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The Siberian Husky – A Dog for all Seasons

We hear a lot about “designer” breeds nowadays with breeders crossing a variety of breeds either for a particular purpose or simply for looks. The Siberian Husky was developed over some 3000 years, but imagine the task it would set “designer dog” breeders if it was created today.

Imagine the specification for a start………….

OK - we want a breed which will

  • Survive and function effectively at temperatures down to -50 degrees C without any artificial aids.
  • Pull a lightly laden sled tirelessly day after day over vast distances in arctic/sub-arctic conditions and enjoy it!
  • Survive and thrive on the bare minimum of food.
  • Be intelligent enough to take instructions from the sled driver, and also intelligent to ignore such instructions if they are likely to lead the team into danger.
  • Survive and function effectively at temperatures up to 35/40 degrees C
  • Is capable of hunting and catching its own food if necessary.
  • Will be able to live happily with large numbers of other dogs with minimal friction.
  • Will love people in general and children in particular so that they can be used in winter to sleep with the children and keep them warm.
  • Will look absolutely beautiful at all times.
  • Will combine an infinite capacity and appetite for work with an ability to sleep anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat.
  • Capable of jumping/climbing high fences.
  • Capable of digging escape tunnels worthy of “The Great Escape” or “Colditz”
  • Capable (if given the opportunity) of destroying almost anything in seconds.
  • Will combine the characteristics of an iron-hard sled dog with that of the softest lap dog.

These characteristics are what make up the amazing breed we call the Siberian Husky - the smallest and fastest of the arctic sled dog breeds. Siberians are, in large part,  descendents of the dogs developed over a 3000 year period by the Chukchi people of Siberia, although a devastating series of famines during the 1860's meant that relatively few of the original Chukchi dogs survived and these had to be crossbred to other arctic sled breeds to re-establish the Chukchi sled-dog stock.

 A nomadic, hunting people, the Chukchi required a dog which could withstand both the extreme arctic winters and the warm Siberian summers; could work amicably as part of a large team; could pull light loads over long distances at moderate speed; and which could live happily in the tents and igloos with the Chukchi and their children. The result was the dog which formed the basis for what we now know as the Siberian Husky. The breed started its new career as a working, racing, showing and pet dog after numbers were imported into the US, Canada and Alaska in the early years of the 20th Century, to work in the goldfields and compete in the developing sport of sled dog racing.

Siberians came to public prominence in 1925 when, amongst other sled dogs, they took part in the famous "Serum Run" race against time, to Nome, a remote coastal town in Alaska. An epidemic of diptheria had broken out in Nome and the only way of getting vaccine to Nome in the depths of the Alaskan winter was by dog sled. Although many mushers and their dog teams took part in this heroic venture, history records that one man, Leonhard Seppala and his team of Siberian Huskies, played a pivotal role in its success. Seppala and his team ran more than six times as far as any other team – 340 miles in all - in the worst weather conditions that the Alaskan winter could throw at them. This feat of strength, stamina and fortitude, more than anything sums up the capabilities of the Siberian Husky. Behind the beautiful exterior and friendly manner lie muscles of steel, a tireless spirit and a timeless desire to run.

 The very first Siberians arrived in the UK in the 1940’s, but it was not until the 1960’s that more dogs were imported and their establishment as a breed here in the UK was assured.

Siberian Huskies, to those who love the breed, are the most wonderful dogs in the world! They are not a dog for everyone however. Siberian huskies are not Labradors – they are an independent, 'primitive' breed which loves human company, but which is quite capable of surviving without it.
Their particular strengths and qualities sometimes make them difficult to live with. To start with, they are extremely clever escape artists. They can jump or climb over, dig under, eat through or break down most things you try to contain them with. They can be extremely destructive, although this is usually down to boredom - especially if left alone for long periods. Most huskies cannot be let off lead. They will run and run - not to get away from you, but simply for the pleasure of running (and maybe to get that cat or squirrel they just spotted!). They are fierce and effective natural predators. During the summer, the Chukchi would let them loose to hunt for themselves and they have lost neither the instinct nor the ability. Life with cats and other small animals can sometimes be "interesting." Siberians occasionally come into rescue because they have killed cats but they were, literally, only doing what comes naturally.

Siberians are amazingly intelligent and can do anything a border collie can do (only better) - the difference is, a husky will perform a 'trick' once or twice and lose interest - a collie will carry on repeating it just to please its human!

On the positive side, Siberians are the most wonderfully affectionate and loving dogs you could ever hope to meet. Unconditional love is what they do best. Whether you are in a good mood, a bad mood, angry, depressed, ill or well, your husky will still love you and show it actively.

Although they are working dogs and really love to work, they are just as happy to take the occasional walk and live life as a couch potato. We often say that they have only two speeds - full speed and asleep!

Siberian Huskies are probably the world’s worst guard dogs. They love everyone (including burglars) and will sell their soul for a cuddle or a tasty treat.

Their striking looks are sometimes their downfall as people are occasionally tempted to acquire a Husky without "doing their homework" on the breed. Then, later, when the puppy eats the sofa or destroys the garden, it is shunted off into rescue. If you are tempted by a Husky, take some time to talk to other Husky owners before you take the big step into ownership. Huskies usually live to 15 at least. Are you willing to make a similar commitment to having a child???

So you want a Siberian Husky
If you decide a Siberian Husky is for you, how do you go about getting one? There are quite a lot of Siberian Husky breeders in the UK. Like most breeds the quality of dogs & breeders varies widely. A small proportion of breeders in the UK are reputable and responsible but most, unfortunately, are not. To the inexperienced it is often difficult to tell the difference. There are several indicators you can use to check breeders out however. Firstly, are the dogs being bred Kennel Club registered and are the pups KC registered?  KC registration is not a 100% guarantee, but it is a strong indication that the pedigree of your dog is accurate and honest. If sire, dam or the pups are not KC registered beat a hasty retreat at that point.

Do they work and/or show their dogs. If not, why are they breeding? Most breeders breed litters to improve their stock for the show ring or the trail. If they are doing neither you have to assume that their main motivation is cash! - not the best reason for breeding dogs.

Secondly, how easy do they make it to buy a puppy? If you don't get the (friendly) third degree about your knowledge of the breed, the security of your garden & house etc. it is unlikely that they are a responsible breeder. Will they let you see the mum and dad and all their other dogs? You can learn a lot from the condition and temperament of the adult dogs in a breeder's kennel. On many occasions the breeder will have gone 'outside' for a mating so they won't actually own the stud dog, but they should be able to show you pictures, pedigree and health certification. Although as a breed, the Siberian Husky is very healthy, all responsible breeders will screen their dogs for hereditary defects. In particular, they should be checked for hip and eye defects. Ask if the parents of the puppies are tested and ask to see the results.

Will they expect you to sign a puppy contract in which you undertake to return the dog direct to the breeder if for any reason you cannot keep it? All responsible breeders will insist on this. So - that is what you look for when you find a breeder, but how do you find one?

One of the best ways is to visit large Championship Dog Shows and find the Siberian Husky benches. Here you will find a wide variety of Siberians, their owners and breeders. You will also be able to see loads of dogs and decide what 'type' of dog you would like. In the UK, Siberians range from the very slim sprint-racing dogs, through middle-of-the-road dogs who can succeed both in working and showing, to the chunkier US style Show dogs. You also need to decide whether you want a dog you can show and/or work as well as being a pet. At most big shows all types are represented. If you buy a catalogue you will have access to the addresses of all the owners at the show.

Similarly in the winter you can visit some of the racing events which happen all over the country.

You may have to wait to get the puppy you want as most reputable breeders only breed occasionally – If you are properly prepared, the wait will be worth it. The only problem then is you will want another, and another and another………….They are frighteningly addictive!!!

You need to be extremely careful when choosing a breeder. The biggest safeguard you can have is doing your homework thoroughly before even approaching a breeder. Please be aware that there are some very unscrupulous people out there quite happy to sell you an ill-bred, unsocialised, poor quality puppy from un-health-tested parents.
They may promise you registrations which never arrive, they may lie about the identity of the parents, they may lie about everything except the fact that they want your money!

Don’t be taken in by a flash website or the fact that a breeder may be a member of the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain or the Scottish Siberian Husky Club. Unfortunately this is no guarantee that the breeder is ethical. Nor is membership of the Kennel Club accredited breeder scheme. Over the years, we have come across some appalling puppy farmers who have been members of these organisations.

If you are not interested in showing your dog at Open or Championship level, but want a pet which you can work for fun, think about a rescue dog. Unfortunately, due to the increased level of indiscriminate commercial breeding of Siberian Huskies by puppy farmers/backyard breeders and the sale of pups to ill-prepared and naïve new owners, there is no shortage of unwanted Siberians looking for new homes.
Together with a group of like-minded husky enthusiasts, in February 2007, we estabished the Siberian Husky Welfare Association (UK). In the 18 months since our foundation, we have taken in and rehomed some 230 unwanted Siberians, so if you are interested in giving a home to an unwanted dog, have a look at our website ( ) and contact us – you won’t regret it!

Mick Brent - Siberian Husky Welfare Association UK

Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Mick Brent - Siberian Husky Welfare Association (UK)

For more info on the Siberian Husky Welfare Association (UK) in our Breed Rescue Organisations Directory

Check out our Charities & Rescue Organisations ~ Directory for all the latest information.

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