis shoes, we are doing something fun. While we jokingly call it the “bad boy” collar, he considers it the fun collar!

        2. Sure.. Let me know when you put a shock collar on your Child, or Spouse, or employee, or Tennis partner and they tell you its ok. Or Better yet, allow YOUR spouse to put one on you and every time you step out of line, she can buzz you, I am sure it will only take 1 time to terrorize you. Good for you for exercising with your Sibe, but if you truly love the breed, you will know everything about it, and that they are notoriously not safe off lead. I have seen older dogs, with shock collars still take off, they know if they run far and fast enough they wont get shocked, and they certainly wont want to come back.

          1. I agree 100%. Shock collars are horrible. Any dog can be trained without one. Including Siberian huskies. We have two of them and I won’t even go as far as using a choke collar on then. Guess what? They are both amazing dogs and are better off-lead then on.

          2. Very well said! It really upsets me that people use these! Maybe they should put them on their children and spouses as well…

          3. I disagree with you. We have two very happy Huskies and we use shock collars as an insurance policy. I feel sad for huskies that are on lead all the time, Huskies love to run, mine run every day. Like other people who have commented on this thread, I have used the collar on myself and rarely use it in the dogs. If you don’t like shock collars then don’t use one, but accept other people have a different view.

          4. I’m sorry but my husky is a rescue. She is so loved and so thankful for her human family that I could walk her anywhere and she don’t “take off” as you put it. Love is the key. Anyone can own and care for huskies. Truly loving one and making sure they know they are family is the key to not having to worry about them running off.

        3. I agree. An owner and dog properly and fully trained to use an e-collar FAIRLY truly makes a great tool. We love our e-collar! It absolutely is not cruel and it toom a trainer demonstrating it on me to get me to ooen up to it. My husky loves having it put on because he knows it means he gets some running time.

      2. Hi,
        You said “We wouldn’t condone the use of shock-collars for any purpose.”

        Not even for the purpose of preventing being run over or shot by a farmer, as you also said?

        1. Hi Julie, Thanks for the comment – that’s a really good question. Obviously, if given a choice between a dog potentially becoming seriously injured or dying and giving a shock to prevent it, we could of course prefer the latter option. However, we wouldn’t have a shock collar in the first place because we don’t agree with their use as a training aid. This is just our opinion, and believe that positive training is the way forward in all situations. We work primarily with dogs that have a variety of behavioural issues as a result of poor training practises and general abuse by their previous owners, and as a result have to be very careful regarding any training enforced by negative-association. Back to the main point – it’s just our opinion and you are of course free to do as you please. Thanks again!

          1. I am all for positive training! I am an ecollar trainer and I’d say that my training is very positive, the dogs love doing sessions with me. I just wonder, if +R is the ONLY “humane” way forward, then how come people cannot achieve off leash ability with any breed as I am able to do using an ecollar? It seems, giving the dog the ability to run free and know that they will come when called is MUCH more “humane” than keeping them on a leash all the time and becoming paranoid that if they were to get off, you would not be able to call them back.

          2. Thank you!!!! Do people use shock collars on kids? No. If you have to electrically shock your dog to tra in it….. you are wrong.

          3. I agree with you about the positive training being better than negative. Not only that, but I’ve found with my three, that it is more effective. Negative seems to only make aggression rear its ugly head. I also used to run my first dog off lead. And then with the second, I found that they started to act more as a pack and their attention to me became less influential when off lead. Queue the incident with a porcupine. With the third I haven’t even tried. I’m a better safe than sorry kind of person and I love my dogs too much to risk it. That being said, I have made a point of finding large fully enclosed areas that they can run freely in and get the kind of exercise that they need. I have also invested in a cart that they pull. Fun for all of us, and it’s what they want to do naturally. They are a working breed after all. 🙂 Thanks for a well written article.

          4. I have two. One is a German Shepherd/ husky and the other husky/malamute. The German Shepherd one is the escape artist and the malamute one is just afraid of everything even tho she was socialized has a puppy just like the German but they are completely different. He love people but protective when strangers come. The malamute barks at everything and is far from a running and rather hide behind you. They where both raised exactly the same. But the Sheppard will chase everything while the other hides behind him or us. Some days I’m just so confused. Any idea’s how to build her confidents. I have tried so much.

        2. Northern breeds have too much fur. This coupled with impulsivity and the urge to run, is not a good recipe for success with shock collars. Too many people have used them and still lost their Huskies

    2. I am with her… Since day one… trained and properly handled and loved and encouraged… And the “shock” collar was only ever used once, and that was for understanding what it felt like purposes. The tone for recall and vibrate for inappropriate behavior or actions has come a long way. Leashless walks happen with us through the suburbs all the time. With squirrels and little animals everywhere, he just pays no mind to them.

    3. I always let my Sibe run off lead in the Santa Fe mountains. He wore a shock collar, but when chasing prey, ignored even the strongest shock.

    4. I too have a husky with a shock collar. You are right all it takes is one time. He gets to run around a perimeter of our property and doesn’t go past. He knows what the beep means. That is all it takes.

      1. Why are you comparing dogs to humans?? There’s a huge difference if you haven’t noticed!
        This article was written about my Sasha… she is everything to the T in the piece. I “think” she loves me, but at the beach when she’s done with me, she will just start walking away and twice has just completely left me! Luckily both times I was able to get her back! I’ve never thought of using a shock collar…it’s just not something I believe is necessary…I keep plugging away at recall drills, but when there’s a cat or squirrel close by, forget about everything, she’s obsessed!

        1. ….oh and by the way, I’m in Southern California….my very smart dog will not go in the pool even though she absolutely HATES the HEAT!

    5. I totally agree Fantastic write up and very true .
      Omg – Shock collars – sorry we would never approve of them .
      How cruel and husky would never forgive as their memory is amazing .
      Problem here in Australia Queensland is way to hot and humid most of the year to run with Huskys and cruel as it’s to hot in their triple coat .
      Water sports is fantastic and better idea as husky are great at and love it .
      One of my Huskys use to jet skl she loved it and it’s a better option , when they seat with you you are in control and they love it . Swimming tires them .
      I say same :
      Never of lead !
      is the only option as that one day will happen it’s in all SiBERIAN Huskys in their DNA.
      Thank you for writing this fantastic article .

    6. How cruel are you? Before putting a shock collar on any dog, wear it yourself, give yourself a shock and see how you like it; totally unnecessary using one of these disgusting instruments of torture!

  2. So So true.
    My HuskyxMalamutes have 100% real from garden to home to hone to big back yard.
    They’re good at ‘stay inside’ too when I gave open the big gate to take out rig trailer or the bins, but I would not trust them if the gate stays open.
    My big boy Chester was fab until one day he saw another dog across the quiet inlet road from ours and was gone. He only wanted to meet & greet ! But totally deaf to my call. He escaped again just as I got inside to find that dog and this time went out to a busy (fortunately slow rush hour traffic) main road and did cross the pedestrian crossing. The Other owners fortunately held onto him til I could to him. Heart in mouth I was so glad he wasn’t hurt.
    I have never trusted him off lead again or my new ‘rehome rescue Eski who came to me last Sep aged 2.5 yrs.
    I really REALLY WISH THERE WERE MORE ENCLOSED SECURE F HIGH FENCED ARE AS TO BE ABLE TO LET THEM OFF WITH..responsible other dog owners of different breeds who will also pick up but ensure THEIR dog/s are not aggressive..otherwise maintain control with a long lwas and if necessary a muzzle!
    This is another problem..council can easily put up signs bins and bags so there is no excuse.

    1. Hi Marianne, thank you for sharing your experience on this page. It’s really helpful for other owners to see real life reasons of why the off-lead issue is so passionately argued.

  3. We were walking through a park once just a small one but a main road either side, fenced in but plenty of access points, we had actually gone to check if the tennis courts were enclosed so as to let ours in there, but not safe at all, on leaving we bumped in to a young woman who had a husky of lead, we stopped of course gave some cuddles, and just mentioned that it may be safer if she was on lead, as cos of the main roads and easy access if she runs off, her response was she in season and she prefers to be off lead, oh dear me as we said more reason for her to be on lead, well this woman blew her top and stated huskies don’t run off if they on their own yours will as they in a bigger pack, with that comment we walked away there was no way i was getting involved in a debate as she wasn’t gonna listen, i no a few people with huskies who let them of lead but in a very secure area, like your post hope people who do let them off the lead read this hopefully may get through to some.

  4. I too used to let my girl “off lead” as a puppy. She was great at “recall”. Then she would chase jack rabbits, fun, always returned or waited for me. This was in the southern New Mexico high country grazing lands. Miles of sage brush, jack rabbits and little else including fences. Than she found cattle were more fun. She returned when she was ready!! Then it seemed like fun to her to chase those pretty trucks on the interstate 1 1/2 miles away. Obviously she couldn’t come close so again returned “when she was ready”! Then she broke a lead in Arkansas and went to “play” with a few hundred head of cattle. Once again she returned “when she was ready”. I too thought, when she was a pup, that I was the master and she would “obey”! She now has a very large exercise yard, and walks on only the strongest leads, normally chain!! Your NOT going to run down and catch a husky unless your superman or flash!!

  5. Interesting article. I have two female siberians. They do wonderfully off-leash, but as mentioned in a previous comment, was worked on as soon as I brought them each home at 8 weeks but a year apart. I feel if you establish trust and dominance early, it improves your chance of success. I’m sure many owners seek to achieve this, and it is certainly a struggle. My girls, though half sisters, couldn’t be more different in how they behave and think. Huskies are a smart breed and without consistency seem to take advantage when able. Use good judgement on decerning when your husky would perform best off-leash (eg. A more remote area with varied terrain to practice listening to commands). It can be done! 🙂

  6. Hi. I really do enjoy reading what everyone has to say about Huskies. I have a 8 year old female that we have had since she was 2. At first we used to make sure she was always on a cable, one day she got off her cable just to come lay down by where our children were playing. I take her outside off leash quite a bit. Her prey drive is there expecially when she sees a squirrel. On longer walks she is on leash. She is the only husky we have had that we can do this with. She seems more content being outside with the kids playing than taking off.

  7. This was an interesting read. I had no idea that the debate over on/off lead was this rooted in controversy.

    We have one female husky living with us in Vík in South Iceland, which means that 6-7 months out of the year, the hills and mountains are home to thousands and thousands of sheep. When we walk or bikejor with our girl and we come across sheep, there is little doubt that her prey drive is very, very high. Whereas she walks like an angel inside the village, there is indeed no controlling her urges when she sees live prey. We do train recall, but never expect it to work in an emergency situation. As Ian Dunbar has said of recall training “You cannot compete with the environment unless you make the environment a reward in training.” This is where huskies differ. Whereas sniffing another dog’s behind og chasing a ball might be a great recall reward for other breeds, using the husky’s basic instinct to roam or kill wild game as reward is obviously out of the question. And quite frankly, I find it frustrating to never let my dog indulge in some of those instincts.

    However, even with a roaming husky with high prey drive, there are some things one can do. We are going to wait until November 1st when the rounding up of the sheep is over and they’ll be inside till around May. During this time, the hills act as lovely huge enclosed spaces where a husky can technically get lost on you without you having to worry about her being hit by a car. At the same time we have invested in a Tractive dog GPS, which allows us to track our husky on your smartphone, should she get lost. We also made sure that her name tag has a detailed text explaining to those who might find her that she is a husky and shouldn’t be let off leash again until we come pick her up. We are also going to invest in a relatively big safety light to strap on her harness, so that if she (god forbid) should somehow get near traffic, she will be extra visible.

    All that being said, the point should never be to wilfully ALLOW your husky to disappear but the breed does have an innate need to run, roam and be free and should, I believe, occasionally be allowed to indulge in these urges. We’re gonna try taking her up on the mountain in the beginning of November with all of the safeguarding equipment that we can muster and see how it goes. If all goes well and she responds well to her recall training, we might consider taking her on longer treks into the mountains.

    Personally I don’t believe in the either/or dichotomy when it comes to having a husky off the lead. With extensive recall training, a GPS tracker and a safety light, even a roamy husky with a high prey drive can (and should) be occasionally allowed to run free in an environment free of live stock where she is as unlikely as possible to do damage to herself.

    My two cents:)

  8. Wonderful article and I agree with most posters, it depends on your animal whether off-leash or leash is best. BUT, I want to share what happened to me with our Sibe, an obedience champion. At one point, Bliz was ranked #5 in the USA, based on his CDX scores. He was an amazing boy, extremely obedient and had amazing recall.
    One day, I had taken him for a walk. He was always on-leash during our walks as I just never wanted to take the chance of something happening that I couldn’t control. We have cows and all sorts of farm animals in our neighborhood, along with an abundance of deer, coyotes, raccoons, etc. As we were reaching our property corner at the end of our walk together, (our property is 2 acres of former pasture land) I saw my husband was outside near the front porch and thought it would be fun to release Bliz to “run” up the front lawn, to my husband. Just as I released Bliz and he started to run toward my husband, out of the bushes came a coyote! Immediately Bliz turned and started chasing the coyote, across our yard, over the road (thank GOD no cars were coming) and into the neighbor’s yard, which borders about 50 acres of undeveloped land. The coyote and Bliz were gone in an instant, leaving me screaming at the top of my lungs “Bliz COME” as I chased after them. I couldn’t get through the heavy growth of pricker bushes and thicket so I stood at the edge in hysterics screaming his name and COME! I thought for sure he was gone. Even with this collar and tags on, I feared we would never see him again. My husband ran to help and we did everything we could to find him. We couldn’t see or hear him and I truly feared all was lost. My husband ran back up the driveway to jump in the car to continue the search, while I remained onsite calling his name over and over. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Bliz popped out of the thicket and started walking up the driveway like nothing was wrong! I immediately ran to him and the look on this face was amazing. He looked so surprised to see me! Like, he was thinking, what the heck are YOU doing HERE? I immediately attached his leash and thanked God over and over again that my “baby” was back safe and sound. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I will NEVER, EVER, walk my Sibes without a leash. You just don’t know what can happen, and even the best trained Sibe can lose focus and take off. Sadly, my Bliz passed over the Rainbow Bridge 2 years ago at the age of 15. Now, we have another, even stronger and faster Sibe than Bliz who loves to run. Kiko is a true athlete and has the speed of a greyhound! There is no way on earth I would be able to catch him if he ever got that look in his eye and took off. For me, it’s on-leash. I never want to experience that feeling of losing my baby over something as simple as keeping him leashed to me. Most of our dog friends think we are too protective and to give Kiko a chance, but never, ever will I take that chance again. Lessoned learned.

    1. Hi Linda, Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. This unfortunately the experience of so many owners, fortunately it didn’t end horribly for yourselves, but to think that even an obedience champion is capable of the ‘husky deafness’ is very interesting to know. I hope you don’t mind if we quote your response for a future post. Have a great day!

  9. I too can see the controversy within…I have literally been raised with siberians my whole life coming from a family who bred and showed this magnificent breed. I now have my own raised from a pup. I think once a person becomes arrogant over the idea that they have total control of any animal, therein is when problems arise. I have seen many ownes of this breed with dogs, well trained to commands, who have let thm offleash, usually for years with no problems. Then, there is that “one time” the instincts over rode training. Sad to say some of those dogs paid the price. No matter how trained, there is always “that one time” and to me it just isn’t worth the chance. It is something that comes with being a companion to this breed. I always tell people who are interested in huskies that if they are looking for a dog that can be offleash then go get a lab or retriever. Then again in my opinion, I dont feel any dog should be offleash, mainly because owners are just not responsible enough for what their pets do, or respectful of others surrounding them. Another thing to take in mind, your dog may be trained and ok with others, but what about the other dogs around them? Are you going to be liable if your offleash dog goes up to another who is not dog friendly? And what position does that put the owner of the unfriendly dog, who now has to control his dog because yours approached. Many different aspects to this….

  10. Wonderfully wrote. I so worry about this breed with some as my own experience has told me a lot about their instincts and a lot of reading on well known Husky trainers who learned the hard way by either loosing or almost loosing their dog to simple things as swamps running after pray and falling through the ice etc….
    We have a neighbor with a husky who loves to just lay in the yard.. not on a cable… no fence… nothing. She stays for the most part until Titan got out one day and picked her up and the 2 went for a swim at the lake Luckily both where ok and had fun BUT…… from what I know and have read…. it’s USUALLY just a matter of time.

  11. Wow, you described my Husky to a tee! She is an ultimate escape artist. We invested in a GPS that fits on her collar. The problem is catching her!!!

  12. I’ve had two huskies, in my lifetime, and they were never off lead except for in the fenced yard. My current girl, Zoë, did push past me one day while I entered the house and unfortunately found the family of wild baby ducks in the neighbor’s back yard. I called and called for her. She did stop once, looked back and then took off to take one of the baby ducks. I will only let her off her lead in my back yard, which has a 6ft high fence.

  13. I have walked and ran my husky off lead since I have owned him, but I got him as a puppy and trained him off lead plus I thought him to pull a sled and I believe working with him so closely we have a very strong bond he never leaves my side. I believe it depends on the husky and how close of a bond you have with that dog. I did get another husky puppy 3 years ago he was 11 weeks old when I got him so my ageing husky could work with him to learn how to pull a sled and take over for my old man. Now this husky I would not taking hiking off lead cause he does not have the best recall. Like I said I think it depends on the dog.

  14. Great read! Our husky, Aloha, was originally a foster dog (we had lost our 15 year old husky Sammy a few months earlier and the rescue group asked if I could help out with Aloha since I was familiar with the breed) when I would take Aloha to adoption events to meet potential new families I would often have people tell me about large fields they knew of where she could run, I’d explain to them that this is not a breed you can just let loose and run on their own, and I would always get the same old “we’ve always let our dogs run off leash” I would try to explain to people that this breed isn’t like a Lab or most other breeds but everyone thinks they know best. Although we still weren’t ready to give a home to a new pup so close to losing our Sammy, I was so worried the wrong person would adopt Aloha that I convinced my husband that we needed to adopt her and I’m so glad we did. I feel bad sometimes when we go out for walks and our lab/mix gets to walk off lead but I just can’t take the chance with our husky. Her leash came unhooked on a walk once and the second it did she was off and no amount of yelling was bringing her back I just kept running trying to keep her in sight (luckily she was criss crossing back and forth) until she got herself hung up is some sticker bushes and I was able to dive in and grab her. I was cut up from head to toe but I had my little girl back.

  15. Love this article. We have had 3 Siberian Hiskies and all have been very different. Our first was raised as a puppy. He could. It be off lead and loved to run off any chance he got. We had a fenced and inescapable yard, but we also had a teenager would always forgot to close the gate! Our second one we rescued at age 9 or 10. We tried electric fencing but she spwent right through it. Eventually we just let her wander our acre off lead and she mostly stayed right by the house. Occasionally she would wander off to meet new neighbors:) we love in a very social community where we know nearly everyone, so that helped. Now we haves just our new 1 year old rescue that we just got. He runs when ever he’s off his tether. We can’t trust him unattended with his electric fence due to his high prey drive. He just bolts thru the shock. We even use an additional shock training collar that he also ignores. So he’s on the the tether most often and only on his collars when we’re right with him watching for potential triggers and ready to run if he does.

  16. I appreciate this article a lot. We have an Alaskan malamute and are very careful not to have her off leash. She has good recall (as long as the squirrels are away!) and has never tried to escape our yard (old house had 4 ft fencing, new on has 6 ft fencing), but we won’t ever trust her because of her breed. It’s hard when you’re with people who have other breeds to understand. One friend has a golden retriever and thinks I’m over protective and says they’ll play happily outside and keep each other in the yard even with no fence… To me, it’s just not worth the risk of my baby getting hurt.

  17. My husky is one of the sweetest and wonderful dogs that I have ever spent time with; however, give him just an inch off-lead and I have to chase him for an hour. So, I never let him off-lead outside of my perimeter property fence which is designed to keep him and my other dogs on the property when they are outside. He is stubborn as hell too, and wants to sleep on the back yard deck in cold weather. Still, I would not take anything for him –no amount of wealth or power in the universe!

  18. Thank you for the article. I agree that a husky should never be off leash. I had a similar incident to Linda’s. We were coming up the driveway from our walk & I let up on her leash & she took off & the leash came out of my hand. She was young & very fast. I called her name but it fell on deaf ears, she was free & was not stopping. But then as she got to the neighbors yard two doors down she saw a rabbit crawl under a bush. She stopped to check it out & the neighbor who happened to be in the yard grab the leash. Never again have I let up on the leash. I do wish I could let her run free but it not worth the risk.

  19. I once had a Siberian as a pet whilst living in Germany. Could never allow her off lead . . . she take right off and had little, or no, traffic sense. In the 14 years of her life, she only managed to get loose once . . . in a parkplatz, alongside a stretch of Autobahn, on the way to Italy. I recaptured her by shaking the bottle of her favorite vitamin treats. She came right back and sat prettily, waiting for her treat.

  20. We started off as a foster for our Kody, 8 years later he’s still here. We have 2 acres of invisible fence and he hasn’t left the yard once in 8 years. Somehow we trained him to respect the invisible fence. Everytime he sees a white flag or a similar tone that the collar makes, he runs to the house. He kills birds and bunnies that are in his yard, but has never left the yard to chase a passing deer. He has a labrador brother who never leaves as well. I would never walk with him off-leash though. I think we put the fear of God into him during training, but I agree with your article. He is the exception for sure! Best of luck to everyone! Keep your fur – baby’s safe!

  21. My female husky was never intentionally off-lead. Once she escaped, you could pretty much count on her being AWOL for at least 2-3 hours, despite all efforts to catch her. She was an expert escape artist, and in her last years even learned to open the front storm door to facilitate her escape. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as we adopted her from a shelter, having been found sheltering on a porch in a local town after being seen around town on the lam for at least a week, having successfully evaded all attempts to corral her. ‘Nuf said?

  22. After my First Husky was hit by a car I wouldn’t let any of ours off lead except in our fully enclosed paddock, he was a Cross not 100% Sibe but He had enough in Him to take off when he accidentally got out of the back yard. Also we live in the country surrounded by livestock and farmers have the right to shoot any dogs that are worrying their animals so not worth the risk in my opinion. It just takes one time for them to run off and get into serious trouble.

  23. I never let Dax My 81lb 4yr old male Husky of his leash as he will run for hours and sometimes goes out on the main road if he should get lose. And his instinct to hunt is strong with a like for chickens. I had to build a 7ft high double layer fence around my front yard to keep him in. I built a gate for the front steps and one for the ramp into the pen.His mother Shila who I also have is almost 8 now and she has turned into a home body which I hope Dax will do as he ages. Shila is not much for long walks now but I take Dax for long walks around town weather permitting as he likes to meet other dogs and people. On weekends they both like to pile into my truck and ride when I am running to the store or whatever. All in all the good out weighs the bad having a Husky around they are a beautiful animal with lots of love for the family.

  24. A very good friend of mine, my mentor in the training of huskies was the founder of the husky rescue, Adopt A Husky. Her name was Lois Leonard. Like one of the posters, she had a nationally ranked obedience champion husky and also like many of the posters she has an elevated sense of her control over her husky, Sula. Like the previous poster, it only took “one time” to put her “heart dog” at great risk. Fortunately, Sula was not injured, and through this event, she realized that no person has unfalable control over a husky. She was so respected in the husky “world” that she was asked to write the chapter on why you should never let your husky off leash in an unfenced area in the Siberian Huskies for Dummies book. (Truly, the most practical and beneficial book about Siberian Huskies that I have ever read.) It really is beyond me why anyone who claims to have such a deep connection with their husky would take any risk of injury or death with them? I take my huskies to a multi-acre fenced forest preserve. Does that fence diminish their quality of life. Does a shock collar (even once) improve their quality of life? What is the real motivation for putting your dog at risk in spite of knowing their innate traits? 100 times the recall works and one day and only one day their prey drive is a bit stronger than usual and they take off longer than they regularly would have but that distance includes a preditor, or a busy street, or someone who thinks your dog is a threat to their animals, is it worth losing your special friend?

  25. I love my girl and I experimented with making her “sit,” before we would go back inside, unhooking her lead a little farther from the door each time, making her “stay” until I gave a command. I wasn’t interested in her being able to walk off lead, I just wanted to establish myself as “boss” in case of an emergency.

    I started doing this after she escaped once when I mis-clicked her lead to take her outside. I only caught her because she didn’t realize she wasn’t tethered and she had to urinate.

    I quit trying because she saw a squirrel once just before I unclicked and nearly tore my arm off.

    We have a fenced yard at our new place and that is the only way she will be off lead again.
    She is WAY too stubborn. Never believes me when I assert myself as alpha and makes me prove it daily. But we love her!

  26. We have owned two Siberians and found them to be runners that always came home when it was their “decision”. We were lucky that we were in rural areas so traffic wasn’t a problem. But once when we where taking a truck/camper trip we stopped in a 10 acre totally fenced area for the night. We decided to let her out before sleeping, that was a mistake. She didn’t return in the early morning, so frustrated, we left the enclosed area, locked the gate and drove around the perimeter. She heard our diesel truck and we saw her hiding behind a tree watching us. When we came back into enclosure we still had a time getting her back in the truck Finally, she was thirsty or hungry and we retrieved her to get back on our trip.
    But all in all, we love them like no other dogs we’ve owned!

  27. I grew up with pedigree Siberians,& my husband & I now have our 2nd husky mix. Yes they can be very stubborn, but with training and supervision,they can OCCASIONALLY be off lead or chain…..I learned young that if they do take off,your biggest mistake is to actually chase them,due to their love for running it just makes them run more. Regarding the use of shock collars,I’ve found they can be useful & do not cause harm or fear if used properly. Thank you for the wonderful picture & well written article.

  28. I have two Siberian huskies. We have trained them both to be off-lead dogs since they were pups. We may be an exception though, we are very very active with our dogs. Hiking and running are a daily thing in their lives. They rarely take off. Although, when there inner “trigger” kicks in (such as it does when cows are around) their selective hearing kicks in and they do not listen as well. We are working on this! 🙂 I just want everyone to know that they can be trained as off lead-dogs. It just takes time and lots of exercise. I also have noticed that trust is a huge thing with them also. If you show them that you trust them, things go a lot more smoothly with training.

  29. Excellent article! I have an Alaskan Husky, 5 years old, and the same experience goes for him. And my research shows the same thing.
    My family has had huskies for as long as I can remember…. (46 now, closing in on 47)
    He will get back on recall 29 out of 30 times. But that last time… That’s when you’re in trouble. Or the neighbors cat is about to become a kebab.
    To cut it short. My Balder is always on a lead, no excuses, no exceptions!
    If you have a husky, remember it’s a top of the line of dogs. Treat him or her like that.

  30. I used to let my husky mix of when he was a puppy, but once he hit 18 mos, that was the end of that. Despite knowing all the basics (and he knows them well), his selective hearing kicks in over pretty much anything. So, we compromised with a 50′ drag line made for field dogs. Best $15 ever spent. He gets to run and check things out. I get to go at a pace that doesn’t break my legs, and we both go home tired. Couple that with bikejoring, and he’s one happy puppy.

  31. Hello all ,great article. So let heats what I’ve experienced with my 2 year old husky boy. He can not be off leash . He runs and runs as husky do until he gets enough energy out to Remember to listen. However, I have found that when he has his harness on (something that I only put on when it is time to work ) he is 100% focus on me staying right by my hip and listens perfectly. I always have a leash on him when we are out of the house just as a safety measure
    but this just what I’ve experienced through a few experiments. I’ve not had a random cat or squirrel run by when doing this but had have other dogs walk by to see if it breaks his focus. Just my observation but if you are dead set on trying to teach you husky to be off leash try making it a job for them

  32. 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!!!

  33. Whilst I genarally agree with you about letting Huskies off lead, it all comes down to the relationship you have with your dog, there are some owners who should never let their dogs off, but if you spend all day every day with your dog, you will know it and its quirks, to the point that you know exactly what they are thinking. I got my first Siberian after doing lots of different research, mainly because I needed something at the time to challenge me, all the reports about them being untrainable etc, so I got a 3 1/2yr old rescue that had been given up, I was lucky in the respect that I was able to spend 24/7 with her, I walked her, I fed her, I did everything for her, in doing so became the single most important thing in her life, that’s important! For the first 4 months I taught her to walk on the lead properly, that does not mean always at the heel, but to do so when told and to not pull when told, I then progressed to off lead in enclosed spaces, then off lead in the woods on the local parks, first couple of a goes were fun! Which contained a lot of me calling and her sat 10yds away hiding in the woods sniggering, the point being she always knew where I was and I roughly knew where she was. One thing that I have noticed about her, is that she is very wolf like in her actions, she has a territory, with defined borders, that she would like to patrol, within that territory she would roam, outside of it she would stay really close by, she has a pack, made up of all sorts of dogs with whom I walk around the park with, she is the oldest and also the matriarch and will look out for the pack, she loves hunting, rabbits mainly, but also voles and mice in long grass, she quickly learnt that birds can fly away so never bothers, and squirrels are for sitting under trees to look at. The point of all this, she has been the easiest dog ever to train, partly because of their intelligence and partly because she is eager to please, she seems to know instinctively what I want. Now not all this has happened without mishaps but the way you communicate with your dog is important, that includes facial expressions and tone of voice, never take your dog for granted, even though she is now 13 I am still always aware of the surroundings and watching what see is doing. You have to be in charge, and your dog has to know it! That way they won’t question you so much (and no that does not mean, hitting them, wrestling them to the floor or any other violent physical means) if they do something wrong, tell them off straight away, make sure they are looking at you and you at them, and then exclude them, feed them walk them but don’t talk or look at them until they come and say they’re sorry, then forgive them. You may say I got lucky, but I have done it with two, the other was 5 when I got her, but she died a few years later from diabetes, both dogs had never been let off before, yes they love to run but it is not the be all and end all, they love exploring, especially their surroundings, finding out who has been there etc, thy love patrolling their perceived territory, ( thankfully not all in one go!) finally your dog has to trust you and to an extent you have to return that trust.

  34. A great article to read.

    My sib, was a beautiful boy who through training was very good off lead in areas were there was no livestock as I knew that he had a high prey drive. If he was out with other dogs his recall was very good.
    However 2 months ago I went away for the weekend and left my boy with a friend who has a dog, Oscar was used to visiting them and we often went walking together so I had no worries that Oscar would be looked after, then on the second day I got the dreaded call from my friend that Oscar had been missing for 4 hours and she had set up a search part to look for him, he had never done this before and I instantly thought the worst had happened as the area she had described where they had been walking was an area that I know had previously had sheep out, I checked my phone for any other missed calls and had another message from an unknown number, when I listened to the message it was from a farmer saying he had news about my dog and it wasn’t good.
    Needless to say Oscars prey drive had kicked in, he killed 1 sheep and injured 3 others, the farmer had no choice but to shoot him, this was my worst nightmare and now I’ve lost my best friend because we thought he was okay off lead.
    If I could turn the clock back I would, but this is a lesson learnt for the future and I know that no matter how well you think your sib is trained, if he just gets that instinct kicking in he will never come back.
    I miss him ever day and just wish I never left him.

    1. Hi Linda, apologies for the late reply (issues with our spam filter). So so sorry to hear what happened to your sweet boy, but I’m very pleased that you shared your story with us as this is such a prime example of the message we feel needs to be heard. Would you have any objection to us using your comment in the future to promote our message and to help keep others safe from the same fate?

      We know all too well that nothing will ever replace Oscar in your life, but I do hope that one day you might be able to help another dog in need with the knowledge you now have. Thank you very much once again for sharing your story with us, and we trust that Oscar is wearing his silver-harness with pride.

      1. I don’t mind you sharing my story, if it helps other people to be aware of the dangers of letting huskies off the lead in areas were there is potential if their prey instinct kicking in.

  35. I have 3 huskies. 1 Siberian/Swedish jamthund. 1 Alaskan. 1 Greenland dog/Alaskan. We live in Norway. Deer, moose, foxes, badgers, birds everywhere. Our siberian is never off lead because her jamthund part is a Swedish moose hunting dog. We also got her when she was 3. I wouldn’t recommend this mix to anyone. If she gets out (happened 2 times, she was gone for hours). My Alaskan was able to go off lead but lately he has become deaf to my in calling. My Greenland is 7 months so we are working hard to get him to go off lead but if he gets a scent he follows it for a bit then comes….. I’ve actually considered taking an instructor course to gain the knowledge to properly train dogs. We love our huskies and will most like never have another breed (I’ve had a Leonburger and wife has had other breads). We would like to get a farm to get a husky rescue going.

  36. My husky’s go alway’s off leash. Never have to put a shock keadh or watever on them. People need to be the alpha. And no is no.. or get a other type of dog.

    I always vind it animal abuse wen you use sonething to shock/scary thing to you pet. Train them… AND START WEN THERE PUPPIES. Puppies dont have the hunt instinct yet. So learn ghem to keep a eye on you..

  37. I love my husky and i freak out when he so much as gets outside without me . Yes hes on his leash when we walk him, But 3-4 times a week he goes to a dog park or a tennis court or even the meeting room were i work and runs all he wants. I get shockers work for those who choose to use them but floki is my kid and when your kid is diagnosed with A.D.D. you dont put a shocker on your 8 year bc the teacher cant deal or the babysiter doesnt want to watch him then why would i use it on my dog

  38. I agree they should never be off leash. I did find it interesting in the article where you state they were released to fend for themselves in the winter. How did they retrieve the dogs in winter if they shouldn’t be off leash? That would be interesting to learn.

    1. Thanks Susan, it’s my understanding that the dogs were somewhat easier to retrieve in winter as food sources became more scarce, and with humans willing to feed, it became a logical choice for the dogs. The way this information was presented to me suggested that the dogs weren’t souly running free in the wilderness, but more left to roam around the communities without being fed explicitly. So I would assume scraps etc would have kepts them around an interested, but they would’ve needed decent hunting skills to obtain their main meals.

    2. Amen, Sister! Our family is the very proud “owner” (?) of “4” Huskies. We live on 7.7 acres of property. Our entire family is, fortunately, in tune with how our (as well as ANY!) Huskies can run, given the opportunity.

      Being that we live in a little farming community, I’m not so concerned with their desire to run, but their predatory drive. (We have a LOT of coyotes in our area and any other “dog,” is also, fair game.)

      Fortunately, on the rare occasion any of my Huskies have gotten loose, they have either come and sat on the porch or run for 5-10 miles, ignoring other critters, until they were “run out!”

      Seriously, I love the breed, but when it comes to “running,” I am on the verge of having a heart attack! So, we always make sure the cable is intact and, when we get our yard fenced, (Hopefully before the snow falls!) it will be effective so as to contain our “Savage (Yeah, RIGHT!) Beasts!”

  39. Thank you so much for this! I’m on a number of husky FB pages, admin/mod on several, and this becomes an argument every time it comes up. This is everything I keep posting to explain the issue to people, and it’s so much more concisely and well written, so I can just post the link every time from now on! You’ve covered all the salient points so well, I really appreciate it. Some of the stories are also wonderful, and I hope will help all the people who show up on those pages with puppies they’re convinced they’ve got “perfectly trained to off leash”.

    I’d voice trained every dog we ever had, even won in small-time obedience trials. Then we got a husky. I’ve known huskies all my life (we just kept taking in/adopting mixes), so I thought I knew what we were getting into. I trained him well and he was fine. We got our second, trained her, and hiked with them off leash extensively. About the age of one, she started to “expand her territory”, and soon he joined her…recall worked less and less effectively, and after a few scary experiences, they’ve never been off leash since. As numerous others have said, it only takes “that once”, and they’re too precious to ever chance it again.

    1. Thank you Niki – really pleased you like the article. Feel free to share far and wide. We intend to keep the article updated with reader comments etc in the hope it helps others.

    2. Thank god.. words of (yet more) wisdom & experience!
      However.. there’s still one ore more out there that know better.
      Exactly the same experience I had.. ten months to one year & I had to go f/t ON lead furever with my HuskyXMal boy.
      My rescued girl ? – she’s never been off lead except in secure designated areas.

      1. Thank god.. words of (yet more) wisdom & experience!
        However.. there’s still one ore more out there that know better.
        Exactly the same experience I had.. ten months to one year & I had to go f/t ON lead furever with my HuskyXMal boy.
        My rescued girl ? – she’s never been off lead except in secure designated areas.
        And I spend a lot of time on training –
        http://www.successdogs.comhas been MY saviour!

    3. They’re pack dogs and eventually realize that every time they bolt, they are making a bad decision. My 12 year old doesn’t further away than she can keep her eye on us. When we change direction, she’s right there with us. (Rewards help;)

  40. Where I live, people just do not put that much effort into training their dogs.
    I’ve had 4 Siberians down here and every time I walk them, I meet someone who ‘had a husky once but it ran away or was hit by a car’ I answer, yes, they need to stay on leads. These people always argue, ‘no my dog was different!’
    I got my dogs from a local Siberian rescue and they got most of their dogs from the pound. In my state, over 100 Siberians are euthanized yearly. The rescue can save and find homes for another 100. Many dog pounds in my state only wait three days for an owner to find their dog before putting them down.
    For me, that’s too big a risk. My dogs are kept on leash!
    When I lived in up north, I worked with my huskies, they would go off leash but I trained them to come back. The training can never end.
    Also, I’ve learned to never chase my dogs if they bolt or someone leaves a door open. I give them treats and it’s always called a ‘cookie’ -they hear the word ‘cookie’ and they freeze and run up to me. Once, my puppy got loose, he was confused and just started wandering. I rushed inside and grabbed a can of sardines, then sat in the driveway with a fork. He came up and sat with me and we shared. I made no drama. Put the leash on him and we never talked about it again.
    Another trick is to start the car and open the back back door and ask if they want to go for a ride. Mine will hop in without thinking.
    IMHO

  41. I have worked with my husky since he was a pup. He has had his moments. But now that he is 3yrs he is starting to recall better. But I also have a shock collar when we are out just in case. Most of the time when we are out we have taken the dogs and the horses for a ride/run time. In town though he is never off leash.

  42. My husky is very well trained. So well that he is a therapy dog.
    I could let him off lead, but I would be worried every second. Reason being he would bolt at the sight of anything he thought was of interest.
    Please keep you husky furbaby on a lead, also have a fenced yard. The height of fence should be no less than 30 feet high, and dug 2 feet into the ground. Just then that husky will think of another way to free him/ her self. M

  43. I so agree! I had a rescue for 6 years. The first day she took off. We had cars stopped on both sides of the highway. She eventually ran up to a lady who had her car door open! We have a fenced yard and she wasn’t able to jump fences due to old injury. We never let her off leash because she had her own agenda outside of ours! I miss her dearly, old age was her demise. My heart is waiting for another who needs our home. Leash training is a definite must!!

  44. Very interesting article. I was a lucky owner of that special husky that could be off lead without the risk of running off. We were tovether for 13 years and he was the perfect pet in every way. However his prey drive was absolutely nonexistent. He was brought up with a cat and when he was 4 I also got a rabbit – all three would play together and husky was extremly careful not too step on the little bunny (who was only 1kg as an adult). Now I am a proud owner of a two year old husky boy that we got when he was 10 week old. What a difference! His prey drive is very strong and he just wants to hunt hunt hunt! He was a very obiedient pup till he turned one year old. Then the instinct kicked in. We have been working very hard on his recall. We let him off the lead in the nearby woods that are very far from the roads and farmers in the area have no cattle nor sheep. He still chases squirrels and rabbits but if called comes back mid chase. We are licky that we also have a very obedient older lab who he adores and always stays close to. He also wears a gps tracker on his collar linked to our phones – we know where he is even if we cannot see him.

  45. There always seems to be two camps whenever this discussion comes up, those that advocate letting them off (the minority) and those that don’t (the majority), no one seems to take into account the difference in dogs and humans, all dogs are different in personality, yes they all share the same traits and behaviour, but some are slightly more submissive and some are not, most of them are cheeky but just as humans have different personalities so do dogs, and it is how your two personalities interact that determine your relationship with your dog, and it is that relationship that determines whether or not you can let your dog off. I have had a 3 yr old and a 5 yr old rescued Siberian huskies, neither of them had been let of leads before, in fact they weren’t trained to walk on leads either. Now I’m not a dog whisperer or something special, but I did do a lot of research from various sources, that mostly had opposite opinions and theories on huskies but had some bits of truth in them, the only way you can get to it though is by studying your own dog, watching how they interact with you, other people and other dog, their behaviour becomes quite clear. It was 6 months before I was confident enough to let the youngest one off, she had a high prey drive and regularly caught her own meals, although she knew what prey was, and that didn’t include cats, smaller dogs or birds, if she saw something running she would investigate to see what it was or until she got close enough to identify it. If you ever watch you dog hunt, you will see that it is more cat like, stalking rather than charging. The older one not so much, because I got her after the younger one I had learnt so much already that it was only 4 weeks before letting her off. That said I am always with them, where I go they go ( or did as the older one died from a genetic disorder presumably from breeding) but the younger one is still with me now 13 yrs old, and only lost her once and that was my fault, not because she ran off, but because I was distracted by someone talk in my face and not making sure she was following, she thought she had lost me and went home! Huskies love to run, but it is not the be all and end all of them, they love to explore, to hunt, that’s why at least one walk a day was where they (or the lead one) wanted to go, how many times do you hear people saying that huskies have no sense of direction? They have a great sense if you let them, we always ended up home without any promting other that saying “home” whilst I would never advocate people letting their dog off without knowing them or their dog, neither do I like the idea that all dog should be kept on leads, they need to run and explore and hunt, it’s all part and parcel of what they are, I see so many people that should never have a husky at all, because of their life style or because of the way they are, I see so many dogs with issues, that they only really look like huskies but don’t act like them and it is sad, because they are an intensely rewarding dog when treated properly, with a heightened sense of humour rarely found in other breeds. Sorry for the long post, but I think people need to see the dog in a different light rather than the black and white portrayed. I have also come to the conclusion that marking play and important role in the temprament of the dog. I could write a whole book about what I have found!

  46. Well it is easy to see where this pages allegiance lies, keep your dog on lead! It’s that black and white, no taking into account owner or dog, I would like to see you on a lead all your life! you are probably breeders more worried about selling than the actual welfare of the animal and making sure that the dogs go to the right owners. Luckily for some dogs not everybody thinks like you and if you made sure the right owners got the dogs instead of the ££££ there may be a few happier dogs around, instead of the miserable life some of them get now!

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