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rec.pets.dogs: Siberian Huskies Breed-FAQ


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Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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                              Siberian Huskies
                                      
Author

   Stephen R. Lee
          OooWoo Racing Kennel
          159 Monte Rey South
          Los Alamos, NM 87544 (USA)
          srlee@rt66.com
          http://www.rt66.com/~srlee/
          
   Other contributors:
     * Charmaine Budden, December 1, 1992
     * Stacey E. Curtis, December 1, 1992
       [sec@softserver.canberra.edu.au]
     * Joy Krikowa (Schekowa Kennels), December 1, 1992
     * Henry Cordani, Feburary, 1995
     * Brenda Rosebrock, August, 1995
     * Brenda Potter, August, 1995
     * Betty Goetz, August, 1995
       
   Revisions:
     * Addresses updated in 1994 by Cindy Tittle Moore.
     * Additional breed clubs added (supplied by Henry Cordani). List of
       breeders removed. 2/95, CTM
     * Parts re-written, Stephen R. Lee, September, 1995.
       
   Copyright 1994, 1995 by Stephen Lee.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Table of Contents

     * Description
     * History
     * Characteristics and Temperament
     * Care and Training
     * Special Medical Problems
     * Frequently Asked Questions
     * Resources
          + Books
          + Periodicals
          + Breed Clubs
          + Breeders
          + Online
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Description

   Siberian Huskies are a medium sized, strong, graceful, and tenacious
   sled dog. They are a handsome dog, energetic and dignified. While they
   are a medium sized dog, they are extremely strong, able to pull light
   loads at moderate speeds for long distances.
   
  AKC Official Siberian Husky Standard
  
   The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes
   the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed
   otherwise known as _type_. Some characteristics, such as size, coat
   quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function
   for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye
   color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others.
   The Standard describes an _ideal_ representive of the breed. No
   individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the
   breeder to strive towards.
   
   Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards
   at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not
   typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the
   publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club
   for a copy of the Standard.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
History

   The Siberian Husky was originally developed by the Chukchi people of
   northeastern Siberia as an endurance sled dog. They were also used to
   herd reindeer. In 1909, the first large numbers of these Chukchi dogs
   were brought to Alaska to compete in the long-distance All-Alaska
   Sweepstakes races, and the Alaskan dog drivers quickly recognized the
   ability of these small, compact dogs from Siberia.
   
   In the winter of 1925, when a diphtheria epidemic broke out in the
   isolated town of Nome, Alaska, a relay of dog teams brought
   life-saving serum from distant Nenana. This heroic endeavor earned
   national prominence for the drivers and their dogs. One of these
   drivers, Leonhard Seppala, brought his team of Siberian Huskies,
   descendants of the original imports from Siberia, to the United States
   on a personal appearance tour. While in New England he competed in
   sled dog races and again proved the superiority of Siberian Huskies
   over the native dogs. The New England drivers and pioneer fanciers
   acquired foundation stock, earned AKC recognition for the breed in
   1930, and founded the Siberian Husky Club of America in 1938.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Characteristics and Temperament

  Coat and Grooming
  
   The Siberian Husky is a comparatively easy dog to care for. He is by
   nature fastidiously clean and is typically free from body odor and
   parasites. Siberian s clean themselves like cats. In fact, a Siberian
   that becomes soiled with mud will clean himself up. Therefore, bathing
   requirements are minimal. In fact, most owners bathe their dogs once
   per year or less.
   
   Twice a year, Siberians "blow" their undercoats, that is, they shed
   their undercoats completely. It is a very intense shedding period that
   can last three weeks or more from start to finish. The good news is
   that this only happens twice a year. The remainder of the time,
   Siberians are relatively shed free. Some people feel that this
   periodic problem is easier to cope with than the constant shedding and
   renewal of many smooth-coated breeds. The bad news is that the
   shedding period can be rather messy. The hair comes out in large and
   small clumps. Lots of vacuuming and brushing are in order. It should
   be noted, however, that this shedding "schedule" is _climate
   dependent_. Some owners that live in very warm climes, ones that lack
   clearly defined "seasonal changes," report some shedding year round in
   the breed.
   
   Other than during coat-blowing season, the Siberian needs very little
   grooming. No trimming or shaving of hair is required or recommended.
   Just occasional brushing to remove dead hair and keep the coat fresh
   and shiny is required. Their nails should be checked and clipped
   periodically, and their feet should be checked regularly to ensure
   good health, particularly in actively working dogs.
   
  Temperament
  
   The Siberian Husky has a delightful temperament, affectionate but not
   fawning. This gentle and friendly disposition may be a heritage from
   the past, since the Chukchi people held their dogs in great esteem,
   housed them in the family shelters, and encouraged their children to
   play with them. The Siberian Husky is alert, eager to please, and
   adaptable. An aggressive dog is not a team dog, and therefore a lousy
   sled dog. Siberians are an extremely intelligent and independent
   breed. They can be very stubborn, owing to their original purpose, and
   they are easily bored. This independent and stubborn nature may at
   times challenge your ingenuity. His versatility makes him an agreeable
   companion to people of all ages and varying interests. However, this
   is not a breed that is typically recommended for first-time dog
   owners, as mistakes are easy to make and sometimes difficult to fix
   with this remarkably intelligent and opportunistic breed. While
   capable of showing strong affection for his family, the Siberian Husky
   is not usually a one-man dog. He exhibits no fear or suspicion of
   strangers and is as likely to greet a would be thief as warmly as a
   trusted family member. This is not the temperament of a watch-dog,
   although a Siberian Husky may unwittingly act as a deterrent to those
   ignorant of his true hospitable nature, simply due to his intense
   personality and appearance.
   
  Barking, Talking, and Howling
  
   Siberian Huskies are rather quiet dogs. They do not typically bark.
   They do talk, however, in a soft "woo woo woo" sound. They can also
   howl quite well. Owners of multiple Huskies report frequent howling,
   starting and stopping simultaneously. Since the Siberian, like other
   northern breeds, is a very pack oriented animal, this behavior is
   typical.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Care and Training

  Feeding
  
   When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the
   puppy's diet has been to date, as well as recommendation as to the
   best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog
   is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult. You should try
   and follow the puppy's diet at the time you collect him from the
   breeder as best you can, until the puppy is settled in to its new
   environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your
   preferences. Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt
   the puppy's digestive system and cause gastric distress. The Siberian
   requires a relatively small amount of food for his size. This trait
   may be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchis developed
   their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances in
   low temperatures on the smallest possible intake of food.
   
   As for the type and "brand" of dog food, basically any reputable dog
   food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog
   healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage
   that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In
   addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog
   foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly
   science. The dog food manufacturers have done the science part. The
   rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry
   food twice a day. Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so
   on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food
   to suit your dogs needs. For working Siberians, a "performance"
   formula is in order. For Siberians that go for walks and hikes, a
   "maintenance" formula is usually best. Consult your breeder and
   veterinarian for advice.
   
   One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food.
   Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can
   increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible
   to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon. Even though
   the Siberian is not fully mature until 18 months, most people
   gradually switch to adult dog food at the 8-10 month time frame.
   Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and
   veterinarian.
   
  Housing
  
   Siberian Huskies are happiest when they can share in family
   activities. The best arrangement is one in which the dog can come in
   and out of the house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a
   dog door is not possible, then training the dog to go to an outside
   door to be let out is also very easy to do. Outside, the dog should
   have a large, fenced yard. The fence should be strong and at least 6
   feet tall. It is also a good idea to bury wire in the ground to
   discourage digging out. Siberians are notorious diggers. It is usually
   best to set up a sand box somewhere in a shaded part of the yard and
   encourage digging there, if possible. Siberians should _not_ be
   allowed to roam around the neighborhood. If one chooses to kennel a
   Siberian, the kennel should be chain link, with a concrete run, and
   should be 6 to 7 ft wide and 10 to 15 ft long. It should be at least 6
   ft high with chain link across the top of the kennel. It should be in
   a shaded location and have an insulated dog house with a door for
   shelter from the elements.
   
   Because the Siberian is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very
   cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the
   elements in the form of a good sturdy house. The house should have a
   flat roof, as Siberians love to lay on top of their houses and observe
   the world. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect
   for Siberians that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog
   house is usually not necessary.
   
  Training
  
   Training Siberian Huskies can be a challenge. They are an extremely
   intelligent, energetic, and stubborn breed, and one must be ready for
   the unexpected. Training should start when the dog is young. You
   should work to establish the rules of the house early, and make sure
   that the puppy knows that you are in charge. For example, if you do
   not want the dog on the bed as an adult, do not allow it as a puppy
   and never give in, even once, or the dog will think that all rules are
   flexible. The rule of thumb is that if you train a dog to do
   something, expect him to do it. Therefore, if the puppy learns that
   certain things are allowed, it will be difficult to train them not to
   do them as adults.
   
   Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as
   the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog
   will respect you and training will be much easier. It is very
   important to understand the distinction between establishing yourself
   as alpha and bullying the dog into submission. _These are not the same
   thing!_ The former is simply a communication that the dog needs and
   expects, while the latter is very negative and detrimental to the
   dog's well-being. By establishing yourself as the leader of the pack
   early, your dog will learn to respect you and look to you for guidance
   and will know where the boundaries for acceptable behavior lie. It is
   best to enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten
   training as they are commonly known) soon after your dog is home and
   has all of its vaccinations. This training is good for the dog and for
   you as the owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and
   establish you as alpha very early in the puppy's life, which is
   important with this breed. Once you have completed the puppy class,
   and have been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience
   class is in order.
   
   Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely
   challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly
   in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough
   to differentiate situations very well, and will apply different rules
   of behavior for different situations. You must stay on top of the dog
   and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of
   manageable size than with a stubborn, energetic adult that has been
   allowed to get away with undesirable behavior for a long time.
   
   It is _very_ important to remember that the Siberian Husky is a
   _working breed_. His heritage has endowed him with the desire to run
   and his conformation has given him the ability to enjoy it
   effortlessly. Because of this, it is important that no Siberian ever
   be allowed unrestrained freedom. Instead, for his own protection, he
   should be confined and under control at all times. Since he is a
   working dog, he must be given something to do. Exercise may be
   obtained in the leash, at play, and best of all, through mushing.
   Siberians make wonderful hiking companions, and with a dog backpack,
   can carry food and water. Above all, if you feel that it is
   inconvenient or cruel to keep a dog confined and under control like
   this, then the Siberian Husky is not the breed for you.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Special Medical Problems

   The Siberian Husky is a remarkably healthy breed. When well cared for,
   the Siberian is relatively "maintenance free", outside of normal
   checkups and vaccinations.
   
  Hip Dysplasia
  
   The incidence of hip dysplasia in Siberians is fairly low. However,
   breeding Siberians should, among other things, be OFA (Orthopedic
   Foundation for Animals) certified prior to breeding. OFA certification
   cannot be granted prior to 24 months of age. Conscientious efforts of
   breeders have kept the incidence of this condition low in the
   Siberian.
   
  Eye Problems
  
   According to CERF, the incidence of cataracts in the breed checked by
   ACVO veterinarians is around 15-18%. The actual incidence is probably
   higher as many long time breeders discover the anomaly in young dogs
   early and never certify them. With the typical cataract, the dogs
   vision is not usually substantially affected, and they lead a full,
   happy, albeit it neutered, life. However, a more aggressive cataract
   also exists, which progresses quickly and may cause blindness by 2 to
   3 years of age.
   
   Corneal dystrophy is also present in the breed. This disease causes
   diffuse and progressive vision loss in mid to older age. It is often
   not present or detectable until age 4 to 6 years, at which time the
   dog could easily have produced a few litters and perpetuated the
   problem.
   
   Glaucoma is also present in the Siberian, particularly in some
   specific racing lines. Glaucoma causes the animal significant pain and
   vision loss usually before it is detected by the owner.
   
   Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and central progressive retinal
   atrophy (CPRA) have appeared in a number of breeds, including
   Siberians. These problems are genetically caused. Careful screening of
   potential breeding pairs has helped reduce the incidence of these
   problem in the breed, and the current incidence of PRA is relatively
   low.
   
   Obviously, Siberian owners and breeders should regularly check and
   clear eyes through CERF prior to embarking on a breeding program.
   
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Frequently Asked Questions

   _Are Siberian Huskies part wolf?_
   
     No. The Siberian Husky is a domesticated pure bred dog and has been
     for many centuries. They are sometimes mistaken for wolves, and
     they are sometimes used in movies to depict wolves, but they are
     most certainly _not_ wolves or part wolf.
     
   _Why are some Siberian noses partially pink and partially black?_
   
     This is called a "snow nose", and is fairly common in the breed. A
     snow nose is a reddish or pink marking on a black or liver colored
     nose. Snow nose can disappear over warmer months and reappear over
     the winter months. There is nothing wrong with a snow nose, and it
     is perfectly acceptable in the breed.
     
   _Can Siberians have different colored eyes?_
   
     Yes. This is fairly common in the breed. One eye may be blue while
     the other is brown.
     
   I_s there something wrong with an eye that is both brown and blue?_
   
     No. This is called a "pinto eye", a "parti eye", or a "split eye."
     It is also fairly common in the breed. One or both eyes may be all
     blue with a brown pie shaped wedge, or all brown with a blue wedge.
     At first glance, it may appear that there is something wrong with
     the eye but there is not. It is simply a matter if pigmentation.
     This too is perfectly acceptable in the breed.
     
   _I've heard that Siberians are mischievous. Is this true?_
   
     Yes and no. Siberians are very intelligent dogs. They will often do
     things that surprise their owners. They can get into things that
     one might think are impossible. When Siberians are bored, they can
     become quite mischievous, inventive, and destructive. This is
     typical of working dogs. This is why it is so important to include
     the Siberian in family activities and give him plenty of attention
     and exercise.
     
   _I've heard that Siberians are high-strung. Is this true?_
   
     Yes and no. Siberians are a very energetic breed. As a working dog,
     they need something to do, some way of challenging their
     intelligence and an outlet for their energy. If they are not
     provided one, they will find one for themselves.
     
   _I've heard Siberians are dumb. Is that true?_
   
     No! Siberian Huskies are extremely intelligent working dogs. People
     often mistake the fact that they can be difficult to train as a
     sign of stupidity. One must keep the Siberian interested and
     challenge his intelligence in order to properly train him. A
     Siberian will probably know what you want him to do, he just may
     not want to do it!
     
   _Just how cold can a Siberian Husky live in?_
   
     Siberian Huskies can work and live in temperatures as low as 75
     degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
     
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Resources

  Books
  
   Demidoff, Lorna, and Jennings, Michael. _The Complete Siberian Husky_,
   1978, Howell Books. ISBN 0-87605-314-2.
   
   Coppinger, Lorna and ISDRA. _The World of Sled Dogs_, 1977, Howell
   Book House. ISBN 0-87605-671-0.
   
  Periodicals
  
   _The Siberian Quarterly_
   Hofflin Publishing Ltd.
   4401 Zephyr Street
   Wheat Ridge, CO 80033-3299
   
  Breed Clubs
  
   _In the United States:_
   
   _Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc_
          Corresponding Secretary, Fain Zimmerman, 65 Madera Drive,
          Victoria, TX 77905-4847
          Newsletter Editor, Leslie Cranford, 109 Weatherly Way, Pelham,
          Al 35124
          
   _International Siberian Husky Club_
          Recording Secretary, Judy Pilkay, 7428 Chadwick Dr.,
          Murfreesboro, TN 37129-8012
          
   _Yankee Siberian Husky Club_
          Corresponding Secretary - Rebecca Kelsey, 3 Brownfield Lane,
          Georgetown, MA 01833
          Newsletter Editor - Fred Thompson, 372A N. State St., Concord,
          NH 03301, sleddog@empire.net
          Breeder Referral - Tamara Davis, Tay Marr Kennel, 13 Titus
          Lane, Boxford, MA 01921, taymarr@netway.com.
          
   _In Canada_
   
   _The Siberian Husky Club of Canada, Inc._
          Corresponding Secretary, Lee Schuler
          RR#3 Jarvis, Ontario
          N0A 1J0
          lschuler@netroute.net
          
          Newsletter Editor, Margatet Knight, R.R.#1, Hwy. #56, York,
          Ontario N0A 1R0
          
   _In Australia_
   
   _The Siberian Husky of NSW Inc. (Australia)_
          Mrs. Denise Sorensen - Secretary, P.O. Box 111, Ourimbah NSW
          2258 Australia
          President - Henry Cordani can be reached at internet address
          cordani@ozemail.com.au
          
   _Siberian Husky Club of Victoria Inc._
          The Secretary, P.O. Box 137, Box Hill, Victoria 3128 Australia
          
   _Siberian Husky and Malamute Club of S.A. Inc_
          The Secretary, Cass vanRyswyk, P.O. Box 169, St Agnes, South
          Australia 5097 Australia, Ph: 61-8-264-6975
          
  Breeders
  
   Contact the club closest to you for a list of breeders in your area.
   In the US, there are a number of regional clubs, the National club can
   help you find the one in your area. Similar systems exist in other
   countries. Bear in mind that you need to approve the breeder in the
   final analysis for yourself -- being on a list is no a priori
   guarantee of reputability.
   
   More detailed tips for locating a good breeder can be found in the
   Getting A Dog FAQ.
   
  Online
  
     * Mailing list: Email to listserv@apple.ease.lsoft.com with
       SUBSCRIBE SIBERNET-L your name in the body of the message to join
       a mailing list for fanciers of the Siberian Husky.
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
   
    Siberian Husky FAQ
    Stephen Lee, srlee@rt66.com

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