Establish Leadership With Your Husky Using The Umbilical

Umbilical Training Husky

One of the biggest issues I see people having with their dogs is that a good solid foundation for to establish leadership. People gloss over this concept and try to skip straight to the “good stuff” of working on obedience cues thinking that will be how their dog will suddenly become well trained. Sadly, without a strong foundation, no matter what you try and build on it, it cannot stand up.

You must have a good solid foundation built of basic trust, mutual respect, and clear strong leadership BEFORE you can hope to progress on to teaching your dog other obedience cues. Huskies, especially, WILL NOT follow the cues of any owner who has not firmly established themselves as someone who is worthy of following. Without establishing solid leadership, if you cue a Husky, their response to you will always be,”Why should I? ”

Whether you are dealing with a young puppy that is just learning for the first time, re-structuring and re-establishing your relationship with your own dog, or trying to establish a relationship with a recently re-homed dog, establishing your position as leader is a crucial first step when it comes to training a dog, especially in Snow Dogs. Compliance in a dog can be solicited in a multitude of ways, not all of them necessarily good. Most owners lack the experience to be able to see the bigger picture of being able to determine how their actions today will impact their dogs and their behaviour tomorrow.

First, What Kind Of Trainer Are You?

The Lazy Guy

This guy knows that he should train his dog but always puts it off or just never gets around to it. He is usually really good about making excuses about why he is too busy or why his dog’s behaviour is out of control. He is really good at blaming other people and society for not accommodating his dog and its bad behaviours. Eventually these poor dogs just end up languishing chained up in a yard because they can no longer be successfully or safely walked, cannot be left in the house because they trash the place or disturb neighbours with their howling, and no person is safe to be around their boisterous out of control behaviour. Very often these poor dogs get dumped off at the shelter to become someone else’s problem unless they are one of the unlucky dogs whom no one wants, in which case they get euthanized. There is absolutely no way that a dog like this will comply to any cue given by its owner. It simply has no basis of understanding as to what is being asked of him.

The Laid Back Guy

His philosophy is that he does not like people telling him what do and when to do it so he applies his view to his dog too. This guy’s dog will never having to worry about being restricted by society’s oppressive rules. He lets the dog do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and however it wants. What this owner does not understand that he is not only setting himself up for having all his belongings and home completely trashed by his dog ( if your dog does not respect you, he does not respect your belongings either) but that this dog will never mind a single cue that he tries to give this dog. That leaves him open for all kinds of problems regarding having an out of control dog that will not mind his owner.

The Well Meaning But Uniformed Guy

This owner genuinely loves their dog and chooses to smother it with love, attention, and material possessions. These owners also allow their dogs to do whatever it wants because they want to be “best friends” with their dog. They mistakenly think that their dog will value the lack of limitations and restrictions placed on it. These are the owners who anthropomorphizes their dogs and attempt to apply human social rules to dogs and they are genuinely shocked the first time their dog challenges or bites them. They cannot see how their over indulgent behaviours have contributed to their dog’s aggressive or neurotic behaviours. These dogs will not follow cues give by these owners because the dogs do not see them as a leader or respect their authority over them. More precisely, these owners have no authority over their dogs in any way, shape, or form.

The “Because I Told You To Do It” Guy

This guy is determined to have a compliant dog. He wants to command his dog to do whatever he says and he does it using aversive and coercive means. He MAKES the dog comply through physical and emotional domination. If the dog does not comply, he punishes the dog through physical trauma ( hitting, alpha rolling, or using equipment that inflicts pain as punishment for non-compliance), by shouting or intimidating, or by breaking down the dog’s spirit. Just because the dog stops doing the behaviour in the moment does not mean that compliance has been accomplished. Compliance on the part of the dog must come from a WILLINGNESS to submit their will to a Leader. This cannot happen in a human/dog relationship where there is no trust bond.

These owners are also genuinely shocked when one day their dog suddenly bites or attacks them “out of the blue” and “for no reason”. These dogs are not compliant, stable, nor trust worthy. These dogs have been conditioned to do what has been demanded of them or suffer the consequences of doing so. These owners have developed a bond with their dogs but it is not a relationship bond based on trust or respect, it is based on fear and intimidation. It will be a very limiting relationship and it will not yield a dog that you can trust to be compliant.

The Well Balanced Dog Owner Guy

This owner understands how dogs think and what they value. He does what is best for this dog, not what makes him feel good in that moment. He recognizes that dogs have physical and emotional needs and strives to meet them. He understands that good consistent strong leadership skills are valued by dogs because strong leadership is equated with their safety and continued survival. He knows that good leadership helps to develop calm well balanced dogs because these dogs know what to expect from their environment and what their environment expects of them. No need for dogs to be anxious, uncertain, or afraid.

This owner communicates in a clear efficient way easily understood by his dog. He understands that in order for his dog to willingly submit to his leadership, he must first earn his place as a worthy leader in his dog’s eyes. This owner strives to base his relationship on mutual trust and respect. Compliance from his dog is earned. This dog is well balanced and complies to the cues given him by his owner.

In the case of Snow Dogs, the good Snow Dog owner has the wisdom to know to pick his battles carefully when it comes to his hard-headed willful Snow Dog. He knows to over-look the sloppy or slow to happen sit. He overlooks the fact that he had to cue his dog five times in order to get him to comply to the off leash re-call. This owner is wise enough to know that what is was more important than how FAST the dog complied to his cue, is to have gratitude because his Snow Dog willingly gave him compliance even though the Snow dog’s dog natural instinct was to run in the other direction. This kind of compliance only happens with strong leadership creating the foundation for a strong a Relationship Bond. Well done, Balanced Dog Owner Guy!

Laying The Foundations For Leading With The Umbilical

This technique teaches your dog:

  • That it does not get to choose its actions and behaviour. You, as the leader, choose what happens next.
  • It helps to form a bond between the owner and the dog. Whatever you do, you must do it together.
  • It shows the dog that it must look to you for clues as to what happens next for him.
  • About loose leash walking.
  • About balance within the dog/owner relationship.

The reason I like this technique so much is that no fancy equipment is needed. All you need is a six foot leash or waist leash, a hour of your time daily, and some patience.

To begin, affix the leash around your waist. This can be done by feeding the leash through the hand hold and creating a loop. Step into the loop and pull the waist up around your waist. You should now be wearing the leash like a belt. Then attach the clip of the leash to your dog’s collar. If you own a waist leash (which I highly recommend) then affix the waist leash around your waist and attach the clip to your dog’s collar. You are ready to start.

The Objective

The object of this training is for one hour every day for the minimum of several weeks, with the dog attached to you, go about your normal chores. Do laundry, clean the house, shovel the snow from the sidewalk … do it with your dog attached to your waist. DO NOT talk to your dog. DO NOT cue your dog. DO NOT walk around your dog. The objective is for your dog (eventually) to look at you for the clues as to what will happen next.

This is how you get the dog from doing what HE wants and doing what YOU want. It may seem silly and simple but when done consistently and correctly, it is the most powerfully effective attitude fixer-upper you will ever use to train your dog.

Be prepared at that first, that you will be tripping all over each other. It will look like the most uncoordinated dance that you have ever done with a partner. BE PATIENT. Do not alter what you are doing and how you are doing it. Do not step around your dog. Instead, (gently) walk through your dog. He will eventually get tired of being bumped into and will move with you. But best of all, he will stop thinking about what HE wants to do, he will start look at YOU and wondering what you want him to do. This is how a partnership or bond is formed between you and the dog.

As you notice that the dog is actively looking to you for his cues, you can mark the behaviour with a high value treat and a YESSSSS. When you stop moving and the dog automatically sits, mark and reward this behaviour because this will become the foundation for loose leash walking , for sitting before crossing the street, and even for teaching your dog not to bolt out an open door without you. You must have a good solid foundation to build on before you can move to these other more advanced cues.

Practice this technique until your dog offers:

  • No resistance to your movements,
  • Watches you to take his cues from you and your movements,
  • Moves with you effortlessly and consistently.

Adaptations

For young puppies, use shorter periods of time, but done more often throughout the day. Make sure you accommodate your puppy by moving very slowly and being very aware where your puppy is at all times so you do not step on small fragile paws. For puppies, you may want to adopt a shuffle walk instead of a stepping gait just to keep them safe during the experience.

For newly adopted rescues, you need a lot of patience. Some of them have no formal leash training and certainly no obedience training. Remember to check to see how you are feeling. Do not get angry or frustrated. Breathe.

For dominant dogs, be very careful of where your hands are when using this technique. Very often these dogs have learned to control their environment through biting or nipping so remember to keep your arms bent at the elbow 90 degrees with your hands in front at your mid section to keep your dog from biting your dangling fingers.

How To Use Tether To Teach Loose Leash Walking

Once you have practiced playing Follow the Leader inside, you are ready to move outside to master Loose Leash Walking with your dog. This is especially great for Snow Dogs because they are the worst offenders of trying to bolt ahead on the walk. You never have to worry bout the leash being jerked out of your hands again.

With your leash around your waist and clipped to your dog’s collar, place your dog on your left hand side. If your leash is twisted, adjust your waist leash so that the slack in the leash falls to your left (the same side as your dog is on). Your right hand should be held at your front mid section just as if you were holding the handle of a leash and your left hand should be ready to reach down to correct the dog should it become necessary. The dog’s walking position should always be at your left, never lunging in front of you, and never criss-crossing in front of you. The reduced slack in the lead makes keeping your dog near you much easier than with the use of a regular hand held leash.

Begin walking with your dog, and at the MOMENT that the dog tries to charge forward or out to the side, IMMEDIATELY do a pivot turn (turning 180 degrees) and begin walking in the opposite direction. At first do not cue the dog, just begin walking and let the dog catch up with you. Keep walking and pivoting every time the dog tries to pull you to where it wants to go. Be prepared that you will most likely end up covering the same 50 feet over and over again and your neighbours might begin to wonder about the strange behaviour. As you progress and the dog begins walking with you, start adding a high value treat to mark the compliant behaviour. You can also start adding some sudden stops to the walk.

As you begin to stop, reach out your left hand and place your palm against the resistance in the leash should your dog try to pull forward. Adjust your dog’s position to beside your left leg and wait for the SIT. Begin walking again and should you need to, pivot turn and bring your dog back to your side. Add more SITs to your walk.
As you progress, you can add the cues WITH ME when you begin moving and SIT when you stop. Make sure that you mark the behaviour with the addition of a high value treat and a verbal YESSSS.

Most of all keep practicing until your dog is moving with you consistently and synchronized with your steps.

As always we welcome your questions, comment, and stories. When we share our stories we may be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, I have a 1 year old husky. He is well behaved except that he recently started chewing furniture when we have been leaving him at home during the day. I am going to start this technique and was wondering if the hour can be split up between my wife, 9 year old daughter and myself?

  2. Hi , Just want to ask one thing.. during this training session/walk .. my understanding that i should just keep walking even if my dog stops to sniff around .. when do you give him pee or poo break time ? normally my dog would pull back or to the side to pee or to sniff and poo.. what should i do then??

    appreciate your help with that

  3. I apologize if this is a repeated question, I do not believe I saw the answer above. I have a 5 month old Husky puppy and while walking on a leash, he tends to just stop and sit. It becomes nearly impossible to move him after this point, he is dead weight. It has become a habit when a person, dog, car, bike, basically anything is coming towards him. We go to the dog park nearly every day, so he has been socialized around other dogs. That being said, we rarely sit outside a coffee shop to socialize him around people more, but do have people over a bunch. He is still very shy, especially around men. I am just curious if the umbilical method might change the stopping and sitting or if there is another method I should be using?

  4. I have a 3 year old rescued a year ago. He’s a Labradane. Very well behaved, non destructive. I hired a behaviorist to help with socialization. In 7 months she had taught him nothing but claims he may be “too intelligent “. She traumatized him and now I have even more work to do.
    The major problem is he has become increasingly more protective when people come into his territory at home. He had nipped at the ankles of most visitors, even after a long introduction and now has to be separated when other people are at the house. In public he walks perfectly beside me. I take him to the lake where there are distractions everywhere. He totally ignores other dogs, people, groups of cyclists, roller blades, joggers etc. when I ignore them too.
    I have already stopped over indulging him and make him earn his food, treats and food. He his banned from my bedroom and must sleep in his own room and crate until I let him out. I’m going to try the umbilical training ASAP. I hope we can correct this one really bad behavior. I don’t want to be without him or him without me. Any additional suggestions?

  5. My dog is a 5 year old male pit bull. I was the “guy” that worked alot and was gone from home on average 14 hours a day, my teenage boys had most of the interaction with the dog. Can I undo his behavior issues with this technique?

    • I hope so I’m having issues with my pit bull and am starting this method today, hes had free roam of the yard always and has become overly territorial of it. As well as likes to pull when walking (I think my son taught him to pull him on his skateboard now I can’t walk him as he pulls so hard!
      Best of luck; I’ll comment any results we have ! Let me know how you go 🙂

  6. My dog has shown aggressive gaurdyness over me at the dog park, interestingly only toward other huskies. He has been by my side everyday since 7 weeks old, training going pretty well. Do you think this technique has a high chance of teaching him that his job is to stay close and guard me while I go about my day? He is also part Chow Chow by the way.

  7. Day four trying this technique with a 2.5 year old stubborn 40kg male malamute. We do literally circles I look like a crazy neighbour. He pulls to pee he pulls to stare at cars, other dogs barking, cats, smells, other people, other dogs a block away being walked.. he Criss crosses constantly. He seems generally happy to do circles or to stand in one place forEVER without sitting or doing anything but standing there (with no slack in leash) and watching the world go by. He doesn’t seem to care.. he is very smart, he responds well to food for all other tricks and can do a lot of things but this guy has inherited all of the malamute stubbornness and independence in the world. He is VERY distracted and interested in everything but me, looking to me for cues, I feel like it’ll never happen. My patience is dyingggggg
    help 🙁

  8. For teaching loose leash walking, is this something I should be doing all of the time until he gets it? For example, should I only be teaching loose leash walking him using this method until he gets it or should I still take him on regular walks even if he is pulling? My dog is a 1 year old Border Collie and Malamute/Husky mix and I worry about his exercise needs.

  9. My dog is a 2 year old rescue mixed breed. She is overprotective of me and barks voraciously, shows her teeth and growls when I am home and people come over. She settles once they are here for awhile but I am really afraid she is going to nip or bite. After reading your article, I am sure it is because I showered her with love. She is such a love to me and my family, but not so much to outsiders and I don’t like that. Oddly, when I am not here, she reacts completely different when guests come in. Is she too old for this technique? We adopted her when she was 6 months old and you are correct, it got worse overtime.

  10. What do you do when the you clip the leash on the dog and it lays down and refuses to move? My Chihuahua will not stand or budge. Do I pull her as I walk until she decides to walk?

  11. I only know of 1 person who tried this technique and she said it was a miracle. The out of control dog did not like this in the beginning, but with every day practice he became a new different dog. I am going to try this starting tomorrow.

  12. I know you mostly talk about husky’s here but I have Malamute (bigger version) who is a puppy. You also mention the term “Snow Dogs” which does apply to him. Could I utilize this on him as well?

  13. Help. Our Huskey has been since 12 weeks old bully aggressive towards the doberman who was 8 weeks old. I had reached out to the breeder who made it seem normal behavior. I enrolled husky in basic and advanced training classes to occupy his mind plus 2 a day wslks. As the puppies are now 9 and 8 months old. Fights are happening. The doberman gets the brunt of the clashes and has many teeth scars from huskey. Huskey had one bite. I still feel he bullies and constantly bits face and ears of doberman when playing the a fight happens. It has caused our family much grief and decension. I’m at the point to gt rid of huskey or both dogs. I have read literature on the breeds. But iam done. I watch the body language but then I miss it. Any advice please.

  14. Gemma, I have recommended this technique so many times. When applied correctly and done diligently it can work wonders for taking a dog from ME thinking to WE thinking. Training is all about creating relationship and partnership with your dog. This helps to facilitate that connection. 🙂

  15. This is excellent! My Sibe is 7.5 months and is doing well but obviously still room for improvement. I like the umbilical technique and isn’t one I have come across before and I shall certainly be implementing it into the daily routine to see what improvements it makes. It’s always good to find new techniques 🙂

  16. Hi My husky walks perfect on lead she is now 4.5 years old and had since puppy. We have been through some turmoil to get where we are. She is very good off lead and recall very good for a husky. My only worry at the moment is that her heckles go up when meeting any other dog. Other dogs have gone for her a few times as I believe (or have been told) that it is difficult for other dogs to read a huskies face ?
    She has retaliated a few times and this worries me as my dog is usually the biggest and gets the blame and can cause the most harm. Any tips to overcome this.

    • Somehow I missed seeing this question. I apologize, Sue.

      To answer your question, the hackles go up because of rising excitement levels when she sees the approaching dog.

      Sometimes if huskies are especially worried, frightened, or just reactive they can set off other dogs because of the way they behave or feel so if she has been previously attacked, that might account for why. Of course now she fears another attack coming so is more afraid, nervous, or apprehensive. Sometimes these dogs are also not good at reading other dogs or they are not very good at sending out calming signals either. That can confuse or annoy other dogs.

      Your dog may need some help being fully comfortable around dogs. One of the best things that you can do is to use counter conditioning and desensitization techniques to help your dog change her mind about how she feels around other dogs. Right now the sight of another dog may be linked to anxiety, fear, or apprehension. You can help change this so that when she sees other dogs it will be associated with yummy treats appearing. Here’s how to use this method:
      https://www.snowdog.guru/fix-reactive-behaviours-huskies/

  17. This sounds like a great idea. I’ve recently adopted a 3ish year old husky, and he seems pretty happy with his home and new family now. I’ve been meaning to start training him, as we keep having some simple behavioral issues, like jumping and frantically running toward fun (even out the door twice), but I wasn’t sure of the best initial approach. This sounds like a great place to start. Thanks!

  18. Rachel, I can understand why this might sound like opposing ideas. Often when dogs are first adopted everyone fawns all over them all day long and then when the novelty wears off they can often feel abandoned and lost. While it is not a good idea to get a new dog overly attached to you by having them follow you around all day, umbilical involves having them attached to you for an hour or so a day. A much different situation from the dog who follows their owner around all day long. I would recommend that you allow the dog settle into the house routine. This may very from dog to dog, What you are looking for is tell tale a signs that the dog begins to anticipate the next event on their schedule. When the dog is comfortable in it’s environment, then you can begin umbilical in the house. For some dogs that means they are ready after a week, some dog’s if they are slow to settle in may take a month. Always take your cues from the dog.

    • Okay! That makes much more sense!

      Thank you! I’ll certainly be trying this out and will let you know how it goes!

  19. This sounds like a fantastic idea!
    However, I am a bit confused.

    In earlier articles it was discussed that you shouldn’t encourage a newly rescued dog to follow you around everywhere because it can lead to anxiety whenever you leave them alone. Here it certainly discusses having patience with your newly rescued dog during this exercise, but how long should you wait before implementing this “Follow the Leader” practice? I know it would only last for about an hour or so, but do you start the same day/week/month/whenever after rescuing/adopting you a husky from the shelter?

    Thank you!
    Rachel

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