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.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Robert,
    Thanks for your great article on the Husky. So many of them end up as rescue dogs because, as you point out, people fall for their good looks without understanding the breed. I inherited a young Husky many years ago when my daughter moved to Queensland. He was a beautiful dog – fiercely loyal and affectionate, he loved my grandchildren, got on well with other people and grown dogs and was easy to train BUT —- his instinct to chase and kill anything small was deeply ingrained and, I found, impossible to overcome. He was like a cat out hunting mice and rats. He killed one of our chickens first, then a kitten. We were very careful to protect the small animals from him after that, but short of keeping him locked up when he was not in the house, it was a difficult task.
    A visitor to my other daughter’s house (next door) carelessly left open, not only her gate, but also the one into our secure yard, allowing my daughter’s beautiful 3 mth. old puppy into our yard and tragically to it’s very sudden death. I have no doubt that if any of my small grandchildren had attempted to save the puppy, even though ‘Basil’ loved them, he would have attacked them with possibly fatal consequences.
    I realise how easily that could have happened, and it scares me still. I very sadly decided to have Basil euthanised to prevent such a thing ever occurring again.
    I think he was a bit of an extreme case, with his instinct to kill for his food still clearly a very high priority with him.
    Definitely not the breed for everyone.
    Thanks again Robert,
    Peg.

    1. Hi Peg, that’s a sad story on many levels. However a good reminder that our dogs are not people and they live by different rules.

  2. Thank you for your advice on dog breeds, I am interested in your opinion on Boston Terriers and training methods! If you could do a revue sometime I would be grateful and very interested.

    1. Hi Sigrun, We will put it on the list. We do have some training blogs already, if you look through the list of blogs on the home page.

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