You've seen them race, admired their appearance and have heard they're highly intelligent and friendly. But not all husky traits are universally appreciated or understood. From Houdini-like escape skills to a penchant for digging up landscaping, huskies may not fit every lifestyle. Learning about the breed before you adopt is key to a long and happy relationship.
Run Baby Run
Since their origins as sled dogs for the Chukchi people of northeastern Asia, huskies have been bred for speed and endurance. They love to run and often will run for miles before stopping. Even if you've been blessed with the legs of an Olympic runner, for their safety, huskies should never be allowed off leash outside of a safely enclosed fenced area.
"The Houdini of the Dog World"
Pennsylvania-based Tails of the Tundra Siberian Husky Rescue refers to huskies as the "Houdinis of the dog world." They warn huskies will squeeze through small holes, scale over or dig under fences, bolt out doors and even run through electric fences. Keeping a husky safe requires staying one step ahead of him and continuously reviewing security.
Only the Lonely
Huskies are highly social, pack-oriented dogs. They crave the companionship of people and other pooches. If a husky is left alone for too long, you’ll probably pay the price, including but not limited to incessant howling, an attempted prison break and/or destruction of one or more of your favorite things. Many rescues recommend crate training a new husky.
Love Thy Neighbor and Everyone Else
Huskies make terrible guard dogs. They trust strangers almost as much as their family. Given the opportunity, they'd probably show the burglar where you keep the valuables. If you're looking for security, invest in a better lock or an alarm system.
If you share your home with a member of the feline persuasion, be aware that huskies have an exceptionally strong predatory drive. While they’re excellent with people and most dogs, they too often will chase and kill small animals, including rabbits, chickens, cats and even small dogs and livestock. Huskies should always be under your immediate control outdoors, and never unsupervised with small pets in the home.
If you haven’t added vacuum cleaner stock to your investment portfolio, do so before bringing home a husky. Besides shedding daily, huskies will lose their entire undercoat -- in clumps -- at least once, and often twice, a year. And don’t even think about breaking out the razor to cool your pooch; their undercoat acts as an insulator, not just against frigid cold, but against heat and harmful UV rays.
Huskies have a natural instinct to dig. Turn your back and they're half way to China in your favorite garden bed. Besides trampled tomato plants, it means huskies can and will dig under fences. Use slabs or other barriers on the inside of the fence, or drop the fence at least 1 foot underground.
Many Siberian huskies dislike sharing their food, treats and toys. Feed pups separately and take up empty bowls after meal time to discourage food aggression.
The Eyes Have It
Relative to other breeds, Siberian huskies have few genetic health problems. The Siberian Husky Club of America monitors two in particular: canine hip dysplasia and inheritable eye diseases, including juvenile cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and corneal dystrophy. With adoption, you're less likely to get the complete medical histories of your pup's parents, but your veterinarian can help spot potential problems.
Tired Husky Equals Happy Owner
Huskies are athletes and require daily exercise. And when tired, they're less mischievous. Having more than one dog can take some of the pressure off their human caregiver. Siberian Husky Assist Rescue in Bristol, Virginia offers sled dog classes to help husky owners and their charges burn off some excess energy.
Barbara Cozzens has been writing for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in publications of the Nature Conservancy, the World Bank Group, National Geographic Society, Duke University and others. Cozzens holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Colgate University and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.