If Frozen’s Elsa had a dog, it would be the Siberian Husky. With its stunning beauty, intelligence, strong-willed and independent nature—not to mention the fact that it’s built for extreme cold —it is the perfect companion for an ice queen (pun intended). But if you’re thinking of getting one as your first furbaby, we have one piece of advice…“let it go.” In this episode of Animal Facts, we’re taking a closer look at the most popular polar pup in the U.S.—the Siberian Husky.
The origin of the Siberian Husky can be traced back to Northeast Asia, where they have been bred by the Chukchi people for thousands of years. The Husky was originally developed as an endurance sled dog, and in areas of the world where sledding is an essential mode of transportation it still is, but today it is mainly sought for companionship and stunning looks.
The rest of the world started to sit up and take notice of Huskies in the early 20th century, when they began to dominate the sport of sled racing. But they didn’t truly become popular until 1925 when the renowned sled driver, Leonhard Seppala, led a team of Huskies on a 658 mile, five day trek to Nome, Alaska to deliver life-saving medication during a diphtheria epidemic. Their unbelievable run made headlines in newspapers around the world, bringing widespread attention to the breed, which many years later became the inspiration for the animated movie “Balto”.
Size and Appearance
With a lush, double-coat, muscular frame, and piercing eyes, the Siberian Husky’s regal, wolf-like appearance is the perfect balance of strength and beauty.
Their physical characteristics are a direct product of the area from which they originated—Siberia. Huskies have a thick, fluffy double-coat consisting of a dense undercoat and a longer top coat made up of short guard hairs that protects them against frigid, Arctic temps and releases heat in warmer weather.
Siberian Huskies vary in colors and markings. Common color combinations include black and white, red and white, and grey and white, but some are solid white. Facial markings run the gamut and include spectacles, masks and other patterns. Some Huskies have a gene that causes hypopigmentation of the snout called “snow nose” or “winter nose.”
They have an intense gaze that is further enhanced by their almond-shaped eyes. Eye colors include brown, black, or blue. Some have a condition called heterochromia that causes their eyes to be “particolored”—which means that each eye is a different color.
What do you like most about your dog’s appearance?
Temperament and Family Life
Huskies may look like wolves, but they actually act more like sheep in wolves’ clothing. Many people assume that because they are large, imposing creatures, they make good watch dogs. Well, Siberians are not a suspicious breed. As a matter of fact, although they don’t need constant attention, they are quite affectionate. If they are properly socialized at an early age, Huskies typically get along with everyone—people and other canine pets alike. They are also kid-friendly, but as with any dog, an adult should be present any time they interact with small children.
Since they are pack dogs, Huskies fare best with someone who is comfortable with being firm when they want to do things their way. Asserting yourself as the “alpha” of the pack by setting rules and being consistent, is essential to establishing yourself as the leader and earning your pup’s respect.
Huskies are very playful, charming, and mischievous, and instead of barking, they love a good howl—another of their wolf-like traits.
They also enjoy passing the time with a vigorous dig. To decrease the likelihood of your Husky digging up a flower bed or excavating your entire yard, set up a sandbox or train your furry backhoe to dig in a particular area of the yard. Huskies are a working breed, so they have excess energy to burn. If you don’t give them something to do, they’ll find something to do.
Trainability and Intelligence
Huskies are as intelligent as they are beautiful, and when it comes to training, they use their smarts in class to learn commands. Unfortunately, when they get home, they also use the same smarts to “forget” those commands. Like children who misbehave in school but turn into angels at home (or vice versa), Huskies will tailor their behavior depending on where they are and whom they are with and what they are allowed to get away with. It’s a common trait among intelligent dogs.
The Husky is an innately self-serving dog that is not overly eager to please their humans, so it is not a breed recommended for freshman dog owners or those with timid personalities.
“Siberian Huskies are a popular dog breed, but they come with challenges. These Stubborn, strong-willed, and curious dogs are not for first-time owners, but they can be loving and loyal companions for anyone willing to put in the work,” according to Mary Meisenzahl, author of the book The Complete Guide to Siberian Huskies: Finding, Preparing For, Training, Exercising, Feeding, Grooming, and Loving your new Husky Puppy.
They are also notorious escape artists, so they must be constantly monitored when in the yard, and that yard must be surrounded by a fence that is set several feet deep into the soil.
Which do you prefer? A dog that is eager to please or one that is more self-serving?
To help your Husky stay in shape and fight boredom, you should make sure he or she gets 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.
Huskies love high energy, endurance activities like hiking, trail running, agility training, tug-of-war and playing Frisbee. These are all great ways for you both to get adequate exercise and strengthen your bond.
If you live in an area where it snows, you could also sign your pup up for sled or race dog training, as Huskies are naturally inclined to pull things. Keep in mind that sledding and racing require optimal physicality, so make sure your dog is healthy enough to participate in and enjoy these strenuous activities.
While most dog breeds are not bred for endurance, the Husky has almost neverending endurance. It’s a good trait to have when pulling sleds across large distances.
When the weather is hot, Huskies should never be exercised outside because their thick coat may cause them to overheat.
Health and Lifespan
On average, the lifespan of a Siberian Husky is 12 to 14 years, which is relatively long-lived for larger breeds.. They are a sturdy, robust breed that is healthy overall, but like other breeds, they are susceptible to certain ailments.
Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, and two forms of canine hemophilia (thrombopathia and von Willebrand’s disease) are health issues that are common in Huskies. Eye problems including cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy are also conditions that affect Huskies more often than in other breeds.
Huskies that pull sleds may also be prone to gastric and bronchopulmonary problems, like gastric ulcerations and “ski asthma”—an inflammation and hyper-reactivity of the airway seen in world-class winter athletes, both human and canine alike.
What health issues does your dog have that are commonly seen in humans?
The Siberian Husky is a beautiful, active and intelligent arctic dog. But, that intelligence and high energy may make it less than suited as a pet for novice and timid dog lovers.
As with any dog, I recommend researching the breed with due diligence before taking on the responsibility of dog adoption. However, if you are up to the challenge, a Siberian Husky is a wonderful and loyal family companion, who might also double as a form of transportation in a snow storm. The cold never bothered me anyway.
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