The Siberian Husky is a beautiful, wild-looking breed that is becoming increasingly popular with Pinoy dog fanciers. Yet there are still many misconceptions about the breed that may hinder would-be Husky owners from giving their pet the care this special breed deserves. Some people believe that this breed needs to be chained up to prevent it from “turning wild.” Others even think feeding Huskies raw meat, milk, or even kittens will make them stronger!
We asked our expert Sidney Bascon to clear up some of these ‘alternative facts’ about the Siberian Husky.
“I think it’s important to know what a real Siberian Husky looks like,” Sidney explains. “It is important to know and familiarize yourself with the breed standard, because that will help you in selecting your dog.”
The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized working dog descended from the original sled dogs which pulled heavy loads in teams across snowy terrain. That means that the ideal Siberian Husky should be moderate in body, with enough leg length to perform at its best.
The most common misconception about the Siberian Husky, is that they are a good choice for newbies. “Sorry to say this,” she says, “but they are really not for first-time dog owners, because they are not like any other breed that Filipinos are used to having.”
Another misconception Sidney points out is that wooly-coated Siberians are more expensive than standard ones. “This is not true, because in fact, woolies are a fault by the breed standard. Personally, I think it’s okay to have a wooly-coated Siberian as a pet, but they shouldn’t be bred anymore.”
A BREED APART
When asked about the perceived wild nature of Siberian Huskies, Sidney just laughs. “First and foremost, they are not wild animals. They are tame. It’s just that they still possess a prey drive, and other breeds also have it. A Siberian Husky owner knows this, so they should know how to separate their Husky from their smaller breeds.”
Still, not all Huskies are the same. “I’ve known a lot of Siberian Husky breeders that can put their small animals and their Siberians in the same room,” claims Sidney. “But of course, not all Siberians would like that. Importantly, however, in my 16 years of participating at dog shows, I haven’t heard of a single Siberian that attacked a smaller dog, or any kind of dog for that matter.”
At her own house and kennel farm, Sidney has separate rooms for her Siberians and other dogs, and when the Siberians are out playing, the other breeds are not allowed to join them, as a precaution.
MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
“Breeding is not just mating a bitch and a dog,” explains Sidney. “Before breeding, we assess the bitch first, and then we find a dog that will complement her phenotype and genotype. Then we look for the weaknesses and strengths of the line of that dog, and if there’s a hereditary disease that occurs.”
For Sidney, phenotype is more important than genotype, and things like titles, red marks, and green marks should not even be considered a factor in breeding. “The most important thing is that you know how to assess a dog, how to read a pedigree, and develop an eye for dogs.”
Similarly, when buying a Siberian Husky, she looks into the structure, movement, health, condition, strengths, and weaknesses of the dog. “Again,” Sidney says, “the line is after the phenotype.”
Sidney thinks the Siberian Husky has adapted well to the Philippine climate, all things considered. However, she says, “All owners and Siberian enthusiasts should know that their dogs should still have at least an electric fan all to themselves, or an aircon, because the Philippines is a tropical climate, and every year the heat has been getting worse. I’ve heard about a lot of Siberians and other dogs that have died from heat stroke. That’s why Siberian Huskies should have their own cooling system.”
HEALTHY MOM, HEALTHY BABY
For Sidney, a healthy dam means a healthy puppy: “If you take good care of the dam even before she gets pregnant, and continue to care for her during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and after, especially by giving her nutritious food and supplements, then her puppy will most likely be healthy.”
But what does a healthy adult Siberian look like? “A healthy Siberian is a well-conditioned Siberian: Healthy skin and coat, no redness or any stain in the coat, pinkish gums.” A healthy Siberian should also possess a good appetite and alertness.
“Siberians are anemic because they are an arctic breed,” says Sidney. “I deal with it by monitoring their blood tests once in a while. I also mix malunggay leaves in their dog food. I feed my dogs dog food, but every week I give them snacks or treats like boiled liver, chicken, steak, carrots, and sweet potatoes. I also give them yogurt and balut.”
THE HUSKY LIFESTYLE
“In my opinon,” says Sidney, “a Siberian Husky is suited for a person or family that has enough time for themselves and their pets. Siberians need a home that understands their needs, a home that can provide a space for Siberians to run and play. As others have told me, Siberians don’t fit into your lifestyle, they change your lifestyle.”
She believes that Siberian Husky owners should commit themselves 100%. “Once you own a certain breed of dog, you should know and understand everything about them, so that you’ll know how to treat and take care of them properly.”
According to her, Siberian Huskies show affection by letting you hug and kiss and play with them, and they even ‘talk’ with woofs and howls. Some Siberians do tend to be choosy about the people they trust. “If they don’t like a person they will not come close, or they might bark at them, and their coat at the back might start to stand up, which is a sign that they are not happy.”
Some Huskies are independent and some are emotionally needy, according to Sidney, depending on each individual dog, which is why it is important to know your dog down to their littlest personality traits. “In my kennel, most of my Siberians are independent, and have strong personalities. But 2 or 3 are really emotionally needy, and they are girls,” she laughs.
Grooming a Siberian Husky is easy, says Sidney, who bathes her dogs only once a week. If there is an upcoming show on the weekend, however, then she bathes them a day before the show as well as the day after the show to remove the grooming products that were applied for the show.
For baths, Sidney uses a whitening shampoo, a shampoo for adding body to the coat, and an oil if there is no upcoming show. She then dries them using a pet blower. “The pet blower is very important if you have a Siberian Husky. Simply toweling them dry or placing them in front of an electric fan will not work, they will get sick or catch pneumonia.”
What about shaving or trimming that thick coat? “Shaving a Siberian Husky is a big no-no. Even trimming the coat in the body is a no-no. You can trim the paw pads and nothing more. Even the whiskers are not allowed to be trimmed. Trimming and shaving is a mortal sin for Siberian Huskies, unless it’s for medical reasons.”
Because males shed once a month and females shed twice a month, there is no need to shave them. Their coats are protection from both heat and cold.
HUSKY FOR LIFE
“When I was 6 years old, my mom and dad were already into dog shows,” Sidney recounts. “They showed golden retrievers, Labradors, and English bulldogs then. By the year 2000 my mom wanted a Siberian, so my dad bought a copper and white Siberian with blue eyes. He won Best Baby Puppy in Show during his very first show.”
Her mom and dad then bought Siberians from Cebu and the USA. “The Siberian from Cebu was the dog that made a name for my dad at the dog shows. Then my mom and dad began buying Huskies from Canada as well, and this special and amazing dog came along who even finished 2015 as the #1 Siberian Husky in the Philippines at 12 years old.”
By 2011 to 2012, Sidney’s parents turned over the kennel to her, first testing her on the basics of the breed and on her eye for dogs. “They let me import one puppy. They left the decision to me, and I spoke to the breeder and made the transactions. When the puppy came, it won a few Best Baby Puppy in Show awards, and finished her Philippine Championship title at 9 years old, so I think it wasn’t a bad choice.”
Even though Sidney took over the kennel, her parents are still part of the decision-making process, and she also takes advice from friends and mentors from Asia, Canada, and Europe. “As a dog breeder, I’ve accomplished one and a half of my goals,” Sidney says. “I have a Philippine-born HOF and BIS winner, and I want to be a specialist judge for Siberians. I’m still working on my license but I now have my probationary license.”
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2017 issue.