When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the puppy’s diet has been to date, as well as recommendation as to the best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult. You should try and follow the puppy’s diet at the time you collect him from the breeder as best you can, until the puppy is settled in to its new environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences. Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy’s digestive system and cause gastric distress. The Siberian requires a relatively small amount of food for his size. This trait may be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchis developed their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances in low temperatures on the smallest possible intake of food.
As for the type and “brand” of dog food, basically any reputable dog food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment. In addition, stool size and amount is generally less with the premium dog foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly science. The dog food manufacturers have done the science part. The rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry food twice a day. Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food to suit your dogs needs. For working Siberians, a “performance” formula is in order. For Siberians that go for walks and hikes, a “maintenance” formula is usually best. Consult your breeder and veterinarian for advice.
One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food. Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon. Even though the Siberian is not fully mature until 18 months, most people gradually switch to adult dog food at the 8-10 month time frame. Again, this is something to discuss with your breeder and veterinarian.
Siberian Huskies are happiest when they can share in family activities. The best arrangement is one in which the dog can come in and out of the house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a dog door is not possible, then training the dog to go to an outside door to be let out is also very easy to do. Outside, the dog should have a large, fenced yard. The fence should be strong and at least 6 feet tall. It is also a good idea to bury wire in the ground to discourage digging out. Siberians are notorious diggers. It is usually best to set up a sand box somewhere in a shaded part of the yard and encourage digging there, if possible. Siberians should not be allowed to roam around the neighborhood. If one chooses to kennel a Siberian, the kennel should be chain link, with a concrete run, and should be 6 to 7 ft wide and 10 to 15 ft long. It should be at least 6 ft high with chain link across the top of the kennel. It should be in a shaded location and have an insulated dog house with a door for shelter from the elements.
Because the Siberian is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the elements in the form of a good sturdy house. The house should have a flat roof, as Siberians love to lay on top of their houses and observe the world. A good insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect for Siberians that spend most of their time outside. Heating the dog house is usually not necessary.
Training Siberian Huskies can be a challenge. They are an extremely intelligent, energetic, and stubborn breed, and one must be ready for the unexpected. Training should start when the dog is young. You should work to establish the rules of the house early, and make sure that the puppy knows that you are in charge. For example, if you do not want the dog on the bed as an adult, do not allow it as a puppy and never give in, even once, or the dog will think that all rules are flexible. The rule of thumb is that if you train a dog to do something, expect him to do it. Therefore, if the puppy learns that certain things are allowed, it will be difficult to train them not to do them as adults.
Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog will respect you and training will be much easier. It is very important to understand the distinction between establishing yourself as alpha and bullying the dog into submission. These are not the same thing! The former is simply a communication that the dog needs and expects, while the latter is very negative and detrimental to the dog’s well-being. By establishing yourself as the leader of the pack early, your dog will learn to respect you and look to you for guidance and will know where the boundaries for acceptable behavior lie. It is best to enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten training as they are commonly known) soon after your dog is home and has all of its vaccinations. This training is good for the dog and for you as the owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and establish you as alpha very early in the puppy’s life, which is important with this breed. Once you have completed the puppy class, and have been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience class is in order.
Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough to differentiate situations very well, and will apply different rules of behavior for different situations. You must stay on top of the dog and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of manageable size than with a stubborn, energetic adult that has been allowed to get away with undesirable behavior for a long time.
It is very important to remember that the Siberian Husky is a working breed. His heritage has endowed him with the desire to run and his conformation has given him the ability to enjoy it effortlessly. Because of this, it is important that no Siberian ever be allowed unrestrained freedom. In addition, most Siberians have a strong predator drive that can translate into trouble. This is usually directed toward neighborhood cats, birds, rodents, and other small animals. For his own protection, he should be confined and under control at all times. Since he is a working dog, he must be given something to do. Exercise may be obtained in the leash, at play, and best of all, through mushing. Siberians make wonderful hiking companions, and with a dog backpack, can carry food and water. Above all, if you feel that it is inconvenient or cruel to keep a dog confined and under control like this, then the Siberian Husky is not the breed for you.