With their wolf-like looks, engaging personalities and almost human-like vocalisations the Siberian Husky has grown in popularity as a family pet.
But this stunning dog needs a dedicated and energetic partner. The Siberian Husky can be challenging for a first-time owner due to their high exercise requirements and independent nature.
So, what do you need to know about the Siberian Husky before you commit to sharing your life with one?
Breed history is an excellent place to start. It can tell us a lot about the type of dog we’re inviting into our home as well as energy levels, compatibility with children and other animals and likely behaviours.
Siberian Husky breed history
The Siberian Husky (Husky or Sibe) is one of the oldest known dog breeds. Developed over thousands of years to fit the complex functions expected of them, the Husky is a testament to selective breeding.
Living among tribes of Siberian reindeer herders called the Chukchi, Huskies were expected to perform multiple roles in temperatures as low as minus fifty degrees Celsius and as high as thirty-five degrees Celsius.
Adaptability was essential to both the Huskies and the Chukchi’s survival. The dogs were expected to hunt and catch their own food when necessary, be sociable with both people and other dogs and survive on the minimum amount of food.
Not only that, but they had to have the stamina and agility to pull light sledge loads all day through challenging terrain.
They were both work dogs and family members. During the harsh winters, the dogs shared beds with the Chukchi children to keep them warm and were gentle playmates too.
But perhaps the most defining characteristic of the breed is their independence. The Husky was expected to take direction from a sledge driver unless it looked like the driver was leading them into danger.
The Huskies’ unique ability to analyse, problem solve and make decisions is what made them so suited to the roles for which they developed.
Siberian Husky development
The modern Siberian Husky owes its development to several historical events. In the eighteenth-century Russia invaded Siberia. While the Chukchi people couldn’t defend themselves against the advanced weaponry of the Russians, they could outrun them.
The Chukchi tribes were used to the harsh conditions, the challenging terrain and had a successful means of transport in their dogs, the Russians didn’t and suffered terrible losses.
After the conflict, the Chukchi people lived undisturbed for many years until Alaskan Traders discovered them.
The importation of the Siberian Husky into Alaska in1908 ensured its survival after the communist overthrow of the Russian monarchy all but wiped it out.
Traders entered Huskies into the All-Alaskan Sweepstakes, a four hundred and eight-mile dogsled race. But it was Leonhard Seppala a native Norwegian, living in Nome, Alaska who proved their worth, winning the race three years in a row.
But it was the unfortunate outbreak of diphtheria that brought the Husky as a dog breed to the public’s attention.
Nome ran out of antitoxin, and the only way to get more was to collect it from Anchorage. Seppala provided teams of dogs to cover the six-hundred and seventy-four miles in what became known as the Great Race of Mercy.
The epic journey was successful, and the diphtheria outbreak contained, catapulting the Siberian Husky into the public eye.
Siberian Husky appearance
Graceful, agile with an almost effortless gait, the Husky is an athletic, medium size dog. Ranging from twenty to twenty-two inches for a female and twenty-one to twenty-three inches for a male. The Husky is both compact and powerful.
Weighing in at around thirty-five to sixty pounds the Siberian Husky is surprisingly lightweight for a dog with such stamina.
Their medium-length coat comes in all colours from black to pure white and markings on the head and face are a trademark of the Husky breed.
Coat colours include;
In addition to the varied range of coat colours, Huskies also have a variety of eye colours. They range from light amber through to deepest brown to palest blue, and it’s not uncommon for a Husky to have an eye of each colour.
Almond shaped with a keen expression, the Husky’s eyes are set in a medium sized head with erect ears and a tapering medium length muzzle.
Their thick, sickle shape tail is characteristic of the breed and is carried over the back when the dog is alert and often trails when the dog is relaxed.
The Husky’s wolf-like appearance has made them a popular choice as a pet, but unfortunately, many new owners are unprepared for the additional needs of this high-energy and independent dog.
Siberian Husky temperament
The Siberian Husky is a challenging dog for a first-time owner. While they have lots of endearing characteristics, they are also hard work.
Huskies are highly intelligent, but this doesn’t mean they are easy to train. Huskies have a ‘take or leave it’ attitude to obeying commands and can’t be trusted to do what you ask.
As such, it’s unwise to have your Husky off-leash ever unless it’s in an extremely secure area. The Sibes high prey drive combined with their selective hearing means that un-tethered Huskies often get lost or injured.
Having said that, Sibes are perfect running, biking or sledging partners. So, if you’re active and enjoy exercise, you can’t go wrong with a Husky.
Siberian Huskies thrive in company. They are notoriously destructive if bored or left alone for long periods of time. But while they are known for being pack-dogs, Huskies can be choosy about their canine friends.
It’s not an understatement to say that Huskies are the most accomplished escape artists of the canine world. Almost cat-like in their ability to climb, they are also proficient diggers. As resourceful problem solvers, they can outsmart inattentive owners.
If you like an independent, affectionate and cheeky dog, the Husky provides an exciting challenge. They undoubtedly aren’t the easiest dog to live with if you don’t meet their needs. But their joyful, exuberant outlook on life is a delight
Husky dogs and kids
Gentle, friendly and playful the Husky makes a great family pet. They are particularly good with children and bond closely with them.
While they are tolerant of children, supervise all interactions. Sibes can be boisterous, so children need to be dog- savvy or slightly older to enjoy this breed fully.
Husky pros and cons
Never underestimate a Husky. While there are pros and cons to sharing your life with any dog, the Husky is not a moderate breed.
Be prepared to be charmed, frustrated, amused and desperate, sometimes all in the same day!
- Friendly; Gentle and great with children
- Playful; The Husky has a great sense of fun and will keep you entertained with their cheeky antics
- Affectionate; Sibes are affectionate with their family and welcoming to visitors
- Free-spirited; Although the Husky likes company they are not clingy
- Adaptable; Rarely stressed out, Huskies enjoy new environments
- Intelligent; Huskies are problem solvers, sometimes this will work in your favour and sometimes it will work in your dog’s favour
- Low odour; Sibes have very little odour and don’t suffer from the distinctive ‘doggy smell’ that some other breeds do
- Economical; Despite their size, Huskies need less food than similar sized dogs
- Escape artists; Huskies climb and dig and will do both to escape a garden or yard
- Independent; If you want unfailing obedience don’t get a Husky. Their reputation for stubbornness is unfair; it’s just that if they don’t agree with what you’re asking them to do, they won’t do it!
- Strong prey drive; Don’t trust a Husky around livestock or wildlife
- The desire to run; Never let a Husky off lead in an unsecured area
- Extreme Shedding; The Husky has a thick double coat. Shedding occurs throughout the year and is extremely heavy when the coat is ‘blown’ twice a year.
- Noise; Huskies can be talkative. While they don’t often bark they do howl and vocalise.
- Stamina; It’s almost impossible to tire out a Husky with exercise. Mental stimulation is essential for this breed.
Siberian Huskies are wonderful dogs in the right home. They do need more physical and mental exercise than many other breeds, but their personality outshines any issues if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Siberian Husky exercise
The Husky has an enormous amount of stamina. As such, they need at least two hours of exercise a day. Unless you have access to a very secure area, activity needs to be on a leash.
A Husky will not think twice or even look back to see where you are if they see something they want to chase. They have an exceptionally high prey drive, and the Huskies view of what constitutes a prey animal may differ from yours, basically if it moves they will chase it.
If two hours a day seems like a stretch, rethink getting a Husky. An under-exercised Sibe will find ways of getting rid of pent-up energy and often it leads to destructive behaviour.
However, if you want a running, biking or sledging partner, the Husky excels. They will run as long and as hard as you do and still be up for a game or two at the end of the day.
Huskies are extremely intelligent and get bored quickly. Providing mental stimulation in the way of games, training or interactive toys is vital.
These dogs are gifted problem solvers, which is why in part, they are such good escape artists. Offering constructive ways to exercise their brains will minimise your dogs need to find their own entertainment and help prevent destructive behaviours.
Can husky dogs live in hot Weather?
Huskies are found all over the world, both in hot and cold climates. Their thick double coat protects them from both high and low temperatures, but warm weather precautions are advisable as with any dog.
- Walk your dog early morning or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler.
- Always provide a shady area that your dog can escape to
- Make sure there’s a continuous supply of fresh water
- Moderate off-leash exercise in hot weather and substitute mental activity
Huskies are very adaptable, but they need time to adjust to extreme changes in weather. It can take a few weeks for a dog to adapt to a sudden shift in temperature; for example, moving from a cold country to a hot one.
Siberian Husky grooming
The Husky’s coat is one of the outstanding features of the breed. It’s thick, dense and double; with a soft, downy undercoat and a slightly rough longer top coat.
The double nature of the Sibes fur provides insulation from both hot and cold weather and should never be cut or shaved.
While Huskies need regular grooming, it’s easy to keep their coat in good shape. Regular brushing removes loose hair and debris, and they only need a bath once or twice a year.
Don’t take the Husky’s ability to shed hair lightly. It’s excessive. They blow their coats twice a year, usually in spring and autumn but shed continually throughout the year.
Siberian Husky health
The Husky has a few known health conditions although it is generally a robust dog. Life expectancy is between twelve and fourteen years, and the Husky remains active throughout.
The most common issues that affect the Husky are;
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Hereditary cataracts
- Hip Dysplasia
If you select a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, it’s mandatory for them to test stud dogs for
- BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme
- BVA/KC/ISDS Gonioscopy
- Eye Testing
Obviously, if your dog is mixed breed or not from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, there is no guarantee that they won’t be affected by any of the above conditions.
Siberian Husky highlights
If you’re dedicated, laid-back with a good sense of humour and a laissez-faire attitude to a neat house and garden you might be ready to invite a Siberian Husky into your life.
The Husky has a huge personality, and while they are challenging for novice owners, they are a joy in the right home.
Cheeky, affectionate and friendly the Husky will keep you entertained with their antics and provide you with a companion that’s always up for an adventure and talks back!