Which dog breed should the average person NOT own?
Siberian Husky. By extension other sled dog types with sibe ancestry such as the mixed breed Alaskan Husky. People often seem to mistake them for wolfdogs, or erroneously believe they are more closely related to wolves than other dog breeds. These same people also often have very incorrect ideas of what a wolf or husky temperament will be. I hear words like “loyal” and “protective” like their idea of what owning a husky or wolf would be like comes straight out of the animated 1995 movie Balto.
Huskies pull. They’re very good at it. They aren’t very big, but they’re very strong for their size. Harnesses do not discourage this behavior. I’ve had huskies snap chains, tie-outs, and leashes.
They run. This is a basic biological need for them. Think about it. This dog has been bred to pull weight over long distances in a reasonable amount of time. They are outrageously energetic with rigorous exercise needs. This isn’t a dog you can just throw in a big back yard and expect it to be happy. You’ll probably see neurotic, stressed behavior like barking, pacing, digging, whining, etc because one of the dog’s basic biological needs is completely unmet. In other words, a profoundly unhappy husky.
Huskies are also escape artists. They climb fences, dig under them, and if there are any gaps the head can fit through, the body will follow.
And if the dog gets out, he stands a good chance getting hit by a car, attacked by other dogs, stolen, “rescued” by well-meaning people who don’t bother locating his owners, or simply wanders so far from home that you never see hide nor hair of him again. If you live in a rural area, you can add the very real likelihood of being shot for harassing or killing livestock. I saw a husky that was still going, even with a 6″ diameter exit wound out her side, after benadryl, before going under for surgery after being shot. I had a husky shot THREE TIMES after he gave us the slip, and the vet said it appeared he’d limped around like that for days before animal control found him and brought him home. He survived.
Huskies require a large amount of exercise. They are born and bred athletes, even so-called “pet quality” huskies. If you don’t jog, bike, or engage in any other rigorous dog-friendly activities, you’re gonna have a bad time. You’ll need to take up a jogging routine, leash train the dog and bring it biking, or get into any kind of joring activity, which is really fun.
If you cannot or, as the case usually seems to be, simply will not provide adequate exercise, it’s very common for bored huskies to dig trenches and deep holes in the back yard, run amok in the house, not listen to commands, charge the door in an attempt to get out to go for a run, or chew on things. Expensive things. Huskies have been known to destroy furniture and chew holes into the wall.
The breed is notoriously stubborn and can be difficult to train if you are not patient and consistent.
They shed more than you could possibly imagine, unless you’ve already owned a husky, then you can probably imagine. You can, throughout most of the year, brush enough hair off of your husky in one sitting to basically create a second husky.
I touched on this earlier, but huskies have a very powerful, very in-tact prey drive. They are notorious for killing small animals, including cats. One of the sled dogs tried to snatch a cat right out of my hands. Another was good with mycats, but killed any other cats that had the misfortune to wander into the yard. They have also been known to catch rabbits and other small game.
They’re also easily stolen. This runs completely contrary to the “loyal, aloof, selectively agressive overly romanticized and totally inaccurate portrayal of wolves and wolf-like dogs” fantasy people seem to have about huskies and similar breeds. You want your neighbor’s husky? Dangle a leash and a treat and quietly take the dog right off the premises without a single fuss or any craps given.
Huskies are great dogs…for the right person. They are not the right dog for most people. Most people I know who own or have owned huskies are in way over their heads. They’re less than thrilled with their bored, miserable, neurotic problem-dog and the dog suffers for it, eventually runs off never to be seen again, or they give it up to somebody else who may or may not just repeat the same pattern. They’re very common in shelters and rescues in my area for this reason. They’re just too much dog for most people.
[Edit] I’ve gotten a few comments from people who say they’ve reconsidered owning a husky. I don’t think one has to go quite that far, just look for an older dog (over 2 years of age) with an established temperament. Look into rescues and stuff, those people should be familiar enough with their dogs to tell you if they have a couch potato or not. I’ve had two huskies who were pretty chill, one of my sled dogs could walk and bike off-leash with me around town and had a very reliable recall. He still needed a good deal of exercise, but he wasn’t going to chew up the house in protest if he couldn’t get it.
They exist, but they’re more of an exception, not the rule. I wouldn’t count on getting such a temperament from a puppy, though, look for it already well established in an adult dog.