Huskies: A Special Breed
For the right owner, Huskies make wonderful pets in all seasons.
Siberian Husky owners are passionate about the breed, and McHenry County is home to many owners, breeders, events and even a rescue/adoption center just for these beautiful and unique dogs.
We often associate these canines with dogsledding, but they are known also as show dogs, and apt in agility and flyball, among other activities.
Many local Siberian owners belong to the Siberian Husky Club of Greater Chicago where they meet fellow owners, participate in activities and events, and learn more about the breed.
Marengo resident Carol Preble is the organization’s president an encourages area Siberian Husky owners to join the club to learn more about the breed through programs, meet other owners, participate in the annual dog show and attend demonstrations.
The hype surrounding Siberian Huskies is well placed; there are many considerations to make before bringing home this breed, plus a number of myths about these dogs that Preble wants to bust.
First, she says, because Siberians look like wolves, there is a misconception that they are vicious. The truth is, they are no more closely related to a wolf than a poodle is and are, in fact, an affectionate breed suitable for families with children and other dogs.
That said, “they have a mind of their own, are independent and strong-willed, so you must always be on your toes — kind of like living with teenagers,” Preble said.
And yes, they do shed. According to Jennifer and Jeff Siegel, Woodstock owners of 27 Siberian Huskies, a candidate for owning these dogs, among other things, must “own a great vacuum cleaner.”
“Most breeds of dogs shed constantly, where these guys actually ‘blow’ their coat twice a year,” added Preble. “You need to enjoy brushing and vacuuming during these shedding times, but once it is done, it is over.” For a while, at least.
So should you bring one home? It depends. Do you have a fenced-in yard? “These guys love to run, as that is what they were bred to do, so if you are looking for a dog who is going to lay outside watching you work in your garden, think again,” Preble said.
“They need to be on a leash or in a fenced-in area as they like chasing little critters,” she added.
As for the truth about cats and dogs, “Siberian Huskies and cats can learn to live together, but one must be diligent in watching both until you are sure they have learned to get along.”
Are you up for consistently training your dog? “Diligence in training” is a point Preble wants to drive home to potential Siberian owners because it’s necessary in order to manage the breed’s drive to run and knack for escaping. “They will travel far if they get loose and most likely get themselves in trouble, hurt or killed,” added the Siegels.
Activities with Huskies
Siberian Huskies and sledding go hand in hand. Preble and her husband were very active in dogsledding and racing for many years, and have had dogs run in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska with a dog currently living in Alaska for the winter who will be racing up there.
“Even if you only have one or two dogs, you can run them recreationally,” she said. “There is nothing more wonderful than being out in the woods behind a team of dogs listening to the swish of snow from the runners and the dogs trotting along.”
Cross-country skiers can enjoy what is called skijoring, she said, where a dog in a harness pulls the skier. Hiking is another enjoyable activity to do with the dogs.
The Siegels enjoy sprint racing and train their dogs using four-wheelers when there is no snow. “It’s much safer for the dogs and musher (the person who drives a dog team),” they said. “There’s more control.”
Rally, a new American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club sport in the dog show world, “is a form of obedience showing where the exhibitor needs to read the signs on the ground as they progress through the course,” Preble said. “There is also agility, which is like an obstacle course for your dog. Even if you do not show your dog in these events, they are fun to partake in.”
Do Your Homework
For those in the market for a Siberian puppy, Preble says to be patient as there is usually a waiting list. Further, she recommends buying from a reputable breeder that performs health tests on their dogs (for a list of breeders, visit www.akc.org/breeders).
Another wonderful option is to adopt from a rescue group like Adopt A Husky (www.adoptahusky.com) or Free Spirit Siberian Husky Rescue (www.huskyrescue.org) out of Harvard. “We got into Siberians after we adopted a Siberian mix from a shelter when we were in college,” the Siegels said. “We loved him so much that we fell for the breed.”
In addition to the 27 Siberians, the couple owns three border collies that help keep the Siberians in line, they said, and “several of our dogs are rescue dogs and some are proudly home-bred.”
If you’re thinking about adding any breed of dog to your family, Preble suggests attending International Kennel Club of Chicago Dog Show February 23-24 at McCormick Place in Chicago. During the bench show from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. on Saturday, attendees can see all dog breeds closeup and talk to their breeders.