Any owner of a Siberian Husky will tell you that it often seems that these dogs were born to take part in sports. And in fact, they were! Siberian Huskies were originally bred for sledding, carting, and other athletic endurance events.
As a result of this heritage, Siberian Huskies are very athletic dogs with very high energy levels. As such, your Husky typically needs a lot of exercise in comparison to other dog breeds. Husky owners can take advantage of their dog’s natural agility and athleticism to expend some of this energy and keep their Husky at the top of their game.
Keeping your Husky fit and healthy can be one of the best ways to keep up their endurance levels and improve their agility. As a Husky owner, if you can keep up with your Husky by going for a run, cycle, or even swim with them, exercising will become a source of joy for both of you.
Siberian Husky History
The Siberian Husky was originally bred as a winter sled dog of the Chukchi people of Siberia. These dogs would travel quite quickly for long distances pulling loads in low temperatures across inhospitable ice and snow.
In addition to being working dogs of this nature, the Huskies were also companion animals and were welcomed into Chukchi dwellings as playmates for children, and to help keep their families warm on cold nights.
This dual role as working dog and companion animal is how Huskies have developed their boisterous, social manner. This natural instinct for playfulness and resilience has found a new outlet in recent years in the form of agility training and agility competitions.
Canine Agility Competitions
For non-dog owners, the spectacle of a dog agility competition can be a little overwhelming, but the concept is really very simple.
In an agility competition, dogs will compete against each other, racing through a series of obstacles. It is basically a sports competition for dogs and is great fun for dogs and their owners alike.
Some common obstacles that might be encountered in one of these competitions include:
- Jumps: The dogs must leap over a bar or series of bars without displacing them.
- Poles: The dogs must weave through a series of poles, without missing any.
- Tire jump: The dogs must leap cleanly through a ring or tire.
- A-frames and dog walks: The dogs must climb up one side of these obstacles and – in the case of a dog walk – walk across a platform before climbing down their other side.
In all these situations, the dogs are typically off-leash, as they are meant to complete their agility trial with as little assistance from their owners as possible.
Dogs are typically divided into inch classes, based on their height. Most Siberian Huskies would fall into the largest category for these trials, known as the 24-inch class, which is for dogs that measure more than 22 inches at the shoulder.
Siberian Husky Agility Training
Although the exact route you take with your agility training will depend on your individual Siberian Husky, there are a couple of natural instincts and inclinations that you can take advantage of.
To begin with, Huskies love to run when they are off-leash. This means that they are much less likely to look to you for cues and commands once they have knowledge of some agility training. This can be tough in the early stages of training, however!
Utilize your Husky’s heritage as a companion dog to build a strong relationship with him. This can help with any issues of independence (or disobedience!) that you may encounter in the early stages of training.
Huskies also have a serious independent streak that can sometimes manifest as a focus problem and a reputation as a difficult to train dog breed. As such, when training your Siberian Husky in agility, it is important to rely on the positive reinforcement method.
By using positive reinforcement to train your Husky, he will come to look forward to his agility training, making the whole process run much more smoothly. Positive reinforcement can take many forms: you could give your Husky treats, get excited when he performs well, pet him, and even praise him.
Given the stubborn streak of most Siberians, this method is one of the best ways to teach agility, and it can work wonders.
It is important to remember that it is very difficult to force a Sibe to do something he has no motivation to do. Not only are they intelligent dogs, who won’t see the point in doing something they don’t enjoy, they are also very large dogs, and will quite literally throw their weight around!
A vital part of the positive reinforcement technique is never getting angry when your dog fails in learning something, including his agility training. Even if he does not make much progress the most important thing is that he gets to have fun, play, and exercise, and socialize with other dogs.
Do not put any undue pressure on your dog. Rather, make his agility training something he will look forward to and enjoy. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to successfully train him!
You will never know how good your Siberian Husky is at agility until you take him for training. Use agility training as a good time to bond and even get to know your Husky better.
And, if you need another incentive, agility training is a great exercise for owners too! You will run around with your Husky pup as he navigates obstacles and generally has a great time. It’s not just a sports competition for dogs, but for owners too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Siberian Huskies good at agility training?
Although they are known for their impressive athleticism and endurance, Siberian Huskies are not necessarily the breed of dog best suited to agility competitions and agility training.
As well as the difficulty that owners sometimes encounter when training these headstrong dogs, Siberian Huskies can sometimes have issues with hip dysplasia that ultimately proves troublesome for their gait. This is not ideal in agility training where nearly every footstep (or paw step, for that matter!) counts.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t train your Husky in agility. In fact, several Huskies have competed very successfully in agility trials. However, if you are after a dog purely for the purposes of competing, breeds such as border collies, cocker spaniels, Jack Russells, and even poodles are typically better suited for this sporting endeavor.
At what age should I start agility training?
Although the official minimum age limit for dogs competing in agility competitions around the world is 18 months, it is possible to begin training your Husky from as young as one year old.
Ideally, your Husky should be trained in some of the basics, including common commands and loose leash walking before you move to the more complex elements and obstacles involved in agility.
It goes without saying, but just as when you are training your dog in other skills and endeavors, you should start small. Tunnel runs, low jumps, and platform walking are a good start, to begin with. You don’t need to dedicate hours to training at the beginning – incorporate it into your usual playtime and go from there.
Is agility training good for dogs?
Agility training is an excellent and fun way to burn off some of your pooch’s excess energy. This is especially important for Huskies, as it can sometimes seem like their energy is unlimited!
Besides this, training your Husky in agility can also help your dog’s health in a variety of ways. Just like exercise for humans, regularly providing exercise in the form of agility can help increase muscle tone, improve coordination, and increase fitness and endurance.
How long does it take to agility train a dog?
As with any type of dog training, the length of time it will take your furry friend to master agility will depend on several factors. Their history of agility training, their natural obedience, their physical traits, and the commitment of their owner are just some of these factors.
Although it is almost impossible to say how long it will take to agility train your Husky, you can always ensure the best and most speedy process by ensuring that you are committed and consistent in your approach to training, and you use positive reinforcement with your pooch.
How can I find an agility competition near me?
Dog agility competitions are enjoyed the world over. If you want to get your Siberian Husky involved with competing in agility, then your best bet is to check with your local kennel club. Not only will they have a list of all the competitions being run in your area, but they might also even be able to provide a guide on the level of competition for your dog.
Not only is it a great way to show off your dog’s skills, but it is also a great way to meet other like-minded dog lovers!