There’s no mistaking the wolf-like features of the Siberian Husky, or simply Husky. As a matter of fact, its wolf-like mask is one of the things that endear a lot of people to it. Little do they know that this hound is as extreme as the Arctic environments upon which it was raised and introduced into the known world. Fast, agile, strong, and intelligent – all the fine qualities of a sled dog – the Husky also has streaks of silliness and goofiness in its repertoire. It’s a working dog of the highest caliber, yet you can never really expect it to be your four-legged guard. Always happy, the Husky thrives in an environment where there is plenty of playtime. Before you even consider bringing this lucky chap in your home, try spending time to learn more about this handsome dog.
History of the Siberian Husky
Most people think that the Siberian Husky is a direct descendant of the gray wolf, although some believe that dogs are, well, dogs. We firmly believe that the Husky is a descendant of the Taymyr wolf that once ruled the Arctic region as well as places of high altitudes. We’re not saying that it is a 100% wolf. What we are just saying is that some 8,000 years ago, the Taymyr wolf population interacted with ancestral dogs to give rise to what we now know as the Siberian Husky.
Genetic markers in Huskies have been found to represent about 1.5 to 27 percent of the genes of the gray wolf subspecies. You may refute this by all means, but one cannot deny the very close resemblance of the husky to the native wolf population. In fact, we know some folks who cannot tell the difference between a wolf, a Husky, and a Malamute. If you haven’t seen a Husky before you’d think this way, too.
It was the Chukchis of eastern Siberia who developed the dog some 5,000 years ago. The Chukchi people developed the breed because of the increasing need to hunt farther than their usual hunting grounds. They needed a dog that can go the distance, so to speak. The Siberian Husky is a long-distance, endurance runner. Fully capable of running more than a hundred miles nonstop across icy, treacherous terrain, the Husky is the epitome of an Arctic sled dog.
While the Husky proved their mettle in long distance hauls over inhospitable lands, it was the women of the Chukchi tribes that took good care of these venerable workers. When not pulling sleds that are filled with the hunting equipment of Chukchi men, these dogs spent the rest of the days in the company of their masters’ kids. The sight of wolf-like dogs playing with miniature Chukchi people surely cements the prevailing belief that Siberian Huskies make excellent family dogs and loyal companions.
For many centuries, the Husky became the venerable working dog of an Arctic tribe that is best described as resilient and very resourceful; the very same qualities that make the Husky such a great breed. It would take the turn of the 20th century when this Chukchi-bred dog finally enters the modern world of the West.
In 1908, a Russian fur trader by the name of William Goosak brought a pack of Siberian Huskies to Nome, Alaska during the Alaskan Gold Rush. And while the people of Nome initially laughed at the small size of the Husky, referring to it as the Siberian Rat because it was much smaller than the native Alaskan Malamute, this perception soon changed as soon as amazing qualities of this breed began to manifest.
The famous diphtheria antitoxin serum run of 1925 from Nenana to Nome is testament of the Husky’s remarkable endurance and sturdiness in the face of danger and uncertainty. You can almost applaud the Chukchi people for bringing to the world such a four-legged endurance machine.
By 1930, the Siberian Husky was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. Three years later, Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd initiated Operation Highjump which aimed to trek the 16,000-mile Antarctic coastline using 50 Siberian Huskies. This trek further cemented the Husky’s worth in endurance treks primarily because of its remarkable speed and very compact size.
It’s not only its strong work ethic that remains to this very day. Even the Husky’s love for its family is as strong as ever.
Strong work ethic aside, the Siberian Husky is a beautiful dog. Its wolf-like features complete with eyes that come in various shades never fail to draw admiration even from people who don’t like dogs in general. Here are some quick facts that you may need to know about the Husky.
- A male Husky typically stands about 21 to 23 inches tall and can tip the scales at a minimum of 45 pounds, maxing out at 60 pounds.
- The female Husky is generally smaller than the male, usually standing 20 to 22 inches, weighing about 35 to 50 pounds.
- Regardless of gender, the Siberian Husky comes with a medium-sized head that is exceptionally proportionate to its body.
- The eyes of the Husky are shaped like an almond and are set somewhat obliquely relative to each other. These can be colored black, blue, or brown; although parti-colored is also common.
- The Siberian Husky is a Spitz type of dog. As such, it follows the characteristic triangular ears that complete with rounded tips. The ears are always oriented upwards rather than dropping.
- The muzzle can be described as medium both in width and length.
- The color of the nose typically complements the hue of the dog’s coat. If the dog’s coat is black, the nose is usually colored tan. Gray Huskies will have black noses while white Huskies will have flesh-colored noses. Copper-colored Siberian Huskies typically come with liver-colored noses.
- The body of a Husky is muscular with a characteristic aristocratic stance.
- It comes with a double coat. Straight and short guard hairs form the longer topcoat while the undercoat is exceptionally dense. The Husky sheds a lot. If you’ve got pet dander issues or allergies, this dog is definitely not for you.
- The tail is heavily-furred. When the Siberian Husky is relaxed, the tail is usually held low. If the Husky is excited or alerted to something, its tail follows a sickle shape, curved upwards.
- A Siberian Husky never barks; it howls. It’s another reason why we believe the Husky is a descendant of the Taymyr wolf.
- Siberian Huskies are excellent escape artists. They can dig under, jump over, or even chew through fences. Some Huskies are known to easily jump over fences as high as 8 feet.
- The ASPCA classifies Siberian Huskies as good with kids.
- Siberian Huskies have a very strong need to feel that it is a member of a pack.
Things You Should Know
Did we get you quite interested in bringing this happy and workaholic furry chap into your family? Well, before you finally go looking for the best possible breeder to get your Taymyr descendant, you’d better have a look at some of the things that are required when caring for a dog of this breed.
You might not believe that as smart as the Siberian Husky is, it is very difficult to train. If you’ve ever watched many of the films where these dogs are featured, you’ll know that only the toughest yet gentle owner can rein in the wild side of the Husky. They are very stubborn. What makes it even more challenging is that they have individual personalities. Some are definitely born to be leaders of the pack while others are more submissive. Your main job now is to decide which role of the pack you are going to play – the leader or the member?
Be the member of its pack and you’ll soon find out just how stubborn the Husky can be when it comes to training. It will never listen to you. Why would an Alpha listen to a pack member when it should be the other way around? The secret, therefore, in training a Siberian Husky is to assume the role of the pack leader even if it means it is the only dog in your household.
The Husky can be quite sensitive, so be careful if you do choose to employ harsh training methods or even punishment as a training tool; although we strongly advise you not to. It’s always better to adhere to positive reinforcement training principles than aversion techniques. Keep the training sessions relatively short but definitely interesting and fun. You don’t know just how easily the Husky can get bored.
Unless you don’t mind turning Balto into Garfield, you’d better watch what you’re feeding your Siberian Husky. This is especially true for modern Baltos that are turned into lap dogs rather than working sled-dogs. While Siberian Huskies are not really that prone to obesity, with the right factors at play you’ll easily find a Husky becoming more obese than your average pig.
Huskies require plenty of meat-based proteins, just like their Taymyr ancestors. They will also need fruits and vegetables because of the antioxidants that are present in these foods. And if you want to retain the smooth and healthy double coat of your Husky, then you should be prepared to give it something that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Be mindful of what human foods you give to your pet. While we don’t recommend it, it is inevitable that some pet parents will find it too cruel not to give their pets a morsel or two of their favorite table food especially if Balto here already has its soulful blue eyes on you. Chocolates, caffeine, onions, garlic, grapes, and raisins are just some of the absolute no-nos.
How do you think the Husky is able to cover longer distances through the harshest weather conditions without ever getting tired? It’s through exercise, of course. While you may be forgiven for thinking that your modern-day Balto no longer needs exercise because it is not working as a sled-dog anymore but rather a lap dog, they still do.
The playful nature of the Siberian Husky remains strong, even though it is no longer pulling sleds over snow. Its working dog genes are still pretty much intact. It may not be evident, but trust us it’s there. If you don’t give your Husky the opportunity to let this inherited trait to manifest itself you’ll be in the surprise of your life. Your adorable Balto can easily become the Jekyll and Hyde in your family.
Give your Balto plenty of exercises even if it is only extended playtime. If you have kids, now is the perfect time to buy one of those kiddie wagons that comes with a towing mechanism. Not only is your Husky getting to act out its innate nature, your kid will have fun as well. Of course, if you live in places where it snows, then you can always train your dog to pull sleds just as Nature designed it to do.
We really have to thank the Chukchi people for developing a breed that may be very tough in the harshest environments, but still has a soft heart when in the company of its family. However, don’t let this kid-friendliness be considered as your ticket to less supervision for your kid and dog at play. You should still supervise these two whenever they are interacting. The Husky may be sweet and tolerant to your kid, but not necessarily the other way around. Some children may not know how to play ‘nice’ or how to properly interact with dogs.
Huskies are great with kids and they’re perfectly fine with other dogs, too. Take note, we said other ‘dogs’, not other ‘pets’. The hunter’s instinct is strong in the Husky. Anything that is not a dog and which is smaller than them can often be interpreted as ‘prey’. So, be careful if you have cats, ferrets, or any other small animal or pet in your home.
If Balto grew up around these small animals, then there should be no problem becoming friends with them. This is why socialization is so important for puppies as it prepares them to interact with different breeds and species, including humans, as they grow older.
If you absolutely hate having pet hair all over your home or if you have allergies, Balto is never going to fit right in. This dog is a heavy shedder almost on a year-round basis, but mostly during Spring and Fall. Everyday brushing or combing is an absolute must during these times of the year and perhaps every other day in other times. Good news: there are deshedding tools that you can buy and use on Balto. It’s not going to prevent shedding, but it sure can minimize the amount of pet hair on your household surfaces.
Another daily regimen that should be observed is brushing your Siberian Husky’s teeth. While most will consider this as absolutely unnecessary, it helps improve overall dental health by preventing the occurrence of gum diseases. If you cannot commit to daily brushing, then twice or thrice a week should be enough. Make sure to use a doggie toothpaste though.
Cleaning its ears and trimming its nails are all part of a Siberian Husky’s routine grooming. A regular trip to your dog groomer once in a while should keep the magical flame in your dog burning.
The Siberian Husky rarely falls ill. A healthy Balto can reach 14 golden years. However, it’s not immune to some health problems that it may inherit from its parents. Hip dysplasia is always a concern and so are eye problems such as corneal dystrophy and cataract. They are also prone to hypothyroidism.
Avoiding these problems may not be easy, but having your Husky get its required shots, giving it an appropriate dog food, and making sure it gets plenty of exercise should work.
To sum it up, a Siberian Husky is perfect for the following individuals:
- Leads a very active lifestyle including outdoor recreational activities.
- Has all the attributes of a good leader.
- Knows the basics of positive reinforcement-based dog training.
- Will not leave the dog alone at home for extended periods of time.
- Has a child or children above the age of 8 years.
- Doesn’t mind a ‘howling’ rather than a barking dog.
- Doesn’t mind pet hair on the couch or carpet.
Regrettably, Balto is not recommended for the following folks:
- Those with allergies.
- Individuals who are couch potatoes or are not as physically active outdoors.
- Folks who are timid or have submissive or passive personalities.
- Persons who have to leave their dogs alone in the house for prolonged periods
Intelligent but stubborn, the Siberian Husky has all the fine qualities of a working dog but only if you know how to be its pack leader. It is ridiculously obstinate, but once you’ve earned its trust, there’s no task that the Husky will not accomplish. Perfect around children, the Husky has this gentleness and friendliness that you clearly won’t expect from a wolf-like pet. It is alert and can tell you of the presence of something, but don’t expect it to be the security guard of your family.
The Siberian Husky is obviously not intended for everyone. It has a very strong personality that only an equally-strong pet owner can tame. Nevertheless, its friendliness and playfulness can literally turn each day into life’s greatest adventures.
- Siberian Husky, vetSTREET