The Siberian Husky is a breed like no other.
This complete Siberian Husky guide details everything you need to know before you get one of these amazing dogs. It covers the basics such as physical attributes, temperament, diet, and exercise. We talk about the history of the breed and the special requirements it has. We cover coat care, health and how you can keep a Husky happy plus plenty more crucial information.
Welcome to the complete guide to the Siberian Husky.
Table of Contents
Siberian Husky Physical Features
The Siberian Husky is known for its wolf-like appearance although what you might not have known is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the wolf whatsoever! There are two things that really stand out and make the Husky recognizable, its thick coat and its wolf-like facial appearance.
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized dog that although is muscular can be compared more to a long-distance runner than a bodybuilder. It’s rare that you see an overweight Husky and there are a few very good reasons for this, which we’ll go into later.
A Husky’s head is quite chiseled in appearance which is why we see a resemblance to a wolf. Their muzzle isn’t particularly long (or short) for a dog of this size and it has a rounded nose.
Its eyes are almond-shaped and symmetrically aligned within its features although they can appear close together, this is more about the fur around its face than anything else. Their ears are quite forward set and full of fur with rounded tips.
Siberian Husky Eyes
I’m going to give the eyes of the Siberian Husky a special mention here as they are quite a prominent feature of the breed. Any owner will appreciate this – the number of times you’re out walking your Husky and someone stops you (it happens almost daily) and the first thing they comment on is how beautiful their eyes are. A soon as you spot a Siberian Husky, you are drawn towards its eyes.
All Husky’s are born with blue eyes but that doesn’t mean they will stay that way for long. Between 1 and 2 months after birth, their eyes may start to change color. Typically, they will change to a grey color first before settling on brown. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes they will stay blue. Or one might go blue and the other stay brown. You will end up with one of these combinations though:
- Their eyes will both be brown (many different shades are seen from light to dark)
- Their eyes will both be blue.
- One eye will be blue and one brown (this is called bi-eyed)
- Both eyes will have different colors within it.
Roughly speaking, about 40% of all Huskies will end up with blue eyes.
The male Siberian Husky measures 22″ to 23.5″ in height whereas the female measures 20″ to 22″
The weight of the male will be somewhere in between 45-60 lbs and 35-50 lbs for the female.
Physical Differences Between the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute
Some people believe they have seen a Siberian Husky, when in fact they have seen the larger Alaskan Malamute. If we look at the physical properties of the Malamute, we can see that although it’s not much taller, it is a lot bigger.
The male malamute has an average weight of around 89 lbs (compared to 53 lbs for the Husky male) and around 77 lbs for the female (compared to about 43 lbs for the Husky female). So, there’s quite a difference. In fact, the Alaskan Malamute can be twice as heavy as the Husky!
Have a look at the below image of the Malamute, there’s a Husky next to it and the image typifies the personality of the Husky really:
Siberian Husky Temperament
Potential owners of dogs look for different qualities when trying to find the perfect breed for them and (not forgetting) their family. Everyone has different requirements and indeed there are some types of dog that will be suitable for almost anyone.
However, there are some breeds of dog that most definitely will not be suitable for everyone. The Siberian Husky is one such example. Let’s have a look at the breed in more detail.
Is the Siberian Husky Aggressive?
The Siberian Husky couldn’t be any less aggressive. Let me put it another way, if you’re thinking you might use your Husky when you get it as a guard dog, you should think again. In fact, you’d be better off relying on a pet goldfish to guard the house than expecting your Husky to do it!
The Husky should not show any aggression towards you, your family, strangers or other dogs throughout its life. It is a gentle, loving breed that just doesn’t have any aggressive traits in its body. It may be a little mischievous at times and it may be a little stubborn at times, but aggressive? No, never.
Are they possessive?
The next quality that makes the Husky potentially such a good pet is the fact that they are not a possessive breed. In fact, quite the opposite. They will happily share anything they ‘own’, including you, with anyone else! Actually, aggression and possessive traits kind of come together in a lot of breeds but the Husky has neither.
Possessive tendencies can cause problems if they have a favorite toy that they don’t want you to touch but more often you’ll see problems during feeding time. A possessive dog can become an aggressive dog if it thinks its food is under threat.
Often, they will growl and show their teeth if you come close, but the Husky? Nope. This is helped a little though due to the fact that the Husky doesn’t eat very much and isn’t greedy, more on this later.
Stubborn Tendencies of the Siberian Husky
It’s not all positive though. The Siberian Husky is well-known for being stubborn. This will cause you no end of frustration throughout its life but how much of a problem it is depends on the type of person you are. The stubbornness is more prominent as they are older and more pronounced if they haven’t had any kind of training. In fact, it is during the training that you might first start to experience it.
The Husky is an independent breed of dog and if it doesn’t want to do something then it will do everything within its power not to do it. Take a look at the below video for an example:
An example of when you might experience this stubborn behavior will be:
- When you are outside exercising them and decide it is time to come back in, they may have other ideas.
- When you are on a walk and want to turn around to go back home. They will recognize this behavior, know you want to go home and be quite unhappy about it.
- Generally, when you try and get them to do something that they don’t want to do (as per the video above!)
What they will do at this point could be various things but what is typically seen is that they will just sit there, looking at you. They will be reluctant to move until you see the error of your ways and correct it. Basically, until you start doing what they want you to do, they may just sit there, on strike!
Siberian Huskies and their Prey Drive
Depending on whether you want to have other pets in your family, this could be a problem for you. The Siberian Husky has a very high prey drive. What do we mean by this?
Prey drive is a built-in instinct in some dogs (amongst other animals) to find, catch and then capture (and usually destroy) what it regards as prey. Although there are some advantages to this that can be seen during play-time, with the Siberian Husky the negatives (depending on your situation) outweigh the positives.
The problem comes with what the Husky sees as prey. Cats are a common family pet and you can see where I’m going with this. The Siberian Husky will often see a cat as prey. That doesn’t mean you can’t have both a Husky and a cat in the same home and they can get along famously for the duration of their lives.
There have been cases where a Siberian Husky and a cat have lived in harmony for years until one day when something flipped inside the brain of the Husky. They then suddenly saw the cat as prey with devastating consequences.
Problems with prey drive mean a Siberian Husky must be on a leash at all times outside. If they catch sight of a small mammal (including a cat) then there’s a good chance they’ll be off after it. Not a problem if you have a leash attached, big problem if you don’t.
Can The Siberian Husky Be Left Alone?
Well, they can yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The Siberian Husky is not a breed of dog that does very well when left alone. The Husky is a sociable animal and thrives off the attention it gets off us or other dogs (it is a pack animal after all). So, what happens if you do leave the Husky alone for a while and what can you do about it?
Problems can start after only around 20 or 30 minutes of the Husky being left alone. This isn’t a long time at all and there are many breeds of dog that can go longer than this without showing any signs of problems. However, this is all part of the package so although it can vary from individual dog to dog, it’s just something that you will need to be aware of and deal with.
What Can Happen
After around half an hour the Husky can show signs of separation anxiety. They will be obviously agitated and may start walking around your home looking for you. They may also howl. This separation anxiety is really the first sign of depression and things won’t get better by themselves.
What can happen next will vary but typically you may see a destructive personality emerge. What this means is that they will start chewing on anything they can get their mouths around! By the time you get back, your sofa, slippers, remote controls, doors, and numerous other things may be soggy and have teeth-marks embedded within them.
Other problems you might find is that they start going to the toilet inside. Basically, their behavior will be unpredictable when anxiety starts to kick in as it can affect dogs in different ways. None of the things you will witness will be good things. You’re not going to come home to some freshly baked bread, for instance.
So, just know that if you’re going to leave them alone for anything other than a few minutes, you might start to get some problems. If you absolutely have to leave them alone for a few hours I would suggest you either get someone to Husky-sit or alternatively consider crating them.
What Can You Do About It?
Apart from not leaving them alone, there are a couple of things you can do, of course. Sometimes, life gets in the way and we just have to go out and do some things without the Husky.
What can we do if we have to go out for a few hours? A lot of people decide to put their Husky in a crate. Now, at first, I was dead against these as it felt like I was punishing my dog. But, a Husky won’t see it like this. To the Husky, a crate provides security, safety and a feeling of well-being. It is well worth considering.
If you do want to investigate this further, there are only a couple of crates I actually recommend – you can see them in my best dog crates article where I explain why they are a good idea, which ones work well and where you can easily get one.
This is something that more and more people are choosing to do these days and for good reason. You can get some really good quality pet cameras for not a lot of money at all and they are a good investment. Not only do they allow you to remotely monitor your pet from your phone whilst you’re out but some of them allow you to listen in at home and actually talk to them!
So, if you’re getting complaints from the neighbors about your Husky howling whilst you’re out, why not listen in and talk to them – it might work…
There’s only one I really recommend (I bought this exact one) – it’s cheap, good quality, full PTZ (Point, Tilt and Zoom) and allows two-way audio. You can check this out in my reviews of pet cams (opens in a new tab).
Can A Siberian Husky live with a Cat?
Due to the high prey-drive of the Siberian Husky, it is not recommended that one shares a home with a cat. Although you be lucky and find they get on famously for the duration of their lives, you may also find they are fine for years until the Husky changes its mind.
In summary, having a cat and a Siberian Husky under the same roof is always a risk. As proof that it can work, here’s a photo of a couple living in perfect harmony (at least for the time being!):
Just a short note about this. The Siberian Husky needs a fence to be very high to ensure it won’t get over it. There have been occasions when they have climbed over fences up to around 9-feet. Now, unless you live in some kind of secure complex, your fences won’t be that high. You need to know that they can escape over anything less than this. They might not do – in fact, they probably won’t – but they can.
Next, is their digging skills. You will notice they dig when you take them out. Historically, this could be to find food or alternatively, they used to do it to make a shelter to escape the rather cold Siberian conditions. However, don’t let them dig a hole under your fence and out the other side. I’ve not seen this happen but I have heard about it, again – just be aware that it can happen.
I have summarized the temperament of the Siberian Husky in the table below, the higher the star rating the more of this personality trait they exhibit:
|Body Size (More stars means larger)|
|Temperament (More stars means a better temperament)|
|Companion Dog (More stars means a better companion dog)|
|Breed Health (More stars means generally better health)|
|Aggressiveness (More stars means less aggressive)|
|Trainability (More stars means easier to train)|
|Life Expectancy (More stars the longer the average lifespan)|
|Cost of Purchase (Less stars is more expensive)|
History of the Siberian Husky
The Siberian History has an interesting past and what’s nice is that we can actually trace it a fair way back. The Husky was originally developed by people from the harsh environment of northern Asia (the Siberian Peninsular). The Chukchi people lived here and used (and developed) the Husky as a working dog. It was vital to their ability to be able to get around in the very cold winters (where temperatures below −70 °F was frequent).
During those winter evenings, the Husky was allowed inside to keep warm (or keep the people warm) and in the summer they were let loose to fend for themselves. During this time they would hunt and build shelters, only to return when the days became colder and food sources became more difficult to locate.
In the early 1900s the breed was imported into Alaska where they began to thrive. Nowadays, social media has helped to promote the Husky throughout the world and you can now find them in almost every location and every climate known.
The Husky and its Special Requirements
The Siberian Husky is no ordinary dog and has some rather specific requirements that you will need to adhere to for the duration of its life. Failure to do so may compromise your relationship 🙂 It is best if the new owner is aware of these requirements before they decide that this is the dog for them. Some people believe that all dogs are similar, personality-wise but this is far, far from the truth.
Siberian Huskies and their Exercise Requirements
There is no doubt that one of the major things that surprise new owners of the Husky is how much exercise they want each day and how much energy they have when they are out. I mentioned ‘requirement’ in the title as this is just that, the Husky needs to be exercised each day and not just for a gentle walk around the block.
The exercise needs to be sufficient to get them panting. There should be a couple of sessions a day and each session should be sufficient for the Husky to get a good work-out.
But what about in real life, what do actual owners do? Well, I asked 189 Siberian Husky owners how much they exercised their dogs each day, the results were interesting:
- 105 of the 189 owners (55.6%) exercised their Husky between 1 and 2 hours a day.
- 54 owners (28.6%) exercised their Husky between 2 and 3 hours a day.
- 17 (9%) owners exercised their Husky between 30 and 60 minutes a day.
- 11 owners over 3 hours a day
- 2 owners less than 30 minutes a day.
So, the vast majority of owners surveyed (84.2%) exercise their Husky between 1 and 3 hours a day. You might be able to get away with not exercising other dogs but not this one and you can see from the data, only 2 owners from the 189 that responded exercised theirs less than half an hour a day.
Obviously, there are other factors involved, like their age and whether they have (or indeed whether you have) any injuries or disabilities so I appreciate I’ve generalized here.
Need for Leash Usage
We’ve just spoken about how much exercise the Siberian Husky needs when they are outside. There is something else that you must consider when taking them outside. The recommendation is that when the Husky is outside they have to be attached to a leash.
Again, like a family that chooses to keep a Husky with a cat, you might get lucky and have no problems for the entirety of its life. However, this is a risky game. I said earlier that the Siberian Husky has a high prey-drive and this is most obvious when you’re outside with them.
If they happen to catch a glimpse, whilst outside, of a small mammal then there’s a good chance they will want to chase it, catch it and destroy it. Now, if you have a leash attached to them, this is easily controlled. However, if you don’t have a leash attached, they may well bolt.
The Husky is quick. Without a leash, it will be off and you won’t be able to catch it. Before you really know what happened, they could be half a mile away. It’s not worth the risk in my opinion but if you think there’s a chance this could happen to you, do yourself a favor and make sure they have a pet locator on. If the worse happens, this will allow you to locate them – anywhere. If you’re interested, take a look here at my favorite locators – there’s a lot to choose from but only a few that’s any good.
The Husky and Temperature Control
The Siberian Husky was designed for cold temperatures. For centuries they were bred to be the best working dog in climates that rarely saw positive Fahrenheit temperatures. Even when they left northern Asia, they ended up Alaska. Still a cold region of the world of course.
So, roll the clock forward a century and we find the Husky throughout the world in temperatures a lot hotter than where they originated from. How does it deal with this? Well, they adapt. They have a thick double-coat (we’ll go into this more later) but in hotter climates, the undercoat actually helps to keep the Husky cooler. Let’s face it though, this thick coat, despite its properties is not ideal for some climates.
The Husky can overheat quite quickly in direct sunlight and you need to be careful when exercising them. Don’t just assume that because they were bred to run all day that they are perfectly okay to do this. The conditions are somewhat different where you are to where they came from. Provide them with lots of breaks and lots of water, keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t get into distress.
Socialization of the Siberian Husky Puppy
An important part in the development of the Husky and integration of it into a family pet is socialization. This is not a step that should be missed. But what do we mean by this? Socialization is the process that should take place as soon as you get them inside your home and basically means introducing them to as many different people and as many different animals as possible.
The idea behind this is that they become familiar with strangers (and other animals) and it helps to ensure that when they come into contact with them later in life, they don’t react in a negative manner. Make sure that as many different children make contact with the Husky and interact with it.
If you know anyone with infants (or indeed babies) then invite them round but do make sure you don’t ever leave a child you don’t know alone with your dog. If you know a family with a cat, try and arrange a meeting but only do this if the cat is quite docile and it is carefully controlled.
One idea that someone suggested was to take your Husky puppy to a recuse center for cats. This way, there will be loads of cats and it will be in a controlled environment. Make sure you keep their leash on!
Socialization can occur from as early a 3 weeks and usually lasts around to about 4-months of age. Just cram as much in as you can. New people, new animals, new sights and smells – as much variety as you can find.
The Siberian Husky’s Coat
The coat on the Siberian Husky is regarded by many as the feature that defines them. It was the reason why they survived (and flourished!) during their many centuries in extreme climates. The coat doesn’t just look good though, it serves a purpose that was key to the survival of the dog for so long.
The Husky actually has a double coat that comprises two layers, one is a dense, soft undercoat and this is protected by a primary coat that consists of ‘guard hairs’. These guard hairs do just that, they guard the skin of the Husky from superficial injuries and provide another layer of protection from the cold weather.
Frequent Shedding and Blowing
The coat of the Husky will shed and this is normal for a dog that has a coat of this length. For the male Husky though, at least once a year (or twice for the female) they will shed a lot more
Over a few weeks (usually around Fall and the Spring) their undercoat will come out in clumps. The amount of fur that comes out is dependent also on the location. If you are in an area that’s really hot or has very high humidity then you will find that the shedding will be far greater than a location that is cooler. Once the undercoat has blown, it usually takes around 3 months for it to fully grow back.
Should The Husky’s Coat Be Cut?
No, you should never cut the coat of a Siberian Husky. You might want to do it for perfectly acceptable reasons (i.e. the outside temperature) but their coat works quite effectively (and naturally) without any requirement for artificial cutting.
Actually, during the hot, summer months, their undercoat (which is now thin after the pre-summer blowing) helps to ensure the sunlight stays off their skin and therefore helps to keep them cool. Well, maybe ‘cool’ isn’t the right word but certainly cooler than they would be. If you remove this coat by cutting it you are potentially exposing their skin to harmful sunlight which it was never designed to receive.
The Siberian Husky Diet
Whenever you talk about dogs and diet you upset someone. What works for one dog doesn’t for another. Then, if we start talking about feeding raw food it seems to be split 50/50. In fact, not just with owners but with professionals also. When you ask vets as to what they think it does seem to be split and there’s not really any middle ground. They are either passionately pro raw-diet or strongly recommend against it.
So, this is an area I have to sit on the fence a bit as there isn’t really a correct answer that will meet every dog, every owner and every vets approval. So, as far as what you feed them – see what they like and see what works with you.
We can help with other things related to their diet though. The Husky is unlike most other breeds in so far as they won’t continue to eat until they are sick. Once they are full they will stop (I wish I could do this). You will notice that the more they exercise the more they eat and on days they haven’t got out much then they will barely feed at all.
When to Feed your Husky
Make sure that whenever you feed it is not directly before or directly after any exercise. When you decide to do this is up to you, it needs to work around your exercise schedule of course. The adult Husky is typically fed a couple of times a day but remember when they are still a puppy they need a bit more than this (around 4 times a day).
Siberian Husky Health
The lifespan of a Siberian Husky is around 12-15 years with the female Husky typically living a little longer than the Male. This is a longer than average length of life so already you know that whatever genetic diseases and problems the breed can have, they are not that common as if it was it would impact the average lifespan!
There are a few things that the Husky can suffer from though:
- Eye-related problems – problems like cataracts, corneal dystrophy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Uveodermatologic syndrome.
- Hip Dysplasia – common for dogs generally but can cause the Siberian Husky some discomfort if they have it. The problem can be seen at all ages and treatment is usually required.
- Follicular Dysplasia – usually seen before the Husky reaches 6 months – this is a condition that can cause problems with their hair growth and can cause hair loss.
- Hypothyroidism – this is a common condition and is related to their thyroid gland. Managed typically via medication as there is no cure available.
The best way to ensure the Husky hasn’t inherited any diseases is to buy from a reputed breeder and ensure you see the Husky’s parents and also any DNA tests that have been carried out.
Where to Buy a Siberian Husky
It would be easy to say just find your nearest rescue center and just save a Husky from there. In fact, this is actually a good idea and you certainly should consider it. It’s a lovely thing to do to give an unfortunate dog a new life.
However, a lot of people choose to buy their Huskies through a respected breeder and in this instance I can understand why. The Husky is such a specialized breed and owners want to make sure the dog they are getting hasn’t inherited any genetic diseases, and they can do this via a breeder.
There are a few different ways you’ll be able to buy your Husky and each has positives and negatives:
- Through a reputed breeder or via a professional kennel club such as the American Kennel Club (AKC).
- Through a non-reputed breeder.
- Purchase via a rescue center.
- Through social media – there are several online groups where you will be able to do this.
Of course, the more reassurance you want (if you buy through a breeder for instance) then the more you pay. Yes, you can save money if you purchase through a rescue center or purchase via social media, but you increase your risks of future health problems in the breed if you do this.
How Much does a Siberian Husky Cost?
If you purchase a Siberian Husky through the AKC then you’ll likely spend somewhere between $1000 to $1500 for a Husky puppy. However, this is really at the upper end of quality and reassurance, you really shouldn’t be paying more than this and on average, you’ll be paying less than $1000.
If you buy from a rescue center you’d be expected to donate somewhere (typically) between $200-$500.
Purchasing from anywhere else can vary dramatically from next to nothing to $1000.
Also, if you’re wondering how old a Siberian Husky can get pregnant – take a look here (opens in a new tab).
Should I Buy Insurance?
If you can afford to do so then yes, you should buy Insurance to cover future veterinary costs for your Siberian Husky. Insurance will cost (usually) between $30-$50 per month so it’s a sizeable amount but when you think that vet costs can easily get into the thousands after only a couple of days then it’s usually a good idea. Ideally, try and factor this cost into the projected monthly costs of ownership before purchasing.
There must surely be nothing worse than not being able to fund a life-saving operation for your Husky because you just don’t have the money. It may be unlikely but you will not want to be in that situation, so if you can afford it – do it!
What Type of Owner is Right for the Husky?
So this is what it comes down to really. You know everything there is to know about the Husky so are you the right type of person to be able to take care of this special breed of dog. If you can answer ‘Yes’ to the below questions, then you probably are! Note that these are my personal recommendations, just because they all might not apply to you doesn’t mean it won’t work, just that it might be that little bit harder for you.
- Have you owned a dog before?
- Are you willing to spend the next 15 years or so exercising your Husky for around two hours a day, rain or shine?
- Are you prepared to live without a cat during the length of the Husky’s life?
- Can you confirm that you won’t leave your Husky alone for more than a few hours every day over the course of their life?
- Are you prepared to take them out only when using a leash, every single time?
- Can you afford the Husky if you buy from a breeder?
- Can you afford the insurance?
- Are you prepared to spend a good portion of your life with the most loving, child-friendly, compassionate, social, playful and intelligent dog breed on the planet?
By the way, there are several myths about the Siberian Husky – are they true? Check them out for yourself!
This may be a long article but I wanted to cover as many of the important things as I could. The Siberian Husky is truly a special breed of dog but it simply can’t be for everyone. It needs a special type of owner to be able to cater for the Husky’s needs and it’s an unfortunate fact that many owners were influenced by certain fantasy TV programs to buy one of these breeds before they did their research first. After only a few short months they had to give them back as they were unable to handle their demands.
What it comes down to at the end of the day is this: Do your research and make sure that you are the right person for the Husky.