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To think my mum should categorically NOT get a Siberian Husky

(50 Posts)
Tanif Wed 03-Aug-11 09:37:25

My mum and stepdad own two dogs, an old knackered border collie (her dog from before the relationship began) and a younger border terrier (his dog from before the relationship began). The border collie is getting old and infirm - she's 15 - and quite frankly, probably doesn't have long left.

My mum, persuaded by my darling stepfather, has now convinced herself that the ideal replacement is a Siberian Husky. They both work full time, at present the dogs get a 30 minute walk a day which keeps them happy. Are there any Siberian Husky owners on the board that can confirm a husky will be bored, destructive and probably run off at the first opportunity?

Neither of them have owned a husky before, my mum has always had collies or german shepherd dogs and my stepdad has always had gun dogs and terriers. He seems to think his husky will be special and not run away if let off the lead and be a doddle to train. I think he's kidding himself and it'll probably end up under the wheels of a lorry in the first week. They live very close to a main road and their garden fence is only 4ft high with horizontal lats with gaps between them that I can envisage an active young husky shinning up with no problems whatsoever.

Am I being unreasonable? Are most huskies beautifully behaved examples of canine perfection? Or should they stick with what they know when the old girl does pass away?

catgirl1976 Wed 03-Aug-11 09:44:05

YANBU. Don't know much about the breed specifically but am strongly of the opinion that if there is no one in all day you don't get a dog. It's cruel. I have seen the odd exception where people re-home an older dog and pop back at lunch to walk it and it works ok, but puppy? God no. I know border collies need a lot of exercise and your mum is used to these but huskys need lots of excerise and stimulation too and being left in the house all day is cruel. Yes they will damage stuff and yes the road is a worry but to get one would be really selfish.

Sorry to rant I just think it would be cruel.

PeelingmyselfofftheCeiling Wed 03-Aug-11 09:44:14

Have a look on the 'do i have the right to defend my self from a dog?' thread - couple of husky owners on there VEry honest about what the breed is like to own!

pjmama Wed 03-Aug-11 09:46:03

Don't know much about Huskys, but one 30 minute walk a day doesn't sound enough for a young, energetic large breed dog to me. Sounds as tho it's been a long time since they had a puppy and they've forgotten what it's like! I imagine the pup will probably chew up the whole house with boredom.

bumpsoon Wed 03-Aug-11 09:47:37

Regardless of the breed , i think your mum will be in for a very nasty suprise regardless of what dog she gets . Her dog has grown old and people forget that a puppy needs as much time and effort as a newborn baby , but are far more mobile and destructive . Could you point her in the direction of greyhound rescue ? i believe greyhounds only need short bursts of activity and a big sofa to be happy .

Tanif Wed 03-Aug-11 09:49:54

peeling it was the posts on the defence thread that made me really worry. I was vaguely aware that huskies could be a handful but that has made me very concerned. I was hoping those owners might pop across here and share a few anecdotes I could print out and show to my mum.

pjmama you're right, it's been a long time since either of them had a puppy, and when their current dogs were pups they were both not working and so had the time and energy to devote to training and exercising the dogs. As I only work part time, I can see the bloody thing becoming my responsibility (I only live 10 minutes away) but to be honest, I can't be bothered with a young, energetic puppy trying to pull my arm out of its socket either!

SkipToTheEnd Wed 03-Aug-11 09:56:50

Huskies are terrible chewers. My sister has one and it's eaten her kitchen flooring, tupperware tubs, countless toys, washing machine wireing and pipes, the plastic bottom to the crate they eventually got her and just about anything she can get to if she's left alone for more then an hour.

She even chewed the handle on the back door because she wanted out.

She has a lovely nature but she needs so much work. My sister works part time, her DH works shifts and her teenage Daughter works part time and she has to schedule someone in the house between the three of them. It just seems like a lot of work to me!

mum0ftw0 Wed 03-Aug-11 10:02:01

Puppies are a lot of work anyway.
I'd be unsure about any being left at home all day while you're at work.
They poop, of course. They'll poo and tread in through the house if left for an hour.

I find our jackrussel/staffy cross to be more of an annoyance than our husky, because he barks so much and has a weak bladder.

I got told that my dog was a bad choice, that huskies are a menance, will wreck my house, are the worst kind, etc.
I don't think that's true, because I have time for him.

The only difference with huskies, in my experience, is yes they're more destructive if bored, as most people know.

My 6 month old Husky has digged u the garden, chewed up the fence, he does need lots of excersize to stay healthy in his mind and body.

I think Huskies are more appropriate for families that are very active.

DesperatelySeekingSedatives Wed 03-Aug-11 10:04:49

YANBU I don't know much about the breed but I do know that no matter how much DP wants one himself I'm not budging! Far too much work especially in our case with 2 small children inc a baby!

Joolyjoolyjoo Wed 03-Aug-11 10:08:39

YANBU. Huskies are a challenging breed to handle, and definitely not for the inexperienced. IME a high percentage of people who DO own huskies shouldn't! (sorry to any responsible husky owners out there!)

CoffeeIsMyFriend Wed 03-Aug-11 10:11:02

IF your Mum likes her house with walls and floors intact then I strongly advise NOT to get a husky. Actually I think huskies should only be kept as working dogs - they have a NEED to work, skijoring, sledging etc. 30 mins exercise a day will not be enough for it. Training is almost impossible (recall) and it really isnt for the novice dog owner.

Most dogs when they get bored chew something or scratch something, huskies rip out dry wall and tear up floors, destroy your garden...

sue52 Wed 03-Aug-11 10:13:11

Huskies need large gardens and lot of walks. If your mother can't supply both, steer clear.

CoffeeIsMyFriend Wed 03-Aug-11 10:14:08

I agree jooly I know people who have huskies and they are 'working' they are not pets in the sense that most dogs can be.

squeakytoy Wed 03-Aug-11 10:17:08

Huskies are a working dog, and shouldnt be kept as pets in a house. I have a friend who has two, and she admits they are bloody hard work, and she walks them for an hour twice a day at least.

They are also not particularly good family dogs either.

lazylula Wed 03-Aug-11 10:22:21

My brother had 2 huskies, a boy and a girl. The girl was a delight, quite content to laze around and not distrctive at all, but I believe they were just lucky with her, as the boy on the other hand was distructive, chewed things up and needed far more attention than they could give. They were told a huskey needed 2 2 hour walks and needed to be 'working' a lot to keep them from being bored. They ended up having to rehome him on a farm, as they couldn't meet his needs.

BarbarianMum Wed 03-Aug-11 10:34:10

I agree with squeakytoy. They are working dogs, not pet dogs.

emptyshell Wed 03-Aug-11 10:34:35

Funnily I was having a conversation with a lady I met down by the canal about this this morning (stopped to chat and turned out she was very involved with the breed rescue association). If you didn't know - they're very much becoming expected to be one of the next rescue crisis breeds - because so many people get them for looks (and there are so many idiots churning them out in their back yard for cash) and then realise they've bit off much more than they could chew.

I'd love one because they're stunning - but they're NOT easy dogs - most I know can never go off lead cos their recall's dreadful, they turn very easily to being destructive if bored, they can pull like trains on the lead (logical if you think about what they're bred to do) and they're very very prone to separation anxiety (which is an utter bugger to work through and I can personally vouch for just how stressful it is wondering what you're going to come back to in your house).

Even this lady I was talking to's dog - who is a very well behaved dog (she does Pets As Therapy with her and you don't pass that assessment if your dog's completely bonkers) - has her moments, has a prey drive through the roof and isn't brilliant when other dogs get into her space.

QuintessentialShadows Wed 03-Aug-11 10:41:09

My neighbour has a husky. It lives outdoors in a kennel and is rarely inside. As it is a working dog, the neighbour take it for walks (or runs rather) for several hours every evening. In winter, the dog pull my neighbour on skis, as this is what it is bred for. We are in the arctic, btw, and I generally dont think this breed is made for the warm climate of the uk. Say what you want, unless you live in Scotland, it is too warm for this dog.

Miggsie Wed 03-Aug-11 10:45:02

I was talking to the local pet shop owner and she says huskies are one of the breeds that has to be rescued most often. Unless walked many many miles a day they effectively go mad if shut up in a house. They become disturbed, like animlas kept in a small cage at the zoo.
They are not suitable pets for a town or older people who cannot walk them.

Whatmeworry Wed 03-Aug-11 10:45:15

Huskies are lovely dogs, but like any big working dog need a lot of space and exercise to be happy.

Tanif Wed 03-Aug-11 10:46:29

This is all incredibly helpful. I know I can't force them not to get the puppy, particularly as my stepdad is something of a know-it-all who thinks because he trained gun dog spaniels he can train anything, but hopefully if she reads through this she may realise what she's letting herself in for and put her foot down.

Booboostoo Wed 03-Aug-11 11:04:48

Please print out this thread and show it to them. Huskies are by far the most beautiful and the most challenging breed of dog there is. Most husky owners have to devote a very large part of their lives to looking after them.

Typically huskies will:
- be excellent escape artists. They can only only climb up fences but also dig under them so you need specialised fencing to contain them.
- they are extremely unreliable off lead, they not only run off but fail to ever come back for days on end. Typically they cannot be allowed off the lead in open spaces -ever!
- They have a very strong hunting instinct and will go after cats, sheep, etc.
-they howl and I mean they can spend the whole night howling, you need very understanding neighbours.
- they are tough to train.
-they need an enormous amount of exercise, ideally on harness. The people I know who have them, work them.
-they are particularly destructive and chew a lot.

If your relatives do any kind of research, i.e. on the internet, call the breed club, etc. they will have this information (warnings really) easily confirmed which should put anyone other than the most dedicated owner who has a particular reason for getting a husky off the breed.

Punkatheart Wed 03-Aug-11 11:10:28

I work with wolves and also have something to do with huskies. THEY DO NOT generally make good family dogs. They, as Boo has said, take a LOT of exercise and care. They are by instinct working dogs, not pets. Also another warning, I lived with a family who bought one on a whim. Lovely puppy - cute - children loved it. I moved away and later met the mum. Dog had been put down when he bit one of the children. I do NOT blame the dog - the children teased him relentlessly and he was cooped up in a tiny London house.

Sorry to be negative.

hephaestus Wed 03-Aug-11 11:30:17

Agree with the fact that huskies are becoming the next 'in' breed, like staffies, and I could cry because they are such difficult dogs to care for and the breed rescues are filling up like you wouldn't believe. The vast majority are surrendered to rescue between five and eighteen months of age, when they are no longer cute balls of fluff and suddenly become hormonal teenagers who need vast amounts of exercise and company.

I came from a family that pretty much only had working gundogs and terriers and I too was of the opinion that firm, consistent training would get me somewhere that no other husky owner had yet achieved. I scoffed at all the breed literature - no recall? Please, consistent long line training would work on any dog!

Would it bollocks. It was a baptism of fire with my first bitch and she is relatively easy compared to some of the hardcore working strains. THEY CANNOT BE LET OFF THE LEAD. I cannot stress that enough. Consistent training will get you something like a 95% recall, and this must be taught in case of emergencies, collar slipping etc. but in an open space they will just piss off and you will be lucky to ever see them again (and if you do, it might be as a patch of fur and gore on the side of the road).

I am lucky enough to have access to securely fenced fields where mine can run off lead a few times a week but even then it's a case of constant vigilance, a 6ft fence is nothing to them as they will simply dig underneath. Long lines can be used in less secure places but are a pain in the arse and not likely to be considered by a rufty-tufty gundog man.

The solution is to work them in harness. I would go as far as to say that they need to work in harness to be happy, healthy and mentally fulfilled dogs. It's an expensive hobby, lots of specialist gear is needed. Even for something like Cani-x, running with your dog, a waist belt, bungee line and harness for the dog will easily set you back £100. A racing rig is £500+. A van or large 4x4 kitted out with dog cages, a rig carrier, a sleeping area, all gear for you and the dogs, membership fees, entry fees, forestry permits will cost thousands.

The dogs can't race over 15 degrees so keeping them ticking over in the summer months involves 4am starts. Even just walking them in this weather can be difficult, it's early starts and late nights to get the coolest temps. Mine have around three hours per day of walking, on lead, 10-12 miles every single day, plus an early morning training run twice a week, plus weekly obedience classes. They are very smart but very stubborn. One of mine is doing well at agility (class is held in a fenced compound) but by god has it been a long hard road to get there.

A single husky is very likely to suffer from separation anxiety, and this may manifest in earsplitting howling, messing in the house, chewing household objects, general destruction. Google 'Siberian husky damage'. Some have ripped apart entired sofas, eaten through wooden doors and chewed through plaster walls. They thrive on company, human and canine, and will be desperately unhappy if left for long. It will not end well if they are left alone for a full working day (besides which, a full working day will not allow enough time to walk them adequately).

They don't bark at the door, or at strangers, and won't guard your house or you in the slightest. However, they will howl - they howl when they're happy, sad, bored, tired, excited, playful, hungry...

They shed heavily all year round. I hoover twice a day and have to empty the Dyson each time. Twice a year they 'blow' the coat, shedding the thick undercoat, binbagfuls come out of each dog. The house, your clothes and all your posessions are continually covered in long white hairs.

On the plus side, they suffer from very few inherited conditions with almost no incidence of HD or the like (though the fucking backyard breeders are doing their best to eradicate this with unscrupulous breeding), are generally a healthy and robust breed and very long lived (14 being average; some continue working into their teens). They do have a tendency to gastroenteric conditions as most cannot tolerate a cereal based diet, as with all modern dog food, and do best on a raw/BARF diet. They also don't have that 'dog' smell and are less likely to make your house stink of greasy dog.

If you get into the working thing they are tremendous fun, the husky community is fantastic and I've met some very good friends. I have never been in better physical or mental shape than since I've been walking and running every single day. Despite the hair everywhere they give very good cuddles and are great for warming your feet. Training them to do a simple thing is so much more rewarding because you've had to work hard for it. I respect their independent attitude - they are smarter and faster than me, why should they do anything I tell them if there's no benefit to them? They are also of course very beautiful, striking dogs and that is their downfall.

Some links:

Siberian Husky Welfare Association
Siberian Husky Club GB - both of these have a phone number to call and will happily discuss with you whether or not you are suitable to own a husky.
SHWA Facebook page including 'So you want to own a Siberian husky...'

Tanif Wed 03-Aug-11 11:37:56

There's been an amazing wealth of information on here. I'm definitely printing this out and showing it to them both. Particularly the howling is becoming a bigger problem as I see it, they live in a terraced council house, as council tenants... I can't see their neighbours tolerating a dog that constantly does a White Fang impression and as council tenants they are liable for eviction.

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