My Dogs Get Into Mischief
Dear AKC: I have two Siberian Huskies. We got our female at 14-weeks-old about a year ago and recently we added a 3-year-old male. We would like to have her in the house more but she absolutely will not settle down even with toys and our undivided attention. Outside, she digs, chews, and even strips the shingles off of our house. If she gets loose, she absolutely will not come back until she is ready. The problem with that is that we live on a busy highway and have already lost two dogs.
She is not crazy about food so it is difficult to find just the right treats to use fortraining purposes. We got the second Siberian thinking if she had some company, she would not get into as much mischief. He is a very good boy but he follows her out if she manages to find an escape route. They are now both wearing "stubborn dog" collars, and we have an electric wire around the bottom of our fence to keep the dogs from digging out. I have run out of ideas on what to do with her. Please, if you could help with this, I would really appreciate your advice. -- Runaway Siberians
Dear Runaway: Based on your fact-filled question I think your solution lies not in your training treats but lack of training challenges as well as adequate exercise. According to the Siberian Husky Club of America (SHCA) Website, "Siberian Huskies have a natural proclivity for digging holes in backyards" and it further states, "Of all the shortcomings to be found in Siberians, the most dangerous to the pet owner is their tremendous desire to RUN." Now, Siberians make great pets if you can properly manage and fulfill their need to dig and run. Let's devise a plan for you and your dogs.
First off, it's good to know you have a fenced-in yard and that you have reinforced it. But I would remove those "stubborn dog" collars. I'm not sure exactly sure what yours is, but if they are the type that delivers an electric shock by a remote control from the owner, they can do more harm than good if not used by a highly trained professional dog trainer so please discontinue using them.
Your dogs definitely need more activities to quell their natural instincts to run and dig. You can't stop dogs from digging, but you can give them their own place to dig with wild abandon. Make them a dig pit in your back yard and check out my suggestions for how to do this in a previous column. Also, find a local trainer and enroll both of them in obedience classes, this will give them some mental challenges as well and reduce boredom to some degree.
Born to Run
Finally, let's put those dogs and you to work on some long-distance fun. There are several ways to engage Siberians so they can run. You can start with taking them on longer walks several times a day. But ideally you may want to try some more challenging and fun activities like teaching them to be sled dogs, skijoring, or joining hiking parties. You're in luck because the SHCA offers wonderful programs like the Working Pack Dog and even Sled Dog Degrees. Since you already have two dogs you are off to a good start for Sled Dog training. And according to SHCA, the Working Pack Dog program recognizes the achievements of Siberian Huskies participating in verifiable hiking trips as an active member of the hiking party. Siberian Huskies in this program may compete for two titles: Working Pack Dog (W.P.D.) and Working Pack Dog Excellent (W.P.D.X.). This program would be a great place to start and there is even a coordinator in your home state of Washington! Network with fellow "Sib" owners through this contact and you will no doubt learn about more ways to keep your dogs happy and well-adjusted.