Breed Highlight: Siberian Husky
About a week ago I was looking through my archives for photos of a few particular breeds. As I dug through the last ten years of photo sessions I started pulling a photo of every unique breed I came across. To make future blog writing a little easier I shoved them all in one file. I will admit I was somewhat stunned that my final count was over 60 different breeds!!!
The majority of dogs I photograph are rescues, often of unknown origin. So to actually find that many distinct breeds in my archives was a really fun surprise. I am a huge fan of rescue & adoption. Though I do believe there’s also a place for responsible breeding. Every breed has distinct features and characteristics that make them unique and appealing to their people.
The fact that 25-30% of shelter dogs are purebred suggests that often people take home a pure-bred dog without understanding the breed. Popular media is often to blame. In recent years we’ve seen a huge surge of “Dire-Wolves” up for adoption.
Let me explain if you’re not familiar with Game of Thrones. I was pretty confused the first time I posted a pic of my 12 year old, had him since a puppy, white Siberian Husky, Yukon. And a friend excitedly captioned his photo “Ghost, the Direwolf”. Having been one of the 12 people on the planet who hadn’t gotten around to watching the show I had to do some Googling to figure out what she was talking about. After all, a direwolf, is an ancestor of the wolf that went extinct about 10,000 years ago.
Siberian huskies and their larger cousins, Malamutes, have always had a high shelter dump rate. For all of their wonderful personality traits they are extremely high maintenance not to mention head strong. From the first time I ever had someone tell me they’d always wanted one while petting my trouble-maker of a red Siberian, Shadow Dog, I made it my mission to educate those that I met on the downsides that came with that velvety fur and loving demeanor.
So when I started thinking about writing a breed highlight series, Siberians seemed like the natural place to start.
The TLDR version: Siberian Huskies are high energy, extremely social dogs. They make great family dogs as long as you’re willing to burn off their energy and include them as part of your pack.
Not for you if you have a low activity lifestyle, are particularly picky about having dog hair on everything, or expect your dog to just live in the back yard where you visit on occasion.
History: Like with most breeds, the main traits of a husky can be traced to its origin story. Originally developed by the ancient peoples of Siberia they were bred to be working sled dogs as well as members of the family. They were also allowed to roam free and hunt for themselves. In the early 1900’s they were first brought to Alaska as sled dogs during the gold rush. They are capable of surviving in some of the harshest conditions on the planet but would much prefer to snuggle up in bed with you. Their headstrong nature is a product of needing to think for themselves. It was once explained to me that a lead sled-dog may have to make decisions for the safety of the team. With the musher positioned far behind them the lead dog must be smart enough to suss out the trail even when covered in snow and lead the team safely over difficult terrain. It’s a trait that may be helpful on the trail but can often exhaust domestic husky owners as each command given is taken in and considered rather than just followed.
Energy levels: To say Siberians are high energy is a bit of an understatement. Working sled dogs may cover up to 100 miles in a single day. So if you’re going to bring one home, be prepared to provide an outlet to all that energy. They are well known to develop destructive habits if not properly exercised on a consistent basis. So if you have a more sedintary lifestyle, save yourself a lot of destroyed furniture and look elsewhere for a furry companion. If, however, your an avid hiker or runner- this might be the perfect breed for you! They’re likely to keep going and going and even encourage you to go just a little further.
Personality highlights: Siberians are extremely social dogs who are used to working in a team. They expect to be part of your pack and are absolutely NOT content to be left in the yard while the rest of the family enjoys inside time. In fact, this is probably the fastest way to experience landscape destruction, and huskies are supreme escape artists. In fact, I once watched Shadow scale a 6 foot chain-link fence by climbing up the corner and hooking her toes into the chain-link. They can be a little aloof, or very in your space depending on the individual. Shadow and Yukon would insist on being in the same room, often laying on the foot of the bed, but didn’t want to be smothered with attention. It was like a “yeah, we’ll just chill together” kind of vibe. While Floki, our newest adoption, is so attention hungry it’s almost smothering. He wants to always be touching and will shove his head under my arm until I pet him.
The double coat: Siberians have a thick double coat to protect them from the harshest conditions. They will shed year round, and “blow their coat” in Spring and Fall. This is when the heavy undercoat sheds out to make way for a replacement undercoat. There’s no avoiding it, hair will be everywhere. In fact a friend of mine recently told me that she can always tell when I’ve been in her car because I leave behind Flokis hair. At first a little embarrassed but hey, love me love my dogs right? The upside is that other than constant brushing their coat maintains itself. It doesn’t require an special grooming.
Vocalizing: Huskies a very vocal, though they rarely bark. They communicate using a series of howls, grumbles, and other vocalizations to get across their opinion. They’re often all too happy to have a whole “conversation” with their human at the end of a long day.
Breed Specific Body Language: I’ve never seen a reference to it in any literature but huskies seem to have a specific, full-contact, way of playing with each other. While they all seem to speak the same language it can get them into trouble with other breeds.
High Prey Drive: Due to their history of living a semi free state Huskies are still very much in touch with their hunter roots and can pose a threat to smaller prey like animals if not properly trained and socialized. That said, once they learn their smaller family members are still family, they can be surprisingly gentle and loving.
So in case you hadn’t picked it up yet I am a life-long, die-hard, deeply committed Siberian Husky Momma! For me the challenges of the breed pale in comparison to the love, personality, and companionship they also offer.
Does your Siberian Husky deserve a pet photography session? Head over to the contact page and hit me up! Let’s start planning your session today.