All About Alaskan Huskies

Alaskan husky dogs in red harnesses

Alaskan Huskies are incredible dogs, well-known for their skills of pulling heavy sleds through the snow and running great distances through extreme winter conditions. Before adopting an Alaskan Husky, it’s essential that you have a good understanding of this breed’s personality, temperament, and care-taking needs. There’s a lot more to these dogs than meets the eye.

About the Breed

It is worth noting that the Alaskan Husky is not technically a dog breed but instead more of a dog type. Alaskan Huskies have no breed standards since people often breed these dogs for specific purposes and jobs. That said, most of these dogs have a mix of Siberian Husky, Greyhound, German Shorthair Pointer, and Eskimo dog in their genes.

Due to their unique genetic makeup, this is why some Alaskan Huskies all appear to have the stereotypical “Husky” appearance of white and grey/black fur, with pointed ears and a bushy tail. However, this additionally explains why in some photos you see of mushing Alaskan Huskies, each dog has a different coat color and pattern, even though they are all still the same type of dog.

Alaskan Husky vs. Siberian Husky vs. Alaskan Malamute

It’s undeniable that there are many similarities between Alaskan Huskies, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes. Though on their own, it may not be quite as easy to distinguish one from the other, once you begin comparing them side-by-side, you will be able to notice their nuances better.

First, as you can probably already guess from their names, the Alaskan Husky and Alaskan Malamute originated in Alaska, while the Siberian Husky originated in Siberia. Also, unlike the Alaskan Husky, which is just considered a type of dog, both the Siberian Husky and Malamute are recognized as official dog breeds. Perhaps one of the most notable differences between the two types of Huskies is that Alaskans are, more often than not, bred to be working dogs. Siberians, on the other hand, are more compatible with just being family dogs.

While all three of these dogs can have a similar wolf-like appearance, there are slight differences. Siberians can sometimes have a shaggier-looking coat, and Alaskans are more likely to be smaller in size compared to a Siberian. Alaskan Malamutes, on the other hand, are significantly larger than both Husky types. While Huskies often weigh around 35-60 pounds, the average Malamute weight is 75-85 pounds.

It’s also worth noting that Malamutes never have the signature icy blue Husky eyes.

Alaskan husky on leash lying in snow

Breed History

The Alaskan Husky originated in the final frontier state—Alaska. Alaskans wanted to create a dog that was hard-working, resilient, and strong. The resulting dog, which had incredible endurance, was almost more than they could have expected. In no time, Huskies proved themselves to be invaluable for transportation during the harsh winter months in the north.

Depending upon the job that the Husky would be needed for, Husky-type dogs have varied bloodlines. Some excel at long-distance running, some at short but fast trails, while others’ strength is in pulling heavy sleds. Alaskan Huskies have helped transport necessary goods and materials to remote locations, used as a reliable source of transportation, and earned the title of being the best racing dog—just look at the Iditarod dog teams.

Over the years, the jobs of the Alaskan Husky have changed very little. With Alaska’s winters still being just as harsh and the roadways consistently becoming inaccessible after heavy snowfalls, Alaskan Huskies are still used to this day for transporting people and goods. Even scientists now use these sled dog teams to travel out into the wilderness, where motored vehicles can’t reach, in order to collect various data.

Attributes

Even though Alaskan Huskies can make for an excellent family dog, Huskies aren’t the perfect match for every household. Before bringing one into the house, most dog parents have a few questions about the breed they first want to be answered. Common questions include:

Do Alaskan Huskies Shed?

Yes, Alaskan Huskies shed. With a Husky in the house, you can expect dog hair to appear practically everywhere, but brushing your dog a few times a week makes the hair quite manageable. That said, Huskies have a double coat which means twice a year, typically during the spring and fall, they will blow coat.

Blowing coat is when a dog sheds their undercoat in preparation for the changing season. It is best to prepare yourself—when a dog blows coat, it takes shedding to the extreme. During this few-week period, you can expect to brush your dog daily and be running your vacuum just as often.

Are Alaskan Huskies Good With Kids?

Alaskan Huskies are naturally pack animals, so they can do well in a family setting. Though Huskies can be great with kids, some people recommend that they be in a household with older children. Huskies are powerful, rambunctious dogs that can also have a tendency to jump. With a little one around, your dog could easily and accidentally knock the child over.

That said, when given proper training and socialization, your Husky may do just fine around kids of all ages—especially if your dog and child grow up together. Just be sure to monitor any interaction your dog has with a child and teach kids how to interact properly with your dog.

How Long Do Alaskan Huskies Live?

Alaskan Huskies have an expected lifespan of 10-15 years. Nonetheless, the average life expectancy of a dog can be affected by many factors, including their diet, exercise routine, living environment, and whether they have any preexisting health conditions.

How Big Do Alaskan Huskies Get?

The typical Alaskan Husky weight can vary greatly since there are no breed standards, and the Husky bloodline can vary quite a bit from litter to litter. An expected weight range for these dogs can be anything from 35-60 pounds. The average height for an Alaskan Husky is around 23-26 inches.

Perhaps one of the most important items to consider before getting a Husky is your lifestyle. Huskies are not meant to live their lives tied up outside or stuck in a kennel all alone every day. Huskies thrive when they can spend time hanging out with other dogs and with their family.

Having a Husky also means that you need to be committed to an active lifestyle. If you are an avid hiker, marathon runner, or even training for a triathlon, your Husky will gladly join you every step of the way.

Huskies do not necessarily make excellent apartment dogs—they can be vocal and quite active indoors.

How to Train an Alaskan Husky

A critical part of raising a Husky is training them. It’s essential that you begin training your dog (no matter at what age you adopt them) starting from day one. You’d be amazed at how quickly pups can pick up on poor habits and then how long it takes to fix those habits. Plus, Huskies can be bullheaded and independent, so it’s crucial that they know you are in charge. Otherwise, they will undoubtedly take the lead.

In order to help keep your Husky entertained, training should be a fun and exciting activity. Try using positive reinforcement and breaking up training with a fun run around the yard or a game of fetch.

Keep in mind that training your dog is an ongoing process, so patience will be a valuable virtue. By remaining consistent and committed with your training, your Husky will soon enough catch on to all of their new commands and tricks.

An implemental part of training your Alaskan Husky is to also work on their socialization. This can include taking your pal to new places (i.e., parks, restaurants, dog-friendly stores) and introducing them to new people, dogs, sights, sounds, and smells. Just like training, socialization is an ongoing process that should ideally begin right after bringing your dog home. Fortunately, socialization opportunities exist all around us, and they can help our best buds have a friendly temperament and well-rounded personality.

Many dog parents, especially those who have never had a puppy before, find puppy obedience classes invaluable. Don’t hesitate to do some research on class options near you.

Grooming

These fluffy canines do not have an extensive list of grooming needs. They will need their teeth brushed (with dog-safe toothpaste) a few times a week, and their ears will need to be checked every few weeks. If they appear dirty, use a dog-safe ear cleaning solution and cotton balls to clean them out. Never use cotton swabs or clean down in the inner ear, as these could accidentally cause harm to your pup’s ears.

Some Alaskan Huskies can go a few months in between baths, but whenever you think that ‘dog smell’ is becoming noticeable, you’ll know it’s time for a wash. This is, of course, not taking into account that your best bud may find a mud puddle or something of the like to roll in, in which case, more frequent baths may be necessary. About the time your dog needs a bath, their nails will also most likely need to be trimmed, though some dog’s nails grow faster than others.

Your Husky will need to be brushed a few times a week. If you want to limit the amount of hair left about your house, you may want to brush them every other day. When it comes time for your dog to blow coat, be prepared to brush your dog every day for at least a few weeks.

Since Alaskan Huskies are double-coated dogs, it’s imperative that you do not shave their fur. Their double coat not only protects their skin from the sun but also helps them regulate their body temperatures—they stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Alaskan husky dog with two different eye colors on a leash

Care

Like all dogs, Huskies require a nutritious diet that is appropriate for their age. It is also important that you feed your dog the recommended amount per meal. By getting too much food, too many extra treats, and not enough exercise, dogs can be susceptible to weight gain and even obesity, a catalyst for many other health issues. If you are ever unsure about your pal’s diet, talk with your veterinarian about recommendations.

Besides a healthy meal plan, Huskies additionally require plenty of exercise. Anything from running, jogging, hiking, skijoring, and pulling sleds are wonderful exercise options—not all Huskies are fans of the water, so swimming may be out.

If you have a Husky, a fenced-in yard will be a must. Electric fences will not be a suitable substitute for a physical fence because if your pal sees something that genuinely catches their attention, a little buzz will mean nothing to them. Instead, it is recommended to have a reasonably high (Huskies jump) fence that can’t be dug under, as well.

Never leave your Husky out in the yard unattended or for long periods. If you do, chances are you will come back to holes dug up in the yard and a possibly escaped dog.

Just as important as physical exercise, your Husky's mind also needs a good workout. Try playing mentally stimulating games with your dog, or you can buy them puzzle games.

Common Health Issues

According to our claims data,** the top five conditions that affect Alaskan Huskies include:

  1. Digestive issues
  2. Bladder issues
  3. Sensitive skin
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Diarrhea

Although these are the most common conditions that affect Alaskan Huskies, there is no guarantee that your Husky will be diagnosed with all or any of these listed.

Mainly due to their thick, double coats, Huskies can also be susceptible to mats and hot spots. Mats can typically be prevented by thoroughly and frequently brushing out all of your dog’s hair. Hot spots, which mats can occasionally cause, are created when your dog continually bites or scratches an itch, causing it to become red and inflamed.

The best way to prevent hot spots is to keep an eye out for when your dog starts scratching a particular area more than usual. The next step is determining what is causing the itch—possibilities include allergies, dry skin, mats, fleas, ticks, and mosquito bites, among other items. Don’t hesitate to take your pal to the veterinarian to get help with diagnosing the underlying issue.

**Internal Claims Data, 2015-20
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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