Welcome back to another breed of the week. I told you recently that I’d get back to larger breeds soon (the most recent larger breed we looked at was the Dalmatian), so here we are, talking about the striking Siberian Husky. This is a dog that is very popular as a family pet, more than you may think. Personally, I think it’s due to a combination of their good looks, goofy personalities, and a prevalence of Huskies in shelters. But if these dogs are so popular as family pets, why are there so many needing homes? There is a reason for this phenomenon, which you’ll find out below. Let’s dive into this beautiful breed.
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Despite their appearance and reputation, the Siberian Husky is not a hybrid of a dog and a wolf. This breed is thought to have been developed more than half a million years ago, however! That makes the Husky one of the oldest recognized breeds in existence. As the name suggests, they were originally bred in Siberia and were bred to be working dogs. Their primary job was to pull sleds over long distances, and they continue to do that job even today in Arctic areas such as Alaska. However, even during their early years when they were basically the same as cattle, these dogs were always around the family, because it was the women of the Siberian tribes who were in charge of taking care of the dogs. This meant the dogs would be around children all day, so they became family pets as well.
Siberian Huskies didn’t actually show up in Alaska till the 1900s, where they were brought over to compete in the long-distance sled races. After being a big part of carting medicine and mail around Alaska during a particularly deadly winter in the 1920s, the Siberian Husky solidified itself as a breed worth noticing. They’ve since served as part of the military during World War II, and rank in the top 20 for favorite family pets according to the AKC.
Huskies are considered a medium to large breed dog. The average Husky stands between 20 and 23.5 inches tall and weighs between 35 and 60 pounds. Females tend to be slightly smaller than males, but not by much. They are very striking dogs that are frequently compared to wolves due to their thick coats, bushy tails, erect ears, and wolf-like faces. They tend to have similar coat colors to arctic wolves as well, usually appearing as white, silver, or grey, and often having some black in their coat as well.
Huskies have a very graceful gait and are known for being light on their feet. Their bodies are athletic under all that hair, built for speed and endurance. They tend to have very keen and interesting expressions and often have blue eyes. It is common to see Huskies with hetero chromatic eyes, meaning one eye may be a different color than the other, or one eye may have two different colors within the iris. This is typically not indicative of blindness – it’s just a cute quirk that makes these dogs even more striking.
Overall, the Husky has a very proper, proud posture, that makes their bodies look alert and ready to spring into action. Their coats are medium in length but very dense and tend to be smooth and soft.
Siberian Huskies are friendly, gentle, and above all – funny! These dogs are often called “goofy”, or thought to be “total hams”. They just have great senses of humor and a willingness to be silly. They don’t take life too seriously, and they are very smart and eager to please.
However, the personality of a Husky is pretty unique, which can make them a bit difficult to train if you rely on standard training methods. This is where many people get surprised by the Husky, and why there are so many showing up in shelters. Because they have been working dogs for so many millennia, it’s going to be very hard to get a Husky to not follow his instincts. What you may see as a destructive behavior, such as digging, he just knows as the best way to create a shelter from cold weather. Even if he already has shelter, this is an instinctual behavior that many Huskies just won’t avoid. They do tend to chase prey, and Huskies are also known for “wandering” – they were built for long treks across the wilderness, after all.
That isn’t to say that a Husky can’t be trained to be a great dog, but they need a lot more attention and work than your standard family pet. Consistency will be 100% the key with a Husky. You’ll need to choose your training method, whether it be clicker training, treat training, or some other method, and stick to it. Professional training is a very good idea with a Husky, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience training dogs yourself.
You should also be aware that Huskies are very vocal dogs. They don’t often bark, but they do howl, sing, and “talk” a lot. They whine and moan to get your attention, they make various “talking” sounds when they meet new people, and they howl whenever they feel like it. This makes the Husky less than ideal for apartment dwellers or for those who live in HOA neighborhoods that look down on loud dogs.
But as another plus, Huskies are very adaptable dogs, and they don’t tend to choose just one human to connect with. They’ll be great pets for a family, and they can move around with you and adapt to new routines pretty easily. If you travel a lot or live a mobile lifestyle, a Husky is a good choice for a companion. Don’t expect them to be good guard dogs, however. They will alert you to someone new, but they are too friendly to really be protective.
Huskies are actually a pretty healthy breed for the most part, but there are a few specific health concerns to watch out for (as with all purebred dogs). Those include:
Remember that it’s important to check that the breeder has been honest with you about the health issues of the parents and that they are willing to put you in touch with owners of previous litters from the same parents. You can check if eye issues or other health concerns are common among older siblings, which will give you a good idea of what to expect. In most cases, there are plenty of options that your vet can offer for the most common health concerns Huskies face, and they can go on to live long and happy lives.
Here’s one more reason that a Husky may end up in a shelter: they shed. And by shed, I don’t mean that you’ll have a bit of hair to vacuum up every day. I mean, get ready to be wearing just as much fur as your Husky on all your clothes, furniture, carpet, the inside of your car, and so on. Huskies shed like crazy, especially during the twice-yearly “blowing coat” process, which involves the dense undercoat being shed completely as the weather changes. You’ll feel like your house is covered in hairy snow, and don’t wear black pants unless you intend to rock that “dog mom” look for good.
You will absolutely need a daily routine that involves a shedding blade or an undercoat rake with a Husky. An occasional bath is necessary unless your Husky gets muddy often, and you may also want to trim around the feet to prevent dirt and mud being tracked into your house if your Husky is a digger.
Outside of the daily brushing to at least keep some of the shedding down, you don’t have to do a ton of grooming. Huskies don’t need regular haircuts (thanks to all that shedding), and they don’t tend to be smelly or messy dogs. They will need their nails trimmed regularly, usually every couple of weeks – however, if your Husky runs and digs outside a lot, they may need this much less frequently. Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is important for keeping your dog healthy.
Feed your Husky a high-quality dry dog kibble that is meant to support an active lifestyle. Huskies need plenty of exercise every day. At least an hour daily is best to keep your Husky from becoming bored and destructive. If you can give a Husky a job, especially one that involves pulling (even pulling the kids around on a sled in the winter), it will keep them out of trouble. If they are outside off a leash, they need to be in a secure area with a very sturdy fence.
Huskies make very good pets for children of all ages. They are tolerant, friendly dogs that love being around people. All dogs should be supervised around small children, but for the most part, you don’t have to worry about a Husky with your kids. There is one important note: When a Husky is eating, don’t allow children to approach him. With their strong instinctual behaviors, a Husky needs space when eating to avoid snapping or lashing out at any perceived threats.
Huskies are also usually great with other dogs, but socialization from a young age is important if you intend to have multiple dogs. This is more to teach your Husky the best way to behave, rather than to weed out any aggression. Huskies were meant to live in groups and work together, after all. Be aware that Huskies are often not good companions for pets that could be seen as prey, such as rabbits or small rodents that are allowed to roam freely in your home. Huskies do have a strong prey drive from their time spent in the wilderness of Siberia. Even small cats may be in danger from a Husky. If you want a Husky to be friendly with other animals, you’ll need to be sure they are raised with the animal from a very young age.
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At the end of the day, the Husky is a fun, goofy animal that makes a great family pet. There are plenty of reasons why they are one of the most popular breeds around. However, they do pose a bit of a challenge for training and can have a hard time overcoming certain instinctual behaviors. This, as well as a tendency to shed like crazy, make Huskies frequent candidates for being cast off in shelters.
It’s a shame because these dogs are really fantastic once trained properly. If you have a very active lifestyle, have plenty of time to offer consistent training to a dog, and love to be silly yourself, then you and a Husky will get along great. If you want a laidback family dog to play with your kids who will be affectionate and fun, a Husky could also be a good choice. But if you aren’t 100% sure you have the time and patience for a lot of training, be wary of adopting a Husky. It could end up being a headache for you both.
If you do decide you want a Husky, consider checking out a nearby shelter first. There’s a good chance you’ll find a purebred Husky just waiting for a good home.