Health and care
Exercise and feed
Riding a sled
It applies to the Huskies as it applies to people: there can be large differences between individuals, so what you find here are only general guidelines - not an answer book that you can look up and say: "That's a Husky."
But first a history lesson: Siberian Husky ancestors were developed by the Chukchi people, a tribe of native people in eastern Siberia. The heavy, double coat of the Husky, easy going nature and persistance, makes it a perfect dog for work and hunting in a climate with penetrating cold and heavy snowstorms.
A thousand years ago the Chukcies established their villages in Siberia's cold and inhospitable terrain where both hunger and extreme climate was real threats. So when the tribe's hunters set out to procure prey to the village, they needed a strong, stubborn and quick dog to pull prey back, whatever the weather - and with that intent they developed the Husky ancestor. It was a dog of medium size, suited for working together in groups, pulling a load of moderate size and do the job with a minimum of energy consumption.
It is said that the Chukchi tribe survived the extermination of Cossacks because of their Huskies. They packed all their belongings and families on dog sleds and fled north - away from the invading Cossacks who were interested in the Chukchi territories because of the abundant occurrence of fur. Eventually the Cossacks got caught in the middle of the cold, white nothing, and it was an easy matter for the Chukchis to end the invasion from the south.
Siberian Huskies as we know them today were brought to Alaska in the beginning of this century by the Norwegian Leonhard Seppala. He also immortalized the breed by participating with his dogs in the fabled transport of serum to the town of Nome in 1925. His lead dog - or Baas – was named Togo, but to Seppalas great dismay, it was Balto, the lead dog of another Musher who ran with all the credit. Balto has been immortalized in a bronze sculpture that can be seen in Central Park in New York, and he is the lead character in an animation feature film about the exploits.
...and about wolves
One day, about 13.000 years ago, the first hunters came to Denmark with their bows and arrows, hunting for reindeer. And with the reindeer came the wolf. At the Copenhagen Zoological Museum they have a wolf jaw, found on Zealand and dating back to that period.
The cold climate changed, and with the temperature rising, the open fields changed into dense forest. This lasted for a couple of thousand years, but then the landscape changed again. Now the farming culture took over, burned down large quantities of forest and transformed the new open land to fields. And as the landscape changed, the fauna changed with it. But the wolf was still doing fine, where as bear, beaver and wild horse became extinct.
During the Middle Ages, the wolf became a problem with the livestock, and the peasants were ordered to pay a wolf tax, meant to cover the expenses of hunting down wolves. The wolf tax was removed on Zealand in 1513, which indicates that the island was considered "wolf free". But the tax was maintained in the rest of the country, and especially in Northern Jutland the wolves were hard on the livestock. In fact, in 1536 the king ordered the vassal of Aalborg Castle to deal with the problem. And so the vassal did. He enrolled the peasants in a wolf army, with the task of hunting down as many wolves as possible.
They must have had some success as the reports of wolves reduced during the late 1500's. But the wolf wasn't extinct in Denmark yet, and during the Thirty Years war, where Jutland was occupied by German troops, it had its revival. King Christian the 4th therefore ordered that every person with a hunting right should deliver 3 wolf coats every year for the next 3 years. Naturally this had an effect on the number of wolves, but it was still far from extinct.
As a matter of fact, its number increased and decreased during the next 100 years, and as a consequence the king decided to enroll a wolf hunter. He was to arrange special wolf hunts in selected areas, especially haunted by The Grey Shadow, and did it with some success. In combination with a reward paid for each wolf coat, the number of wolves started on its final decrease.
But it held its ground until an evening in June 1813. Just south of Langaa in the middle of Jutland, the last of the Danish wolves were shut during an attack on a horse. After almost 13.000 years as a natural part of our fauna, it was over.
The fate of the Danish wolves is largely similar to that of wolves in other countries around the world. But luckily the aversion towards wolves has dried out in resent years, and it was just in time! In Sweden, Norway and the Baltics the wolf is now coming back. And the Danish ministry of the environmental is now dealing with the come back of wolves in Denmark as well.
Living with Huskies, you get to wonder how much wolf it contains. Not only do they look alike (apart from the fact, that a wolf is larger than the Husky), but they also act alike in many situations. A group of British scientists has studied how many wolf characteristics the dog has inherited. The breeds in the study was, among others, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Schaeffer and Siberian Husky. There were 15 "checkpoints", each defined as typical wolf behavior, and at the top of the list was the Husky - with 15 out of 15 checkpoints clearly recognizable in the Husky. And in addition, Husky puppies clearly developed these characteristics at an earlier age than the wolf puppies.
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According to the breed standard, a fully grown male measures between 52 and 58 cm above the shoulder, while a female is slightly smaller. The weight varies between 18 and 28 kilograms, again with females as the smallest. The dog's body should be slightly longer than it is tall, and the total picture of the dog is athletic, balanced and graceful.
Colors may vary from white to brown to black - and all combination in between. All colors are accepted at exhibitions. The eyes are either brown or blue - or a combination thereof. One blue and one brown eye in the same head is by no means unusual for this breed - nor a brown eye that contains a blue sliver. The eyes are often surrounded by a light mask, which helps to emphasize the impression of a friendly but watchful dog. The ears must be raised, triangular and not too big.
Temperament is outgoing, friendly and inquisitive. Puppies can translate this curiosity into destruction, and they can be a mere nuisance, until they find out who's the boss in the house. This also applies to adult dogs that may have the urge to destruction, if they are left alone too much. They can go for shoes, sofas, doors, whatever, if they do not get enough diversion.
The polar dog breeds have certain common characteristics. One is the tail, which is usually worn proudly rolled onto his back. The second is their double coat with a soft, dense inner coat that retains body heat, and a layer of rugged outer hair that keep water away from the skin.
The double coat prevents not only heat from disappearing from the body and moisture from entering. It is also easy to keep. Huskies, who are out all year, will usually shed once or twice a year. It can be very intense and it may make less experienced Husky owners worry about the dog's health. It may look as if the dog loses 8-10 kilos during this period, but it's all fur. The shedding typically starts at the thighs and over several weeks it spreads across the body to finally end on the head and thorax. The Americans are talking about a husky "blows its fur" and it is a very apt description. It looks like the inner coat is "exploding" out through the guard hairs.
Does your dog mainly stay indoors, however, its biological clock is disturbed and it will shed more or less throughout the year. And especially the undercoat is difficult. A pair of dark trousers can change color by a close encounter with a shedding Husky, so be prepared for daily work with groomed, if you want to keep up with the problem. And it is in any case a good idea to advice your guests not to wear dark clothing when visiting a home with a shedding Husky.
The Husky is a calm and relaxed animal, but it is also very flock-oriented and linked to its territory. At the same time it interprets its territory very broad. This results in three things:
First, it is very kind to strangers and it rarely barks. In other words, it is a lousy guard dog, so do not buy a Husky to guard your proporties. If you do, the best you can hope for is that an intruder will be deterred by the dog's appearance. The dog's behavior will certainly not. On the other hand, a Husky is likely to defend you as a flock member, if you are attacked. We have experienced that ourselves on a couple of occasions.
Secondly, a Husky find it natural to join the flock (read: family) daily life. It also includes care for any children who the Husky will perceive as puppies and treat accordingly. So does the wolf pack, so the Husky will do this as well. The Husky and parents' perceptions of parental care is not always consistent, so you'll be prepared to make some compromises if there are little people in the house. But the Husky will not attack a child of ill will. On the other hand, it is important to teach the child as early as possible that your Husky is not a toy and should be respected and be allowed to be in peace when it feel like it. The flock-orientation can unfortunately also reflected in the fact that separation anxiety disorder, also called “Home alone problems”, is not unknown in the breed. It can cause much frustration, both in humans and animals, but it can be treated.
Thirdly, the Husky has a very broad interpretation of its territory. It will not necessarily be content with a fenced garden, so it can begin to roam. Therefore it may be necessary to put up a high, solid fence, and you should not necessarily expect that you can walk it without a leash.
Finally, the Huskies tend to be very independent, perhaps even arrogant. That is why you rarely see a Husky winning a dressage competition. It will probably be fully aware of what you want it to do when you give your command, but you should not count on that it will carry it out. It will probably assess "what's in it for me?" And then - maybe - it will do what you expect.
Experienced breeders say that particularly sick individuals occur either by inbreeding or by intensive breeding in a particular female. But although there are relatively few Huskies in Denmark, the responsible breeders (and they are fortunately the majority) are very careful to import new blood, so that inbreeding does not occur. Nevertheless, a disorder like hip dysplasia, is unfortunately no longer uncommon among Huskies. But by ensuring that your next puppys parents has been x-rayed and approved, you are a long way to avoiding this painful disorder.
The same goes for the hereditary eye disease, Cataract. Here it is also a good idea to see the parent animals papers. And finally we have had major problems with ear disorders in the family - paradoxically, since Husky ears are erect and "open".
But all in all, Huskies are generally healthy. Trouble with teeth, tear ducts and breathing, which is seen in other breeds, are unknown among Huskies, so if you make sure to get the animal vaccinated at least every two years you are a long way in insuring your dog a long and healthy life.
As for care, we bathe our Husky once or twice a year, partly to help shedding under way and we use the groom when needed. This need may be great at times, especially in spring when it sheds its dense winter coat. In this period it can be a daily task for 4-5 weeks.
Claws are normally worn by itself, but like all dogs the Husky vildtklo must of course have a bit of ocational pedicure.
Your Husky can also suffer from zinc deficiency. It begins as ulcerations of the lips and muzzle, and may spread to the rest of the body. But it can easily be cured by feeding a zinc-enriched feed.
And then you should obviously be aware of ticks during the period of April to September. Although ticks can be difficult to find in a dense Husky coat, it is important to have them removed as soon as possible to minimize the risk of having your dog infected with the nerve disease-like infection Boreliosis. This infection can be life threatening for both dogs and humans.
It is our experience that walking your Husky for approximately one hour in the morning, 30 to 45 minutes in the afternoon and 20-30 minutes before bedtime is sufficient to maintain a Husky in reasonable shape. Reasonable shape means that it does not get fat on his amount of food, that he is fit for even wild play and the psyche is strong enough to handle extraordinary conditions such as exhibitions and travelling by ship or train.
However, if you are sledding regularly with your Husky, it must be trained at least twice a week, and it's a good idea to go for a bike ride with the dog in between training sessions. If you plan to use your Husky for sled sports, contact for instance an experienced Musher to get tips and tricks as to organize a good program for your Husky.
As for food, a Husky is relatively hardy. It is said that you can keep two Huskies on the same amount of food as one German Shepherd. But of course it takes more food if you engage in sled sport in the winter.
Dog food is a booming industry and it comes in varying price ranges. Additionally, you can find a wealth of recipes for "homemade" dog food online. But be aware that you get what you pay for, so avoid the cheapest supermarket brands. They usually don’t contain enough nourishment, and it becomes too expensive to use in the long run, because too much of it "comes out again at the other end" without being absorbed by the dog's body. Go as a minimum for a recognized brand in the mid-price range. Then you are not doing completely wrong.
You may want to go for a feed with added zinc and glucosamine - the first in order to avoid that your Husky gets zinc deficiency, and the last to prevent osteoarthritis.
If you engage in sled sport with your Husky, however, you must purchase a feed for high performance dogs. If necessary, contact your veterinarian. He will probably recommend a brand that he has financial interests in, but so be it - the important thing is that you can rest assured it contains what your dog needs to stay in health and shape.
A Husky is a sled dog. Through careful genetic selection and breeding it is designed to pull. It loves to use its forces – and it has a lot of them. So why not let it use them? It is good for the dog, and it will give you some great moments with your animal in the nature.
Don’t let the fact that you have only one or two dogs stop you. You still have several possibilities. One is Nordic Style where your dog pulls a small sled or cart with you running or skiing beside it. The other possibility is the so called Velo-class where your dog pulls you on a mountain bike.
These two ways are recognized by the Nordic sled dog clubs as official classes for competition, but if you don’t care about that, you have a third possibility as well. You can use a kick sled as dog sled. It’s fun, relatively cheap and the kick sled is so light that it can easily be pulled by one or two dogs. However, the runners of a kick sled are usually just thin steel blades, and they will dig in if you run on loose snow. But wide ski-like runners of plastic are available and with a pair of these mounted on the steel runners, you won’t have any problems even on loose snow.
Finally you and your dog(s) could become a member of a mixed team together with an experienced musher. The limitation is that you will probably have to accept the role as “co-musher” and riding in competitions, your dog(s) could be excluded by the lead musher. He knows his own dogs best of course, and in competitions he might not want to take a chance by including dogs he doesn’t know so well.
And besides that, please be aware that…
…you shouldn’t let your dog pull you by the collar. You should use a special harness that protects its back and legs against overload.
…you shouldn’t go mushing if the humidity is close to or exceeds 100 and/or the temperature is 15 degrees Celsius or more. If you do, your dog risks lung problems and dehydration.
…you are the one that decides when to stop. Your dog won’t until it collapses. So start carefully and learn to read the signals of your dog that indicates it is time to stop.
…you should be aware of local restrictions. Limitations as to where you are allowed to ride or if you need special permits may apply in your area.
Sled dog movie
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