Copyright 2006 Taja Siberians
First and foremost, to those who are considering bringing home their very first Siberian Husky; thank you for taking the time to research the breed and learn as much as possible before making that leap. There is more information out there than can possibly be placed on one website page or read in one day. Please DO pass up those cute "available" puppy pages (for now) and take the time to read as much as you can and talk to as many Siberian breeders and owners as possible to make sure you are well informed. Nobody is ever really "prepared" for that first Siberian but forewarned is forearmed.
This is NOT a "one size fits all" breed.
Siberians live 10-15 years which is longer than many people own a car or stay in one house. Please take the time to research the breed that you choose. The joy (or torment) you reap during the next 10-15 years of your life could very well depend on it.
1. Friendly and affectionate to everyone
2. Very strong pack drive - These dogs love to spend time with their family and many other people and dogs which makes them easy to socialize to all and generally friendly to strangers.
3. Siberians have a double coat with two very thick layers. This coat insulates them from bad weather including heat, cold and dampness. It also protects their skin from the sun and parasites. Their standard length coat does not matt or hold dirt or odors and requires only occasional bathing or brushing other than during a shedding season which lasts approximately 2-3 weeks. Females generally shed twice a year. Males shed once a year.
This coat should NEVER be shaved or clipped even in summer heat as it protects their skin from damaging sun rays and parasites and actually insulates them from the heat. Provide adequate shade and a kiddy pool to splash in instead.
4. Siberians are very efficient eaters compared to other breeds of similar size. They generally eat less. Occasionally they will go off their food altogether for a few days. This is normal for the breed and as long as they appear healthy in all other ways it's nothing to be concerned about. Continue to offer them their regular meal. Within a few days they will start eating again.
When feeding your dog, feed the dog, not the bowl. This means his needs will change constantly depending on the weather, his age, his activities and other factors in his environment. Go over your dog every day. If he is looking thin, increase the food. If he is looking heavy, decrease the amount you are feeding him. Don't mindlessly feed the bowl and ignore the condition of your dog. This is how dogs become obese or under-nourished.
5. Siberians are extremely intelligent. With positive, fun training methods they are actually very quick to pick up on anything you want to teach them. The difficulty is that they are independent thinkers so repetitive training methods or bullying will shut them down. A Siberian has a "what's in it for me" drive so they need a trainer that will help them see what fun it is to do what they are required to do. We find clicker training works extremely well with our dogs.
6. Generally, Siberians don't bark. We have some that do occasionally but we believe they picked up the "watchdog bark" from our mixed breed who barks when strangers are in the yard.
7. Siberians are a very healthy, athletic dog. They make wonderful partners for walking, jogging and biking. They excel as pack animals on hikes. Their drive to pull and run makes them an excellent choice if you want to try skijoring (cross country skiing powered by a dog), scootering or carting. They are also, of course, perfect for sledding. Active families who want a dog with the stamina and energy to keep up will find them to be the best companion they could ask for.
8. Siberians are generally a healthy, long lived breed lasting 12-16 years and with good health throughout most of it.
9. Siberians are mischievous, silly-hearted and natural clowns. Their antics will make you laugh even when they are being naughty. You have to have a good sense of humor to enjoy a Siberian.
1. Some owners see their affection-for-all as a lack of loyalty.
Their friendliness makes them easy to steal and leaves them
with poor watchdog or guard dog abilities.
2. Siberians are not a good choice for a single dog household with a busy family. These dogs suffer horribly if left on their own for long hours. They need other dogs or their owners around all the time.
3. When Siberians "blow coat" (the term for the heavy shedding period once or twice a year) their undercoat will come out in fistfuls and chunks over a period of a few weeks. The light and fluffy undercoat will
float/tumble through the house and get into or on everything including your clothes, food and guests. You'll have to remind your visitors that this is why it is called "fur"niture. Combing the dog will pull out enough undercoat to fill several plastic shopping bags and this will continue until all the undercoat has been removed. Warm baths and regular grooming during this period will help finish the shed quickly. While the dog is "blowing coat" it will appear patchy and raggedy. During the rest of the year the shedding will be minimal and a regular brushing will help avoid even that.
4. Siberians dig. Siberians dig A LOT. They dig holes in the grass, under the fence, under your patio, through the flower beds and under their own dog houses. Get several of them together and they will have a digging convention and dig a hole large enough for a swimming pool. If you have moles under the grass they will dig up every inch of the tunnel (and your yard) until they track the little beast down. While you can direct their energies to one area in your yard by providing them with soft dirt or sand for digging, you will still occasionally find the ankle turning hole in the grass where something caught their attention underground. If digging is going to be a problem, find another breed.
5. Siberians run and they are intelligent enough to know the difference between off leash in an enclosed/fenced area and off leash with an open horizon. You will (hopefully) put your puppy through one or more obedience classes and be amazed and proud of how responsive and well mannered it can be. "My dog is the exception to the rule", you will tell yourself. Unfortunately, you may find you are very wrong. Your Siberian is appeasing you because it has nothing better to do while on a leash or in an enclosed area. The classes are fun. It's there anyway... So it feels it might as well enjoy itself and comply. Sooner or later, when you are lulled into believing you have the most obedient dog on the face of the earth, you will find yourself with that same dog off leash in an unenclosed area and you will see a very different dog....briefly.....just before it disappears over the horizon.
Siberians were bred to run long distances for long hours or even days on very little food. They have stamina to burn and an innate desire to get to the top of that next rise or around that next bend in the path. You cannot train it out of them or bribe it out of them. Even obedience champions are widely unpredictable and have bolted on their owners, some to an unfortunate end. This burning desire to run and their total lack of traffic sense can have tragic results. Their first mad dash for the horizon could very well be their last. If you aren't willing to ensure that your dog is always on a leash or in a Siberian proof enclosure, find another dog. This is NOT an off-leash breed.
6. Some Siberian can be destructive. I say "some" because I have experienced both ends of the spectrum with this. I have one female which quite literally ate our house. She chewed the linoleum off the floor, the molding off the walls, heads off barbie dolls, shredded the mail, the toilet paper and the Kleenex boxes, and chewed just about everything she could get her mouth on. Our other Siberians seemed content with whatever chew toys they were given and left the house alone for the most part.
Siberians have a long puppyhood and chewing behaviors can go on well past teething. While other breeds may just chew to cut teeth, older Siberians may chew and destroy things if they have excess energy to burn and no outlet for it. If your puppy or dog is misbehaving and destructive, it is very likely you are not meeting its needs for exercise. Make sure it is getting additional exercise every day for at least 30-60 minutes as well as more supervision and continue to add exercise until you see a positive change in the behaviors. Some dogs have higher energy levels than others and need that extra burn time otherwise they will release it the only way they know how; either through chewing or digging.
7. While Siberians don't generally bark they can and do make a whole lot of noises in other ways. They "sing", they howl, they talk to you with soft woo woo woos and huffs and growls. While you may think your Siberians howls are music, your neighbors may feel very different at 4 am. Siberians are also quite good at throwing temper tantrums when forced to do something they don't want to do and will scream (yes, scream) loud enough to convince everyone around that you are murdering them in cold blood.
Being out in public with an untrained Siberian is a lot like being out with a 3 year old child. Sooner or later you are going to be embarrassed and frustrated. Start your training and socialization early.
8. Siberians have a very strong prey drive. This means that they want to hunt and kill small animals and this is as innate for them as their drive to run. If it moves, flaps, or runs they want to catch it.
While our own Siberians and several of our puppies have been raised successfully with cats and view those cats as part of their pack and family, they may not extend this same courtesy to the neighbors cats or any other small furry animal. They have no problem at all catching and killing squirrels, raccoons, moles, mice, rabbits, birds etc. They are even sly enough to set up ambushes by leaving small piles of their food out to draw in squirrels and birds as they lie in wait nearby.
While our dogs are socialized very well with other tiny breeds through dog shows and 4H meetings and some of our puppies went to homes with smaller breeds as companions, there can be some concern that an unsocialized Siberian would not recognize a small or tiny breed dog as a dog and may try to kill it. Even if a Siberian does recognize it as a dog, Siberians tend to play extremely rough and could inadvertently injure a small or tiny breed in play. We suggest anyone who brings home a Siberian socializes them well and teaches them to play gently with other smaller dogs and cats if possible to prevent future problems.
We also suggest those in rural areas go the extra mile to ensure their Siberians never harass neighboring livestock. Dogs which kill chickens or other livestock, if not shot outright by the farmer, are generally destroyed quickly by the law.
As you can see there are many things about the breed that can be difficult to live with if you are not prepared. We certainly are not trying to talk you out of owning one. We can't imagine life without our dogs. We do want you to understand, however, the trial by fire that the first year can be for new owners. Please know what you are getting into, make contacts with other owners and breeders who can support you and who will make that first year much easier.
In addition, if you are simply looking for a pet or companion, please consider a shelter or rescue Siberian first. While registration papers and titles may be desired and necessary for dogs participating in shows and performance events, they tell little of the love and loyalty that may or may not lie in a dog's heart. There are many homeless and misunderstood Siberians in rescue that were abandoned for a multitude of reasons, many of which were not their fault. Their adoption fees are often very reasonable and they generally go to their new homes fully vetted and with a detailed description of their known personality traits and quirks.