Ever wondered about the husky dog? Want to know the ins and outs of what it is like to own this athletic breed? Here Mel Hannam, owner, trainer and dog sled competitor sponsored by performance dog food experts Alpha Feeds tells us all about this magnificent dog.
What is it about these dogs that make them supreme athletes?
A husky has been constructed to work i.e. to pull and run. This makes them perfect sled dogs as their build is a set of angles, bone lengths, musculature designed to cover as much ground, expend the least energy and suffer the least physical shock and stress as possible.
The dogs are also very good at resting between periods of work, especially where there is a sofa or bed involved.
What temperament does a husky have?
Their temperament all depends on what mood they are in. They are genuinely stubborn, independent and delightfully mercurial. One minute they can be a snuggly dog then the next day change to an aloof semi feral dog. They might not come in from the yard when called but they will give you hell for daring to go in the shower leaving them downstairs alone. Selectively deaf and selectively food oriented, they tend to do very much as they please whether it pleases you or not.
Huskies can be predatory and may not be best suited with smaller animals like cats. When bored they can entertain themselves, but this could mean that your personal possessions will be in the firing line of being chewed or hidden under ground.
Are they good with other dogs?
Canine company is important because the breed is a sociable animal, however the friend will need to be able to cope with the size, strength and very physical play of a husky. This can be because huskies have a dense coat and in play tend to grab each other quite firmly by the scruff of the neck. To other smaller dogs this can be too much and can risk possible injury.
Generally the huskies body language is forthright and ears pricked up right can be perceived as full-on or aggressive behaviour to other dogs. This is important to consider when you are introducing new dogs.
How much exercise does the dog need?
Because they are sled dogs they need the opportunity to run and pull. This does not mean you need to buy a sled, an easier way is to get them to pull you on a bike or scooter.
Some huskies enjoy regular walks; however they will pull on the lead. Please do not get frustrated with them because sled dogs have pulled for centuries and it is just what they do.
If you want to let the dog run free it will need to be within a secure location, including a high fence which they can also not dig under. You will need to be patient with them when you want them to come back. If they were pulling a sled the musher shouts commands and the dog runs away, not towards you, this is how they have been trained.
Can they be hard to train?
Yes and no. It is easy to train them to be sled dogs because that is what they are hard wired to do, but you will never be able to train one to be like a Border Collie.
Recall and being reliable enough to run freely will probably never be one of the dogs’ strongest points.
Similarly like other dogs, it is very easy to train them to be naughty – bad behaviour is always more easily reinforced than good unfortunately!
Are there any special requirements this breed needs?
Huskies hate to be on their own so company is extremely important. If they cannot have constant attention from their owners a canine companion that can cope with the breed is important to supply their need for attention.
For any dog exercise is important, but for the husky it needs to be more around allowing the dog to run and pull.
What will owners find difficult with this breed and how can they overcome this?
Owners must realise that northern breeds are traditionally stubborn, but the difference between huskies and many other more domesticated breeds is you almost have to earn their love and respect. They are intelligent and not a breed you can exercise just by throwing a ball. The dog requires a lot of attention and needs to be exercised properly.
What feeding regime does the dog require?
Feeding depends very much on the level of exercise but a husky that is working in harness does well on a diet such as Alpha High Performance where meat is the first ingredient and there is the right protein/fat ratio. My dogs also appreciate added meat or fish.
I feed my dogs twice a day, but if they had the chance they would choose to be fed at least five times a day by helping themselves if the chance arises. Food needs to be stored safely to avoid dangerous bingeing.
For more information visit: www.alphafeeds.com or call: +44 (0)844 800 2234
For further information please contact Tim Smith at TSM on (01724) 784600.