Breeding Siberian Huskies requires the handpicking of two strong workers coming from healthy bloodlines. There are plenty of high-quality breeding Huskies (both dams and studs) but not many breeders partaking in pulling, sledding, or working trials and competitions. Make sure you do your best to give your dogs and puppies the exercise they need to satisfy their natural drive.
For those wondering how to breed huskies, this article is a comprehensive guide about the specificities to consider when organizing the mating of Huskies to build your own bloodline. Remember that all dog breeds follow the same guidelines, but there are some breeds with a few caveats.
Background of Husky Breeding
The breed belongs to the Spitz family of dogs. It originated in northeastern Siberia. The native Chukchi people bred their dogs for pulling sleds and herding reindeer. The dogs of medium size were bred to be able to work in harsh cold conditions. Siberian Huskies have endurance and speed in the snow and ice. They have a special metabolism that can adjust to the most demanding of needs. Their coats are double-layered and their paws protected by the added fur on them. The tail is held curled over the back and is foxlike. It becomes an instant nose warmer when the dog reclines for a rest. All these attributes were selectively bred into them by the Chukchi and remain important in the breed today.
The wolf-like appearance of the Siberian Husky leads some to think that it has a close blood relationship to wolves. Recent studies and discoveries showed some admixture with the Gray wolf and the now-extinct Taymyr wolf probably occurred at some points in the dogs’ evolutionary history. However, genetic studies have confirmed that the breed is no more related to the wolf than other dogs.
The dog was brought to Alaska by people who needed the help of these agile sled dogs. The dog became famous in the United States following a diphtheria epidemic in 1925 in Nome, Alaska. Much needed medicine had to be transported from the train station in Nulato to Nome—a distance of 400 miles. The last leg of the journey required the dog sled to navigate across treacherous snow-covered and icy terrain. Weather conditions were abysmal as gale-force winds and snow made all travel a heroic endeavor. The dog team of Siberian Huskies with Leonhard Seppala at the lead got the job done and the Siberian Husky became a national champion and very popular. The lead dog of the Seppala team was named “Togo“. Togo’s team traveled the longest and most treacherous part of the “Great Race for Mercy”. Another dog named “Balto” (owned by Gunnar Kaasen) completed the last 85 miles of the famous serum run and was memorialized with a statue in Central Park, NYC.
Leonhard Seppala and his partner, Elizabeth Ricker, established a kennel in Poland Springs, Maine. All dogs in the United States are likely to be able to trace their ancestry to this bloodline. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1930. The parent club in the United States was established in 1938. Although Seppala made some attempts to introduce the breed to Europe, he was largely unsuccessful. The parent club of the Siberian Husky in Great Britain was not established until 1977.
Seppala Siberian Sled Dog
The Seppala bloodline of working dogs (including the famous “Togo”) is advertised by some breeders as part of a separate breed called the Seppala Siberian Sleddog. These breeders located primarily in Canada seek to establish the sled dog as its own separate breed. Currently, no registry recognizes it.
Siberian Huskies have always been a popular breed. Since the famous Nome diphtheria run, they have been a sought after breed in the United States. Siberian Huskies ranked 12 out of 194 breeds in the AKC’s 2017 list of breeds. It has held that rank since 2014.
Their more recent popularity has also been continued by generations of children watching the 1995 animated film, “Balto”. This movie loosely memorialized the Nome diphtheria run and one of its Siberian Husky heroes, a real dog by the same name. (The real Balto is currently stuffed and at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History).
The Chukchi people accepted their dogs as part of their family. Early on in the breeding of this dog, they were closely bonded to their people. This dog is a true pack dog. It needs the companionship of people. It is trustworthy around children. It is usually described as a loyal breed with a streak of stubbornness in training. These dogs make good family pets if they are exercised often.
Siberian Huskies have a reputation for wanting to get out for a long run. The Chukchi customarily permitted the dogs to have a free run in the Summer months. The “Call of the Wild” seemingly remains with the breed. They require a tall fence to keep them safely in their backyards. They have been known to jump fences of up to eight feet. An average dog, though, will be confined by a six-foot fence.
These animals do not make good guard dogs. While they are loyal and loving to their own people and may need time to fully warm up to strangers, they lack the disposition for the guard job. Strangers, in general, are treated more as potential friends than enemies. Also, Siberian Huskies generally do not bark much. They do have the proclivity to howl though.
Problems with these dogs including a bit of mischievousness and destructiveness usually mean inadequate exercise. They have a tendency to dig and chew up items (particularly if they are bored). These dogs do best in a home that has space for them to exercise. Their medium size makes them suitable for apartment living but only if regular active exercise is part of their regular regimen.
Health Concerns When Breeding Siberian Huskies
Siberian Huskies are generally a healthy breed with an average lifespan of fourteen years. Provided with a good amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation, Huskies will without a doubt live a long happy life. Apartment living, while possible, is often a source of frustration and boredom for such an active breed (similar to the Border Collie).
Siberian Huskies can inherit a predisposition for epilepsy. This kind of epilepsy is called primary or idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic epilepsy usually will manifest itself between the ages of six months and three years. A dog with it will have seizures. The seizures may cause the dog to suddenly stop and stare, drool, exhibit muscle/limb twitching or a complete collapse in convulsions. A dog with epilepsy usually will need lifelong medication to control seizures. Dogs with epilepsy should not be bred.
Several genetic eye diseases occur in the breed including juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy. These diseases while genetic are not related to the eye color of the dog.
Juvenile cataracts develop in very young dogs. The cloudiness associated with their development will be evident in dogs around three months of age. Cataracts will continue to obscure the dog’s vision. The seriousness of the condition increases over time. Without medical intervention, the dog will become blind. Surgery is necessary to restore vision loss. Dogs with this condition should not be bred. About 8% of dogs tested were affected by the condition.
Corneal dystrophy is a condition in which lipids form and collect on the corneal surface. There are three types: epithelial, stromal, and endothelial. Siberian Huskies develop epithelial and stromal. Young dogs will have these eye problems. They usually develop beginning six months of age. There is minimal vision loss from them and no treatment. Female dogs are more likely to have it than male dogs. It is thought to be caused by a recessive gene. Currently, there’s no genetic test for it. The incidence rate of the disease is about 4% of dogs.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is caused by a recessive gene in most breeds. In the Siberian Husky, its variant is thought to be an X-linked condition. This disease destroys the retina and will eventually cause blindness. There’s no cure for it. The best option for breeders and prospective pet owners is to check that the dog has passed the genetic eye screening test from Optigen. Breeders with a dog known to be a carrier should think carefully about the dog being part of a breeding program. Any mates should be screened and should not be carriers. About 2% of dogs will have this disease.
Uveodermatologic syndrome is a rare disease that affects Siberian Huskies among other breeds. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease perhaps triggered by a virus. Though the disease can affect other parts of the body, including the nervous system, its main problem in dogs is with the eyes. It can cause blindness. The first signs of the disease are redness and painful eyes, sensitivity to light, and later depigmentation of the nose, lips, paw pads, etc. This disease is not curable. It is treated with immunosuppressant medications.
Congenital laryngeal paralysis
Puppies born with laryngeal paralysis may show less vigor than their littermates. This likely genetic condition causes the muscles supporting the voice box to collapse and atrophy. The first symptoms may be minor like a noisy breathing or a cough. This condition is more in older dogs, but in the Siberian Husky breed is does occur in puppies as early as three months of age. In older dogs, the treatment is usually medical management of the symptoms with bronchodilators. Dogs with it should not engage in long bouts of exercise. Surgery is a good option, especially for younger dogs. If the condition is left untreated, it can result in respiratory obstruction to the point of collapse and death.
There is as yet no genetic test for laryngeal paralysis. Studies have not yet been able to isolate the mutant gene in Siberian Huskies (though one did seem to occur in a related mixed breed, Alaskan Husky).
Gangliosidosis is a genetic disease that crops up in the Siberian Husky breed. In this disease, the dog’s body has a defect in its lysosomal storage resulting in improper carbohydrate metabolism. Symptoms include head shaking, lethargy, seizures, and a lack of coordination. This condition is ultimately fatal. There is no cure. The disease is a recessive gene. There is genetic testing for it.
Other Health Concerns
Hypothyroidism does crop up in these dogs from time-to-time. It is most often caused by autoimmune thyroiditis, a genetic disease. Symptoms include sluggishness, weight gain, and a poor quality coat. Dogs with hypothyroidism will need lifetime medicine for the condition Regular exercise is vital to keeping these dogs healthy. They are bred for work in harsh conditions, and a tendency toward obesity is associated with both heart disease and certain cancers (lymphoma particularly).
Hip dysplasia is rare in the breed. In this condition, there is a congenital deformity in the ball joint or femur head of the dogs’ legs. It is a genetically linked condition and one that leads to crippling arthritis and pain as the dog ages. Breeders of this agile working dog have been vigilant in preventing it from the gene pool and have largely been successful. Siberian Huskies rank 111th out of 114th breeds in its occurrence.
How To Breed Siberian Huskies
Breeding Siberian Huskies is easier than breeding most other breeds thanks to the breed’s overall great health and balanced anatomy. The Husky is a pulling and working breed, and one very good at that, especially in subzero temperatures. Therefore, a lot of breeders, showers, and fanciers, all believe that you should make sure your dogs fulfill their natural drive. Plus, at sale time, showing that your Huskies are solid workers can allow you to inflate your prices.
The litter size of Siberian Huskies is between 4 and 8 puppies with 6 being the most often reported number. Obviously, the overall health of the female and the stud will matter. Other factors that influence the puppy count in a litter include the mother’s body size, her diet, and her inbreeding coefficient.
Whelping in most cases occurs without human intervention. The rates of C-section for this breed are low. The dog’s anatomy does not pose any obstacles to natural birth. Of course, vigilance during whelping will reduce birth complications and puppy loss. Make sure you attend regular vet consultations during the pregnancy in order to quickly adapt to any outset of a problem.
The breed standard offers a wide variety of acceptable colors with none presenting a reason for disqualification. Siberian Huskies may be in pure white, or more typically in gray/white, charcoal, copper, agouti, red, sable, and piebald being common examples.
Eye color typically is blue, but dark eyes or a combination of eye colors conform to the breed standard. Breeders have wide latitude in breeding a variety of interesting looking dogs with healthy body types. The AKC’s only disqualification of the breed concerns the size of the dog. The Siberian Husky was bred to be a medium-size agile dog. The breed standard disqualifies dogs exceeding 23 ½ inches and bitches 22 inches at the withers. Breeders should keep these numbers in mind when selecting breeding pairs.
Working & Sledding Programs
Owners of the breed recognize that the dog was bred to work. Siberian Huskies still form a practical function in Arctic environments. The parent club in the United States has established and runs five programs to help continue the breed’s original function.
The first program is called the Sled Dog Class at Specialty Shows. In this program, individual dogs are put to the test by pulling a sled for a set of distance and weight. Awards and certifications are kept for the dog by the Parent Club. These events provide both a fun way for people to exhibit their dogs while also providing an incentive to breed winning sled dogs.
A second program is the Sled Dog Degree Program. In this program, teams of dogs display their agility in the harness. A team of dogs ranging in number from six to ten. Dogs must pull the sled for a set mileage and race for times. Awards and certifications for the individual winners again are maintained by the Parent Club.
For those people who may not live near the snowbanks of Alaska, the Parent Club offers the Working Pack Dog Program. In this program, dogs may earn achievement awards by carrying weighted packs on trails of various lengths. Again, this kind of award gives an incentive to get the dog out in a working situation.
Also, Kennel Awards are offered each year for those kennels achieving excellence in presenting their healthy and able sled dogs in either a solo or team setting. The Working-Showing Trophy and The Lombard-Norris Sled Dog Team Award give kennels the opportunity to compete in various events and accumulate points. Kennels must meet all the requirements and apply for the awards to be eligible.
The parent club recognizes that there are some breeders who have been marketing a separate breed supposedly with better “chops” than the original Siberian Husky. Potential buyers should look with some skepticism about any claims that the Seppala Siberian Sleddog is somehow a superior working dog. This is one breed that throughout its history breeders have been committed to the working nature of the dog and not a conformation standard.
Siberian Huskies have a coat built to withstand cold of -30 °F. They have a thick undercoat and a top layer of guard hair. They are born with only a short fuzzy coat that will last until they reach adulthood (about 10-14 months). An adult Siberian Husky will lose all the puppy fur and it will be replaced with its adult bi-layered coat.
Siberian Huskies are often cited as being clean dogs. They typically are free of doggy odors and do not require regular baths. Their coats do require at least weekly brushing to prevent matting in the undercoat. In Siberia, Siberian Huskies do not shed on a seasonal basis. However, in warmer climates, these dogs seasonally are profuse shedders. They will “blow” their undercoat at least twice a year (more often in warmer climates). During this time, it is wise to brush daily to prevent a household accumulation of dog fur.