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Siberian huskies are probably one of the most recognizable and widely known breeds of dog of the planet. Sadly, however, this popularity of the breed has paved the way for many myths and lies about their temperament and overall behavior. So here are some of the biggest myths known about Siberian huskies, and the explanations of why these thought-to-be-facts are actually just works of fiction.
While yes it could be argued that Siberians make excellent hunters due to their combined speed, strength, and agility, these pack dogs are actually very sweet in nature. Although it is factual that these dogs were, and often are, left to lead semi-wild lives while living as working dogs in the artic, either being kept in pens, or being left to roam free and fend for themselves like their working ancestors, these dogs are not natural born killers. If fed right and given proper socialization, Siberians have very little drive to hunt or kill.
Huskies do have a will to chase, as I have found with my three year old Siberian, but, contrary to popular beliefs, this is not an act of aggression, and more an act of play. As long as there is no growling or stalking involved, playful chase is relatively harmless - just make sure things don't get too boisterous as huskies are notorious for not knowing their own strength.
Overall, if socialized well when young, Siberian huskies can actually be very well-rounded, social animals. From my experience, as long as you expose your dog to as many positive situations with animals as you can, and make sure you are always in control, you can always teach a husky to be gentle and respectful with other animals. My Sibe was brought up with five cats and a guineapig, and I have many fond memories of laying on the couch to watch television, and having a cat, a guineapig, and a Siberian all cuddling up beside me. Strange friendships are possible.
Leashes Are A Must
One of the most popular beliefs about Siberian huskies is that, no matter what, they can never, and I mean never, be trusted off a leash. This, however, is a preference. Siberians reflect the leadership, rules, and boundaries that they are shown; if you teach your Sibe from the beginning of your relationship that you are the alpha, and that your rules need to be obeyed, then you will be followed.
Unlike more western breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, Siberians require you to respect them for them to obey you. Simply giving them food and affection is not enough. If you wish for your Sibe to follow you, you must treat them as an equal, must put your trust in them as they will put their trust in you. It is essential for you to have a strong bond with your Sibe before you could ever trust them to have true freedom, but it is achievable.
From the ages of zero to six months, a husky pup will follow everything that their "parent" does, thus making things like recall and off leash training seemingly easy. But after this time prepare, all hell can very often break loose. However, do not give up on your little fur baby just yet. As I have found with my Siberian, by the age of three, they begin to really mature and are a lot easier to train. Although his recall isn't really anything to be proud of, like most huskies, his general obedience when it comes to direction is very good.
Some tips I would give to anyone wanting to give their Sibe some off leash fun:
- Find a fully closed in area. Siberians are masters of escape, so make sure that the area you choose is quite small, give you access to see them at all times, and has high fences with no gaps or holes.
- Keep a leash on you at all times.
- Make sure you are emotionally stable. No Siberian is going to follow a weak master, so make sure that you are in a good mood,a and project good, strong vibes towards your dog.
- Teach the Emergency Stop. This is what I have found helps the most with my Sibe, as they are notorious for disobeying recall. Start by training your husky to "Stop" and "Sit" when you come to roads, before giving them treats, before play, and just generally anytime you can. Once they have learnt this, try in a small closed in area, and give the command. With you dog in the sit position, give them the command to stay, walk towards them, and clip on their leash - job done!
Not the Brightest
As the story goes, Siberians are stubborn, strong-willed, and incredibly dominant. Nonetheless, these dogs are anything but stupid. Having been bred to work, and to think for themselves, huskies are in fact very intelligent dogs, and, with a strong master that they respect, can learn tricks better and faster than most other breeds. They do need a lot of reinforcement, and they do tend to bore easily so short quick sessions with lots of tasty or fun treats is essential, but with time and effort, Siberian huskies can be trick masters of the dog world.
One of the biggest myths about Siberians is that, no matter what you do, they are inevitably going to pull you all over the place. The myth comes from their original job as sled dogs, as pulling heavy sleds was what they were bred for. However, just like every dog breed there is, these dogs can be trained out of this behavior. It takes time, but if you give a Siberian consistency and guidance in training, you can easily get rid of this annoying habit.
What I found with my dog was that the typical methods of training to heel, such as treats and toys, actually had adverse effects, hyping him up and making him pull more. I then tried many different forms of leashes and collar, including check-chains, slip leashes, harnesses, and chains. After all of that I found out this: young Siberians are mischievous by nature. They like to test the boundaries and see what they can get away with, similar to young human children. Nonetheless, just like human children, with a lot of guidance and training, they soon learn what it is that you want them to do, and will soon fall into line. Everything just takes time, but don’t give up. My boy now walks perfectly on just a standard collar and loose leash.
Apartments Are Impossible
Another widely believed myth about Siberians is that they need a big house, with a lot of room, and a very large garden space. This, however, is not the case. Sibes are actually very adaptable dogs, bred to live in various different conditions and environments. This actually makes them perfect for living in any home. As long as they are given plenty of exercise, Siberians can live in almost any type of home. From a one bedroom apartment, to a four story stately home, these dogs are perfect for basically any situation.
Personally, I live in a two bedroom semi-detached house with a reasonably sized closed in garden, and my Sibe is perfectly happy. He sleeps on my couch in the living room, has his food and water in the kitchen, and is given full room of the ground floor while I am away.
Aggressive Towards Other Dogs
Although these dogs have always been known as having a very strong pack instinct, for some reason they have developed a reputation of being dog aggressive. This is not the case. It has been scientifically proven by many animal psychologist and trainer that socialization is the key to preventing aggression in dogs. If a Siberian is not properly socialized as a pup, then it is very probable that they will develop aggression towards other dogs, and sometimes people, later on in life. That’s just how it is. So the take away is, socialize your dogs. It really isn’t that hard; take them to the park, ask you friends to come on walks with you and bring their dogs, go hiking, if you have a local dog park then go visit. Just get out there and socialize.
Siberian huskies are independent and aloof, right? Wrong. The idea that Sibes are antisocial and prefer to be on their own is completely wrong. In reality, Siberians are extremely social animals, and they love to get to know anyone they meet. A well-socialized Siberian should always be very forthcoming and open to meeting new people, even if they are shy or a little reserved.
What I have found with my Siberian is that he just wants to meet everyone. He doesn’t care whether you are male, female, gay, straight, white, black, cis, trans, whatever — he doesn’t care. This is what I love most about Siberians. He is very open-minded and accepting, and he loves to get to know everyone. He loves people, dogs, cats, horses, wildlife — everyone! So for all of those people out there that think that Siberians are not going to want to cuddle, or not want to hang out with your friends, or not have cute little puppy parties, think again. Yes, there may be some huskies that have issues, or may not have been socialized properly, especially if they are adopted or from a shelter, but Siberians are naturally social animals, and that can always be brought back.
Can’t Be Left Alone
You know the story, you go out to work or school, try to get on with you day, you’re looking forward to going home to see your little fur baby, and then you get a call — it’s your neighbor — “Can you please stop your dog from howling or I’m calling Animal Control.” It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. Well, let me tell you the truth: it does happen, but it doesn’t last forever.
What I have personally found is that, while my boy was young (three months to a year especially), I was constantly getting phone calls or knocks on my door from my grumpy ass neighbor telling me to keep my dog quite. However, what you have to think about is this: when children are young, especially as babies, they are typically very noisy and can disturb your neighborhood. Siberians are no different. Young Sibes are very attached to their human parents, just as they would be to their biological parents, and it’s understandable that they get upset when you leave. There are ways to help them through this process, such as giving them toys and treats to keep them occupied, getting a dog walker or sitter, or building up the time slowly over a long period of time. Realistically though, if you have a busy job or are still in school, it’s a given that your Sibe will have to be left alone. Many trainers will say that you shouldn’t have a dog if you are working or out of the house a lot, but that just isn’t reality, as almost everyone has to work out of their house for a while. Just give it time, and make sure your dog feels comfortable and safe, and that they aren’t given the opportunity to be bored. Just be patient, give them time, and know that things do get easier.
Can't Live In Warm Climates
It’s no secret that Siberian huskies were bred to live in cold climates. I mean, the secret’s in the name. Sadly, this fact does unfortunately give way to a myth that is detrimental to the breed: Siberians cannot live in warmer areas. You may be questioning why this is bad for Siberians? Well, it’s because people who live in warmer climates are less likely to adopt a Siberian from a shelter as they believe that it would be cruel to them. This is not the fact.
What I have personally found out about Siberians is that they are very adaptable, and can pretty much cope with anything with a little help. For example, I live in the UK, where the weather is usually quite cold and wet, with some ice in the winter, and a few days of hot sun in the summer. This poses a few issues with him, as the near constant rain means that he has to stay indoors a lot, and the casual heat for the summer can give me worries of him overheating. As far as the rain goes, I have found a way to cope: give him lots of things to do indoors, such as Kongs, rawhide chews, and games. Also, as long as you don’t mind a little bit of mud, take your dog to areas with thick grass or hard surfaces – Siberians tend to have very thick, wipe-dry fur that doesn’t tend to get too dirty, so just bite the bullet and go with it. As for the heat, follow these three rules: keep them shaded, keep them watered, and keep them calm. If it is hot and humid out, the last thing you want is your Siberian running around and getting all hot and bothered. Just keep them relaxed. Also, never walk your Siberian in the direct summer sunlight unless you have no other choice. From the times of around 11 AM to 3 PM, the sun is at its highest, there is next to no shelter, and your Siberian will just not cope. Be sensible and be safe.
Overall, there are many different beliefs about the temperament and lifestyle of Siberian huskies, but, as you can see, most of them are easy to argue. When it comes to it, every Siberian is an individual, and not all Siberians can fall into this stereotype of how they should be. Just make sure that you love and respect your Siberian, and, just like with human children, things will learn to work themselves out. Don’t worry, and have a happy life with your Sibe.