August 18, 2017

Introduction to the Siberian Husky

Known for being mischievous, loyal, and outgoing, the Siberian Husky is usually associated with sledding, but they are really an all-around dog good at lots of things.

The AKC describes the breed as friendly and gentle, dignified and alert, but not aggressive.

Some people confuse Huskies with Malamutes or other sled dogs but Malamutes are much larger than Siberians. Huskies are built for moderate speed over great distances while Malamutes can pull much greater weight while sledding.

Siberian Huskies have a thick, well-furred coat and they enjoy cold weather. They need regular brushing. They also require plenty of exercise.

While Siberian Huskies are wonderful dogs, they are not the dog for everyone. You should keep reading to see if this is a breed that would suit you.

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History of the Siberian Husky

Several breeds are believed to be descended from older dogs that humans have long used as sled dogs, including the Siberian Husky, the Alaskan Malamute, and the Samoyed. The ancestors of sled dogs are thought to have originated about 30,000-35,000 years ago in Mongolia. It’s believed that humans have been using these dogs for sledding for at least 3000 years. Sled dogs have been widely used in all far northern areas.

Originally from Siberia, Huskies are a spitz breed that originated with the Chukchi tribe from the eastern Siberian peninsula. The Chukchi people needed the dogs to pull heavy loads over great distances. The tribe’s survival depending on the endurance of the dogs. They needed dogs who could travel long distances quickly, in cold, harsh conditions, pulling their loads. The dogs had to be good at conserving their energy while making these trips. According to research on the tribe and their dogs, the tribe kept their sled dogs pure through the 19th century, becoming the ancestors of today’s Siberian Husky.

The term “Husky” is believed to be taken from the nickname “Esky” and refers to the Eskimo people and their dogs. According to stories, Americans in Alaska began to hear tales of superior sled dogs around 1900. Dogs were imported into Alaska in 1908 during the gold rush and for sled racing. The first team of Siberan Huskies was entered in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes Race of 1909. The All-Alaska Sweepstakes is a 408-mile race from Nome, Alaska to Candle, and back. Siberian Huskies were much smaller and faster than the sled dogs used by other mushers who were using sled dogs normally used for pulling freight. They instantly dominated sled racing. Siberian Huskies continued to be imported for the next two decades.

Many Siberian Huskies took part in the famous “serum run” to bring supplies to antitoxin to Nome when the town was stricken by diphtheria in 1925 – a 600-mile trip. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race run every year commemorates this event. Some of the most famous of these mushers and their dogs, such as Leonhard Seppala, came south to the U.S. after the historic run and the dogs were celebrated. Balto, one of the lead dogs from the serum run, is remembered from this time. He has a bronze statue in New York City’s Central Park with a plaque that reads:

Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance · Fidelity · Intelligence

Exportation of the dogs from Siberia was stopped in 1930 but that same year the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club. Siberian Huskies were later used by Admiral Byrd on his Antarctic expeditions. Huskies also served in the Army’s Arctic Search and Rescue Unit of the Air Transport Command during World War II. The breed remains very popular today, currently ranked as the 13th most popular dog breed in the United States.

Many people believed that the original sled dogs bred by the Chukchi were now extinct but a 2006 article in Geographical magazine reported that the Chukchi were still breeding their dogs.

Siberian Husky Health-Related Issues

“Easy keepers” is a term often used to describe Huskies. The breed is usually considered to be very healthy overall. The typical lifespan for Siberian Huskies is usually between 12 and 15 years.

Like most breeds there are some health problems that can occur in the breed. Corneal dystrophy, juvenile cataracts, canine glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy can affect the eyes. Congenital laryngeal paralysis can also sometimes occur. Hip dysplasia occurs rarely but is not unknown. It affects an estimated 2.2 percent of Huskies that are tested. Huskies that race can have some problems with bronchitis, gastric illness, ulcers, and bronchopulmonary problems.

Most of these issues are considered rare in Huskies but if you are thinking of getting a Siberian Husky you should talk to breeders about health issues. Make sure you discuss health testing in puppies and adults. Ask questions about their contract and what health guarantees they provide. No one can guarantee that a dog will never get sick or develop a health problem, even from perfectly healthy parents, but good breeders do health screening and educate buyers about health issues. You can find more information about Siberian Husky health issues on the Siberian Husky Club of America web site.

Siberian Husky Temperament

Huskies, or “Sibes” as they are sometimes called, are considered to be agreeable, outgoing dogs. They enjoy being around other dogs and people. If you work all day and have to leave a dog alone, a Husky may not be the right dog for you. Huskies can also be very friendly with strangers. They are not good guard dogs or the kind of fiercely loyal one-person dog that some other breeds can be. They don’t even bark much. They also shed their dense coats at least once a year in a tremendous shedding (not unusual for spitz breeds). At this time your entire home will likely be covered with fur. Huskies also like to dig holes in the yard and they can be escape artists. Most of all, this breed loves to run and cannot be allowed to run loose. Otherwise they can have a very short life. We’re not saying these things because we don’t like Huskies. This is what the Siberian Husky Club of America says about the breed ! You need to carefully consider these breed traits before deciding if this is the right breed for you.

Huskies are high energy, active dogs and they need regular daily exercise – under controlled conditions. They can run for miles before they get tired so it takes a lot of running and playing to tire out a Husky. You will need to provide a lot of outdoor activity for this dog. Huskies can also have strong prey instincts. This means that even though they are quite friendly you need to supervise your Husky around other pets, especially small animals like cats. If you have pets like guinea pigs or rabbits you will have to take extra care that they are kept in places where your Husky can’t reach them.

Huskies often have some wolf-like behaviors. For example, instead of barking they will howl. (This may be something to consider if you live in a suburb.) They can also try to escape from your yard. On the other hand, Huskies are very affectionate and they are good with kids. They can make a good family dog for the right family and living situation but they aren’t a good fit for everyone. According to the breed’s parent club, there has been an increase in Siberian Husky popularity in recent years. Considering some of the breed’s special traits, this is a mixed blessing and some Huskies end up in rescue because new owners are not really prepared for the Husky’s special needs.

Spitz-type dogs, such as Huskies, are usually very intelligent, but training a Husky is not always easy. Historically they have always been somewhat independent. If you have a Siberian Husky it’s probably a good idea to sign up for an obedience class from a young age. Learning to come when called is especially important for Huskies to learn. Huskies can make wonderful therapy dogs and they enjoy doing lots of different activities and dog sports, even if you don’t live in an area with sledding opportunities.

Siberian Husky Grooming

In appearance, Huskies are medium-large dogs that are typically between 20 and 23 ½ inches tall at the shoulder. They normally weigh between 35 and 60 pounds. Their coat is very thick with a dense undercoat that has the feel of cashmere. The outer coat has straight guard hair to protect them from the elements (like snow). This outer coat also protects the dog from heat in the summer so you should not shave a Husky. Huskies that live in warmer areas usually shed their undercoat when it’s hot to keep the dog cooler next to the skin. The tail is well-furred and normally carried over the back.

The Siberian Husky’s expression is considered friendly, interested, and even mischievous. They have eyes that are almond-shaped. Their eyes can be brown or blue. Some dogs have an eye of each color or a mix of colors.

Huskies come in a variety of colors, from pure white to black. It’s normal to see a variety of markings on the head of a Husky, including many visually striking patterns not usually seen in other dogs. They often have white leg markings and paws, white markings on their face, or a white tip on their tail. The coat colors most often found are black and white. Other colors include copper-red and white, gray and white, pure white, and the rare “Agouti” coat. Some dogs have blondish or piebald spotting. It’s not unusual to see a wide variety of striking masks, spectacles, and other facial markings on Huskies.

With Huskies, what you see is very much what you get in terms of coat and grooming. According to the Siberian Husky Club of America, the dogs are easy to groom and care for. Huskies are fastidiously clean by nature. They tend to not have any body odor or parasites. They do not require any clipping or trimming. When you see a Siberian Husky at a dog show, that is exactly how the coats of other Huskies look whether they are pets or pulling sleds.

Brush your Husky once or twice weekly and bathe as needed. Keep his nails trimmed. You can expect him to blow his thick, dense coat once a year when you will have fur everywhere. At this time use a brush and comb to help loosen and remove the dead coat. That’s it.

Siberian Husky Fun Facts:

  • Balto and Togo were lead sled dogs in the Great Race of Mercy – the 1925 serum run to save people sickened by diphtheria in Nome, Alaska . Togo was the lead sled dog of Leonhard Seppala, one of the early people responsible for importing and breeding Siberian Huskies into Alaska. The serum run covered 674 miles from Nenana, Alaska to Nome. Togo and Seppala covered the longest and most hazardous part of the trip – 365 miles round trip. Balto, however, became more famous. The animated film loosely based on the events was called Balto https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balto_%28film%29.
  • The Iditarod Great Sled Race is run annually to commemorate the 1925 serum run. Called “The Last Great Race On Earth,” the race covers 1000 miles from near Anchorage to Nome. Mushers and their dogs spend an entire year getting ready for the race. Organizers say the race helps save the sled dog culture and Huskies, which were being phased out in favor or snowmobiles; and it helps preserve the historic Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome, Alaska.
  • Siberian Huskies can have unusual eyes compared to many other breeds. Not only can they be brown or blue but dogs can have eyes of each color – parti-colored eyes known as heterochromia. Other dogs can have one eye that is a combination of blue and brown or both eyes can be combinations. These cases are called partial heterochromia. The colors of the eye don’t affect the dog’s eyesight. They are perfectly acceptable if you plan to show your dog.
  • Huskies are known for curling up and placing their thickly furred tail over their nose and face. This can provide extra warmth. It’s possibly a breed trait that comes from living in cold climates. This is sometimes called the “Siberian swirl.”

Common Siberian Husky Mixes

  1. Here are some Siberian Husky mixes we found online:
  2. Alusky  – Alaskan Malamute x Siberian Husky
  3. Ausky  – Siberian Husky x Australian Cattle Dog
  4. Belusky  – Siberian Husky x Belgian Malinois
  5. Bullsky  – Bullmastiff x Siberian Husky
  6. Chusky  – Chow Chow x Siberian Husky
  7. Dusky – Dachshund x Siberian Husky
  8. Goberian – Siberian Husky x Golden Retriever
  9. Great Rottsky  – Great Dane x Rottweiler x Siberian Husky
  10. Huskita  – Akita x Siberian Husky
  11. Husky Inu – Siberian Husky x Shiba Inu
  12. Pomsky  – Pomeranian x Siberian Husky
  13. Rottsky – Rottweiler x Siberian Husky
  14. Siberian Indian Dog – Siberian Husky x Native American Indian Dog
  15. Siberian Pyrenees – Siberian Husky x Great Pyrenees
  16. Siberian Retriever – Siberian Husky x Labrador Retriever
  17. Siberian Shepherd – German Shepherd Dog x Siberian Husky
  18. Siberpoo  – Poodle x Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky FAQs

What is a Siberian Husky’s Life Expectancy?

According to a 2004 health study conducted in the United Kingdom by the Kennel Club, the median age of death for Siberian Huskies was 12 years and 7 months, with the oldest dog living to be over 18 years. The most common cause of death (31.8 percent) was cancer, with old age being the second most common cause of death (16.3 percent). Some 797 Siberian Huskies were included in the survey. Estimates of Siberian Husky lifespans in the United States are usually between 12 and 14 years.

Are Siberians easy to train?

Yes and no. Siberians are usually very smart. However, they can be rather independent and do not always do as asked. They usually rank as average on obedience tests, possibly because they don’t see the point in obeying every command. It’s a good idea to start training your Husky from a young age with things like puppy preschool and obedience classes. Make training fun. Use positive reinforcement – praise and rewards. If all else fails, you may have to try to outwit your Husky sometimes – something that is not always easy to do. Life is usually interesting when you live with a Husky.

 Do Siberian Huskies shed a lot of hair?

Yes. But not all the time. Most of their shedding is limited to one big blow-out annually when they lose their dead fur and start growing new coat. At that time you will probably be inhaling your Husky’s fur. The rest of the year there is not much shedding. Incidentally, shedding once a year is a wolf trait. Many dog breeds today have two big sheds or shed continually, depending on their coat.

Do Siberian Huskies make good apartment pets?

Siberian Huskies are not usually the first choice for an apartment dog. They howl. They require a great deal of daily exercise. And they are not small dogs. They also shed all their dense, thick fur once a year which might be more of a problem in an apartment than in a larger home. If you are committed to making things work with a Husky while living in an apartment, it’s probably possible, but there are a lot of breeds that would be easier to keep as an apartment pet.

Are Siberian Huskies good with Children?

Siberian Huskies have a very good reputation with children. Historically, the Chukchi tribe that developed the dogs allowed them to babysit their children. The breed’s temperament was always important. Huskies enjoy playing with kids. That said, it’s never a good idea to leave small children alone, unsupervised, with a dog. Accidents happen and a child or a dog can get injured. Things go wrong. Please make sure an adult is close by when children play with a dog.

It’s also important to teach all children how to play gently with a dog so they don’t pull on tails and ears or do things to provoke a dog into biting. Thousands of children are bitten by dogs every year and most of those cases could be prevented with a little education.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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  • This is an excellent, thorough and well written article on the husky breed! Thank you for putting all of this information together in one place. Will you please grant me permission to reprint it on a website I am creating? I will make sure you have full credit and provide a link to anywhere you would like.

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