On the Trail of The Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies are loving and happy-go-lucky dogs. However, they make lousy watchdogs and can be a challenge if not dealt with firmly. An interesting breed

Dog lovers fell in love with the breed after watching the 2006 movie Eight Below that featured not just one, but eight Siberian Huskies. While they look beautiful, they also happen to be the most wrongly purchased breeds around as most people do not take their temperaments into consideration.

ORIGIN: The Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute look similar, the reason could be that they originate from the original sled dog. A certain school of thought believes that the term ‘husky’ is a corruption of the nickname ‘esky’ for Eskimo and subsequently to their dogs.

While the breed’s history is relatively unknown, the Siberian Husky is thought to have originated among the Chukchi, a tribe of Siberian nomads. These people used the dogs for transportation and treated them as family dogs. The breed adapted to the harsh Siberian conditions well and was able to integrate into small packs working for hours on end. They had great stamina and were lightweight.  In 1908, the Siberian Husky was imported to Alaska and used to pull sleds and herd reindeer as they had great speed. Around the same time, they were used in the All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 408-mile dogsled race. The breed gained popularity in 1925, when there was an epidemic in Noma, Alaska and Siberian Huskies were used to bring in the much needed medicine to the people. They were recognized by the AKC in 1930 and the Canadian Kennel Clubin 1939.

DESCRIPTION: Strong and compact, they have beautiful almond shaped, moderately spaced eyes that are set slightly oblique. They generally have brown, blue or amber eyes and at times can be parti-eyed or bi-eyed. Their tails are heavily furred, which the dogs often curl over their faces and noses in order to provide additional warmth. This habit of theirs, while sleeping, is referred to as the Siberian Swirl. The colour of their nose depends upon the colour of the dog’s coat. It is black in grey, tan or black dogs, liver in copper dogs and flesh-coloured in pure white dogs. Their thick coats act as insulation against heat and cold, keeping their internal temperature fairly consistent. Preferably, they are meant for places with colder temperatures. If you are staying in a hot climate, this will be a challenge. They are thrifty eaters and eat less food than you might expect for their size.

ACITIVITY: Siberian Huskies need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. They make excellent jogging companions and need  a large backyard to expend their energy. To keep them happy, you need to keep them active and working. Apartments are not recommended for Huskies, unless your dog has been trained well and properly exercised. They are overall active creatures.

Training is essential for this breed and you may have to invest in an advanced obedience class for the Husky. The reason being the intelligent breed that it is the dogs can behave wonderfully in class, however, at home they may revert back to their stubbornness. You need to be firm in getting them trained. Leash training is another must for the breed and they should never be left off leash when not in a fenced area. They love to run and can easily get separated from you if they are chasing something or enjoying a heartfelt run. Another reason to leash them is their high prey drive, which can lead to unnecessary encounters with other animals if you are walking them.

TEMPERAMENT: Siberian Huskies are good with children and can be trained to behave themselves with smaller animals. The good news is, they don’t bark much, however they do enjoy howling. They need companionship of people and other dogs as they have a pack mentality. Failure to provide so may result in them being destructive when bored. They also need a pack leader and if you are the one responsible, then it is important for the Husky to respect you. Though occasionally he will test his limits and you may have to show that you are the leader. Nonetheless, they are mischievous and have a playful nature. And they do a lousy job of being a watchdog. Never make them one as they are not overly suspicious of strangers.

Like most breeds, they need early exposure to different people, sights, sounds and experiences when they are young to become well rounded dogs.

HEALTH: Overall the breed is a healthy one, but like most breeds is prone to certain health conditions. Health issues in the breed are mostly genetic. Look out for defects of the eye like juvenile cataract, corneal dystrophy, canine glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy. Other ailments like seizures and congenital laryngeal paralysis can also affect the Husky.

GROOMING: Siberian Huskies have a straight top coat and a soft and dense undercoat. They shed a lot, but are a fairly easy breed to care for. Brushing their coat once a week should be good enough to avoid matting, but brush daily during shedding season. They are generally clean creatures. Brush their teeth two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup, though daily brushing is even better. Trim their nails once or twice a month depending on their growth. When puppies, get them used to the brushing and examinations that will lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams later.

Interesting Trivia: American actor Ben Stiller’s best friend is his Husky Alley. And singer Rita Ora named her pet Husky Bowie after the legendary singer as the dog has two different coloured eyes.

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