by Dorothy Wills-Raftery
Dorothy is a fellow pet blogger whose blog is named FiveSibes™ : Siberian Husky K9 News and Reviews. We found each other through a site called Blogpaws and I asked her to share something with us–this is part one of a two part post about Siberian Huskies.
With holiday songs with lyrics of “dashing through the snow” still echoing in our ears, did you know that in some areas, the dashing is done not by reindeer, but by Siberian Huskies? And, believe it or not, the cold white, fluffy stuff is optional for these snow dogs!The Siberian Husky is a strikingly beautiful dog, with a variety of coat colors and eyes ranging from blue to amber brown, and can be parti- or bi-eyed, and they seem to pierce your very soul. Siberian Huskies (not to be confused with Alaskan Huskies) were recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breed in 1930. Typically a medium-sized dog, they have a dense undercoat beneath a silky soft layer that keeps them warm in the winter, and are virtually odor-free. The “wooly Siberian” is even fluffier, with a longer top coat causing it to require some extra grooming care (it can be a risk to these wooly coated Huskies to be exposed to the cold and snow as they are not “waterproof” like a traditional Siberian Husky). While humans may feel hot when looking at all that fur on a Siberian Husky, it does keep them cool in the summer and protects their skin from sunburn and parasites, so unless it’s for medical reasons, they should never be shaved. They “blow” (shed) their undercoats twice a year… and, yes, all the rumors are true—you could create a whole other Husky from the amount of fur they shed!
The Siberian Husky breed dates back some 3,000 years to the Chukchi people of Siberia. Author Joanne Sundell, a Husky parent herself, conducted much research on the breed for her Watch Eyes trilogy of Arctic Storm, Artic Shadow, and Arctic Will. The traits that most stand out about Huskies are that they are “fast, strong, enduring, and gentle,” notes Joanne. “The Chukchi were careful to breed the specific traits into their dogs that would help them survive. These dogs work, work, work!”
“The Siberian husky breed is a stubborn one too. They are hard to train.” Joanne notes. “They’re bred to behave and be gentle. When being fed, the dogs on a team don’t all rush to the food and fight. This gentleness keeps them from fighting with one another and getting the hitches all snarled.” She also notes that the Siberian Husky is a hunter (and they do have a very strong small prey drive). “Mostly,” notes Joanne, “the Siberian husky is born and bred to run!” So hold on to those leashes, folks!
When people think of a Siberian Husky, thoughts naturally turn to mushing with sleds or running across snowy fields. But Huskies also adapt well to other climates and love to do many non-snow activities. Rancy Reyes of Urban Mushing™, home of Southern California working snow dogs, hails from Costa Mesa. She first became interested in the breed in 1990 and is the proud parent to four Siberian Huskies. She also spends a lot of time with fellow California dog parents who are part of the Urban Mushing group who get together to have fun doing dog-powered activities with their working breed dogs, such as hiking, bikejoring, and dogsledding, scootering, canicross, and carting, to name just a few.
“What’s urban mushing?” you may ask. Rancy explains, “A dog (or dogs) runs and pulls in front of you (mushing style, similar to how they do it on a dogsled team) WITHOUT the snow. The human usually rides a wheeled vehicle, the most popular of which is a two-wheeled scooter. The dog wears a harness designed for pulling, usually an x-back harness, such as what they use on a sled dogs, and the dog is attached to the harness to the scooter via a six-to-seven foot line, which has a built-in bungee for shock absorption. The line is the only link between the human and the dog, and since they are running in front of you, they learn to respond to your voice commands.”
While a Siberian Husky’s nature can be stubborn, and thereby a challenge to train, they are highly intelligent and also very comical. They are silly and will make you laugh with their antics, two of Rancy’s favorite traits. “I just love the fact that a Husky has a mind of its own and does not blindly do what you tell it do. And while that by itself is a challenge, it also turns into a much more rewarding bond when I am able to convince them to comply with my requests.” Adds Reyes, “Each of my four Huskies have their own distinct characteristics, but they all provide me with endless hours of comedy relief with their antics and keeps me on my toes with their zest for life and boundless energy. There is never a dull moment when you live with Huskies!”
According to Margit Maxwell, a dog trainer specializing in Siberian Huskies and Malamutes at The Divine Dog Project in Calgary, Canada, these “dogs do train differently than other dog breeds. When it comes to most northern breed dogs, one-size-fits-all training really fails these beautiful, but independent thinking dogs.” Margit explains why. “Huskies are fiercely independent thinking dog breeds. Their hardwired breed characteristics make them think and act very differently from other companion or sporting dog breeds. While other working dogs breeds instinctively look to their human handlers for instruction and input, this breed is used to thinking for themselves,” which can result in training challenges. And since Huskies are quick learners, they can also bore very easily. Margit offers up some training tips:
• Make it fun, but not repetitious.
• Break up the lessons into small manageable chunks, no more than about five minutes in length.
• Change to different activities to teach and practice the same skill.
• Early obedience training and teaching appropriate social skills are a must.
• To avoid pulling, so is early and complete socialization, desensitization to the trigger (new people and dogs).
• Perform obedience training to help slow them down. Practice greeting and walking skills daily.
• Meet their physical breed-specific exercise requirements, their emotional requirements of belonging, and supply them with daily adventures.
• Off-leash recall for Siberian Huskies should never be fully trusted unless you are in a fully fenced and secure area. Want a dog to be off-leash? Best to choose a different breed.
Siberian Huskies are pack dogs by nature and love being part of a family. While a strong dog, they are sweet and gentle in nature and are much more a lover of a dog, so being a watchdog is not really in their nature. But if kisses, affection, and howls of love are what you are looking for, you’ve come to the right breed! However, be forewarned, if you don’t exercise this high-energy dog, you may find some couches unstuffed, wall molding chewed, and maybe even a missing shoe or two! Daily exercise is a must for this energetic breed.
To be continued…please join us next issue for Part 2 about the incredible Siberian Husky, when we discuss sledding, therapy dog work, rescues, and more.
Check out more pet stories and articles in our Pet Perspective section, including a column from Fresno Bully Rescue every other month. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to an animal rescue.