The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Siberian Huskies" by Mary Meisenzahl. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.
Author Credit: Mary MeisenzahlYou might be sick of hearing it by now, but we’ll say it again: Huskies need plenty of exercise! This is as much for your well-being as it is for theirs. If they don’t get the physical and mental exertion that they need, you’ll definitely feel it. A Siberian without mental stimulation or physical exercise to tire him out is likely to entertain himself by digging through your yard, eating your valuables, and howling.
Like we’ve talked about, Siberians are working dogs, originally bred for pulling. They are strong, lean, and agile. They are high-energy dogs, so they require at least an hour of exercise per day, ideally more when circumstances allow.
A daily walk is essential for your Husky. Walks are great for your pup because he can work off some of his energy while also stimulating his mind with new sights, sounds, and smells.
Your Husky would probably be happy to walk all day, so he’s only really limited by your time and stamina. A walk of 30 to 45 minutes is a good baseline to aim for, or you could go for two shorter walks. Your individual dog’s needs will vary, but generally a tired Husky is a good Husky.
When you’re figuring out an exercise schedule, it’s important to remember that your pup will do best with a routine. A 30-minute walk at the same time every day will work out better than nothing all week, followed by a long, strenuous walk on the weekend.
Dealing with Pulling
Huskies are bred to pull, so you’ll definitely want to work on training your dog out of this behavior. Harnesses are great because they make it tougher for your pup to pull, but training is still necessary.
The easiest way to train your dog out of his pulling habit is by rewarding him for paying attention to you and walking next to you. You want to give your dog the idea that walking next to you is a good experience, and reinforce this idea with treats and pets. At the beginning, use really special treats that your dog doesn’t get often.
If your goal is to get your dog to follow your lead in walks, try holding his leash and taking a few steps backwards. He will probably follow you, so say “yes” or “good boy,” or whatever positive reinforcement you use as he does. Immediately reward him with a treat.
Another way to work on this is by holding a treat in your fist and letting your dog follow the treat and walk along with you. When he does, give him the treat. After he has successfully done this a few times, have him follow your empty fist. Again, reward him with treats.
Different Types of Exercise to Try
Just about anything that gets your dog moving and using up energy counts as exercise, so you have plenty of options beside walking. Of course, along with walking, feel free to try jogging or running if you’re up for it, depending on your dog’s age. A full-grown Husky will appreciate the chance to up his speed.
If walking is a little too boring or monotonous, try hiking. You’ll get exercise benefits, plus your dog will love the opportunity to explore new sights and smells, and potentially other animals.
Swimming can also be a good exercise outlet for dogs, especially because it’s easier on the joints for older pups. Not every dog likes to swim, so this depends on your dog’s personality. If he likes going in the water, great! Encourage playing in the water with toys or treats. If your dog isn’t enthusiastic about getting into the water, that’s okay.
Playing fetch or frisbee can also be a great way to get your dog exercising. This can work in your yard, or at an enclosed dog park. For extra exercise, walk your dog to a separate location and let him explore, then engage him in a game of frisbee, being sure to throw far away. The park is especially great because playing with other dogs is a sure way to use up some extra energy.
If your dog has a lot of extra energy to burn off and walks and playtime aren’t cutting it, consider joining an agility group. A quick Google search should help you find one in your area, and there you can direct your pup’s physical and mental energy to learning tricks. If you live in the right conditions, you could also try training your Husky to pull a sled.
Although they love exercise, it is possible to overexercise your Husky, especially a puppy or senior dog. They can keep going beyond what they can handle, especially in hot weather.
Puppies’ bones and joints are still growing, so you should avoid strenuous exercise. Any activity that is tough on your pup’s joints could cause lasting damage. Instead, he should be allowed to play freely with toys and other (friendly) dogs. As he grows, short walks are okay, although they should be more for getting your pup used to being on a leash and sniffing around the neighborhood. An easy rule to remember is about five minutes of exercise per month of age, so a three-month-old puppy only needs around a 15-minute walk.
When you do walk your dog of any age, keep an eye out for signs of an overtired dog. If he shows excessive panting, extreme thirst, is acting out of character like lagging behind, or is limping and reluctant to continue, you should end your walk early and keep an eye on him. Be sure to provide water, too.
With Huskies, it’s important to keep an eye out for overheating, especially in the warmer months. Limit exercise to the early morning and evening, when temperatures might be a bit more moderate. Offer water frequently, and listen to your dog—if he doesn’t want to go, it’s too hot for him. Watch out for increased heart rate, excessive heating or drooling, and being warm to the touch. These are all signs of an overheated dog.
Importance of Mental Exercise
We’ve said that a tired dog is a good dog, but physical exercise isn’t enough. Any dog, but especially a smart Husky, is likely to get into mischief if he is bored or not getting to use his brain as much as he’d like. Of course, like all of the advice here, this depends on your dog. You know him best. If he’s consistently destroying things in your house or acting out, consider mental exercise as a possible solution. It doesn’t have to be particularly complicated, just enough to make him work a little.
Tips for Keeping Your Husky Occupied
There are so many ways to add mental stimulation for your pup, and anything related to food is a great way to start. Mix up his eating routine, and make him work for his food rather than just setting it down in front of him. There are plenty of toys out there that require interaction with your dog to dispense food, like in a ball or Kong that he has to play with to get food out slowly. Your dog will be motivated by the food and will use up physical and mental energy working for it.
You can also let your dog explore and lead when you’re on walks. Let him stop and sniff when you’re walking. Going on a walk is a major excitement in your dog’s day, and he gets a lot of stimulation from being able to take in the scents of the environment and other animals. Dogs will usually be more tired after a walk that includes opportunities to sniff and wander around.
Puzzle toys are also good ways to entertain your dog, even for a few minutes. That’s enough to make a difference. The type of toy will depend on your dog. For example, my Husky loves a Kong filled with peanut butter and will spend hours trying to get every little bit out.
You can also teach your dog new tricks to expend some mental energy. You’ll increase impulse control and focus. For example, teach him the names of his toys, and get him to the point where he can bring you a specific toy. Tricks like this, that he has to work hard for, will tire him out.
To read more from "The Complete Guide to Siberian Huskies" by Mary Meisenzahl, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below: