The Siberian Husky is a beautiful dog breed with a thick coat that comes in a multitude of colors and markings. Their blue or multi-colored eyes and striking facial masks only add to the appeal of this breed, which originated in Siberia. It is easy to see why many are drawn to the Siberian’s wolf-like looks, but be aware that this athletic, intelligent dog can be independent and challenging for first-time dog owners. Huskies also put the “H” in Houdini and need a fenced yard that is sunk in the ground to prevent escapes. Overview The Siberian husky combines power, speed and endurance, enabling it to carry a light load at moderate speed over a great distance. It is moderately compact, slightly longer than it is tall, and of definite Northern heritage. It is quick and light on its feet, with a smooth and effortless stride exhibiting both good reach and drive. It has a double coat of medium length, with a soft, dense undercoat and a straight, somewhat flat-lying outer coat. Its expression is keen but friendly, interested and even mischievous. Fun-loving, adventurous, alert, independent, clever, stubborn, mischievous and obstinate — all describe the Siberian husky. This breed loves to run and will roam if given the chance. It may be aggressive toward strange dogs, but it is generally good with other household dogs. In fact, it is a very social dog that must have human or canine companionship. It may chase strange cats or livestock. Some howl, dig and chew.
Breed standards AKC group: Working UKC group: Standard Average lifespan: 12 – 14 years Average size: 35 – 60 pounds Coat appearance: Thick and dense, can withstand -58 to -76 degrees F Coloration: Black to pure white, variety of markings Hypoallergenic: No Other identifiers: Strong, compact body; head proportionate to body; erect, triangular ears; oval-shaped eyes vary between blue, hazel and brown depending on coat color; nose is black or pinkish depending on coat color; curved tail; snowshoe paws have hair in between pads for protection from cold Possible alterations: May have a long-haired, wooly coat; some dogs have one blue eye and one brown Comparable Breeds: Akita, Alaskan Malamute
Depending on your climate, Siberian Huskies are generally low shedders except during the times of year when they blow their coat, meaning they drop large amounts of hair all at once. This happens roughly twice a year, more if you live in warmer climates, and when it does, the breed becomes a heavy shedder for about a three-week stretch.
Siberian Huskies are not recommended for apartment living, but some do quite well in apartments if they are properly trained and exercised.
Siberian Huskies are known escape artists and have been known to wander away and disappear. They can jump fences, break tie-out chains, slip collars and find any other way to escape. They need a high fenced yard and the fence should also be buried several inches below ground to prevent the Husky from digging his way out.
Siberian Huskies can be very destructive both inside and out. If they are left uncrated inside, the breed can destroy a house and cause a wide variety of damage. Outside, they enjoy digging and will dig up yards and flower gardens alike. A dog that is given a place to dig in the yard is much happier and so are you.
While they enjoy howling, Siberian Huskies rarely bark and they will not alert bark if someone comes onto your property. This makes them an unsuitable watchdog. The rap on Huskies is that they would aid a burglar before posing any threat.
Siberian Huskies are not a breed for the new or timid owner. They need a strong owner who will maintain an alpha position in the home. They need obedience training from a young age and can be a difficult and stubborn breed to train.
Siberian Huskies are very curious and can become injured or lost while they are exploring something new.
Affectionate and good natured describes the Siberian Husky. Generally, they do well with children although young children should never be left alone with any breed. They also get along with people and do well in homes with multiple dogs.
Siberian Huskies were bred to need very little food to survive. This still applies today and the Siberian Husky does not need a high level of calories per day. It is important to ask your Siberian Husky’s breeder what they recommended for a serving helping and to follow their advice.
Huskies cannot be allowed to run off leash during walks. They will run away and will also chase other small animals.
Due to their beauty, Siberian Huskies are one of the most wrongly purchased breeds around. Many do not take into consideration their temperaments and particular quirks and are often left with an unruly, albeit beautiful, dog. Many Siberian Huskies are either lost, killed, or given to shelters due to uninformed owners. If you are thinking of purchasing a Siberian Husky, take a lot of time learning about the breed. Visit some Siberian Husky breeders or shelter dogs, read books, talk to other owners and possibly foster if you feel you can. If after all your experiences, you feel you still want a Siberian Husky, take the time to decide on whether you should adopt a rescue or a puppy. Follow your breeder’s advice and remember that this beautiful dog will make your life an adventure and not always a good one.
To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Did You Know?
The Disney adventure movie “Eight Below” is based on the true story of the 1957 Japanese expedition to the South Pole and stars six Siberian Huskies.
Is this breed right for you?
Sweet by nature and friendly to all people, the Siberian Husky isn’t much of a watchdog, but he is a gentle soul. Requiring cool weather due to his winter coat, it’s best that he does not live in warm climates. Shedding only twice a year, the Siberian Husky makes for a good inside dog. He requires a good amount of physical activity and does best with a larger fenced-in yard. Doing best with specialized training, he requires a master that is firm with him. Needing a lot of attention and socialization, a lonely Siberian Husky is known to howl and become destructive. Avoid any such issues by partaking in physical activity prior to leaving him alone. Excelling with other Siberian Huskies around, he can learn to enjoy other breeds if he is raised with them.
The Siberian Husky is not a dog-wolf hybrid. The original dog was developed about half a million years ago by the Chukchi people in Siberia. He was a working dog who pulled heavy sleds over long distances. The Chukchi tribe lived inland and had to travel to the sea to hunt. They needed a way to get a full sled of walrus meat back home. A sledding dog was just the answer. The Chukchi women took care of the dogs, so the dogs were always around children.
In the early 1900s, the dogs were brought to Alaska to compete in long-distance races, notably the All-Alaska Sweepstakes. Known as Siberians after their homeland, they gained fame for their sledding capabilities and began to be used to deliver mail as well as race.
The Siberian Husky’s greatest feat came in 1925 when people in Nome, Alaska, suffered a diphtheria epidemic in the middle of winter. Antitoxin was needed desperately. A long-range relay of about 20 mushers brought the antitoxin from Anchorage to Nome in six days, nearly 700 miles in temperatures that hovered around 40 degrees below zero. The run brought fame to the breed.
Siberian Huskies were used on the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions, as well as in the U.S. Army’s arctic search-and-rescue efforts during World War II. Many Siberian Huskies were assembled and trained at Chinook Kennels in New Hampshire for use on the Byrd Antarctic Expedition beginning in 1928. Siberians also performed gallantly in the Army during World War II as part of the Air Transport Command’s Arctic Search and Rescue Unit.
Today the Siberian is still famous as a great sled dog who can win races, but he’s also a terrific family pet and companion. He ranks 18th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club.
Siberian Huskies are pack dogs, and they need an owner who is the clear leader of the pack. This makes training easier because you will find that your dog respects you, but don’t be surprised if he tests the limits of your position in the pack and tries to take control from time to time.
When this happens, it’s important not to give into their pushiness. Assert yourself as leader — not by bullying or hitting — but by confirming the ground rules with clarity and consistency.
Making your dog wait to eat is one of the best ways to establish your leadership role. The Husky will view you as the keeper of all valuable resources — food, treats, toys and other canine assets.
This high-energy breed can be destructive both indoors and out — especially when bored or not given adequate exercise. They will demolish a house if they are left alone and there has even been a case of a Siberian Husky chewing through a cement wall.
They will dig up flower gardens and yards alike, but they can be trained to dig in a specific spot in the yard. It is better for everyone if you merely teach your dog to dig in one spot instead of trying to break him of that habit.
Nonetheless, they can be quite charming with their mischievous and playful nature. They are also quite social and love to show off their talents.
Siberian Huskies do not bark — that’s the good news. Here’s the bad: they do enjoy howling, which can be very frustrating for your neighbors. Unless you have a properly trained and well-exercised Siberian Husky, they do not make ideal pets for apartments.
Another caution: although Huskies are adored for being friendly and gentle, they make lousy watchdogs. Unfortunately, they are not overly suspicious of strangers, including burglars. The fact is that they tend to love everybody.
Temperament doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who’s available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Siberian Huskies need early exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Siberian puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Children and other pets
Huskies make great pets for households with children. They can be very tolerant of children, but like all other dogs, should be supervised when around young children.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Siberian Huskies do get along with other dogs but it is still important to take your puppy to socialization classes. This gets them used to other dogs and also to people, although they are also very affectionate to strangers. Socialization teaches puppies how to behave and greet other dogs and their owners.
Keep in mind the history of this breed. The harsh conditions in Siberia created a strong prey drive in this breed because food was often hard to find. As a result, many Huskies today maintain that prey drive toward small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, and cats. Some Huskies, however, thrive in multi-pet households, especially when they are raised with other pets from puppyhood.
A 1999 ASPCA publication gives the life span of the Siberian Husky as 12 to 14 years. Health issues in the breed are mainly genetic, such as seizures and defects of the eye (juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, canine glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy) and congenital laryngeal paralysis. Hip dysplasia is not often found in this breed; however, as with many medium or larger-sized canines, it can occur. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals currently has the Siberian Husky ranked 155th out of a possible 160 breeds at risk for hip dysplasia, with only two percent of tested Siberian Huskies showing dysplasia.
Siberian Huskies used for sled racing may also be prone to other ailments, such as gastric disease, bronchitis or bronchopulmonary ailments (“ski asthma”), and gastric erosions or ulcerations.
Modern Siberian Huskies registered in the US are largely the descendants of the 1930 Siberia imports and of Leonhard Seppala’s dogs, particularly Balto. The limited number of registered foundational dogs has led to some discussion about their vulnerability to the founder effect.
Siberian Huskies need to be exercised 30 to 60 minutes daily to keep them from becoming bored. They make excellent jogging companions, but should not be exercised in hot weather. Surprisingly, they need only a small (but secure) backyard to expend their energy.
Bottom line: Siberian Huskies need to be working to stay happy. Usually just maintaining your own active life through hiking and other outdoor sports will keep you Siberian Husky healthy, happy and out of trouble.
As mentioned earlier, training is a must with this breed and you may want to invest in more advanced obedience classes. This can be difficult for many owners and trainers as the breed is very intelligent and will determine the difference between classes and home.
They will behave wonderfully at class, following all instructions and commands, but at home they may revert back to the stubborn dog that stole your heart. This can be frustrating, but you will find that patience, time, and a little of your own stubbornness will pay off.
Crate training is an important tool that is often recommended by breeders. It keeps you dog and puppy safe and also gives them their own safe haven to retreat to when they are feeling overwhelmed or tired. A crate should never be used as a punishment.
Leash training is also a must as Siberian Huskies should never be left off leash when they are not in a fenced area. They love to run and will do so without any thought of how far away you are. You can easily lose your Siberian Husky if he decides to chase something or simply enjoy a heartfelt run. Siberian Huskies do have a high prey drive and that is another reason why they should be leashed during walks.
The Siberian should look “well furred” according to the breed standard, and indeed he does. He has a medium-length double coat. The soft, dense undercoat is topped with straight guard hairs that lie smooth. That double coat means that the Siberian sheds. Oh, yes, he sheds. He sheds throughout the year; once or twice a year he undergoes a process called “blowing coat,” which is just what it sounds like. During this period you may feel that it is snowing gray and white hair. A shedding blade or coat rake will become your best ally.
That said, the Siberian is actually pretty easy to groom. Outside of shedding season, brush him occasionally with a slicker brush to remove dead hair. Trim the hair between the foot pads. That’s all. A bath is almost never necessary. The Siberian is a very clean dog with little to no odor.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually every week or two if he doesn’t wear them down naturally with all his running around. Brush his teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Siberians gained in popularity with the story of the “Great Race of Mercy,” the 1925 serum run to Nome, which made dogs Balto and Togo famous. Though Balto is the more famous of the two, and was the dog to deliver the serum to Nome after running the final 53-mile leg, it was Togo who made the longest run of the relay, guiding his musher Leonhard Seppala on a 91-mile journey that included crossing the deadly Norton Sound to Golovin.
Several purebred Siberian Huskies portrayed Diefenbaker, the “half-wolf” companion to RCMP Constable Benton Fraser, in the CBS/Alliance Atlantis TV series Due South.
In 1960, the US Army undertook a project to construct an under the ice facility for defense and space research, Camp Century, part of Project Iceworm involved a 150+ crew who also brought with them an unofficial mascot, a Siberian Husky named Mukluk.
Siberian Huskies are the mascots of the athletic teams of several schools and colleges, including Northern Illinois University (Northern Illinois Huskies), the University of Connecticut (Connecticut Huskies, Jonathan) and University of Washington (Washington Huskies, Harry).
A dream day in the life of a Siberian Husky
The Siberian Husky loves to wake up at the crack of dawn ready for action. Bred to work, he’s ready to pull sleighs and tromp in the snow for hours on end. Needing only a moderate amount of food, he’ll continue engaging in play or running with his master until the day has ended. Visiting with neighbors and anyone who comes to the house, the Siberian Husky enjoys socialization. Ending his day cuddled at the foot of the bed, he’ll be happy to have spent his day with his master.