Breed Profile: Siberian Husky

Breed Profile: Siberian Husky

Do you love the outdoors and cold climates? So does the Siberian husky! Find out if this is the right dog for you.

The Siberian husky is an active and pack-oriented dog that loves to run.

Breed

Siberian husky, aka husky or Siberians

Group

Working

Physical Description

Huskies are medium-sized working dogs that range from 20 to 23 ½ inches tall and weigh between 35 and 60 pounds. They have a thick, dense undercoat and a long, coarse top coat. Colors are usually black, brown, white or a mix with varying head markings. The eye color varies but is usually blue.

Origin

The Siberian husky was bred in Northeast Asia on the Siberian peninsula. The Chukchi tribe bred them to be sled dogs and carry small loads over long distances in arctic weather. They were bred with speed and stamina in mind and thick coats to protect them from the cold. Their endurance and speed reserved energy, and they required little food on long journeys. This unique metabolic ability can be turned on and off based on the physical demands and is said to be a puzzle to the medical world.

The All-Alaska Sweepstakes is a 400-mile dogsled race that started in 1908 in Alaska. In 1910 huskies were imported and entered into the race that averaged 80 hours in total journey time. The husky team won the race in record time and kept the record until 2008. These dogs were fascinating because of their speed and endurance, and their popularity in the United States soared.

The Siberian husky received more attention in 1925 by running a medical mission. There was a diphtheria outbreak in Alaska, and the town was closed off from transport to bring in the much-needed medication. The huskies were used to meet the nearest train and return to deliver the life-saving medicine to residents.

After word spread of the heroic mission, huskies were invited to compete in sled races in the New England area. The abilities and temperament of the breed won people over and established firm roots in the United States. The AKC recognized the breed in 1930. The breed also participated in Antarctic expeditions and served in World War II in the Army’s Arctic Search and Rescue unit.

The word “husky” in the name comes from the nickname “Esky” that was used for Eskimos and their dogs. According to the Siberian Husky Club of America, the Siberian husky is the only recognized breed with “husky” in the name.

Purpose

Huskies are companion animals, competitive show dogs, sled racers and therapy dogs. They love to seek, making them excellent search and rescue dogs, and their endurance allows them to search for longer periods in harsher conditions. As therapeutic animals, huskies visit the sick or elderly or perform as guide and service dogs.

Temperament

Huskies are friendly, outgoing, alert and not overly possessive or suspicious. They are agreeable companions and willing workers that generally fare well with everyone. They do have a strong predatory instinct, however, and should never be left alone with small animals. Even huskies raised with cats have been known to injure or kill them without provocation years later.

Huskies also like to dig — a lot! Regular exercise is needed to expel energy, and you need to give them an area designated for digging; otherwise they will take it out on your backyard or your interior furnishings. Huskies prefer cold climates and are pack-oriented, making them a great family pet.

The good news is, huskies can be trained. They learn commands just as any average dog does, but their pack-oriented mindset demands they be given a leader. Be firm and consistent in training; huskies are also known to be intelligent and stubborn if you let them set the rules.

Exercise Needs

Huskies are very active dogs that need room to play and run. They should be walked daily or have a large area to run around in to play or run off excess energy. They have quick movements and a graceful stance but are prone to health issues with their hips. As these dogs age or begin to experience hip problems, their exercise needs may decrease.

Huskies don’t bark much, but when bored they reportedly have a howl that can be heard up to 10 miles away. Keep this in mind if you think about skipping playtime! They are also excellent escape artists and will find a way out of the yard or an open door before you can blink.

Grooming Requirements

Siberian huskies have a double coat that needs regular maintenance. They shed regularly and can blow their coats once or twice a year. Expect to spend an hour or more every week for brushing to reduce shedding. The fur can become matted, so this is not a step to skip. The fox-shaped tail should also be brushed regularly. Check the eyes and nose for any discharge on a regular basis and trim nails as needed.

Common Health Problems

Hip and eye problems are common in huskies. Hip dysplasia occurs when the top of the thigh bone does not fit into the pelvic joint socket properly. This disorder can affect males and females and ranges from mild to severe. Ask to see the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) registry papers of the mother and father if obtaining the dog from a breeder. The percentage of huskies with this ailment have been decreasing over the years, but it is still a possibility.

Eye defects are hereditary and can include juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy or progressive retinal atrophy. Some effects are minor and others can cause loss of vision, so ask to see an eye examination report on the dog.

Is the Siberian Husky the Right Dog for You?

Huskies are lovable, family-oriented dogs with a lot of energy. Small apartments are not ideal to satisfy their need to run and play often, and your furniture might pay the price for small quarters! Huskies are also fast dogs with strong predatory instincts; they should always remain on a leash if small animals are within the same area. They can be trained but might be a little stubborn; patience is rewarded with devotion and affection. If you have the time for weekly brushing, daily walks and enough space for running and playing, the Siberian husky could be a great addition to your family.

Photo: Ritmo/Flickr

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