About Siberian Huskies
As Jon Katz says in his book A Good Dog, these “dogs live in their own sphere, by their own lights”.
Siberian Huskies are true unto themselves and as such, their respect must be earned. Once earned however, their love and loyalty know no bounds, but still, they are never blindly obedient. This makes the Siberian more high maintenance than some other breeds. Each individual dog has its own personality and characteristics, but there are certain common traits for the breed as a whole that must be understood and accepted for successful ownership. Siberians should not be blamed for being a Siberian! This is where many people get into trouble and end up unhappy with their dogs as a result. If you are seriously considering joining the fold of Siberian husky owners, we strongly suggest that you read on to learn more about this wonderful and, be forewarned, addicting breed, for they can in fact be just like potato chips!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO KEEP A SIBERIAN
Siberian Huskies are relatively high maintenance. However, taken care of properly, the rewards are immeasurable.
The Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of northeastern Siberia as an endurance sled dog and to herd reindeer. During the short summers, they roamed free on the tundra fending for themselves before returning to the villages. These two historical activities put predatory drive and a desire to run into the Siberian Husky's genetic code. No matter how bonded we are with any of our dogs, they cannot be allowed to run free – ever. This was a huge adjustment after having owned Golden Retrievers for 30 years, dogs who could go in and out of the house at will. When a Siberian Husky catches a whiff of an enticing smell or when their prey drive is triggered (typically by a fast moving small animal such as a squirrel, flying duck or cat), all bets are off. Since they love to run, they can cover many miles in a short time – and you are left with more gray hairs while you worry and possibly heart break. Therefore, proper care of a Siberian Husky includes regular and vigorous exercise (hiking, jogging, bike or ski-joring, dog-sledding) and proper containment (leashing, decent sized kennel).
Siberian Huskies love to dig to China – and beyond! We have holes in our play area that cause an adult dog to disappear from view. However, they will dig for entertainment or to follow a scent when on leash or hanging out in your neighbor's yard as well. Since they do not appreciate gardens or lawns, its best not to let a Siberian hang out where holes are not wanted. Therefore, proper care of a Siberian includes giving them an area where they can indulge their preferences.
While roaming the tundra in the summers, Siberians developed highly socialized pack behavior. During the long Siberian winters, the dogs provided warmth to the Chukchi people by living in the houses, the children were encouraged to play with them and the best dogs were bred. These historical activities put a strong need for a pack, either canine or human, into the Siberian Husky's genetic code. They are very friendly and sociable. They do not do well living alone. Left alone for more than an hour or two, even with entertainment such as a bone to chew,
they will howl mournfully and become bored – and the results of a bored, but still very intelligent, Siberian will most likely make you very unhappy – shredded cushions, opened cabinets, chewed shoes, any on-the-counter food eaten or spread about, emptied trash cans, etc. Therefore, proper care of a Siberian Husky includes providing other canine companions and/or spending the majority of your time with them.
Like many breeds, Siberian Huskies are very intelligent. However, their intelligence comes not only with keen powers of smell, hearing and sight (in that order of acuity), but with terrific problem-solving abilities combined with an ability to stick with a challenge. Unless they recognize that something is impossible (such as digging through cement), they will figure out just about any problem and work at it until they achieve success. Unlatching doors, prying open chain link, finding entertainment, climbing over or digging under fences, reaching the top of the refrigerator for the treats, locating and snitching stuffed animals and food, etc. are 101 level courses for them. Therefore, proper care of a Siberian Husky includes providing not only a safe environment as for any dog, but a highly secure and “child proofed” environment.
Siberians are very sensitive and “tuned into” emotions. They take care of one another and us. If we are feeling sad, if we injure ourselves, if we are scared, if we are buoyant, they will respond with compassion or excitement. We never show the dogs the moments we are frustrated or even angry. If a dog is injured or frightened, that dog's closest friends, along with others, will immediately offer comfort through licking the wound, “kissing” and staying close at hand. They do the same for us. Due to this sensitivity, Siberians respond best to training that is based on positive, consistent, positive, calm, positive and firm reinforcement (yes, repeat is intentional!)
Physical and joyful verbal praise is effective. Lack of praise alone is negative feedback and is often all that is necessary. Strong negative verbal and physical feedback is ineffective (yelling, hitting); it results in nothing except possible lack of wanting to please you, fear of you, and an ever increasing cycle of “bad behavior” by the dog created by the owner. Therefore, proper care of a Siberian Husky includes early training based on positive reinforcement and an on-going relationship based on positive, calm, and firm feedback along with a willingness to understand and accept a Siberian for what a Siberian is; you cannot train a Siberian out of its genetic predispositions. However, if you work with a Siberian's natural tendency to be sensitive and strong, eager and stubborn, outgoing and reserved, playful and dignified, you will have a well trained and loving companion; and if you earn a Siberian's respect, you will have a devoted and hard working partner.