Through being active on social media and by just taking my dogs out in public a lot, I get asked lots of questions about huskies from curious dog lovers and from people interested in the breed. I wanted to create a post to address the most common questions I hear about my favorite breed!
1. Are huskies related to wolves?
Huskies are not any closer related to wolves than Shih Tzus or Chow Chows. If you are familiar with Siberian Huskies and Wolves, you will know that they do not look very much alike. Huskies and similar looking dogs are often used on TV, movies, and other media to represent wolves, which creates the misconception that they look very similar (i.e. a husky will look similar a “wolf” you saw on TV, but the “wolf” on TV was not a real wolf.) Siberian Huskies are part of a group of dogs known as Ancient Dog Breeds. This just means that they have some really old genes and that the breed originated long before many other modern breeds. The husky’s thick coat, pricked ears, and bushy tail are traits that are desirable for the northern climate. They were bred for these traits, rather than just inheriting them from wolves like many people I talk to seem to think. Some key differences are that huskies typically have defined masks, blue or brown almond shaped eyes, medium size, and will hold their tail up when alert. Wolves do not have any of these things- they are much larger than huskies, will not have defined mask, have amber eyes, and never hold their tails up like huskies do.
2. Are your dogs Siberians or Malamutes?
Gracie (pictured above on the right) is a purebred Siberian Husky and Echo (on the left) is a Siberian Husky and Rough Collie mix. Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes are pretty similar and commonly get confused with each other, but there are some key differences that will help you quickly determine which is which. A standard Siberian Husky weighs between 35-60 pounds and a standard Alaskan Malamute is 70-95 pounds. If the dog is a medium sized dog, it is most likely a Siberian, if it is a large dog, it is most likely a Malamute. However, due to bad breeding there are many out of standard dogs, so there are a few other ways you can tell. Malamutes do not have blue eyes. There have been very rare cases where Malamutes have had grey-blue eyes due to a one time gene mutation, but that is very very rare and not typical of the breed. Typically a dog that looks like a Malamute with blue eyes has a Siberian Husky somewhere in his ancestry. Siberian Huskies can have blue eyes, brown eyes, one of each (like Gracie) and what they call parti-eyes, which is when blue and brown is swirled together into one eye. Malamutes also have bigger muzzles and are more stocky looking than huskies. Siberian Huskies are usually slim and light on their feet. Malamutes are bred for pulling heavier loads, where as Siberian Huskies are bred for running longer distances quickly. Below is a picture of Echo with his Malamute friend, Comet. While Echo and Comet are both puppies in the picture, you can still see some of the differences. Echo was about 8 months in this picture and I believe Comet was only 3 or 4 months. The next picture below that one is of Gracie with a very large Siberian Husky. Notice his narrow face and placement of his ears are like Gracie’s, where a Malamute would have a wider face and further apart ears.
3. Can huskies survive/ do well in warmer environments?
Yes, they can. The husky’s coat protects them from both the snow and the sun. Just like other dog breeds, they need shade and water in the heat to prevent heat exhaustion or stroke. It is best to exercise them in the morning and evening on really hot days. I know several huskies that live very happily in Florida. It is not unusual to see a Siberian Husky laying out in the sun. They love to sun bathe.
5. Are huskies typically friendly dogs?
I get asked this a lot. Siberian Huskies are known for their friendly personalities. The AKC standard for huskies is even that they have a friendly temperament. Most Siberian Huskies do not meet a stranger. Both my huskies love people and especially love kids. Siberian Huskies typically make wonderful family dogs. However, an under exercised and untrained or un-socialized dog of any breed can act out in undesirable ways. This is not the fault of the dog, but of the owner.
6. Do huskies shed a lot?
This may seem like common sense to most dog people, but a lot of people who do not have experience with dogs ask this one. Huskies blow their coats twice a year. This means that all of their undercoat falls out in chunks. While they are not blowing their coat, they still have a moderate amount of shedding. I recommend that owners brush their dog daily for at least an hour while their dog is blowing their coat, and at least an hour once a week while they are not. Read my previous post husky shedding for more information!
7. Do you shave your huskies in the summer?
NO. Never shave your husky. Unless your husky needs surgery, has bad skin issues, or has mats, there is no reason to shave them. Shaving them does not cool them down in the summer at all. It actually makes them more prone to heat stroke and sunburn. Their double coat protects them from the sun and helps them to regulate their body temperatures. If your husky has to be shaved for medical reasons, it is important to buy them a dog sweater and keep the inside as much as possible.
8. Can you train a husky to not run?
Huskies are bred to run. It would be extremely hard to train them not to run, and if you did successful train them, you would have an unhappy dog. Many people ask this because they are afraid of their dog running away. It is important to have a secure outdoor enclosure for your husky to enjoy time in your yard- 6ft fence with at least an additional 1ft in the ground and no way to climb over. Read my previous post on Escape Artist dogs for more information. I recommend keeping huskies on leash, however I do know people who have trained their husky to reliably walk off leash and stay nearby. This takes a lot of work and will not happen over night.
9. Do huskies do well with cats and other small pets?
This one really depends on the dog. Generally, huskies have a high prey drive, which means they will chase small animals, including cats, small dogs, rabbits, chickens and any small pet. However, I do know many huskies who were raised with cats and small dogs and are perfect with them. It is easier if the dog has grown up with small animals, however if you get a puppy, do not be surprised if he one day starts chasing your cat.
10. Do huskies have a lot of energy? How much do you exercise your dogs?
Huskies are very high energy and need a lot of exercise. I have a 3 acre fenced in yard that Echo and Gracie run around in. I like letting them run in the yard since they get to run as fast and as long as they want. I can’t keep up on leash. We also frequently go hiking and on long walks on urban trails. Echo also started agility training this month. Huskies require a lot of exercise time, so if you do not have time to exercise them then a husky might not be for you.
11. Can huskies be left alone in the house?
This one is heavily connected to the last question. A bored husky will be a destructive husky. A properly exercised husky will be a happy and calm husky. Echo and Gracie can both be trusted alone in the house, however I still will crate Echo when I am gone for too long as he will eat random inedible things when he gets bored of his toys. I also leave plenty chew toys and treats around so they have entertainment. Echo also really likes treat puzzles.
12. The huskies at the dog park seem aggressive! They are always growling and playing way too rough. Are they all dog aggressive like that?
Huskies have a very unique play style. They are very vocal dogs. Sometimes their “woos” and grumbles can sound very much like a growl. I have had this issue with Echo. When he is excited to see someone, he will talk and grumble at them to let them know and people have thought he was growling at them when he was really just trying to be friendly. When Echo plays with me or with Gracie, he sounds very growl-y. It is just how many huskies are. It is not aggressive in any fashion. Huskies are also very mouthy dogs. This means that they will use their mouth to play and wrestle. However, they do not bite down when they are playing. A dog who plays like this is not dangerous or dog aggressive. I would never let Echo or Gracie play with a little dog like this just because of size. They could fall on top of a small dog while playing and accidentally hurt them. So how do you tell if a husky is being aggressive? Look for raised hackles, pulled back lips, and obvious growling. There is a big difference between their grumbles and growls. If you are unsure, their owner will know since they will be more familiar with their own dog’s noises. Gracie’s growl is much deeper and slower than her woos.
Let us know if you have any other questions about Siberian Huskies or tell us what makes your favorite dog breed unique in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out other post with information on Siberian Huskies, Advice from Husky Owners.
Thanks for reading,
Katie, Gracie, and Echo
All photos in this post are property of A Girl and Her Husky. Please do not take these photos for your own use without permission.