How To Deal With An Aggressive Husky

Agressive Husky
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Some dogs, especially former strays and unsocialized dogs, may have learned that they needed to use acts of aggression to be able to survive. The only way to stop the cycle of your dog responding to unfamiliar or fearful events with aggression is to demonstrate consistently to him that that no one will inflict pain or suffering onto him and for you to give him other viable avenues of behaviours for him to use. You have to be prepared to show the dog (in a way that is meaningful and understandable to the dog ) what you want him to do instead of him acting aggressively or reactively.

Show Them What You Want Them To Do

Things that your dog can be taught to do instead of reacting to a new situation with barking, lunging, snapping, or snarling:

  • Go to a mat or bed and lie down when instructed to do so.
  • Come and sit in front of you, watch you, and get a treat.
  • Go get a chew toy and redirect his anxiety to chewing.
  • Look to you for instruction and leadership during tense or fearful situations. (can be taught using a re-direct and WATCH ME cue).

Also, if you have an aggressive or reactive dog, you need to avoid encouraging domination games (tug of war, wrestling etc.) and overly excited rough housing between humans and with other dogs. At this point, these dogs lack the skills to be able stop themselves from reacting to excitement or fear with an explosion of aggressive energy. Noisy or overly stimulating dog toys are also not recommended for these dogs until they have been conditioned to better handle their fear and anxiety.

Training Is Not About Compliance Through Force or Punishment

Aversive training methods are never recommended for any dog but especially not for aggressive or reactive dogs. There are so many better options available these days for training dogs that will actually help you to foster a nurturing and balanced relationship bond that it makes aversive training methods obsolete. When it comes to training an aggressive or reactive dog, techniques that use heavy handed or physically punishing training methods will only serve to re-enforce their need to be aggressive.

Aversive training methods would include the use of:

  • Choke chains, prong collars, or correction/shock collars.
  • Alpha rolls or ear pinches.
  • Squirting dogs in the face with liquid.
  • Scaring or startling him with loud noises.
  • Yelling or screaming at your dog.
  • Physically hurting him or dominating him in any way.

If you react to aggression WITH aggression it only serves to add fuel to the dog’s fire. Redirection of the aggressive behaviour and showing the dog another way to handle the stress is a much better way of coping with his behaviour challenges.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or frustrated with your dog’s aggression or reactivity, PLEASE contact a qualified trainer or behaviourist, preferably one that has direct experience working with huskies or malamutes and they can give you some suggestions as to the best way to work with your dog.

Change Begins Here

To begin changing the cycle of aggressive behaviours there are four areas of concern to address:

  • Manage your dog’s environment so he does not get the opportunity to practice the behaviour. Be proactive. If a triggering opportunity never arises, then the dog never gets the opportunity to react to the trigger. So whenever possible manage the dog’s environment to reduce and remove the triggers to his aggression.
  • Identify all the triggers for his stress and aggression. If you don’t recognize the triggers to your dog’s aggression then you cannot begin to manage your dog’s problem. Look for the patterns to his aggressive behaviour. Be aware of all the body language and clues that your dog is giving you to show you that he is uncomfortable or afraid within his environment.
  • Break down the short term and the long term strategies to deal with the triggers to the aggressive behaviour. Changing behaviours in a dog is a process and processes take time so that means that you need to approach the behaviours with both short term and long term goals in mind.

The short term goal is always to keep the people in the environment safe in the moment so sometimes that may mean using a muzzle for a while. While the use of a muzzle is not a long term solution to a behaviour problem, it is a suitable short term solution to address the issue of immediate safety.

Long term strategies should include desensitization to the triggers and behaviour modification to teach more acceptable behaviours instead of defaulting to aggression and/or biting.

And lastly, there is the issue of providing good, stable, consistently strong leadership. Dogs need to have a strong leadership presence at the helm of the social group or they will feel obligated to step in to lead the group. There are some antiquated ideas about this issue. For the most part, dogs are not plotting coups to over throw the local governing body in your household.

However, if dogs do not see a strong recognizable leadership presence, they WILL step in to make the rules and choices for themselves and on behalf of the group. They do this not for reasons related to anarchy or ego mania , but for reasons related to their survival. Dogs equate predictability, stability, and consistency with the safety and survival of the group. Human rules and strong leadership provide dogs with the information of what they can expect in their environment and for what is expected of them within their environment.

Dogs that are not natural leaders but find themselves thrust into a leadership position by default (because the human did not step up to take the leadership role) are not comfortable acting in this capacity. Dogs who find themselves in this position will usually behave in a very anxious, fearful, unstable, and often times aggressive fashion while they remain in the leadership role. They would very much prefer to have someone else steer the ship but the natural drive to survive is strong and they do what they feel is required for them to survive.

So for those owners who do not give their dogs, consistency, rules, training, or expectations for their behaviour, if you think that you are doing your dog a favour by letting him make up his own rules, your dog does not see this a benefit. Quite often the root issues for aggressive dog behaviours is due to nothing more than a lack of strong leadership on the part of the owner. If this describes your dog ownership style, then you may want to reconsider this choice. If not for the sake of peace and safety in your own household, then do it because you love your dog and you want to do what is best for him.

Some strategies that you may wish to employ:

  • Manage the behaviour and the environment (avoidance of the trigger).
  • Changing associations (change how your dog feels about the trigger using treats).
  • Training a new behaviour (don’t do this behaviour, do this instead).
  • Eliminate the trigger or stressor (if possible).

Stress As A Trigger For Aggression

Another important factor in changing the cycle of aggression is to make sure that the dog is given appropriate and adequate breed specific physical exercise. A dog that has pent up energy without an outlet for it is stressed and he is in danger of funnelling his stress into an aggressive outburst.

You can also remove or reduce stress in your dog by:

  • Increasing physical exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Change in diet (check for allergy related items that may trigger agitated or cranky behaviour).
  • Doggie massage or acupuncture for stress relief.

Using Aversive Measures Against Aggressive Behaviours Is Counter Productive

The use of force against aggressive behaviour in your dog is never acceptable. Old out dated techniques like using alpha-rolls, pinning, shocking, and hanging are dangerous to the dog and only results in more intense aggression being levelled back at you from the dog.
If you are really unsure of how best to handle your dog’s behaviour, please consult a qualified trainer or behaviourist who can properly assess the behaviours and offer you a plan for safely and gently handling your dog’s behaviour modification.

Tomorrow, in Part 3 of this series, I discuss How To Deal With The Biting Husky

As always, we encourage you to as questions, comment, or share your stories about his topic. When we share our stories, we might just be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

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  1. The first is a uncastrated 2 year old Siberian husky called Pegasus. His owner is not financially able to provide him with the exercise he really needs. She does not want to take away his manhood though I am in the process of changing that. I run him when I can and am in the process of buying a dog treadmill and agility supplies but it is challenging when I pretty much work him for free. The owner pays me low amounts sporadically. He pulls like a maniac and will run off and not come back if let off leash. What should I do about getting his excess energy out and get him leash trained??

  2. I have an now eight year old Siberian Husky. He’s a rescue. As far as I’ve been informed the guy that had him tried to make him a fighting dog. A different person rescued him and tried to make him a dog like on the movie White Fang which we all know White Fang was a fighting dog. A friend of the guy who wanted to make the Husky like white fang told him not to and that he would train and find the dog a good home. Well the original owner abandoned him and before that kicked him, punched him, and just acted like an idiot. The he gives him to one of his friends against his other friends advice. The poor dog got no attention, abused, starved weighed 40 lbs, was emaciated, couldn’t barely walk, would trip over his own feet, and didn’t even have the strength to run much less walk. Like I said before, the friend of the guy who wanted to make him like white fang took him and put the dog on Craig’s list. So I took him in. Now for the fun parts. He’s possessive of his food, water, toys, even toys that aren’t his, when dog’s are playing at the dog park he’ll growl and snarl and even go so far as to bite them but NOT bite hard enough to make them bleed, will try to dominate every dog at the dog park and even go so far as to hump them, will growl and snarl at any dog that tries to get pet by me, will growl and chase any dog away from and toy or piece of food that he perceives as his, will bite if I even try to point at or pick up a piece of food that’s 4 feet away from him or even to pick up a Kong that has or had peanut butter in it, has bitten me for moving a make shift rug that he perceived as his, has bitten me for petting his head, flanks, feet, putting on and taking off a harness, biting me for even walking past something he perceived as his, and yesterday when I was putting food in his dish on the third scoop of an eight ounce cup tried to bite me, you so much as raise your voice he hits the ground, and after he bites you he whimpers and puts his body, ears, and head low. He’s even had his tail between his legs. He’s attacked my feet and hands and won’t let me get his Kong when he’s done with it, he’ll guard it. He’s attacked my vacuum cleaner, broom, and me when I even walked by his food and water dish. Now a year and eight or nine months later he still does all the same things but at least I’m a little better at reading his body language. Not by much though. I want to help him but I don’t quite know how. Any ideas? I’ve tried the sit and wait for your dinner trick but he’s a picky eater and doesn’t eat for days. He’ll sit and wait but then when you let release him from a sitting position he’ll try to guard it even if I’m on the other side of the room he’ll come over and try to bite me! Does or has anybody run into this problem? I’m hoping that I can get some good ideas on how to make him a normal Siberian Husky. Yes, and I know that’s typical Siberian Husky behavior, but I’d like a Siberian Husky that has manners! Oh, and one more thing, he wasn’t socialized disciplined the right way from the start. Anybody got any ideas of how to stop all the madness?

  3. Yes here’s some good advice. Train him! Make him work for his food ex. Have him sit and wait for his food. And he only gets it when you release him and say it’s okay to eat.

  4. I have s 13 week husky, he attacks to harm whenever I try take his harness off or get food away from him. Last night I got bitten really bad and needed 13 stitches he even but my dad and lunged at my mom. I really need help before theh get rid of him! Any advice?

  5. Hi, we have an 8 month husky, he is always really good, we dont have a gate in front yard so he is off the lead when we are outside but on it when we are not. He does very well except at night when we try to bring him inside, the last few weeks he has started to growl at use and even bit my husband while bringing him in. How can we stop this before it gets worse?Again it’s only at night he does this

  6. My husky is 10months old and we live in India, I do understand that the tropical weather is not at all suitable for huskies in any way. We didn’t adopt or buy him, we got him as a gift. Yes, a gift. We can’t even give him back because he’s our gift and we didn’t want to abandon him. We have AC for him and take him for walks early in the.morning and evenings. He used to mingle with new people before but offlate he is not. He is not on leash when he’s at home. He’s extremely affectionate towards his family members and with people who knew him from the time he was young. From past 2 months he’s bit almost 5 people. No, he doesn’t bite his family members but he definitely bites new people. He doesn’t give any signs of warnings before biting. We are really worried. Please help us!

  7. my husky is 5 months old and he is teething and recently got his 4 months shots, and a tracking chip. he has had two aggressive behaviors towards me and in one of them he bit my hands. i did not have deep wounds because he does not have all his teeth but I am afraid and don’t know what to do. Can i get some advice?

  8. It seems like a lot of people have had similar circumstances with their adopted huskies. We rescued our female husky about a year ago. She is around four years old. The only thing we know about her is that she was found as a stray with a full blooded husky in IN. They had no luck finding the owners. We have a German Shepard mix male that she is fine with. The day we got her she went after him because she was eating and he came to her bowl. This has never happened again. She wasn’t the friendliest of dogs when it came to being close to another person. She would growl and leave if you sat next to her, she didn’t care for comfortable areas to sleep other than the floor, but she has never been aggressive towards humans. She didn’t know any tricks or commands. She has made a 180 since then. She loves to be played with, she loves her beds, and she loves her family. She is perfectly fine with other humans and she has learned a lot when it comes to commands. A few days ago she attacked a female dog that was not leashed and was walking on the road in front of our house. She has done this one other time, again with a female dog that was not leashed. We have a tri fenced yard. Our city does not allow a gate in front of the property so we can’t change that. She is fixed and I don’t know if she is lashing out on females for territorial reasons or if it is something else. She is fine with dogs that are leashed, it just takes a bit to get them acclimated with each other. She likes to make her dominance known. I am not sure what to do to get her to stop attacking unleashed dogs. I want to add that she is a hunter. She has brought countless animals back to us including rabbits, birds, and possums. Only the possums survived because they play dead. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how we could help her? I know it takes time but I don’t want the police showing up at our door to take her away from us. She is part of our family now and we would be devastated.

  9. We adopted a 6 yr old male husky 2 weeks ago. We were told that the person we got him from had only had him for about 8 months.
    At first he was doing well. Then he attacked/agressively played with our friends MinPin. He has now “hunted” our 2 cats and gone after another MinPin at the pet store.
    Is this type of agression normal for this breed?

    A little more back ground… We were told he was nuetered 6 months ago. We were told there was an incident with the neighbors dog of the previous owner prior to being nuetered. But we were not able to get much detail.
    We were told he is a “sash” husky. He is 25inches at the wither and 87lbs. Beautiful ghost blue eyes. I mention this because we were also told he had been a breeder prior to be adopted by the person we got him from.
    I am not certain if any of this has any bearing on his behavior, so just in case…
    We also have a Shiba Inu mix (f. 4yr) and a Lab mix (f 5yr). All of our furbabies are rescues. We also have 3 teens at home.

    Anyhow, any advice you could give would be great. We really don’t want to see him re-homed again.
    Thank you,

  10. i received my husky from my son after a year old i have worked very hard with him on many things but our home we live in does not have a fenced yard and he is on a lead that restricts him from certain areas but one of problems i am having with him is when people approach coming in the yard and he is familar with these people. they are playing outside and the ball comes in his area and when going to get the ball the dog bites the neighbor i was not there when the incident happened what can i do to stop him from being aggressive in this way i don’t want him to bite the kids next. He also always prays on the other animals one behind a fence and the other belonging to the neighbor he bit. I know he wants to be part of the fun and this causes him to be aggressive but he shouldn’t bite. please help

  11. I have recently gotten a 2yr old husky from our local shelter he has been adopted out 3 different times and brought back 3 different times all in all he is a good dog but does have attitude problems haven’t really been able to pin point the cause but has nipped at different people at different times he is very good around me and my wife but other people not so much and we have a 6 yr old boy and kinda makes us nervous with him and going to be having a baby also not sure what to do don’t want to get rid of him but my family is nervous around him because he nipped my sister and my mom just the other day but not the same time can you please help

  12. Unfortunately, many rehomed dogs will have a lot of issues due to lack of previous training. Also, you have to remember that this dog does not have any kind of relationship with you yet. In his eyes, you are just a human trying to take his stuff away from him.

    It sounds like this dog will require a lot of work to rehabilitate his behavioural issues. You may want to consider hiring a local behaviourist who give you hands on advice about how to help fix these issues.

    In the meantime, here are some articles containing advice on things you can use with this dog.

  13. I have a sib husky an we only had him a few weeks he’s 2 half he is food aggressive he chewing prastic toys an dummys an if you try an take them off him his fur stands up he shows his teeth an grawed an barks an tried to go for me an now he has taken control of the house he layed on the rug an guard it an I sat on my sofa an he went for me again cos every thing he thinks is his but it isn’t an don’t no what to to

  14. Eva, a muzzle should never be used a punishment for biting. Instead, a muzzle, when correctly used is nothing more than a tool to take away the opportunity for the biting to occur. And using a muzzle is not a long term fix for the problem of inappropriate biting. It is a short term temporary fix. The long term fix for this issue is giving the dog tools so it can make a more appropriate choice to deal with its fear and anxiety around a stressful situation. And also developing good leadership skills for you so the dogs looks to you to fix a problem, not taking the situation into her own hands.

    Also, check to see if how you are attempting to correct this problem is causing additional problems.

  15. Very helpful article. I have a two year old husky and 13 year old mixed dog.Got a new husky now.She is one year old and never lived with other dogs.She got on great with two digs (old us male and the 2 year old is female) but then she attacked both of them in separate times.Gave me an awful flight. I’m worried now that they won’t get on.

    • Well, Eva, unfortunately, adding new dogs to an existing group requires some thought and planning. Not all dogs get along well with each other. You say the new the dog never lived with other dogs. That means that she is also very likely missing socialization skills so she has no clue how to be able to handle living with other dogs.

      The reason she “got on great” with the other dogs and then attacked them is explained in the article that talked about the Honeymoon Period. In this first three weeks the new dog into the group is very reserved towards the new dogs but then makes a move to carve out and improve their social ranking within the group.

      You have to find a way to become a good consistently strong leader to this pack of dogs or they will be spend much time in fighting. :(

      You can begin by umbilicaling with the new dog to begin establishing a relationship with the new dog

      • Margit, thank you so very much for your valuable advise! I will do my best to make apack hhappy. Do you want think it is good idea to mussle the new dog for a few minutes after she attackes? I never used the mussle before.

  16. So how do I stop the aggressive behavior when it is another dog? I can’t remove him (being the trigger) from the home. He is our baby.

    • I am not sure I understand what you are asking. Is it the other dog that is being aggressive? Is one dog reacting to the aggressiveness of the other dog? One dog triggering the other dog? Both dogs need to be worked with to address their issues.

  17. I have the exact same problem I think it would be better if he got more exercise but because of how he acts I can not walk him with my other dog. I can’t handle two of them if strays run up to us. It seems there is nowhere you can go and not encounter a loose dog. Since I am one person with two dogs, they get walked one at a time. He has been on group hikes with other dogs and calms down after walking a bit.

  18. Love your articles i find them really informative and a great source of information, im just wondering if you could offer any advice on a problem im encountering when out with my husky. My husky is a rescue husky we have had since he was approximately 8 months old, 2 years later our frightened, destructive new arrival is a thriving contented dog… apart from when we are out on a walk , i always keep him on a leash and he enjoys his walks however several times other dogs who are not leashed have ran and approached him and his reaction is one of shouting and nipping these dogs, im really unsure how to progress, i have tried the approach you suggested with a friend and finding out at what point he gets stressed and the tension starts pretty much as soon as he sees another dog and he wont respond to any tangible rewards , prob due to the high level of arousal, i should point out we have another dog, a collie cross who lives with us and he is absolutely fine with him?

    • When your dog is leashed and reactive this is called Leash Aggresssion. There are tips for you in this article.

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