The Siberian Husky was bred to run and play.
The Chukchi Tribe only ever bred the friendliest and most playful of their dogs. Friendly playful dogs were less likely to fight. A quality that is essential when you have 10+ dogs pulling a sled. You need them to get along and cooperate.
This playfulness has been embedded in the breed over thousands of years and is still present today.
A well-bred Husky retains much of the positive behavior that the Chukchi Tribe prized. Unfortunately, poor breeding practices mean that there are Huskies out there who do not have some or any of the original Husky traits. If you are buying from a breeder, please do your research carefully.
Like any breed, a Husky needs to be properly socialized and trained. Their drive to run and play can be overwhelming for other people and dogs if left untrained.
Poor or rough treatment of a Husky can also change their nature. They are an independent breed and respond well to positive reinforcement training.
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Dominant – Really?
I have heard and read people saying that Huskies are a dominant breed. Let me just say NO. They are most definitely not a dominant breed. Dominance in the dog world has been repeatedly debunked. Huskies are no different from any other breed in this respect.
They are confident, independent, and playful dogs. They can be persistent when they want something. Gentle, consistent training is required for this breed. But then, gentle and consistent training is required for any dog.
I think sometimes their confidence and how they carry themselves is mistaken for dominance. They can’t help how they look or move, it’s how they were born.
However, they were specifically bred to get along with lots of other dogs and people. A well-bred, well-trained Husky will cooperate and compromise rather than fight. That’s what they were bred to do. Cooperate and work in a team.
Siberian huskies LOVE to run. They will run at every given opportunity. For them running is the ultimate playtime. If they have someone to run with then that’s even better. Husky heaven!
They will run alongside other dogs, chase other dogs, and get other dogs to chase them. They are happy when they are running. You can see their happiness from their heads to their tails.
Unfortunately, some dog owners don’t like huskies playing with their dogs. They get uncomfortable when a husky plays chase with their dog. Not realizing that the husky will want the other dog to chase the next.
This is especially true for some owners of smaller dogs. The husky prey drive is often mentioned. However, a Husky knows the difference between a dog (no matter the size) and its prey.
For a Siberian Husky pulling is a play behavior. There is no reward in pulling except going forward. A Husky will pull a sled, a bike, a skateboard. Even the person at the other end of its lead! It doesn’t matter to a Husky – it’s a game and they want to play.
This desire to pull can make a Husky tricky to teach loose-lead walking. But it can be done, you can read my article ‘How to teach a husky to loose-lead walk’ here.
When a Husky is playing with another Husky, they will grab hold and pull each other! Huskies just love to pull.
Huskies can be very mouthy when they are playing. They grab hold of each other’s necks, ears, legs, sometimes tails. They do tend to have very good bite inhibition and don’t hurt each other.
Huskies have quite a thick fur, especially around the necks, so they don’t hurt each other when they are throwing each other around.
It can look quite fierce when Huskies are playing together and being mouthy. They can bare their teeth when they are playing.
If you watch their body language you will see that their faces are relaxed, and they are using their bums to bash each other.
They tend to use excess movements and take turns. Huskies will also interrupt play to sniff around, have a shake-off, or a drink. All good signs of positive play.
A well-socialized Husky will moderate their play depending on the dog that they are with.
Growling, Grumbling & Singing
Sometimes the noises that Huskies can make put other dog owners off. They are very vocal dogs. Whether they are singing, grumbling or growling (usually a play growl). Unless you know the breed and their quirks it can be daunting.
I do understand why some dog owners would be worried about letting their dog play with a Husky. Huskies will greet each other with a grumble and a sniff, then launch straight into play.
Their play quite often sounds a lot worse than it actually is. They play growl and grumble a lot! Coupled with grabbing of necks and throwing each other around – it can look bad. If you don’t know what to watch for!
Their singing can also startle other dogs and their owners. I find that my own Husky likes to sing to people as her way of saying hello do you want to play. And also to tell us that she really wants that chicken!
Nothing says I love you like a body slam!
Huskies will often body slam each other whilst they are playing. They will body slam to initiate play, and they will body slam whilst running at full speed!
They will bash into you to try to initiate play or to say hello welcome home. It can be a gentle bump, a not so gentle bash, or a full-on body slam.
You should try to train your Husky not to do this as they can easily knock you over. Or knock over a child.
Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT a dominant behavior. Dominance has been scientifically debunked. They are simply excited to see you and want to play. They are an exuberant breed, and this is just a facet of their excitement.
Tug of War
Tug of war is another favorite. Chasing, jumping and grabbing the toy/rope then pulling. It’s a Husky, it loves to pull!
Don’t be surprised if your Husky starts grumbling or growling whilst playing tug of war. They are vocal, and as long as the body language is good, then it’s a play growl. It just means that they are enjoying the game.
I’m sure that there are Huskies out there who play fetch and enjoy it. Mine will chase, retrieve, and repeat maybe twice. She will look at the ball, look at me, and it’s definitely a ‘you threw it, you go get it’ look on her face.
I have tried to get her to enjoy it, but two or three times is her limit. Other Husky humans I’ve spoken to are the same. It seems to be a Husky thing! They will indulge us a few times then it’s ‘I’m done, you get it’.
Some Huskies love it, some don’t. My girl loves going for a swim, but her brother won’t even walk through a puddle!
If there’s a body of water, she is straight in for a swim. And she’s not fussy about the condition of the water either. She once got into a stagnant pond and it took 3 baths to get the green out of her coat. And she STANK, quite an achievement for a breed that doesn’t have a doggy smell.
Be warned though, if you throw something into the sea for them to retrieve, there’s a high probability that you won’t get it back. They’re not overly bothered about fetch.
If you are not sure if the Husky is playing nicely, watch their body language. Positive play should include:
- Excess movements, a lot of bouncing bum movements
- Relaxed face and body
- Taking turns
- Breaking off the play to sniff around, have a scratch, drink
If you have concerns, then recall from play and give them a break. Like all dogs, they can become over-aroused.
Husky play can look rough, but they will regulate play depending on the dog they are with. After all, they want to play and will adjust play accordingly so they can keep playing.
Huskies were born to play, they will play all day. Huskies play even when they are tired. I call this lazy play! So be warned, if you get a Husky it’s ALWAYS playtime!
I hope this helps clarify some misconceptions about Husky play.