The Siberian Husky is without a doubt, one of the most impressive looking dogs on this planet. Their wolf-like appearance will turn heads wherever they go. Studies of canine DNA have proven being in the Spitz family; they are among the oldest domesticated breeds.
Originating in Eastern Siberia, this dog was bred to work in harsh conditions and seems to thrive the harder they are driven. Surprisingly, they were also cherished family pets, which may explain why even today, they are so naturally drawn to and interact so well with children.
They were brought to Canada and the United States during the Gold Rush era, to transport miners and supplies to areas where other pack animals could not survive. They have also been used by the military for search and rescue missions, under the most inhospitable frigid conditions.
A medium size dog, they normally weigh 60-70 pounds. What surprises most about them is how little they eat. Bred to survive on little rations, they are economical as far as the grocery bill is concerned.
It has been said, "The eyes are the window to the soul." Huskies have striking eyes! They range from tawny to brown, from ice blue to deep, dark blue and any combination there of. When a Husky looks at you, souls meet.
This is a dog that hates to be left alone. A card-carrying pack animal, the Husky wants to be with their pack, be it human or canine. They as a rule get along well with other dogs. However, when left alone or bored, if they have an ounce of energy they will get into trouble. You can take that to the bank! It is highly recommended that until they mature and prove they can be trusted, they should be crated when you leave the house.
Start crate training when they are young. Most dogs instinctively love the den-like security crates offer. It also provides them with their own private space to retreat to, when they feel the need to be alone.
Don't think you are going to leave this dog in the backyard alone either. They will easily scale a 6-foot fence, or dig a hole under it. Once they are out, they are gone! This is not a dog you can let off lead in an unsecured area. Unless your dog is phenomenally trained to respond to recall immediately, they will vanish right before your eyes. On your best day, you will never catch them. Most are not that good about finding their way home! Since they usually lack street smarts, too many become the unfortunate victims in the incidences of dog vs. car. Getting lost is also one of the reasons why they end up as strays in shelters.
It's wise to have your Husky micro-chipped. That way you can be contacted, should they be found.
Huskies are intelligent, but they can also be unbelievably obstinate. Due to that block, they are not the easiest dog to train without help. Trainers constantly hear owners bemoan about their dog's Jekyll and Hyde behaviors. "Why is he/she so good in class, but at home...?" The answer is quite simple. A Husky will instinctively follow the strongest leader. If they sense a lack of leadership at home, they will have no respect for you. As a fundamental survival instinct they will take over you, your family, the house, the yard and if they could drive, the car too! They often behave like little angels in class, because they instinctively sense the leadership the trainer is projecting.
Dogs learn by association, but the Husky takes it to the max. They are known for keenly watching and imitating what their family does. They have been found opening doors and gates. Owners have claimed they have seen their dog try to follow them up a ladder or open the refrigerator. Never let your pet watch you dig in your garden. Much to your chagrin, you will find them "helping" you every chance they get.
This is a dog that should have positive reinforcement, punishment free Puppy Kindergarten and socialization group classes at the earliest age possible. It is easier to train them before the "stubborns" set in. In addition, they should have frequent "refresher" obedience classes and daily obedience drills for life. With a Husky there is to be "no free lunch." They must be made to work for everything. Ironically, being working dogs they thrive on the challenges and rewards for their hard work.
As a way to establish and maintain your leadership status, always make your Husky wait. They should wait for you to enter and exit the house. They should be fed after you eat. They should be made to wait until told to "load up" when getting into the car, and told to "wait" until you release them to get out of the car. You will be surprised at how well behaved and respectful they respond if you follow the "no free lunch" method fairly, firmly and consistently.
Obedience training and lots of socialization is important for them to peacefully co-exists with smaller pets. They are powerful. Supervision is a must when they play with children or smaller animals. They can get rough when they get carried away. They have a high prey drive. Anything that moves, children, other dogs, cats, squirrels and even you, are fair game. Your skills as a leader will be tested.
Ask Husky owners to describe their dog and you will hear: affectionate, silly, loving, independent, great with kids, busy, stubborn, happy, friendly, will-full, agile, loves everyone, lousy watchdog, too friendly, never gets tired, tenacious and did we mention mulish? Because of their unbelievable stamina, they do need an active person or family. They are not couch potatoes! If bored, they may eat the couch.
Normally, they are not the easiest dogs to housebreak. It will take lots of patience, but eventually they do get the message.
Capable of surviving temperatures as low as -70 (F) degrees, Huskies are happiest in colder climates. Even though their dense, double coat acts to both heat and cool them, they prefer the cold. When you exercise or jog with your dog, it has to be done in the coolest parts of the day.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! This is an animal that needs more than most dogs. If they do not get sufficient exercise, they will develop serious behavioral problems. They would love nothing more than a long, brisk walk or jog and about an hour of interactive playtime with you twice a day. If you cannot commit to that, this is not the dog for you.
Grooming their dense double coat is work! To provide them with protection from sub-zero temperatures, that thick undercoat and softer topcoat serves as insulation. Their undercoat is almost impenetrable. Many owners have their pets professionally groomed twice a year, when shedding is heaviest. In-between, they will need to be seriously brushed out at least weekly. Expect huge balls of fur! Break it up and toss it outside; birds love it for their nests.
Their snowshoe feet, with long hair between the pads and toes needs to be checked often for burrs and hitchhikers. Otherwise you will find your dog frantically gnawing on them.
A fairly healthy breed, most of their health problems are genetic. For that and to get a dog with a sweet temperament, it is strongly suggested to find responsible, trustworthy breeders. Some of the most common health issues are with those beautiful eyes! They are prone to Corneal Dystrophy, cataracts, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Some suffer from a skin condition called Zinc Responsive Dermatitis. There is also a chronic lung condition, referred to as Bronchial-pulmonary Disease.
Their average life span is 12-15 years.
It cannot be stressed enough, this is not the right dog for an inexperienced or meek owner. Even those with years of experience, will sometimes find themselves nose-to-nose, toe-to-toe with their Husky. It may be true they deem the older they get, the dumber we get.
Bottom line: Do your homework. Research the breed. Talk to Husky owners. This is an awesome pet for the right person or family. The entire family will have to provide indisputable leadership. Because they can be pig-headed, destructive and that propensity to run away; the Husky is one of the most surrendered or picked up breed by animal control. Be sure you are ready for the challenges they will pose, before you both end up with broken hearts. Run; do not walk away from puppies at pet stores, classified ads and flea markets. They only perpetuate horrifying puppy mills and sloppy, inexperienced backyard breeders. It may cost a bit more, but a reputable, responsible breeder is your best bet for a healthier, happier dog. If you cannot afford a good breeder, check with shelter and rescues. Odds are, on any given day they will have a more than few Huskies anxiously awaiting a forever home. You just may find your new best friend waiting for you.