Siberian Huskies have very unique ways of expressing themselves, to say the least, but why are huskies so dramatic?
Huskies can be dramatic, or reactive, for many reasons. Reactivity usually comes from a place of fear or uncertainty, and unless it is dealt with properly through training it can be hard to resolve.
- What Does Reactive Mean?
- Why Huskies Are Dramatic (Reactive)
- Different Ways Huskies React
- How To Deal With A Dramatic Husky
- Concerned About A Highly Reactive Husky?
What Does Reactive Mean?
Reactive is the term used to describe dramatic behavior shown by huskies when they overreact to situations that other dogs would simply ignore.
For example, if your husky pulls on the leash when they hear a dog bark, or see a dog across the road, this is a type of reactive behavior. Another example would be if your husky starts to excessively howl if they hear a loud or unnatural noise when at home.
Why Huskies Are Dramatic (Reactive)
Not all huskies are reactive (or dramatic), it’s just that a lot of huskies can be.
It can be more common than in other breeds simply because huskies are so vocal and independent. They are also not particularly interested in pleasing their owners, which means they aren’t afraid to react how they want to.
Lack Of Training
Probably the most common reason for reactivity in huskies is a lack of training.
It can be difficult to know exactly how to reinforce the right type of behaviors, especially for beginners, which means that you may reinforce reactive behavior without realising it. We’ll get into the specifics of this later, don’t worry.
Lack Of Socialisation/Fear
If your husky isn’t introduced to a variety of different environments, people, animals, and situations throughout their life and particularly when they are young it can lead to reactive behaviors when they are put into those types of scenarios.
If they are suddenly thrust into a new environment they will develop fear as they are not used to it, which can quickly lead to reactivity.
Reactivity can also be influenced by genetics.
If your husky has reactive parents, there’s a good chance that your husky will inherit some of these traits. If you prefer to get a husky from a breeder you should always see the parents and ask about their behavior.
Reactivity And Aggression
Reactivity is often confused with aggression. This is because reactive behavior can quickly escalate into a scenario that may cause aggression, particularly if another dog is involved.
Luckily, huskies are not an aggressive or defensive breed whatsoever and are much more likely to just jump or run around.
It’s important to be aware of this though because your husky might be reactive towards an aggressive dog which can lead to trouble. Even if your husky is on a lead (as we recommend) it can still be dangerous for your husky if they are reactive towards aggressive dogs.
Different Ways Huskies React
Huskies can be reactive in many ways, but if they don’t typically show signs of aggression then what other reactive behaviors do they exhibit?
Howling Or ‘Talking’
Huskies are one of the most vocal breeds of dogs that you can find, so it should be no surprise they use their loud voices when displaying reactive behavior.
Facial Expressions And Other Body Language
Some huskies may show less severe reactive symptoms, such as tensing their face and focusing with their eyes on a distraction.
Their tail may become stiff and ears perked up when reacting to something unexpected.
Jumping Or Pulling On Lead
Jumping or pulling when on the lead is a common type of reactive behavior, most often when your husky sees another dog.
How To Deal With A Dramatic Husky
If your husky is very reactive it can quickly become a problem.
Here are a few ways to deal with this type of behavior:
Don’t Reinforce Reactive Behavior
Training a husky to not be reactive can be very challenging as it is very common for owners to reinforce the behavior without realising it.
Here are a few common examples to give you an idea of how easy it can be to reinforce dramatic or reactive behavior:
- If your husky starts to howl or bark (although less common) loudly in response to noise or another dog/human and you comfort them to try and get them to stay quiet. They will interpret this as praise for being reactive in the first place and continue to show this type of behavior.
- If you use treats to distract your husky when they are showing reactive behavior. This is one of the worst things you can do, as they will associate the reward of a treat with reactive behavior.
The solution to this is to address the reactive behavior properly. Issue a command such as ‘NO!’ or ‘Stop!’ (or whichever command you prefer) when they start to be reactive.
If they stop immediately you may reward them with a treat and carry on. This intermediate step is crucial in helping your husky understand what behavior you expect from them.
Use Positive Reinforcement For Calm Behavior
As you start to directly address reactive behavior, it’s also beneficial to positively reinforce the type of behavior that you want your husky to exhibit.
For example, if you are sitting watching tv and your husky is calm and relaxed, give them a small treat and some praise. Repeat this at different times when they are relaxed in your presence and you will reinforce the message that calm behavior is what you want.
Once they get comfortable with this you should notice that most reactive behavior will start to diminish. You can also use this in practical scenarios such as while on a walk; if your husky ignores another dog and continues walking, give them a treat (this assumes that previous behavior in this scenario was highly reactive and problematic, of course).
Meet Their Exercise Needs
Huskies have a very high energy drive and need a lot of exercise (ideally 2 hours per day).
If their exercise needs are not being met then reactive behavior will become more frequent, as they will use it as an outlet for their excess energy. It’s important to give your husky lots of mental stimulation alongside exercise as well in the form of puzzle toys. obedience training or playing games like fetch.
Address Separation Anxiety Problems
If your husky suffers from separation anxiety then they will clearly be very reactive when you get back home.
There are several steps you can take to deal with separation anxiety which you can read in our guide here. Making progress towards dealing with separation anxiety will help your husky to become less reactive or dramatic, especially when they are left alone for periods of time.
Get Them Used To Busy Places
Another way to help deal with reactive behavior is to expose your husky to scenarios where their behavior will be tested. This has to be done very slowly, of course, and you should start with even quieter places if your husky is particularly reactive.
Start by taking your husky to a dog park or dog-friendly area and sit with them in a quiet spot, if you can find one.
Distract them with a toy or treats and simply let them spend some time taking in all of the sights and noises. As they get more comfortable they will naturally become less reactive to the environment, which will translate to the home as well.
Concerned About A Highly Reactive Husky?
If you are concerned about your husky’s reactive behavior, we recommend getting in touch with a dog behaviorist.
They will be able to identify the triggers and teach your husky how to react to different scenarios. A great dog behaviorist can also equip you with the tools you need to deal with the behaviour yourself.
Reactive behavior may not seem this serious, but it can cause a lot of stress for both you and your husky and it can also become very dangerous if other dogs are involved.