Q. What sets the Siberian Husky apart from other breeds?
A. Many people say that huskies are wolf-like, and not just in appearance, but temperament too. This is not a myth — recent genome studies show that the arctic breeds have higher percentages of wolf genes. The arctic breeds interbred with ancient Siberian wolves after domestication. This means that huskies are more independent, and they are not as easily trained as other breeds. They are very intelligent, but they typically use their intelligence for their own entertainment. I like to think that my dogs have a sense of humor. If you are looking for a velcro dog who will come when called, that’s not a Siberian Husky. If you are looking for a dog that will be more of an equal to you, has an incredible zest for life, and loves all people and new experiences, then stay on this page.
Q. Are huskies good with children?
A. Yes, they are fantastic with children. They are very tolerant of kids and generally don’t fear anything or anyone. They love people and consider everyone to be their friend. They are completely ineffective guard dogs for that reason, but they do look intimidating from afar! Children do need to be trained to interact with huskies, however. If you have young kids in your house, we require that you have previous experience with training huskies. Otherwise, you and your children will be learning at the same time, and that can be unsuccessful.
Q. Are huskies good with other dogs?
A. Yes. If they are bred to have good temperaments and properly socialized as puppies, they will get along with dogs of all sizes and breeds. They won’t enjoy playing with every single dog, and not every single dog will enjoy playing with them, but that is true of any dog. Siberian huskies are not dog aggressive or same sex aggressive. They should live harmoniously in packs.
Q. Are huskies good with cats or other small animals?
A. No, absolutely not. If you have a bombproof cat, a husky puppy can be okay with them if they are raised with them from 8 weeks. If you have a skittish cat, it will be a lost cause, and you would have to keep them separated at all times. If you have a cat and are interested in adding a husky pup, you should expect to have to keep them separate. If you have chickens on your property, you have to make sure your husky never gets into their pen.
Q. How much exercise do huskies need?
A. As adults (3 years+), about a solid hour a day. That means running or playing off-leash (in a fenced area) with other dogs. Walking doesn’t cut it. If they get an hour a day of exercise, they will be well-behaved couch potatoes the rest of the time. This is about the same as most other medium-sized breeds. From about 5 months to a year old, though, they need a lot more exercise since they are at peak energy levels. They really need a lot of physical and mental stimulation during this time to take the edge off their hormonal urges. Plan to give them three 45-minute runs or off-leash playtimes spread throughout the day during this time. Starting from a year old to 3 years old, their exercise needs will gradually decrease. Of course, as seniors, they will slow down further.
Q. Do I need a fenced yard to have a husky?
A. No. We didn’t have a fenced yard when we got our first husky, since we were renting at the time. Many of our puppy owners live in apartments in big cities, so they don’t have yards either. Not having a yard isn’t a huge deal unless you have more than one dog. It’s really nice to let dogs play off-leash in a yard together. If you only have one husky, though, having a yard doesn’t make a big difference, since your dog isn’t going to run around the yard exercising himself. Huskies generally don’t play fetch either, so even if you have a yard, it’s just a giant bathroom. You will still need to take him on walks, to the dog park, or to a doggy daycare. It is very useful, though, if you have friends with dogs who can come over to play, and as a convenient potty area. We ask that our puppy owners never leave their dog unsupervised in a fenced yard, even with a fence that is six feet high.
Q. Can huskies be off-leash?
A. The general rule is no. You should plan to be the rule and not the exception. The vast majority of huskies will not have reliable recall no matter how much you train them. It only takes one time for them to run and get hit by a car. I have personally rescued many huskies that I found off-leash in parks, because their owners trusted them with too much freedom. Huskies are just too independent and prey driven to be trusted off-leash. If they see a squirrel or another dog, they will run and chase, sometimes straight into traffic. Some people have had success using e-collars with their dogs, but we ask that our puppy owners avoid them, since many studies show that their use is not humane and they often don’t work with huskies anyway. We also ask that our puppy owners never let their dogs off-leash, because our dogs are not genetically programmed to be have reliable recall.
Q. What about electronic fences?
A. We really dislike electronic fences, for many reasons. It causes great anxiety in dogs to see outside a confined area but not be able to cross the boundary. Other animals can walk up to your dogs and even enter the yard. Again, e-collars often do not even work with huskies, so electronic fences obviously would not work either. Even if they are able to feel the shock, many would still jump the fence because their prey drive is that strong. We would not allow our dogs to go to a home that was going to use an electronic fence with them.
Q. Are huskies loving toward their owners?
A. In a word, yes. All our dogs really love us, and we can tell. They like to show this in different ways, though. Juno will pin his ears back and walk slowly towards you with his tail wagging when you call his name. He really loves head scratches and belly rubs. Aria will climb up your back if she wants your attention and you’re not giving it to her. She doesn’t like to be pet as much but she enjoys curling up next to you in bed. Marv likes to lick your hands, feet, and face. He also doesn’t enjoy pets but loves attention. Cece will give you kisses while wagging her tail furiously, but then she will run off to do something else. Serena loves pets and demands them from you. Valley doesn’t like to be pet on his head as much, but he loves to be hugged. As you can see, they have wide range of preferences in terms of cuddling and petting. You should not get a Siberian with the expectation that they will enjoy cuddling and being pet.
Q. Do huskies shed a lot?
A. Yes and no. When they do shed, a lot of fur comes out. But when they’re not blowing their coats twice a year, they generally shed very little. Also, when they shed, the fur is cotton-y not hairy like other long-haired breeds, so it doesn’t generally get all over clothes and furniture. We find a lot more cat hair on our furniture than dog hair. It is also easy to get the fur out with a good bath and blowout. Grooming huskies is fairly easy compared to other breeds. They are very clean and do not smell, and dirt falls right off of them, so they do not need baths often. When you do bathe them though, their unique double coat makes them very hard to dry, so we highly recommend getting a high velocity dryer to dry them properly. Combing and brushing their coats is easy to do yourself, and doing it weekly is more than enough.
Q. Are huskies a healthy breed?
A. Yes. They live relatively long lives (12-15 years) and do not have major health issues. Hip dysplasia is very rare in the breed, and breeders screen for eye disease prior to breeding. Like any dog or person, it’s usually cancer that gets them in their old age. They are usually running until the day they go. Huskies are at high risk of becoming obese due to their low metabolism, so it’s very important to keep them fit. They also have higher rates of hypothyroidism, so it is good to get their thyroid checked if you are having trouble with their weight. Zinc deficiency is also a common issue, and we supplement all of our dogs with zinc. Epilepsy occurs at a higher rate in the breed and is much more prevalent in certain lines than others. We selectively use lines that have a good health track record, but there is always the possibility of lurking recessive genes.
Q. Should I spay or neuter my husky?
A. In general, the answer is yes, but the longer you wait, the better. Our contract requires waiting until at least 12 months to spay and neuter, and this position is supported by a lot of research. CCL tears and hemangiosarcoma are two major health issues that have increased in many dog breeds in recent years, including in the Siberian, and intact dogs (of both sex) are much less prone to developing CCL tears and intact females are much less prone to developing hemangiosarcoma. Due to lifestyle reasons, though, most of our pet homes do choose to spay and neuter after 12 months. It is a personal decision, and we allow each home to make this decision based on their specific situation (after 12 months).
Q. What kind of harness should I get for my husky?
A. This article is a great resource to start with to understand harness fit and how it affects dogs. We do not recommend no-pull harnesses under any circumstances due to restriction on the movement of the dog. An ideal harness is Y-shaped and is fully adjustable to ensure the right fit for your dog. We recommend the Alpine Outfitters half-back harness for recreational activities such as hiking, canicross, or bikejor and skijor.
Q. What kind of crate should I get for my husky?
A. Every dog has his or her own preferences, but most huskies do best in a Ruffland XL crate or a 34” Impact crate. The Ruffland crate is better for traveling by car, but it is not airline approved. The Impact crate is a bit roomier than the Ruffland crate and is better for home use or for flying in cargo. A select few of our dogs prefer standard wire crates to the Ruffland and Impact crates. We don’t recommend using wire crates when traveling by car, however, since they will not protect your pup in the event of a crash. On the other hand, the Ruffland crates are made of a single piece of heavy duty plastic and are crash-tested. Ruffland crates and Impact crates do cost significantly more than a wire crate, but they are great for peace of mind and they last for years. Some huskies are known to chip or break teeth on a wire crate, but the Ruffland and Impact crates are designed so that even houdini huskies cannot hurt themselves on them. Additionally, many huskies feel safer in the Ruffland and Impact crates, making it easier to crate train them.
Q. What should I feed my husky?
A. Our dogs do really well on Purina ProPlan Complete Essentials Shredded Blend Chicken & Rice 26/16. It is formulated for all life stages, and we feed it to our puppies as well. It’s a misconception that puppies need more fat in their diets. In fact, they need less fat than adults, and keeping them lean and letting them grow slowly is better for their long-term health. You can feed puppies a higher protein and lower fat formula, such as 30/15, but you want to keep the ratio of protein to fat at around 2:1. Huskies are extremely prone to weight-gain, especially after being spayed/neutered, so you do not ever want to feed them a high protein/fat diet, unless they are actual athletes. We also highly recommend the Fromm Duck À La Veg recipe.
Huskies require more zinc than other dog breeds, especially as puppies. We recommend supplementing with zinc 15 mg/day at the bare minimum throughout their lives. Puppies, older dogs, sick dogs, and girls in heat need even more zinc. You should increase zinc whenever their coats feel dry or dull, or when their paw pads are rough. Zinc toxicity occurs at extremely high levels, so it is typically not a concern. In general, supplementing up to 100 mg/day for a short time period is perfectly safe. Supplementing that much in the long term can deplete copper, however, so please consult your vet before doing so. Additionally, we supplement all our dogs daily with a quality salmon oil such as Grizzly. Additionally, we add a 400 IU Vitamin E supplement daily. This combination has been really effective for all our dogs.
Raw feeding is a great option, as the zinc in raw meat is much more bioavailable, but it does carry some risks, and many homemade diets are not balanced correctly. To ensure that the diet is balanced, one must educate themselves thoroughly on canine nutrition. Generally, a raw diet that is 80% meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organ will be balanced. But you do need to vary the sources of meat, ensure that at least half the meat is red meat, and also feed a variety of organ meats. Raw diets with only beef liver will be too high in copper, interfering with the absorption of zinc. We recommend premade raw since it is balanced already and ground up for dental safety. BJ’s Raw is our favorite option and Rawfedk9 is a good option as well. Just make sure you check the nutrition label to make sure that the particular mix is balanced right and that you provide a variety. Look for protein to fat ratio of roughly 3:2. Raw diets must be supplemented with salmon oil unless you are feeding salmon on a regular basis. Additionally, you will want to supplement vitamin E, vitamin D (400 IU/day), and iodine (250 mcg/day) as well. Adding vegetables, berries, and grain (no more than 20%) to the diet is even better to provide vitamin C, minerals, and antioxidants.
Q. Can I feed 50/50 raw and kibble?
A. Absolutely! It is likely the best of both worlds, since dry kibble does do a decent job of cleaning their teeth, and it has the right amounts of vitamins and minerals, whereas raw is easier on the digestive system and more bioavailable.