The popularity of Siberian Huskies has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the breed’s appearance on TV shows such as Game of Thrones. But as a fiercely intelligent and energetic dog, this breed is far from just a fashion accessory: it needs care, attention, and plenty of exercise and activity. How can new Siberian Husky owners care for their dogs responsibly? Here’s our guide, featuring the expert advice of Randee McQueen, Treasurer and Rescue Coordinator of the Bay Area Siberian Husky Club, who has been breeding Siberian Huskies for more than 30 years.
Before Training: Always Work With a Responsible Breeder
Working with a responsible breeder is especially important when it comes to Siberian Huskies, since the trend for owning these dogs has created a lot of unscrupulous breeders. Randee McQueen cautions that, especially since the pandemic began, many people are selling mixed-breed puppies whose parents haven’t had the necessary health checks.
When buying a dog, always research the breed properly to make sure that it’s the right one for you, then work with a breeder who can provide the correct paperwork for your dog. McQueen likes to see the puppy’s mother and talk to the father’s owner, too.
Key Milestones: 8 Weeks
Training Goal #1: Make Sure the Breeder Is Socializing the Puppy
Your pup will spend the first eight weeks of his or her life with the breeder. Since these are crucial weeks in a dog’s developmental life, that’s all the more reason to choose your breeder carefully. During these weeks, the breeder should be socializing the puppies and keeping them stimulated. “I would always like to see that they’re doing something with the puppies,” McQueen says. “I want to see pictures of them playing with the puppies … I don’t just want to see pictures of puppies in an ex-pen.” Meanwhile, back at home, you can get ready for your pup by closing up any holes there might be in the yard (even though it’ll be a while before you can leave your pup out to play in the yard alone). Siberian Huskies are notorious escape artists, so now is the time to start getting used to keeping a very stable, secure home. Remember: an adult dog can get through any hole larger than four inches.
Key Milestones: 8 Weeks to 4 Months
The first few months after your dog returns home from the breeder are the time to establish good habits and begin getting your dog trained for family life.
Training Goal #1: Crate Training
Crate training is helpful for all dogs, giving the dog a safe space and making transportation of the dog easier for owners, among many other reasons. For Siberian Huskies, it’s especially important: with their escape-artist tendencies, you’ll want to be able to easily put them somewhere safe and secure if there are guests in the house.
Training Goal #2: More Socialization Training
It’s also vital to keep socializing your dog at this early age. Randee McQueen encourages people with new puppies to allow them to play with other dogs, so long as those other dogs are vaccinated. “You don’t want to keep them away from everything and everybody under the fear of parvo of distemper,” she notes. “You want to just do the best you can to make sure that they’re with a vaccinated dog.” One option is to take your pup along to a puppy social class (preferably one where all dogs must show proof of vaccination) — as a bonus, many conveners of these classes will give you pointers about your dog’s particular strengths and needs.
Training Goal #3: Establishing a Schedule
Get your pup used to a regular schedule for eating, sleeping, and potty breaks. You can also schedule in time for play and training—and make it as plentiful as possible!
Training Goal #4: Get Your Dog Used to Grooming and Nail Trimming
Since Siberian Huskies blow their coats a couple of times a year, you’ll want to start getting them used to the grooming and bathing that will happen during those periods. Start brushing them with the kind of brush you plan to use, give them a bath in a basin, and dry them with a blower, if you plan to use one. It’s also a good idea to play with their nails at this point, to get them used to the idea that they might be trimmed and touched further down the line.
Training Goal #5: Start Obedience Training
At 10 to 12 weeks, your pup can enter obedience classes outside the home, provided that they’re fully vaccinated. It’s also a good idea to make sure that the class requires all other enrolled dogs to be fully vaccinated, too. Randee McQueen stresses that since Siberians are a midsized-to-large breed, it’s particularly important to get them started in obedience early and nip any antisocial behaviors such as mouthing and chewing in the bud.
Training Goal #6: Keep the Dog Active Through Play
Last but certainly not least for this stage of your dog’s development, now is the time to start paying attention to their particular needs and tastes, especially when it comes to play and activity. What are the games they enjoy? How do they keep themselves occupied? Observe your dog’s preferences and build activities around them. McQueen stresses that Siberians won’t be entertained for long by games of fetch, but chase might work better. Since they’re so intelligent, it’s crucial to learn what makes them tick, and build a schedule that provides it.
Key Milestones: 4 months to a year
Training Goal #1: Begin Sport Training
Since Siberian Huskies are working dogs with lots of energy, dog sports are a good way to keep them active and engaged, with many Siberian owners training their dogs to pull carts, bikes, and skateboards, or go sledding where the climate allows. McQueen notes that though dogs shouldn’t be running long distances until they’re a year or older, you can start getting them used to dog sports as early as four months, for instance by putting them in a harness, allowing them to pull you a short distance on a scooter or other device in your yard, or even having them pull you on a bike.
Training Goal #2: More Classes
Though many dog owners take an initial obedience class then rely on the dog park for their dog’s continued socialization, Randee McQueen recommends keeping your Siberian Husky in classes of various kinds for up to a year, since they respond so well to the activity and stimulation. It’s also a great way to keep them active in the months before they’re allowed to run far. McQueen’s own dogs have thoroughly enjoyed Agility classes, as well as training to be therapy dogs.
Training Goal #3: Preventing Escape
By now, your puppy will have a little more independence — which makes it crucial to watch out for their favored escape methods. Each Husky is different: some might learn how to get out of their crate, for instance, while others might work out how to operate a door handle. “In this age range,” McQueen says, “I would say: be vigilant and watch for what your particular dog is doing.” Once you have that information, you can start building safety routines and checks around it.
Key Milestones: A Year
At about a year of age, it’s safe to start running your dogs longer distances. For Siberian Huskies, this means it’s the time to allow them to really come into their own with the dog sports they were bred for, such as sledding and related, warmer-climate activities like carting and biking.
McQueen also recommends attending your local Siberian Husky meet-up club, to find other Husky owners to share activities with.