Siberian huskies are famous for their attractive looks and friendly disposition, but they are also gifted athletes. Huskies are among the most popular breeds for sled races; other breeds can rarely equal their combination of endurance and energetic efficiency. However, as they can be challenging dogs to train, huskies are better suited for some sports than others are.
Though several related lines bear the name husky, Siberian huskies are the only AKC-recognized breed with the term in their official name. Like their wolf ancestors, Siberian huskies possess incredible strength, speed and endurance. Although modern breeders primarily seek to produce dogs for show, the breed’s founders -- the Chukchi people of Northeast Asia -- developed the breed for pulling sleds over long distances.
In 1925, the superlative sled-pulling abilities of huskies put them in the national spotlight. The isolated city of Nome, Alaska, was in desperate need of serum to combat an outbreak of diphtheria. Public health officials determined that the fastest way to deliver the medications was via several sled teams -- teams of Siberian huskies. When the final contingent of huskies crossed the finish line of the nearly-700-mile-long journey, they became heroes, achieving iconic status as one of the finest sled-pulling breeds.
Huskies love to run. This works well under the control of their owners, but it represents a significant challenge for off-leash work. Upon liberation from their leashes, most huskies immediately start showing off their incredible running abilities and may fail to respond to voice commands. The breed’s high predatory drive and natural curiosity exacerbates the problem further, as they are apt to chase small animals or wander off looking for interesting things to investigate. This tendency can be dangerous for your dog, who may run into traffic, or wander too far from home. Accordingly, many husky owners are reluctant to train their dog for sports that require off-leash work.
Huskies are quite athletic and possess great agility. The sure-footed and graceful dogs have more than enough coordination, intelligence and skill for agility trials -- if they learn to work well off-leash. Some huskies and their owners are able to overcome the huskies' natural training challenges and compete in agility-related sports at a high level.
Hiking is an excellent physical activity for both you and your Husky. Given the unfamiliar and remote surroundings, a leash is always required while hiking through the forest with your husky. The preponderance of small critters may cause your pup to disappear into the wilderness, chasing the irresistible prey. However, huskies are quite capable of carrying a pack when hiking and may enjoy the added challenge. With a properly fitting pack, your husky should be able to carry about 25 percent of his weight.
Many modern husky owners engage in a variety of activities similar to pulling a sled. The details of such sports vary greatly, but most will require your harnessed husky to pull some type of weighted sled or vehicle. These types of sports allow your dog to exercise his pulling and running instincts without snow on the ground.
- American Kennel Club: Siberian Husky: History
- The New York Times: Spirit of a Racer in a Dog’s Blood
- Your Purebred Puppy: Siberian Husky Temperament What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
- Siberian Husky Club of America: The Siberian Husky
- International Weight Pull Association: Overview of a Pull
- Siberian Husky Club of America: SHCA’s Working Programs: Working Pack Dog Program
- Northern California Siberian Husky Club, Inc: Siberians and Agility
- Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images