Siberian huskies are a working dog breed that has origins in Siberia, Russia. They've become popular due to their energetic personalities, unique look, and friendly nature. They make great pets for all kinds of households, especially those with children and other dogs.
Siberian Husky Traits
The Siberian husky life span is between 12 and 14 years. They are medium-sized dogs that naturally stay rather clean and don't often smell bad.
Physical characteristics of Siberian huskies. How big do Siberian huskies get? Male huskies usually weigh between 45 and 65 pounds and are around 24 inches tall. Female huskies usually weigh between 35 and 55 pounds and are around 23 inches tall.
Their faces can appear wolf-like. They are usually white with a stripe down the center of their face or a dark mask around the eyes. Siberian huskies are known for their striking eyes, which can be a piercing light blue. Others have brown eyes. Some have one blue eye and one brown eye, or one eye that is half of each color.
Because huskies were bred to live in colder climates, they have a very thick coat compared to other dog breeds. The coat has two layers — a thick undercoat to protect from cold and reflect heat and a short, wiry topcoat.
Their coats come in a variety of colors and patterns including agouti (wolf-like) and white, black and white, and red and white, among others. Despite the diversity of their colorings, they usually have white on their:
- Tip of their bushy tail
One unique quality that some huskies have is called "snow nose." This is when their nose turns pink in the winter and returns to black when warm weather comes around. Some huskies have just a pink stripe that shows up on their nose in cold weather. Others have a fully pink or black nose that does not change color.
Siberian husky temperament. The Siberian husky personality is very energetic. They are great companions for people who want to take their dogs running with them.
Huskies are so friendly that they don't often make good guard dogs. They are usually comfortable with strangers and more likely to greet a stranger with a wagging tail than to bark at them. Due to their history as pack animals, they may not do well if they're left on their own for too long or too often.
One of the traits to watch for is a high prey drive. They tend to go after all sorts of creatures that move quickly like prey, such as squirrels, birds, rats, and even cats.
Huskies are smart and energetic dogs who can be destructive if they are not stimulated or exercised enough. If understimulated, they may:
- Dig up plants
- Dig under fences
- Chew or dig inside the home
- Get into general mischief
Caring for Siberian Huskies
Siberian husky grooming. Siberian huskies require weekly grooming — usually brushing — due to their long and thick coats. In general, they shed all year. Twice a year, or sometimes once a year, they shed in larger clumps to prepare for seasonal changes. You should bathe your Siberian husky about once every 3 months.
Do not clip or shave your husky's coat unless there is a significant medical reason. Their coat serves a purpose. It keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Though it seems counterintuitive, shaving your husky can actually lead to overheating.
There aren't any special considerations for grooming your husky's teeth or nails. Just like any breed, care for their teeth with special dental treats, tooth wipes, or getting a professional cleaning. Clip or grind their nails when necessary.
What to feed your Siberian husky. Because Siberian huskies are so active, their feeding schedule is important. Avoid feeding them for 2 hours before exercise and for 30 minutes afterward.
You can feed your husky a diet of commercial dry or wet dog food. Many veterinarians do not recommend feeding your dog a raw food diet. But human foods such as meat, cheese, fresh fruits, and vegetables may be given as occasional treats in small amounts. You can also give them treats made especially for dogs. Treats — including both dog treats and human food snacks — should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s diet on any given day.
How much exercise do Siberian huskies need? Huskies are a working dog breed, so they're happiest when they're busy and active. They were bred to pull sleds and run for long distances.
They love to go on daily walks and need 3- to 5-mile walks or runs at least four days a week when the weather's cold. When the weather's hot, be wary of too much exercise. If it’s hot enough, a husky can wind up with heatstroke in 10 minutes or less. Huskies work best when the temperature is below 20ºF, so you may notice that they're more energetic in colder weather.
In hotter months, try to exercise your dog during the coolest times of day or in an air-conditioned setting. When exercising in any season, give your husky plenty of water, and consider giving them some ice if it's particularly warm.
Siberian huskies love to run, so they should be kept on a leash or in a fenced-in yard at all times. These athletic dogs can jump rather high, so make sure your fence is at least 6 feet high to avoid any escapes.
Health Problems to Watch for With Siberian Huskies
Siberian huskies are purebred dogs. Because of this, they may be prone to certain conditions if the breeder hasn't screened the parent dogs for common husky conditions, such as the following:
- Hip dysplasia that leads to arthritis later in the dog's life is common in huskies. The only way to prevent this condition is by not breeding dogs that have it. If your dog has hip dysplasia, you can treat it by managing their weight to reduce the strain on the joint, using anti-inflammatory pain relievers if your vet prescribes them, and controlling their exercise. In severe cases, surgery can correct hip dysplasia.
- Some huskies are prone to epilepsy. If your dog has a seizure, take them to the vet as soon as possible. It may be an isolated incident, or it may be part of an epileptic disorder. Dogs with epilepsy should not be bred to avoid passing the condition on to the puppies. Most of the time, seizures in dogs don't require treatment. However, if seizures are negatively affecting your dog's quality of life, your vet may prescribe anticonvulsant medication.
- Huskies are prone to certain types of cancer. Many can be cured with surgery, but others require chemotherapy. Early detection is key for dogs with cancer. Make sure to bring your dog in for their yearly vet check-up for regular testing and observation.
- Eye issues like cataracts are common in huskies. Many dogs are prone to getting cataracts as they age, but huskies may get a form of them between 6 and 18 months of age. If your dog's eyes look cloudy, take them to the vet.
The first step towards prevention and Siberian husky care begins with the breeder. Make sure to work with breeders who screen parents for common husky health problems. For example, Siberian huskies should be screened for hip dysplasia with an x-ray before being used for breeding. Breeding huskies should also have a cataracts screening yearly.
Special Considerations for Siberian Huskies
Because they were bred to work on sled teams, Siberian huskies usually get along well with other dogs and large families, even those with small children. You can also train your husky to live harmoniously with other types of animals — like cats and birds — if you have them in your home.
Siberian huskies are one of the most allergenic breeds. They don't make good pets for people who are allergic to dogs.
This breed is very vocal. They don't bark a lot but, they love to howl, especially when excited or bored. Some huskies have a wide variety of sounds they make to communicate with their humans. This likely stems from the fact that they were bred specifically to work closely with humans and other dogs.
History of Siberian Huskies
Siberian huskies were originally companions to the Chukchi people of the Russian Chukotka peninsula, directly across the Bering Strait from Alaska. They were bred as sled dogs and were essential for survival in the harsh northern climate. During the summer, they were allowed to roam free and hunt small prey. In the winter, they would come back to their human companions when their wild food sources retreated for the season.
A Russian fur trader, William Goosak, first brought the dogs to Alaska in 1909. From there, the breed spread throughout the world.