:D Last year, someone posted a question about their new Siberian husky. Answers ran to pages and pages of experience people had with various northern breeds.
:idea: So, it's 2012. How about a new discussion on Siberians, Malamutes, Alaskan huskies, Northern Inuit Dogs and any other Northern "husky" types you might know and love... and how they're quite different from "round-eared dogs".
I got my first husky, Nikki, (a backyard bred Siberian) when she got my goat. The goat lived (and was rehomed) I kept the dog (after finding her owners, who wanted to rehome her). I had admired my friend's Siberians, but she said things like; "You probably want to get a Golden Retriever instead, they come when you call, Siberians take a message and get back to you."
I've had several over the years; after Nikki passed on, a dog appeared at the SPCA, rounded up trying to pirat...uh...commandeer (it's a nautical term) someone's goats. Chasseur (named after a privateer of the War of 1812) is part of my 3-dog recreational team.
If you're used to round-eared dogs, the first thing you should know about huskies is: all dogs (even that ShihTzu) are a subspecies of Wolf. Round-eared dogs, like retrievers, hounds, spaniels... have round ears, short muzzles... in short, juvenile characterisitcs.
(paedomorphosis, also spelled Pedomorphosis, retention by an organism of juvenile or even larval traits into later life.) They look like puppies... and their brains have a certain amount of puppy in them as well; which is why they're easy to train. Herding breeds look a bit more like Wolf, but because they were bred by people who had livestock, the kill part of the hunting instinct is bred out (the chase part of The Hunt is still there, watch a Border Collie at work). Huskies were bred by people who had no livestock (OK, some of the Chukchi, who bred the Siberian, had reindeer, but I don't know if that counts)... huskies had to survive in a harsh environment, and sometimes, hunt their own dinner. Their hunting instincts are fully intact.
Siberians are great watch dogs: they watch the burglar come in...and they watch him carry stuff back out. (I think it was Hank DeBruin of Winterdance, who mentioned an incident in which , yes, all 7 dogs were in the house at the time of the burglary). They have a strong sense of pack order, but play well with others...usually. They like people. They like kids. But as with all dogs, small kids should be supervised and never left alone with a dog... the bumbling and squealing of toddlers and babies can trigger prey drive. I've seen Siberians do excellent freestyle exibitions (dancing with your dog) with great attention and focus. I've heard of award winning agility, obdience, and other skills for Siberians.
But even the pros never let'em off a leash. And a four foot fence is a laugh. And an invisible fence is, well, invisible. I have a friend who has had cats and Siberians for years... there is an understanding; the dogs leave the cats alone, the cats are never left alone with the dogs. The same dogs have attacked and nearly killed a neighbor's cat who got into the yard. My Siberians have attacked any small animal (several cats included) who got into the dogyard (my cats live seperate from the dogs). I met a lady who has a cat rescue... and half a dozen Siberians. My friend's dog, on a walk in D.C. leashed, passed a guy feeding pigeons, snatched a pigeon out of the air.
If you lived in the wilds of Alaska, you might be able to walk (OK, run) your husky off-lead. I've seen some postings of facebook friends who lived in such places, and could, at times, work their dogs off-lead. Here, in PA, I've had heart-attack moments when one (a Lab/Sibe cross) ran amuck through Carlisle's 250th Anniversary Parade (blasting out of the parade grounds at about warp 11, past the colonists, the mule team, the cheerleading squad, the dog club, the tourists, the Cowboys, the Indians, and an entire Iditarod team). I borrowed a bike (6 sizes too small) from a kid watching the parade and gave chase. I caught up with the offender grinning at me from the back of a cop car. Same dog also ripped the Flexi-lead out of my hand in a park during hunting season and ran amuck till I found him, long after dark, in a woods full of guys with guns, leash wrapped around a tree.
I walk dogs with leashes lashed into a sturdy belt now. Or harness them, hitch them to a rig or bike or scooter or sled... and go along for the ride.
I've had pure Siberians, and some crosses (Lab/Sibe/BorderCollie?... and a Shepard/Sibe that looks like the "Northern Inuit Dog" (created by crossing Sibes, Shepards and Malamutes)... in all, the northern dog characteristics have been very strong. None could be expected to be obedient most of the time! The exception is a friend's dog, who clearly has Siberian in her, but some other breeds as well. She is an excellent farm dog, living off lead, unfenced and ignoring chickens, goats and other prey items...except for the foxes and snapping turtles she defends the farm from. In her case, the other breeds seem to have overridden the Sibe.
For those of you who don't have half a dozen Siberians in your backyard; you can still enjoy the fine art of mushing. Get a bike or scooter, a sledding harness, a gangline, teach them basic commands, hitch'em up and go for a run! It's great for any breed, even little dogs can run in front of a scooter or bike and pull as much as they like (you can help them along).
go play outside...