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A Guide to Siberian Huskies and Their Skilled Owners

In rescue, I use to groan whenever I learned that we were going to rehome certain dogs, ones that looked a certain way or were a certain breed. The breed that comes to mind first is Siberian Huskies. Gorgeous, often with icy blue or cool amber eyes, Sibes are attention magnets. They are magnificent. I encountered a lot of people who had always dreamed of owning a Husky, and I didn’t blame them. However, I turned the vast majority of them down, because owning a Siberian Husky is an all-in experience.

Here’s what you need to know about Siberian Huskies if you are considering adopting one.

  • This breed needs a LOT of exercise, so a fenced yard is an absolute imperative. They are stubborn enough that they would tear through an electronic fence boundary without blinking, so the fence must be hardscaped. And this is the real dealbreaker for a lot of adopters: Sibes can easily sail over low fences, so you need at LEAST a six-foot fence to own one. So, problem solved, right? Not hardly: a typical Husky will work very hard at figuring out how to escape. They’ll dig (meaning you might need to put something under the ground to stop them); destroy fences (they’ll pull at chain link until it gives way, or claw at wood until it weakens); or they’ll simply set their mind to figuring another way out, such as practicing their running starts until they eventually make it over. Wow, persistent, huh? That’s earned them the nickname “Hairy Houdinis.” This brings me to the defining characteristic of these dogs…
A picture of a running husky dog.
I am a magnificent athlete. Wheeee! (Photo courtesy of Chris Hardwood via Wikimedia Commons).
  • Huskies are geniuses. Whereas beagles are criminal geniuses, and border collies are obedience geniuses, Huskies are both coolly intellectual and mad scientists. They are the most resourceful and ambitious of all the dog breeds. So many things fascinate them: squeaky toys, things that move, things that can be climbed, things with other things inside them, things that smell (the list goes on and on). They will want to get to the bottom of these mysteries, and that often means getting to the center of things, by destroying them. We’ve had to warn adopters that their down comforters, pillows and coats are at risk, because Sibes will be very intrigued by the smell and will investigate the issue (the reward of feathers is simply an added bonus).
  • They are extremely social. Not only do Sibes need to be kept intellectually engaged, they have to be kept socially engaged. If you aren’t home all day, then they’ll need a friend, and preferably one who can keep up with them, because mixing a Sibe with a low-energy dog would be torture for the more laid-back canine. They are also talkative, whether it’s to you, a friend, or humanity at large, and their noises can sound eerily human at times.
  • They have great senses of humor, and they’ll make you laugh in surprise all the time. I remember we were having a pet show with a rescue I used to volunteer with, and they brought five Sibe puppies. They were going wild in the store, so they put them into a small storage area with open windows on two sides (hard to explain, but it was humane). Anyway, they didn’t like it, so they were howling and whining in protest. People were talking to them and seeing if giving them any attention would calm them down; it didn’t. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a golden retriever puppet the store was selling and had the puppet start talking to them. They were silent and fascinated until the puppet ran out of material. I’ve never seen any other breed do anything remotely like it. Likewise, sometimes a Husky will do something surprising and you’ll swear they are teasing you: they are.
A stuffed dog sitting in a basket.
The golden retriever puppet was an insult comic: Q. What is a Husky’s favorite drink? A: Whine!!!! (Photo courtesy of Folkmanis, where puppet is sold.)

Husky Owners and Why They Are Awesome

Husky owners tend to have certain characteristics, too.

  • They are resourceful and inventive. Some of them consider it a battle of wits to figure out how to keep their Husky from escaping their yards. They’ll spend hours at the hardware store, designing solutions. Likewise, they have figured out ways to keep their Huskies intellectually challenged. A lot of Sibe owners will eagerly show you the absolutely amazing tricks they’ve taught their dogs.
  • They put their dogs before themselves. They are absolutely dedicated to giving their Sibes great lives, and that means they are willing to change theirs dramatically. If that means giving up on having a garden because most Sibes are diggers, they’ll do it. Getting rid of all down items in the house? Fine. Cleaning up pounds of fur when their dogs blows their coats? Hey, it’s the price of having a Husky in your life. They are all in.
  • They are immensely proud of their dogs. They LOVE how smart their Sibes are. They know the breed’s history and their unique attributes. They puff up (sorry folks, you do) when people exclaim over the startling beauty of their dogs.
A picture of a brown and white husky with one blue eye and one brown eye.
So beautiful, so smart, so much work. (Source: Lilly M. via Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, I want to close with something really, really important, which is that IF YOU HAVE A CAT, YOU SHOULD NOT GET A HUSKY. The vast, vast majority of Huskies love to chase and have extremely high prey drives. At worst, it can end terribly. I have seen it happen. At best, your cat would resent you bitterly because of the constant teasing and chasing. Just don’t do it.

I’ve decided to add a rating system to these breed profiles.

LEVEL OF OWNER EXPERIENCE NEEDED: EXPERT. You need to be smart and committed beyond your wildest imaginings.

 

By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is https://twitter.com/GobezMoretta.

12 replies on “A Guide to Siberian Huskies and Their Skilled Owners”

I have seen a cat-huskie house work once, but only because the cat was an old curmudegeon who would climb up and stare down the (equally bitchy) Huskie from inaccessible locations. The cat ALSO didn’t want ANYTHING to do with humans, and was relieved that the dog got all the attentions. I should also note that the owner was VERY experienced owner, and though the cat has long since passed (as has the first and second huskies at this point- I was like 4 or 5 when they got the first one) she is now on her 4th huskie, generally with two huskies at a time, and she knows what she’s doing obedience wise enough that her current two are both harder to place ones. One was a runt on a “farm” that was interrupted, and his neck is super long (and shoulders a bit funny shaped) from straining to stick his neck out of the cage he was kept in there. The other was also from a less than optimal origin place, but more importantly had a health issue that required surgery on his vocal cords (I forget if it was damage or if it was just a mass growing or what?) when she got him. He still goes all of the smaller huskie noises but he can’t do the loud ones because of it- so he still “talks” just, ya know, not super loudly.

Expert level on the owner (my aunt’s) part? double huskies. That’s all I need to say.

We had a cat with our husky, but they lived on different floors of the house, separated by baby gates. Hopping over a baby gate repeatedly is the price one pays for loving a husky.

I’m pretty sure he could have easily leaped over it, but he was also a little afraid of the cat, who took no shit from anyone or anything.

I grew up with a husky, and I still miss that dog every day. He had one blue and one brown eye, he shed his body weight in fur twice a day, and he liked to eat $20s. (Never $1s, never $5s, only $20s.) My parents got him when I was three, so we grew up together. I still remember taking naps on him, or playing in the snow together. One summer, I tried to teach him to read. I don’t think it worked, but I’m still not 100% sure. He ate our garden, two or three times. He really liked to eat pantyhose. He found a bunny in the yard once, and I’m still a little scarred from it.
I miss that dog.

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