Few other dog breeds are so stunning in appearance than the Siberian Husky. Their gentle temperament and playful nature make them great family pets, providing you can give them the exercise and the companionship they need. They are a truly unique breed with their stamina and weather proof double coats, protecting their skin from extremes of temperature in the coldest or hottest conditions. Whilst known for their striking blue eyes, not all dogs have this colour, some are brown or bi-eyed, one blue, one brown. As a proud owner of 6 of the breed, here are a few pointers which I have learnt from both research and experience.
- Get a companion husky for your Siberian if possible. Siberians are pack dogs and get bored easily. They do not like being left alone. If you do, you may find large holes dug in your garden when you return home as Siberians can be quite destructive when bored. If you are introducing them to another pet then they have a better chance of adjusting when in puppy hood. They will mix successfully with cats and other dogs providing you introduce them young. Our 6 Siberians live in peace and relative harmony with four cats.
- Fence in your yard securely, making sure the foundations are deep and the fence is too high for them to jump over. Huskies are enthusiastic diggers and world class jumpers and are great escape artists. In addition, their favourite pastime in the garden seems to be digging into their water bowls!
- Make sure your husky gets enough exercise. As they are working dogs Siberians are not a good fit for low-energy households. However, if you have a companion dogs they will enjoy playing “tag” with each other and will often wear themselves out by running around your garden, if it’s big enough.
- Invest time and patience in training them. Siberians are very intelligent dogs but are also willful. They may not do something unless they see the reason for doing it, not just to please their owner.
- Keep them on a leash at all times when outside in an open area. As many Sibe owners know to their cost, Huskies like to run and run, and lose all sense of reality. Sadly many huskies are lost or injured due to this single mindedness, as by the time they realise they have outrun their owner or are too far away from home, is it too late. Even worse, they could find themselves running into the path of a car.
- Get them regularly checked out for hip dysplasia from around 6 years old and up. Whilst the breed does not have a wide range of documented health problems they are prone to hip dysplasia, particularly if they do not have high levels of fat and protein in their diet. The life span of a husky is generally 12-15 years. Whilst they are renown for withstanding the coldest of temperatures, their double coat also offers their skin protection from the sun in hot climates, although with their very dense coat you may find your Husky’s favourite position is sitting in front of the air conditioning unit, lying on their back with all four paws in the air!
- If, like me, you live in a developing country (or area) without western standards of veterinary care then check very carefully regarding the type of anaesthetic to be given to your Sibe. Get your vet to do a test if necessary. It is possible that severe reactions can occur in Huskies if not given an equivalent of human anaesthetic – I speak from experience here. Fortunately I had read up on the dangers early on and so had to avoid getting them neutered, as the right kind of anaesthetic was not available. However, there came a time when one of my Huskies needed immediate surgery for a life or death situation and I almost lost her due to her bad reaction to the anaesthetic. Her whole face and body swelled up and required emergency attention. I now live in an area where good quality (human type) anaesthetic is available and the local vet understands the quirks of the breed; so all have since been neutered without any problems.
- Get a Husky if you want a guard dog. Due to their lovable, affectionate nature they are friendly to everyone, even strangers. They are great “watchdogs” though, they will watch a thief coming into your house and greet them with enthusiasm, then watch them leave with your TV, computer etc, giving them a friendly lick to send them on their way!
- Worry too much about grooming. They are quite low maintenance, requiring minimal daily brushing. However, twice a year they shed profusely and then they need more care.
- Expect your Husky to bark. Instead, they have a great capacity for talking, wooing, howling and yodelling and can make full sentences when interacting with their owners and to initiate play. These dogs are real talkers, you never know what sounds they are going to emit next and seem to have an ever increasing vocabulary as the years go by. Some of mine are now capable of making full sentences, talking about the weather and such like!
- Overfeed them. Siberians are thrifty (and picky) eaters and so do not require as much food as you would think. Due to their sensitive digestive systems (remember they are sledding dogs) they may fare better with fish and white meat based products rather than red meat. They also need fish oil in their diet, to maintain a healthy coat and nails. This could be in the form of sardines or many dry foods and veterinary supplements contain Omega 3 nowadays.
Invest time and affection in caring for your husky and they will reward you with their friendly, gentle and cheerful nature. They are loyal, intelligent dogs, good with children, affectionate to everyone and rarely bark.
For a related article on uncommon Siberian Husky facts for owners, please visit http://dog-breeds.suite101.com/article.cfm/huskies_5_not_so_common_facts
Gill Hart is a freelance article writer and is currently studying journalism. She is also an experienced English teacher and trainer and has worked in many countries. She now lives in Asia and is owned by 6 adorable Siberian Huskies. She has her own pet related website for expat owners living abroad.
For photographs of her dogs visit http://www.picable.com/photographers/GillHart.14604