The Siberian Husky, a thickly coated, compact sled dog of medium size and great endurance, was developed to work in packs, pulling light loads at moderate speeds over vast frozen expanses. Sibes are friendly, fastidious, and dignified.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 12 of 192
- Height: 21-23.5 inches (male), 20-22 inches (female)
- Weight: 45-60 pounds (male), 35-50 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
- Group: Working Group
About the Siberian Husky
The graceful, medium-sized Siberian Husky’s almond-shaped eyes can be either brown or blue—and sometimes one of each—and convey a keen but amiable and even mischievous expression. Quick and nimble-footed, Siberians are known for their powerful but seemingly effortless gait. Tipping the scales at no more than 60 pounds, they are noticeably smaller and lighter than their burly cousin, the Alaskan Malamute.
As born pack dogs, they enjoy family life and get on well with other dogs. The Sibe’s innate friendliness render them indifferent watchdogs. These are energetic dogs who can’t resist chasing small animals, so secure running room is a must. An attractive feature of the breed: Sibes are naturally clean, with little doggy odor.
The Siberian Husky’s compact body, well-furred coat, erect ears, and thick, sickle-shaped tail immediately suggest the breed’s northern heritage. The breed’s ancestors were originally bred in northeastern Asia by the Chukchi people and were kept as companion dogs for their families as well as endurance sled dogs.
When changing climate conditions forced the semi-nomadic Chukchi to expand their hunting grounds or perish, they rose to the challenge by developing a sled dog capable of hauling light loads over vast expanses of frozen wasteland in sub-zero temperatures, with a minimum expenditure of energy. The Chukchi, isolated by from the rest of the world, were able to maintain the purity of their sled teams for many generations. The dogs they developed were the direct forerunners of today’s Siberian Husky.
Siberians caught the eye of the public when they began winning sled races in the early 1900s, but they made headlines in 1925 when a legendary musher Leonhard Seppala led a relay of Siberian Huskies 658 miles in only five and half days to rush a lifesaving serum to Nome, Alaska, where an epidemic of diphtheria had broken out. The thrilling “serum run,” reported breathlessly in newspapers around the world, won Sibes a popularity that has not abated to this day. Balto, who was Seppala’s lead dog on the final leg of the journey, remains one of the most honored hero dogs in canine history.
Mushers still keep packs of sledding Siberians for fun and sport throughout North America. Less adventurous devotees of the breed simply enjoy the company of this sociable, gentle companion.
Feeding a high-quality dog food is essential for the Siberian’s healthy skin and coat. Adjustments in the level of protein in the food is required for the working Siberian, based on the level of activity. In the summer months, a lower protein level may be appropriate, around 20 percent, while a dog working in harness in wintertime may need 32 percent protein. Monitor each individual Siberian, and adjust the amount and type of food as required. Be careful not to overfeed. Monitor the weight of each dog, and be selective about supplements.
Siberian Huskies are considered a “natural” breed. They are remarkably self-cleaning and often need only a few baths a year, unless being shown in conformation dog shows. Weekly brushings help keep the coat and skin in good condition. Siberians have a double coat—an undercoat, and guard hair. The undercoat is shed twice a year, and it is important to continually “rake out” the old coat, using a pin brush and metal comb. Pay close attention to the length of the nails, and keep them trimmed to prevent any foot problems. Siberians competing in conformation require a bit more selective grooming for the best presentation.
Siberians are active, athletic dogs who need a lot of exercise. They are a working breed and happiest when they have a function to perform. Regular exercise is important both physically and mentally, and doing activities together strengthens the bond between dog and owner. Siberians were bred to run and will do so at every opportunity; it is vital to keep the dog on a leash, in harness, or in a fenced yard at all times. There are several AKC-sponsored activities that can be enjoyed by dog and owners—rally, agility, and obedience are a few. A busy and active Siberian is a happy and healthy Siberian. This breed is also very adaptable, and for those who live in a more urban setting, daily walks or doggie play groups can provide great exercise.
All breeds benefit from early socialization, basic obedience training, and learning good manners, and the Siberian Husky is no exception. For those owners who want to work their dogs in harness, training for this requires hours of dedication and patience. There are several good books available on training for the trail that provide advice and information on getting started. The best approach is to make all training exercises fun for both dog and handler. Siberians are very social, and regularly need the company of their people or other dogs; they are not suited to being left alone all day. Most importantly, Siberians have an overwhelming desire to run, and they should be on leash or in a securely fenced-in area at all times and never allowed off lead.
Fortunately, the Siberian Husky is a relatively healthy breed. Responsible breeders screen their breeding stock for health problems such as juvenile cataracts, and the breed’s national parent club, the Siberian Husky Club of America, has strict guidelines to help reduce reported cases. Beginning at 12 months of age, all Siberians who potentially will be part of a breeding program should be examined by a canine ophthalmologist. The exam is then repeated on a yearly basis. New screenings and tests are being constantly being developed to help breeders in their selection of a potential dam and sire. Knowledgeable breeding practices ensure the future health of the breed. Owners of working Siberians need to closely monitor each dog to be able to recognize when something just isn’t right. Having a veterinarian familiar with working dogs is an advantag