So you’ve just been drooling over the cutest, fluffiest, cuddliest giant teddy bear like puppies on Instagram and have Husky fever. You have watched ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Snow dogs’ and ‘Eight Below’ and you just can’t get those fuzzy faces out of your thoughts. Oh to just have a cuddle with one and to take it for walks, what a perfect companion it would be…..
Do you remember the ‘Gremlins’ films? (I know they’re oldish films but surely they have to be classics.) If you do remember you’ll know that to keep a Mogwai there were 3 rules:
1) No bright light,
2) Don’t get him wet
3) Don’t feed after midnight, no matter how much he begs
Break these rules and all hell breaks loose!!!
In my experience a Husky is like a Mogwai, stick to the basics and you have a fluffy companion who totally beats ‘gizmo’ on the cuteness stakes and is the most amazing companion. Ignore the rules and you will have a gremlin, a whirlwind of chaos and destruction who can quite literally turn your life upside down, not to mention your house.
So what are the rules?
1) Husky must get enough exercise!
And by exercise this does NOT include leisurely strolls in the park! (unless Husky has already run the edge off) There is a reason why when you read Husky forums or advice sites that owners advocate that a good Husky is a tired Husky. Huskies are naturally curious, independent creatures and hate being confined when they know there is a whole world of adventure out there to explore. They are free spirits and they are bred to run and be able to run distances at times in excess of 60km per day. Many dog species were bred for a purpose, the labrador as a gun dog to retrieve small game on shoots. The German Shepherd was originally bred to herd sheep. Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and several other species were bred to pull sleds for transport and for fur trading. They are hardy dogs capable of enduring extreme cold and extreme amounts of running. Once you appreciate what the Husky is capable of, it is easier to understand the need to exercise this creature.
How much exercise then? This does vary from dog to dog and if you have a cross breed, how much Husky is in it and what the combination is. My Husky for example will easily do a full 8 hours of exercise in mountainous terrain and still have energy to spare. What I have noticed is that Huskies are very good at conserving energy, it is rare on their own terms to see them go full out. Working Huskies would always need energy in reserve as they would not have known how far or long they were expected to run. The best way I have found of tiring mine out is Mountain Biking and scootering. Mountain biking she runs at the pace I go, so uphill at a lope and downhill at a sprint. Scootering I control her speed and I expect her to pull the scooter at a steady pace where she is not allowed to stop and sniff, this way she expends energy at the rate I want her to. I am also very lucky that I can let mine off the leash most of the time. Many Huskies are never able to come off the lead as they have no recall what so ever. An answer to this problem are companies like www.ruffwear.com who provide harness systems for all outdoor activities with your dog.
PLEASE NOTE!! Huskies are cold weather creatures, even the UK summer is too hot for mine, I run her early in the morning and late in the evening and ensure she has plenty of water to splash around in and drink.
2) Husky must have attention
This is not a dog that likes sitting at home on its own whilst you go off to work. Huskies are pack creatures, they have a very high pack instinct and need company. If they are an only dog they will attach themselves to you and will become your shadow. You may think awwwww how cute, a fuzzy wuzzy puppy to come everywhere with me. This may not be practical for your lifestyle, leaving a husky alone for long periods of time can cause severe separation anxiety and stress in many huskies and this leads to behavioural issues, destruction, crying, howling, fur loss. If your dog can accompany you everywhere you go, you will have a fantastic companion. My Husky came to me in a random stroke of fate (a whole other story) and I am aware that my lifestyle of travelling a lot is not necessarily always conducive to having a dog. The way round this for me is when I am working in Europe she comes with me, when I work further afield she stays with the most amazing residential dog trainer where she is mentally stimulated and loved. If you are working during the day I would totally recommend some form of doggy day care who can cater to the needs of Husky so he/she can run and play.
3) Husky must be stimulated.
Huskies are highly adaptive creatures and are quick to adapt to new situations and environments, my Husky has been travelling from the first moment we joined forces. I believe this is one of the reasons we have such a strong bond and she hasn’t taken herself off exploring. Constantly mixing up her location and providing her with new experiences and exercise in different areas provides her enough interest to want to stick with me. I believe, having seen the effects if I stay in one place for a week that if I lived in one place all the time she would be very quickly bored and be more inclined to take herself off exploring despite the amount of exercise I give her.
Sled dogs require initiative when pulling sleds to avoid danger out front. They need to be quick thinking to analyse and assess potentially hazardous terrain to keep themselves and their team mates out of harms way. Playing games which test their brain power and regular behaviour training exhausts them mentally which can be just as effective as physical exertion.
4) No small animals
As cute and fluffy and loving as Husky is, (s)he has a very strong prey drive and is a very effective hunter. Small furry creatures and livestock are not safe! A friend of mines Samoyed recently took down a small deer, considering she is actually relatively sedentary for a sled dog this was quite a reality check into just how strong their hunter instinct is. I have worked with true working sled dogs in the Arctic, which are by no means a pet in any sense of the word. I have seen the destruction and massacre in a barn one of the dogs caused when he escaped off his chain. As much as we domesticate these creatures, the Husky has never completely lost it’s primal instincts.
This is by no means trying to put you off welcoming a Husky into your life. They are incredible creatures and will amaze you every day and bring light and joy into your life. My concern is the sheer number of Huskies in rehoming centres where people have not educated themselves about the breed. I love this breed and have so much respect for anyone who adopts and adapts to their Husky.