Two articles have come up recently about huskies and their off-leash behaviour. Traditionally, the answer to the off-leash question is a resounding NO, but everyone will acknowledge that there are exceptions to this rule.
Sydney dog training company K9 Pro, created this video. In case I messed up the link, it shows a husky, in harness, running towards owner, across an open piece of grassland. It's a interesting video, because it poses lots of questions.
How familiar is the dog with that space? How well fenced is that space? How many other dogs, or their scents, are around? Why is the husky in harness? What steps have been used to build up to this point? How many other huskies live with this dog?
The video does mention that this dog has been working slowly up to this point over some weeks, which I think is probably the most important factor. Huskies are not bred to be retrievers - this is not an automatic instinct for them. If a person wants to develop recall with their husky, it will take time and effort.
The second article was on the blog of Karen Ramstead, Canadian professional musher, breeder of award winning Siberians, and Iditarod competitor for over ten years. She starts the article with the comment that See, the dog in question, is not a normal Siberian. See went out into the forest with Karen and her border collie Bet. It was a very high distraction environment, but one Karen and See are very familiar with. Again, this is the result of lots of work on Karen's part, not a spur of the moment decision with a new dog.
So, can a husky recall? All of my experience and all the stories I've heard suggest the following:
- it takes a lot of work and practice on the part of the person and the dog. Our friend Bree, an obedience championship husky, has great recall, that's been built up over a lot of training that started when she was hand picked for it as a puppy.
- it depends on the personality of the dog and their rapport with their person. Bolo, a very stubborn Siberian, will not recall unless it suits him.
- it varies wildly with most Siberians depending on the situation and the distraction factor - Ishka, Frankie and Czar will all recall to SOME extent in their own backyard or a familiar well fenced park. In a new environment, or if there's a rabbit or roo to chase...? Forget it!
In the end, I'm happy to accept that our dogs don't really recall. We are so busy with our racing, work, family and friends, that we find it hard to put time into the consistent, one-on-one training required. So they will be on leash unless we're in a well fenced area, or our own backyard.