Soft Siberians


  • My soft Siberian was described as one who was fearful of certain people (known and unknown) in familiar and unfamiliar situations. These are some of the things I did to help him and therefore, myself.
  • Get your Siberian into an obedience class. Do this at any age. It is good for (re)focusing and socialization. Discuss the softness of your Siberian with your trainer beforehand so s/he can help target training towards this particular issue.
  • An agility or rally class will build self confidence in your Siberian and you! Start the class at the same time or once the obedience class is completed. Your Siberian takes many cues from you (most are at a level you are even unaware of!), so you need to feel comfortable and confident, as well. All three (3) of these classes will help both of you! A soft Siberian can be non confident for a variety of reasons. Unless you are breeding and it appears to be a genetic issue, I’d move on…
  • Deal with the behavior(s). You’ll go nuts trying to analyze why s/he is shy around certain people and not others~certain situations and not others. In the end, you still need to deal with the behavior(s). *Boy, did I have trouble with this as I LOVE to analyze everything, but in this instance, it only took up valuable time.*
  • Use “high end” edible treats for rewarding appropriate behavior. Don’t use the everyday stuff! Use things s/he will really love and want to work for-meat, cheese, the good stuff! I use clicker training and positive methods. Clicker training lets the Siberian have an auditory reinforcement at the exact moment when their behavior is something I want them to repeat. Also, vary your reinforcers~ you can also use squeekers, tennis balls, noise makers and fuzzy toys of various kinds…whatever is reinforcing for your Siberian.  Change them out often. Do your best to make it fun and surprising. Your Siberian will reward you by doing what you want to see.
  • Teach your Siberian a repertoire of “things” (tasks) to do. These should be the easy every day to day things ie. sit, lay down, shake, look at me, touch palm (of hand), touch (back of hand). Require him to do these outside of his “safe area” (the house-the yard). By making him do his usual (comfortable) things in an unusual (uncomfortable) place, you’ll train him to focus his mind on you and his task. You are also changing only 1 variable (the place) and keeping 1 thing stable (the task). This will increase the probability of success. Success leads to increased confidence. Add additional tasks (that s/he has already mastered in their safe area). Add new places slowly as your Siberian can handle them.
  • When s/he acts in a way you want to discourage, give NO positive or negative reinforcement. Don’t look at your Siberian, don’t talk or touch him/her. If possible….totally ignore your Siberian, even though it will be hard to do. Siberians don’t like to be ignored and are smart enough to realize that s/he will have to make the first move (which is what you want). Negative reinforcement is rewarding in its own right to a Siberian.  Sometimes you have to intervene in serious situations. Then, do only what is necessary and keep yourself under control. Pick your battles, as “they” say. Ignore when you feel you can, intervene when you feel you have to! *This is SO much about training ME as it is about training my Siberian!*
  • Don’t force your Siberian to be touched or given a treat. Treat only the behavior you want repeated. If you treat (or try to force treat) when he is fearful, you are reinforcing the fearful behavior.
  • Start little and work up. Keep training sessions short and always end on a positive note, no matter how small. Ideally, you want (and absolutely need) him/her to have lots of short, positive experiences and I mean LOTS!
  • Go to public places (quieter parks (not high energy, busy dog parks), large store lots, grocery store lots) at off hours. Take a walk around (this is of the utmost importance!), then just sit on those benches and relax with your Siberian. The *goal is to have your Siberian become comfortable. Start by letting him/her see you being relaxed and comfy in public places. Adjust your time. Leave when s/he acts appropriately (sits calmly, lies down, tail relaxes, not on “high alert”, and any other signs that you recognize as your Siberian “crisis” signals) then, come back another day to a different spot. Feel free to bring that clicker and those high end treats/reinforcers to give occasionally when s/he shows some relaxation and you see what you want. Remember, leave on a positive note…don’t overstay. You need lots of short and positive experiences. Don’t stay so long as to have a negative experience. AND, if by chance, you do have a negative experience, don’t throw up your hands in dismay and quit–pull yourself together and start fresh the next day. Siberians have a wonderful way of working and living in the now. We, as trainers and owners, need to do that as well.
  • You need to be relaxed, comfortable and a good leader. Training yourself to be a good leader probably will take time and energy. It is not for the faint of heart! Examine your own behavior and make sure you are rewarding only the behavior you want.
  • Consistency~this is something that you’ll have to work on day to day. Don’t allow a behavior one day and let it slide the next. If you do this, you are confusing your Siberian.  Families must work together, as well. Your Siberian relies on your consistency and knowing what to expect from you (AND each member of your family) everyday and every time!
  • Talk with others in the know and get their input. Read…Use what fits into your program and what is right for you, your Siberian and your situation. With me and my situation, I was selective. I used what was right for me and did not use what I deemed inappropriate for my situation. I do not think there is a “one size fits all” answer.  Pick and choose wisely. If one thing doesn’t work, don’t throw out the entire program, and quit…only adjust. “The only thing constant is change.”, as my mom always said, so feel free to change/adjust as needed for your situation and Siberian. However, change 1 thing at a time and give each change time to see if it helps. This is about learning trigger points in your Siberian, intervening early and training YOU to respond only to desired behavior.
  • Think of this as having 1 long term goal and many short term objectives (necessary to reach that long term goal). The long term goal will take a while to reach, but consider the short term objectives as baby steps in reaching that goal. Feel good about every baby step reached! Each objective is an important step for both you and your Siberian.
  • In my experience, there is no “miracle”, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! It worked for me and my guy…wasn’t a cake walk, but absolutely well worth it in the end! Kaho was the 4 legged proof!  You can ask everyone who knew him!!