If you already have a Siberian or Alaskan Husky, or you are considering getting one, there are a few specifics that are important to know. Since these dogs were originally bred to go long distances in cold weather, they have unique requirements that should be considered. Note that an "Alaskan Husky" is a dog that has been bred for mushing, and is not a specific breed. They do not have to have origins in Alaska. A Siberian Husky, however, is a purebreed and can be registered. So, all Siberian Huskies are Alaskan Huskies (because Siberian Huskies were bred for mushing) but not all Alaskan Huskies are Siberian (because Alaskan Huskies aren't always purebred).
Be prepared to give your dog adequate exercise. Exercise keeps a husky happy. A successful indoor pet husky can be achieved by maintaining an above average exercise schedule. You can follow the steps in How to Get Started Dog Mushing but there are other ways to keep these dogs active. Healthy pet huskies need the equivalent of three to five miles of exercise four days a week. This exercise can be in the form of running, playing with other dogs, swimming, and one-dog sledding type sports such as bikejoring. Not only will this require a lot of time on your part, but you also need to be careful meet the dog's exercise needs without overheating. It is an important owner responsibility to decide their husky has had enough before they injure themselves or overheat.
Build exercise mileage up slowly. Your husky may have the energy to run all out the first day, but he doesn't have the conditioning. When biking go slow enough that your husky can run at an easy pace. Most dogs start out much too fast and need to be managed until they settle into a comfortable pace. It's easy to out run a husky on a bike which puts your husky at risk for overheating, becoming overwhelmed because the pace is too fast, and fearing the exercise.
Watch for signs of overheating. If you exercise your husky using a head halter, make sure your husky can open his mouth wide enough to pant normally. The mouth is the only pathway for reducing body heat. See How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs for more tips.
Heat and humidity are hard on huskies. Temperatures above 65ºF (18ºC) are bordering on too hot to exercise. If there is a breeze, low humidity, or your dog can easily cool off in water, you may be able to exercise at these temperatures. Keep in mind that racing sled dogs do not work very hard unless the temperature is below 20ºF (-6ºC). Keep warm weather exercise sessions less than 3 miles long (less than 5K).
The larger the dog, the harder it is to stay cool. Dogs stay cool through panting. Larger dogs have more body heat to get rid of, so it takes time for them to cool. If you have a large husky – 60+ pounds(27kg+) – take extra precautions in the heat.
Keep bathing to a minimum. You can bathe your husky, but sometimes a good brushing and a waterless shampoo is all you really need. When you bathe your dog with shampoo you break down the protective skin oil. Only bathe when absolutely necessary (like after an interaction with a skunk).
Decide whether to shave your husky or to leave their coat alone. Fur helps regulate body temperature. Most huskies have a double coat, with the exception of the Eurohounds. This coat consists of a thick undercoat and a guard hair layer. These layers keep your husky warm and cool. That said, under some circumstances, you may want to shave your husky. Shaving can help keep the skin dry if your husky swims a lot and can allow you to find fleas, ticks, and hot spots.
Always check the pads to make sure they are not damaged by the the road or trail surface. Look carefully at each pad and between each toe. Double check the nails to make sure they are not so long they inhibit natural foot movement. Also, dog paws have a few sweat glands. The warm foot against the cold snow can lead to the snow getting stuck between your husky's paws. Dog booties are the best remedy for this.
Decide whether to allow your husky to live indoors. Huskies can live indoors like any other breed. Even mushers have started building dog barns (small horse style barns) for their teams. It has been discovered that dog teams recover better sleeping in the warmer barn versus sleeping outdoors during training. With training, your husky can be taught to live indoors.
Set up a warm dog house if your husky spends time outdoors. Huskies do get cold. A warm dog house has a few key features:
Add fresh dry straw (not shavings or hay) on a weekly basis.
Keep the dog house off the ground so air can circulate underneath.
Keep it small enough that your husky can use body heat to warm the house.
Give the house a flat roof so your husky can lounge on top of it - especially when the ground is wet or sloppy.
Add enriching activities to keep your husky happy. Huskies are known as being escape artists. This really translates to a bored dog finding something better to do. If your husky is already an escape artist, or you want to avoid your husky learning to be an escape artist, they must get enrichment. Most mushing dogs get several miles of exercise four times a week. If you don't mush full time, you need a little help keeping your husky happy. Enrichment means something that engages your husky in an activity that uses his or her brain. Bones, toys that can be stuffed with food, buster cubes, doggy daycare, long hikes, and dog sports are all great ways to keep a husky happy. Huskies are capable of learning agility, fly ball, Frisbee, and other dog sports besides mushing.
Stubbornness is not a training term. Dogs do what works. That means your escape artist husky gets enjoyment out of escaping - it keeps his brain busy. The more secure you make the yard, the more he'll try to figure out how to get out of it. Enrichment is the only solution.
Feed your husky a good diet. You could spend a good portion of your life researching dog food and trying to figure out what is best. You can even learn How to Make Your Own Dog Food. A good rule to follow is to add fat and protein during the cold months and hard training, and to subtract fat and protein during the warm months. This may be as simple as feeding one brand of food in the winter and another in summer. If you have two dogs, you might feed differently than someone who has 50 dogs and training for the Yukon Quest.
Only feed after exercise. Feeding before puts your husky at risk of gastric torsion. A good rule to follow is 30 minutes after exercise or four hours before exercise. You can always give some light snacks along the way.
Train a solid recall. Every time your husky has a chance to run free either by choice or by accident he will learn that running free is F-U-N and your husky will want to be free to run as much as possible. Training your dog to come is called a recall. Recall training should only be practiced outdoors if your dog is on a leash. To be successful in the recall start practicing it as early as possible. Force-free methods - methods that reinforce with things your dog likes - work best in creating a solid recall.
Manage the high prey drive. Sometimes a husky and cat relationship can work out without a glitch, but often it is a constant management situation. If you are really skilled at keeping doors shut, gates locked, litter boxes cleaned, and protecting your cat at all times - you can probably have a cat and husky in the same house. If you have poor management skills, don't get a husky if you already have a cat.
Fleas can cause skin irritations and carry parasites. You have to be diligent about combing through your husky to keep on top of a possible flea infestation.
Huskies that live outdoors are at a greater risk of parasite infestations like heart worm, and diseases such as rabies. Make sure your husky has flea, tick, and heart worm protection, and has an annual veterinary checkup. These issues are easily prevented.
The best tools for walking a husky are the front clip harness and the head halter. Harnesses also work - but if you want your dog to learn to pull - use the harness for that job. Your husky can learn to pull in a harness and walk nicely with a head halter.
Avoid leaving your husky in a parked car. Cars can reach temperatures of 120-140F (48-60C) within 5 minutes in a parking lot even with the windows open. Cars actually trap heat instead of dissipate it. Thick coated dogs overheat very quickly. An overheating dog may or may not be panting.