Is the Siberian Husky the Dog for You?

Is the Siberian Husky the Dog for You?

The piercing blue eyes and wolfish looks of the Siberian Husky have made them a popular pet. They can be found all over the world, living in apartments, urban houses and rural farms. The breed has not changed too much over the years, but it’s environment certainly has. This can sometimes cause a problem when new owners are overwhelmed by their habits. While it’s easy to fall for their good looks, read on to find out if the Siberian Husky is a good fit for your family.

Breed History

The Siberian Husky is an incredibly old breed (some believe it could be as old as 4,000 years!) that was bred for a very specific function. The Chukchi (meaning “reindeer people” in Russian) needed a dog that could survive temperatures of -50 degrees C, survive on very little food, and pull a sleigh swiftly over long distances for multiple days. The Siberian Husky was the result of their careful breeding.

In the 1900s, the breed started to gain popularity outside Siberia, as word of their incredible speed and endurance spread throughout the world from sled dog races. Then in 1925, the legendary Balto helped Leonhard Seppala lead a relay of Huskies 658 miles in 5.5 days carrying a life-saving diphtheria serum to Nome, Alaska. That event sparked a world-wide passion for the Husky breed that has never abated.

Today, while some work as sled dogs still, the majority live as pets. There are several breed clubs in Australia, including The Siberian Husky Club of NSW and Siberian Husky Club Victoria Inc, which was founded in 1984 due to the rise in numbers of the Husky in Australia.

Temperament

Bred so carefully for thousands of years, the Siberian Husky, as a breed, has a very consistent genetic code, and that includes their temperament. The Chukchi people used these dogs as warmth in winter, so they had to be people friendly, trustworthy enough to sleep with children. But they also needed to be independent, able to think for themselves and even find their own food, which was often necessary on the Tundra. And of course, they had to get along with other dogs, since most sleds are pulled with a team.

Modern day Huskies have all these traits – they are a loving family dog, an alert chaser of squirrels, smart as a whip and the constant clown at the dog park, willing to play with anyone.

Energy Level

It should come as no surprise that a dog that can run 658-miles in under 6 days would be high energy. They were bred to run 100 miles a day and the modern Husky is no exception to this.

They must have an outlet for their energy, or they will destroy your house looking for something to do. Many Husky owners are shocked at the destruction they can cause while their owner is at work. This is a breed that must have an athletic outlet every day to be happy, health and well-behaved.

Space Needed

With a high energy level, having a big backyard is nice for a husky. However, if you do plan on giving your Husky room, be aware they were also bred to dig holes and tunnels, in order to borrow and keep warm. This means, your yard may look like a mine field, and your fence better be buried in the ground, or he will get out. They are also good jumpers and climbers, so a high fence is important as well.

Common Health Problems

When a dog is bred to survive in Siberia, health is obviously an important factor. There was no vet for these nomadic people living hundreds of miles from nowhere. And their dog was their sole source of travel, so he had to be dependably healthy. This means, that as breeds go, the Husky is one of the most healthy. There are some issues of hip dysplasia, but according to the Siberian Husky Club Vitoria Inc., careful breeding has reduced the risk to low. They do note, however, that there have been instances in recent years of Huskies with luxating patellas and cruciate ligament injuries in Australia. So, it never hurts to ask the breeder if they have had x-rays done on breeding stock.

Training

Smart and independent, the Siberian Husky had to be fairly easy to train, since mushers had to give instructors from a distance and in all kinds of conditions. But, due to the specific conditions of sledding, particularly the dangers, Huskies were also bred to be independent thinkers – if they sensed the command would lead them to danger, they would ignore it. This trait can make them a bit harder to train, as today’s modern Husky sometimes ignore cues, not due to danger, but distraction. That prey drive they used to catch their own dinner is now focused on chasing lizards, birds, or rabbits, instead of listening to you. Or maybe they would rather be playing then practicing a down stay. This can make them a more challenging trainee, but their intelligence means they can learn just about anything you can dream up.

The best tip is to exercise before training, so they will be less distracted and can focus better. They have a strong work ethic, once they settle down.

Feeding Recommendation

We recommend feeding your Siberian Husky puppy our Chicken, Lamb & Fish. At approximately 10 months of age, switch to the adult portions, keeping in mind the breed was designed to not need too much food; It is easy to overfeed a Husky!

If you feel a Husky would be a right fit for your home, talk to local breeders, ask about what testing they have down and what kinds of homes past puppies have gone to and lived successfully. This will help you pick a breeder with the right puppy for you and your family.

How to Teach a Trick: Beg

How to Teach a Trick: Beg

While you may be thinking, “Why would I want to teach my dog to beg!” this is not a trick to train your dog how to get food out of you, but rather an awesomely adorable trick that’s great for pictures and also great for your dog’s health.

HOW?

This trick is quite a workout for your dog – it strengthens their back, stomach and hind leg muscles while improving their balance. This makes it a great trick for keeping your dog in shape…while looking adorable.

It’s a fairly easy trick to train, but your dog should already have a sit on cue or offer a sit in order to proceed.

Step 1. You are going to need some type of food treat for this, it really is the easiest way. Use your dog’s kibble if they really like it, small pieces of carrot, or a healthy dog treat. It has to be something your dog likes enough to follow it with their nose. You may have to experiment with a few different kinds of foods to see if your dog is interested enough to follow it before proceeding.

Step 2. Either cue your dog for a sit, or wait for him to offer one. It doesn’t really matter which way you do it, unless you do not want to have to cue your dog to sit before you cue for the beg. In that case, don’t cue the sit, wait for her to offer it so the sit becomes part of the beg cue.

Step 3. Take a treat in your hand, put it close to your dog’s nose and slowly move your hand up and back just enough that your dog has to bring his front feet off the floor to get the treat. As soon as he moves even just a small amount, praise and reward him!

You want to get rid of the food as quickly as possible. After the third or fourth lure, remove the cookie from your hand and see if your dog will still follow your hand into the “begging” position. If so, reward while in that position. If your dog doesn’t follow your empty hand three times in a row, go back to luring once or twice and then try with no treat again. The quicker you remove the lure, the better.

Step 4. Continue to use your hand to “lure” your dog until she is doing the full “beg” position – back straight, front legs up. Just remember to TAKE IT SLOW! This trick uses a lot of muscles that your dog probably does not normally use. So, don’t ask him to do it a bunch or to hold it for a long time at first.

If you notice your dog is wobbly or shaky, drop your hand slowly to lower them back down before they fall over, this is a sign your dog’s muscles are weak and that you have probably done enough for the day. Only lure your dog into position a few times each training session while her muscles are building.

Step 5. Keep working on it until your dog has the strength for a nice, solid, beg position. Note that her front paws will be in whatever position works best for her to keep her balance – some will have one paw higher, some will let their front legs dangle, and others will tuck both up. That’s okay! Don’t try to change this, as your dog will choose what is most comfortable for them. As they build muscles, front paw position may change as well. What you are looking for is a nice, smooth transition up, with no sign of shaking, and the ability to hold it for a few seconds.

Step 6. Once your dog is going into the full upright beg position with no food lure, it’s time to add the verbal cue if you wish. If you want the cue to just be your hand going over your dog’s head, then you are done! But most like a verbal cue. Most people use “Beg,” but you can use anything you want. I know someone whose cue for this behavior is “Say Please.” Add the cue by saying your words as your dog lifts into position following your hand signal.

At each repetition, start saying the verbal earlier and earlier, until you are saying it before you start the hand cue. If your dog starts to raise up before your hand moves, then they understand the verbal cue. If not, go back to saying the verbal at the same time or just before the hand cue, try that for a few repetitions, and then try to say the verbal earlier again.

This is a great trick that gets your dog in shape and looks adorable. Once your dog has mastered this, you can add to it by teaching your dog to “hug” something or hold something with his paws, or teach them to get up on their hind legs to “dance.” It’s just a trick, so take it slow, move at dog’s pace and have fun.