Strengths & Weaknesses of the Siberian Husky

by Rebecca Bragg
Siberian huskies need owners who understand their nature and special needs.

Siberian huskies need owners who understand their nature and special needs.

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Siberian huskies, among the most gorgeous of all dog breeds, often become victims of their own beauty. Understandable as love at first sight may be, adopting a Siberian on impulse is a bad idea. Over centuries, the Chukchi aboriginal people of Siberia bred qualities into their sled dogs that suited them but don't always fit well into the lives of contemporary North Americans. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of sharing your life with a Siberian before bringing one home, advises the Siberian Husky Rescue Site.

An Overall Healthy, Affectionate Breed

Many popular dog breeds are vulnerable to a long list of genetically transmitted diseases but for the most part, Siberians have dodged that bullet. According to the Siberian Husky Club of America, these dogs have a slightly elevated risk for hip dysplasia and are susceptible to three eye diseases: hereditary or juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy and progressive retinal atrophy. The American Kennel Club calls the Siberian a "a great all-around dog" with an "agreeable and outgoing temperament." The breed is gentle, good with kids, adapts well to new environments and usually gets along well with other pets in a household. Though affectionate, Siberians don't pester for attention and for their size, from 20 to 23½ inches tall at the shoulder, and weighing 35 to 60 pounds, eat relatively little compared to other breeds of similar size.

Smart and Independent: Mixed Blessings

Sled dogs work in teams, each animal knowing his place in the pack hierarchy. The position of pack leader is earned, not elected; to keep that position, top dogs must be capable of defending their entitlement to it. Siberians kept as pets won't automatically submit to the authority of the human who considers himself a pack leader unless that person keeps reinforcing his entitlement for the job in ways the dog can understand. For this reason, the breed is considered unsuitable for inexperienced or nonassertive dog owners. In an Arctic setting, whether Siberia or Alaska, sled dogs are apt to become aware of some dangers, for instance a hole in the ice ahead, before a human musher suspects anything. When that happens, dogs must exercise their own judgment about what to do, which may involve overriding human commands. So as intelligent as the breed is, Siberians aren't big on obedience and can be difficult to train.

Guarding, Digging, Chasing and Escaping

If you want a guard dog, a Chihuahua would be a better choice than a Siberian husky. Since Siberians bestow their affection indiscriminately, an intruder in the home would be made to feel as welcome as a family member. In fact, after everything of value had been looted, the dog is apt to help the thief escape -- another well-developed talent in this breed. Anyone who owns Siberians needs a strong, high fence sunk into the ground so the dogs, passionate diggers, can't tunnel their way to freedom. On walks, they can never be trusted off-leash. They're strong, impulsive and enjoy chasing small animals, which means that people holding the leash must be strong enough to restrain them if the need arises.

About All That Lovely Fur...

The magnificent coat for which Siberian huskies are famous consists of a dense, soft undercoat and a longer, coarser topcoat. Twice a year, more often in warmer climates, they "blow" those coats. Within a period of about three weeks, Siberian owners must gather up bushels of hair from everywhere the dog has been. This breed's penchant for chewing things means that Siberians can do a lot of damage when left unsupervised in the house, although this cloud has a silver lining: They're perfectly comfortable in a well-fenced outdoor kennel with a dog house all year round. The insulating properties of their coats keep them cool in hot weather and warm even in subfreezing temperatures.

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