UPDATED! Siberian Husky: Breed of the Week
Are Siberian Huskies Good City Dogs?
The Siberian Husky has been around for a long time. In sports and pop culture, most people are familiar with this dog that bears a resemblance to a wolf. If you have ever seen the movie or read the novel Call of the Wild by Jack London, you have indeed been introduced to a Husky.
They, along with their larger cousin, the Alaskan Malamute have become widely known as the ultimate sled dogs.
The Siberian Husky is a very old breed. According the American Kennel Club, the nomadic Chukchi Tribe of Northeast Asia used the Husky for centuries to do various tasks. They used them to herd, hunt, and most importantly, pull. When the Chukchi found themselves searching for new hunting ground further and further from their permanent camps, the Siberian Husky was used as a sled dog to take them on these long journeys. They were also used when the time came to abandon their homes and relocate to a more fertile hunting destination.
Huskies are still used in northern regions for sled pulling, but further south they can be found in many homes across the lower hemispheres as they have evolved into great pets.
Standing about 23 inches at the shoulder, the Siberian Husky is a medium-sized dog, weighing in from 45 to 60 pounds. Their thick double coats come in a variety of colors: brown, black, red, white, silver, grey, and combinations of all these colors. They have wolf-shaped heads and are known for often having mismatched eyes: they can have a brown eye and blue eye, or they can have eyes that are half brown and blue.
Huskies are a healthy breed although they do face ailments common to most medium to large dogs like hip dysplasia. The racing Husky can develop gastric as well as bronchial problems.
That aside, everyone I know who has a Husky is deeply in love with the breed. Here’s what my friends, Al Silverstein and Edward Yaeger, have to say about their Huskies, Shelby and Sybil:
Shelby, 6, is the darker gray Husky. After visiting four rescue centers in Connecticut — all of which would not allow us to see a single dog, much less adopt one, until we filled out lengthy paperwork and made an appointment to return at a later date — we stopped by a local pet shop just to become acquainted with some of the breeds (we were planning to adopt a German Shepherd to join our pack, which included at the time a Pug and a Toy Fox Terrier). However, upon seeing Shelby, I instantly knew that she was my spirit animal and that no amount of pet shop-shaming would keep us apart.
Sybil, 3, has a much more interesting background, as she was adopted via The Today Show. That’s right, Sybil, formerly called Sky, was featured in a pet adoption segment of the nationally televised program that aired on January 31, 2013. She was one of three dogs and a cat that the NYCACC was looking to place into new homes. Sybil was surrendered at 8 months by a family in Manhattan. Al viewed the segment on TV and sent in an application for adoption, thinking it would get lost among the hundreds that the NYCACC received but, for some reason, his application was chosen. I knew nothing of this until Al was notified that his application was selected. It was difficult to be mad at Al for not telling me sooner, and it was even more difficult to not embrace Sybil into our pack, as she’s a sweet and tender, if a tad needy, soul. Sybil’s namesake, by the way, is of Lady Sybil of the PBS program, Downton Abbey, who died in that week’s episode. Corny, we know. 😉
They are smart, sweet clowns. They are great with kids and really take the idea of being part of a pack (family) to heart. They don’t fare well if left alone too long and have been known to howl when missing their family members.
Do Siberian Huskies Bark?
If you are considering the Siberian to be your Urban Dog, think carefully. Make sure your lifestyle is one that is active enough to keep this energetic dog busy. A lonely, bored Husky can wreak havoc on a house or an apartment.
Siberian Huskies fall right in the middle when it comes to barking. UC Davis researchers Benjamin and Lynette Hart devised a chart ranking dogs by the likelihood of barking at inappropriate times. On a scale of one to ten — with one being the least offensive barkers and ten the most excessive barkers — Huskies get a five rating. And when they bark, it usually isn’t an alarm bark. According to the website My.Husky.Com.Au: “A lot of husky barking is an invitation to play.” So if you’re looking for a guard dog, look elsewhere!
And what about that famous Husky howl? My.Husky.Com.Au writes: “No one knows the huskies reason for their how, we do know that the sometimes howl when they are bored, but are equally likely to howl amidst the company of other Siberians.” (Another reason to make sure your Husky keeps active!) Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.
It is very important to train your city dog. You want them to behave in your building’s common areas. Huskies score “Average” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 50% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about 25 to 40 repetitions for them to learn new commands.
Take note: Huskies do shed! During the spring and fall they need a daily brushing. They have a lot of thick fur!
For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide. Big dogs pose a particular challenge, but don’t worry, you can find places that accept large breed dogs.
Here’s the American Kennel Club’s guide to the Husky.