Once a generic term for a sled dog, the Siberian husky is now a breed in its own right. Today it may be bred for looks rather than speed and pulling ability, but the modern husky retains many of its working ancestors' characteristics, including the ability to shrug off cold temperatures and snowy ground.
The husky is a member of the Spitz family of dogs, distinctive for their wolflike muzzles and ears, thick fur, and curled tails. Alaskan Malamutes are often mistaken for Siberian huskies, but the husky is smaller, with a lighter build. Like other northern dog breeds, the husky has a double coat, with a warm undercoat and a top coat of guard hairs. Coat colours include pure white, black and white, grey and white, or red and white. Facial patterns range from a dark mask to a mostly white face, with a variety of bars, patches, and goggle or spectacle markings.
A phenomenon called heterochromia, having eyes of different colours, is relatively common in this breed, and dogs with one blue and one brown eye are often seen.
Huskies in the house
Huskies at home are sociable animals and love human company, including children. They tend to be just as friendly to guests, and occasionally to burglars, as they are with family members. Many huskies are never heard to bark, although howling is common. An energetic and active breed, they can be destructive if left alone or allowed to become bored.
During the summer months, a house shared with a husky is usually a house covered in shed hair.
Training and exercise
A strong independent streak, combined with high energy levels and a fierce desire to run and chase, can make the Siberian husky difficult to train and exercise. During obedience training, it can seem as if the dog understands perfectly well what is required, but simply does not wish to comply. Making training interesting and enjoyable for the dog gives a better chance of success, but you can still expect a husky's attention to wander, especially if a potential prey object comes in sight. Huskies should always be walked on the lead, in case they run off, and, at home, gardens or yards need a fence at least six feet high.
For active owners who are prepared to take the time and trouble, however, a husky is a wonderful companion. Their boundless energy and enthusiasm, combined with strength and speed, makes them ideal for skijoring, bikejoring, and canicross, and they can carry a pack. The enjoyment both dogs and humans can obtain from these adventures more than repays the investment in training and equipment.
Sledding is, of course, what the husky was bred for, and many husky owners take part in races or simply sled for their own, and their dogs', enjoyment. Snow is not necessarily required, as wheeled carts for summer mushing can be bought or built. This way, racing and working dogs can maintain fitness and stamina for the winter, while pet dogs keep busy and happy.