If you have been warning everyone about the oncoming approach of winter for the past seven seasons, then you know. A direwolf is not a beast to be trifled with. They are majestic creatures, full of dignity and with a fierce…um…
Ferocious loyalty? A deep-seated sense of…
Or maybe, just maybe, we haven’t seen Ghost’s herpy-derpy on screen. But still. Game of Thrones is being credited with an upswing in the popularity of Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. (According to the AKC, Huskies rank 12th out of 193 in breed popularity.) While they are phenomenal dogs (and I know, because I’m a Husky Mom–that’s not a fat joke), there are many people who are buying or adopting without really doing their research into the breeds. (The same thing happened when the movie 101 Dalmatians came out–everyone wanted their spots.) That being said, if you’re able to show the same care and dedication to the animal as you do to yourself, there is no reason why you can’t adopt a direwolf of your own.
The Double Coat: Shedders Extraordinaire
Even if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you are probably familiar with Siberian Huskies as the quintessential snow dog. They are iconic sled dogs, and thrive in a cold weather environment. Why? It has a lot to do with their fur.
Siberian huskies have a distinctive double coat, consisting of a wooly undercoat covered with guard hair. The undercoat is shed twice a year, and it is important to groom regularly to help control the shedding. Rake out the old undercoat to keep them looking and feeling their best. (We joke that Luna sheds twice a year–six months in the spring, six months in the fall.)
Luckily, besides that undercoat, huskies are considered a “natural” breed, needing only a few baths a year. They don’t have that distinct “doggy odor” that other breeds do, either. Just a weekly brushing and the occasional nail trim is enough to keep up with grooming. Although, if you have a thing against tufts of fur all over your house, you may want to rethink owning a Siberian. You will not get away from the fur.
Those Eyes, Tho
One of the first things people notice about huskies (aside from their wolfish appearance) is that many of them have striking blue eyes. While huskies may also have brown eyes, or one blue one brown, that blue-eyed beauty has a tendency to hypnotize and draw folks in. Don’t worry, these pups aren’t White Walkers. It’s just a part of their genetic heritage–they’re supposed to look like that.
Healthy food is important for everyone, including the four legged members of your family. If you’re adopting or have already adopted a husky, you may find that you need to adjust their food periodically, especially if your husky is a working dog.
In the summer, huskies generally need less protein than they do during the winter months. That difference is especially true if they are working in harness during the winter. Keep an eye on your husky’s food intake, and adjust the food if they seem to stop eating. To make sure your husky maintains a healthy weight, be careful not to overfeed them.
We have noticed that Luna will go through cycles where her tastes change. That salmon and sweet potato mix might work for the summer, but she’ll want beef or chicken food in the winter. That rule, of course, does not apply for treats. Treats know no season.
Who’s Training Who?
All dogs benefit from early socialization, from the purebred at the AKC show to the mutt down the street. Huskies are no exception. They are pretty smart animals, though, and may tend to be more stubborn than other breeds. The best approach is probably to make training exercises fun for everyone.
If you’re looking to train your husky to work in a harness (like pulling a sled), this will take special training above regular obedience and takes hours of dedication, patience, and consistency. Just because they’re bred as working dogs does not mean they instinctively know how to wear the harness or pull the load. You will still need to work hard to make sure that the training succeeds.
Leader of the Pack
Huskies are born pack dogs. They love family life, love socializing, and generally get along well with other dogs. When you welcome a husky into your home, be prepared–you belong to them, not the other way around. Because they are a social breed, they are not well suited to being alone for long stretches of time. If they’re lonely or bored, they can become destructive (kind of like some people). If you must leave the house for a long period, make sure that your husky has something to occupy their attention–toys or enrichment games or even a companion dog.
Huskies do have a strong prey drive, and they are likely to think that other small animals (including cats), are prey. If you’re trying to build a multispecies or bipetual household, keep this in mind. The husky will eat your bunny, hamster, or hedgehog pal if you don’t keep a very careful eye. (We are extremely lucky, but we also went through a very long, very time-consuming process in getting our girls to accept one another so that they didn’t kill each other by accident.)
Another thing to keep in mind: if you think this wolfish-looking face will protect you from intruders, think again. With their innate friendliness, huskies are not the best guard dogs. They’d much rather have belly rubs and treats.
Music and Other Extracurriculars
Huskies don’t really bark much, but they are far from mute. They have a distinct talent for howling–especially if they hear sirens or other huskies. The howl of a Siberian Husky can carry for miles. They are true escape artists, with a knack to find their way over or under some serious fences. If they are lonely or bored, they can be champion diggers and chewers. (Luna once chewed up a pair of my eyeglasses during a boredom session, followed by a left shoe.)
Keeping your husky relegated to the backyard may sound like a great idea, but that talent for digging and escape means that you’re likely to spend hours walking around your neighborhood shaking a bag of Beggin’ Strips, trying to get them to come back. (Been there, done that.) Make sure you microchip your husky and keep an ID tag on their collar to increase chances of getting your husky home after they decide to go walkabout.
Part of the charm of the Siberian Husky is their reputation for being sturdy, hard working dogs. Of course, part of that hard work means that this breed has a lot of energy. A lot of energy. Repeat–a lot of energy. If you’re looking for a dog to lay on the couch with you while you binge-watch back episodes of Project Runway, this is not the dog for you.
These dogs are meant to run, and if they are given the opportunity, they will gallop off into the sunset. Keep your husky on a leash, in harness, or in a fenced yard. (Although Luna has managed to escape the fenced yard on several occasions–that husky cunning.) Regular exercise is a must, and does wonders for the dog both physically and mentally. Like we said, huskies are clever dogs, and need to be engaged in a variety of ways. Throw the ball. Or a frisbee. Go to the dog park. Take daily walks. Find a doggy play group (yes, those exist). If you’re into the idea of AKC activities, the AKC sponsors activities like rally, agility, and obedience that you can look into.
We generally take Luna out for walks, out to the dog park, and out in the yard. Occasionally, she’ll also go to Doggy Day Camp for a day while J.D. and I are at work. We find that the more opportunity she has to get out and exercise, as well as see other humans and dogs, the happier she is. It really does make a difference.
If you do decide to adopt a husky (or any animal, for that matter), make sure you understand the commitment before you take the plunge. This is not just a fun thing for a season–this is a lifetime commitment. That pup will depend on you, and shower you with affection and loyalty in return. May we all rise to the occasion and become the people our dogs think we are.
PS: If you already have your direwolf at your side, you’re well prepared. Winter is coming.