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Alice van Kempen, Animal Photography
A working sled dog, the typical Alaskan Husky is a blend of various Nordic breeds, depending on the breeder’s preferences and needs in a sled dog. Pulling ability and team player qualities are more important than looks. Alaskan Huskies are not typically sold as pets but are sometimes found through rescue groups and can make good companions if their exercise needs are met.
Alaskan mushers bred the dogs they found in Inuit villages with Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers to create the Alaskan Husky.
The Alaskan Husky is a sled dog bred for working ability, not looks or pedigree, and there’s no set formula for creating him. He is usually bred from various spitz-type dogs and has their characteristic prick ears, but in all other respects his looks vary widely. His usually short to medium-length coat can be any color or pattern, and he may have the wedge-shaped head of a spitz breed or a face with a longer muzzle. He is usually a medium-size dog, weighing 38 to 50 pounds. Alaskan Huskies are built for different types of sledding: some are freighters, pulling heavy loads; some are sprinters, going quickly over short distances; and some are long-distance runners.
The Alaskan Husky is more often seen as a working or competitive dog than solely as a family companion. He is an active dog and is best suited to a home where he has an opportunity to run on a daily basis. An athletic owner who can fulfill his strong desire to run and pull will make this dog happy, but one who leaves the dog in the home or backyard with nothing to do will come home to a scene of epic destruction.
Alaskan Huskies are great companions for hikers and backpackers and of course are naturals at such dog sports as sledding and skijoring. You will also see them performing well in agility, herding, obedience and rally.
With his heritage as a hard-working sled dog, the Alaskan Husky is intelligent and easy to train with positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. That said, he likes to do things his own way. Be firm, and keep training interesting.
The Alaskan Husky is an escape artist and can be a digger. Confine him to a yard with a fence that can’t be dug under or jumped over. An underground electronic fence will not stop an Alaskan Husky if he really wants to leave the yard.
The people-loving Alaskan Husky needs to live in the house with his family. It’s an unhappy Alaskan Husky who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship. If you do so, his barking and howling will be the least of your concerns.
Mushers in Alaska and Canada created the dog known as the Alaskan Husky to perform many different jobs: hauling logs, delivering supplies to remote locations, transportation, and competing in races for money. Starting with dogs found in Inuit villages, they bred to many different types of dogs to achieve the qualities they wanted, whether those were speed, stamina, a particular gait, good feet, or a particular size or coat type. Among the breeds they used were Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers. There are no breed clubs for Alaskan Huskies, and they are not recognized by any kennel clubs.
The Alaskan Husky is a good friend to have on a three-dog night. He’s typically affectionate and has an instinct for snuggling since that’s how he keeps warm out on the trail with his sled mates. He’s a team player and gets along well with people and other dogs. When he jumps up on you, it’s because he wants to make friends.
This is not a dog for someone whose idea of exercise is a walk around the block. He’s always ready to run and will wear you out long before he even thinks about being tired. Choose him if you like to train for marathons or triathlons — all the time. When he’s not giving you a workout, he likes to dig holes and is a big fan of food. Thanks to the hounds and sporting breeds that are sometimes part of his makeup, he can be an excellent hunter. Cats, squirrels, birds and other critters should beware when he is on the prowl.
Keep the Alaskan Husky on leash unless you’re in a safely enclosed area. If he takes off, you won’t catch him. He can run for miles and miles and miles and miles. Adventure is his middle name and exploring is his game. A sturdy, extra-tall fence is essential. The Alaskan is a great jumper.
The Alaskan Husky tends to be more brawny than brainy, but some have a certain level of ingenuity. Don’t put anything past an Alaskan Husky; he might surprise you.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Alaskan Husky, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs, purebreds, mixes and crosses, have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Health problems that may affect Alaskan Huskies include lysosomal storage disease; various eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy; and hypothyroidism, a common hormonal disorder in dogs. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score, as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Alaskan Husky at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Alaskan Husky is easy to groom. Brush him once or twice a week to remove dead hair. He’ll shed heavily twice a year, and during that time you’ll want to brush him more often to keep the loose hair under control. The only other grooming he needs is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and dental hygiene.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Seek out mushers who have Alaskan Huskies of the type you’re looking for.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Alaskan Husky puppy depends on such factors as the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, and whether the parents are top-winning racing dogs. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Alaskan Husky might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Alaskan Husky in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Alaskan Huskies available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Alaskan Husky. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Alaskan Huskies love all Alaskan Huskies. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. Search online for Alaskan Husky rescue network in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an Alaskan Husky home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Alaskan Husky, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Alaskan Husky to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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