This list by no means exhausts the kinds of things you can do with your Siberian Husky. The adventure is limited only to your imagination.
AgilityCanine agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports, providing excellent exercise for both you and your dog. Essentially, agility is a timed race over 14 to 16 obstacles (at the novice level) that include jumps, tunnels, ramps, seesaws, pause tables, and weave poles. Speed and accuracy are both important.
Your dog relies on your cues and body language to direct him through the course. Agility is open to all breeds and sizes, and the agile, speedy, energetic Siberian makes an excellent candidate (after you convince his independent spirit to follow your directions rather than making his own decisions). Siberians can excel at this sport -- especially if you use treats and positive encouragement -- because they have the perfect size and body type to compete. You just have to convince him that it’s fun. (Tip: Check out a few YouTube videos if you don’t believe me.) Because of the Siberian’s propensity for running wherever he wants, you must do obedience work with your Siberian first.
Because Siberians tend to have focus problems, never attempt agility off lead unless the area is completely fenced — even if he has taken an obedience course.
Begin agility by taking an agility class at a dog club near you. Your Siberian should be a year old and fully developed before your start. (Official AKC competitions are open only to dogs 15 months or older.) I strongly recommend your dog get a thorough vet check before you start. He needs to be up on his vaccinations as well.Many of these clubs already have the proper equipment. If your Siberian takes to agility, you can purchase your own obstacles (assuming of course that you have room in your backyard). You’ll need to devote about 20 minutes every day for practice, because Siberian brains are too full of scheming plans to remember simple commands like “Pause!” Face it — it’s not in their nature to pause.
If you belong to a dog club or dog park with publicly available equipment, you don’t actually need anything. However, if you want, you can start building your own hurdles and walks or you can readily purchase them online — and gradually — you don’t need to buy everything at once.
BikejoringReady to ride? Get out your mountain bike and grab your Husky (or Huskies)! Bikejoring gives the feel of sledding without the snow and lets your Husky fulfill his natural talents as a puller. In this sport you ride over land and let the dogs do the work, although you can assist anytime you like by pedaling. You can find a few competitions in the United States for this sport (although Europe has more), and the races generally are geared more toward fun than winning. Just be aware that you and your dog must be in top condition!
Your dog needs to be able to follow verbal cues, so a strong obedience background is a must. Common commands are:
- Hike! ("Let’s go!")
- On by! ("Ignore the dead possum in the road.")
- Leave it! (“Okay, drop the dead possum!”)
- Out there! (“Run to the end of line and pull.”)
- Slow! (“Take it down a notch.”)
- Stop/halt/whoa! (“Stop!”)
- Straight! (“Go straight through the crossroad!”)
- Turn! (“Reverse direction.”)
- Yield! (“Move off the trail; someone is coming the other way.”)
Using the old-time commands, gee! (“turn right”) and haw! (“turn left”), can be fun for higher-level agility dogs.You first need to train your Husky while you’re on foot first and then graduate to a bike (moving very slowly). Don’t do this sport on concrete because it will murder your Husky’s feet. Even hard-packed dirt can be a problem. Sandy or soft soil is best.
Make sure you bring your first aid kit and plenty of water for this sport. Constantly check your Husky’s feet when you’re practicing. If you pursue this sport with any passion, then your Husky should wear booties.
In addition to a dog or two and bike, you need the following equipment:
- Booties for the dog
- Eye protection for you (dogs kick up a lot of debris)
- Padded X-back harness
- Skijoring line, 9- or 10-foot
- If you’re running two dogs, you’ll need a neckline between them and a bridle loop to attach to the bike.
- Reflective vests for both of you
CanicrossCanicross, also referred to as CaniX, is serious jogging with your dog — but without holding a leash. Yes, Huskies aren’t reliable off lead. However, the delightful hitch is that there is a lead — it’s just not attached to your hand. It’s attached to a belt and allows the dog to pull you, which is a perfect sport for Huskies.
Canicross isn’t a sport for the weak of heart or limb. However, it’s been estimated that dedicated joggers can shave off 30 seconds a mile because you’re dog-powered! Your Husky is ready for Canicross between 12 and 18 months of age; you can start light training before then.
Although bikejoring and skijoring are ultimately dog races, Canicross is a race for human beings, even though the dog gets a real workout, especially when he’s pulling you uphill.You need the following equipment to race:
- Padded X-back harness
- Husky boots
- Bungee cord (2 feet long at full stretch)
- Belt secured with leg straps
Carting (with a cart or equipment)Carting, also referred to as drafting, is an activity in which your Husky (or Huskies) pull two- or four-wheeled vehicles. It’s a summertime version of mushing/sledding, and as the name suggests, it’s done with a cart instead of sled.
Carting can be done competitively or just for fun. Competitions have separate events for dogs pulling people and those pulling equipment. Each event uses a different style of cart. In carting you can use voice commands to control your Husky, or, if children are in the cart, you can lead him. Commands in carting are the same as for bikejoring and canicross, with special emphasis on "stop." If there is one thing any dog needs to learn, it's to stop doing whatever he’s doing when told.
A two-wheeled vehicle is technically called a cart or a sulky. The four-wheeled type is a wagon. A wagon can carry more weight, but perhaps its greatest advantage is that it supports itself and isn’t bearing down on the dog the way a cart is. Carts must be balanced extremely carefully to avoid injuring your Husky.In carting competitions (both this type and the type in the next section), dogs have to pass ten tests:
- Making 90-degree right and left turns
- Making right and left circles
- Moving at normal, fast, and slow speeds
- Backing up
- Ignoring sound and moving distractions
- Moving through gates of different widths
- Weaving through poles or posts
- Making Figure 8s around a tree or traffic cones
- Standing quietly while persons or objects are being unloaded
You aren’t limited to one Husky in carting — two Huskies side by side make excellent partners! Just make sure your Husky is old enough. No dog under 18 months should be allowed to pull anything heavier than himself.
Dogs can pull an amazing amount of weight with ease, often three or four times their own weight. All breeds of dog, large and small, are able to enjoy this sport, but Huskies are especially suitable.
As with every dog sport, obedience training is a must. An untrained dog running amuck with a cart attached isn’t something to be taken lightly.
Although carting can be great fun, it has a serious side. Service dogs able to cart can be of great assistance to their owners, carrying heavy items you can’t carry, like bags of mulch.
ConformationBecause Huskies are among the world’s most beautiful dogs, who wouldn’t want to show them off in conformation (otherwise known as a dog show)? Yes, a dog show is a beauty pageant (a combination of Miss America and Survivor) for dogs, in which a judge compares your dog to the ideal (as described in the breed standard).
Your Husky competes against other Huskies. If he is chosen Best of Breed, then he’ll go on to compete and against other dogs in the Working Group for more honors. If he wins that competition, he is up for the all-important Best in Show title, competing against other group winners. It’s hilarious watching a Yorkie competing against a Great Dane, but that’s the way it goes, and as often as not, the little dog wins.
Dogs entering conformation shows must be registered with the organization sponsoring the event, normally the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club. In the United Kingdom, it’s simply The Kennel Club, as if there were no other.
If the only experience you have of conformation is watching the Westminster dog show on TV, you may be sucked into the glitz and glamor of the whole thing. Most dog shows, however, are much lower-key, family affairs. To get started, all you need is the right dog. And that’s where things can be dicey. Conformation is a rather unforgiving affair: an ear that is incorrectly set, a kink in the tail, or an improper bite can doom your precious Siberian to the also-rans of dogdom. Conformation is also a very subjective affair. Many dog shows occur in weekend clusters with a different judge each day. I’ve seen a dog who placed first on one day in front of one judge and end up without a ribbon in front of another judge on subsequent days against the same competition, all of whom performed in pretty much the same way.
In any case, a good breeder should be honest with you about a dog’s show prospects. Not every puppy in a litter is of show quality, which may not be apparent for a few months. If you want to show, talk to the breeder before you get a puppy. She’ll be happy to work with you in picking the right dog and, in all probability, be a coach and mentor to you. A responsible breeder won’t sell you a non-show quality dog for showing because doing so would reflect badly on her.One technicality that many pet owners object to: Conformation dogs aren’t usually allowed to be shown if they’re neutered/spayed because the original purpose of a dog show was to promote breeding stock. Although many have complained about this rule, it still stands. (All other events, such as agility and obedience, are open to neutered/spayed dogs.)
The best way to get started in this sport is to work with your breeder and your local kennel club, which may offer handling classes. Some people hire a professional handler to show their dogs for them, but there’s no reason to miss out on the fun. You can learn how to do it yourself. It’s not particle physics. (It’s a lot easier than agility, where nearly everyone handles their own dog.)
Experienced dog handlers know which judges tend to like which type of dog and choose their shows accordingly.
Diving DogThis sport started out as dock diving, but apparently diving dog sounds better. In any case, you still need a dock or a good approximation of one. (It should ideally be a pretty long dock, about 40 feet.) The North America Diving Dogs (NADD) organization offers events that may be held in conjunction with AKC dog shows, and the AKC recognizes NADD titles.
You stand at the edge of a dock and throw your Husky’s favorite toy as far as you can into the water. On your command, he races to the end of the dock, flings himself headlong into the water, and fetches the toy. (Don’t worry. You’re allowed to have someone hold your Husky for you.) The object is for him to leap as far as he can. Beginner dogs often jump just a couple of feet. The more experienced ones go 30 feet or more. (Dogs can compete for height or distance; the former is called air retrieve, and the dog attempts to knock the bumper, which is suspended over head into the water.)
All you need is a towel and a toy, although you’re allowed to outfit your dog with a life vest as well. Your dog should be at least 6 months old to compete.
ObedienceAKC Obedience is a sport designed to showcase your Husky’s ability to follow specific commands and routines. The goal is to score 200 for a perfect score, but a score of 170 is considered qualifying. Obedience has many levels, but challenges that the dog must meet include the following:
- Heeling off leash
- Standing for examination
- Long sit (1 minute)
- Long down (3 minutes)
Obedience is a sport that pays off well beyond the show ring. Don’t confuse this competition with the ordinary obedience you should be treating your Husky, although it’s related. Obedience is a judged AKC event, developed in the 1930s. Unlike other dog sports that encourage your dog to run around like a crazy person, jumping into water and dragging you along by leash, obedience teaches your dog to sit and lie down on command and do all sorts of other lovely things, including jumping and retrieving.
Did I just hear you gulp? I don’t blame you. Huskies need a lot of work in the retrieving department. In this event, the judge gives orders for each element. All dogs are allowed to compete in obedience. The one caveat is that mixed breeds must be neutered first.
Dogs must be 6 months of age to compete. (AKC rules specify that blind dogs can’t compete.) Obedience tests are available at many levels, from Novice (beginner) to Utility (expert).
Huskies are independent thinkers and tend to resist being told what to do. That doesn’t mean you can’t excel in obedience with your Husky. It just may take more patience than you would need if you had, say, a Golden Retriever (they walk off with all the honors in this sport).
RallySometimes called Rally Obedience or simply Rally-O, this competition used to be considered a kind of beginner’s obedience, but it’s now recognized as a sport on its own merit. Rally has no set course, unlike obedience, in which you follow a set pattern. In rally, you don’t know what to expect. The course generally isn’t known until about half an hour before the event.
The rally course is marked with between 10 and 20 signs indicating what you should do at each sign. Examples include the following:
- About turn right. Halt.
- 180 pivot left. Halt.
- Down. Walk around dog.
- Back up three steps. Dog stays in position.
- Turn right one step. Call to heel. Halt.
At lower levels, you’re allowed to have your dog on a leash, which helps a lot with Huskies. Higher levels of rally include jumps, including so-called directed jumps in which the Husky is supposed to go off and jump where you tell him. Huskies have no problem in jumping. It’s jumping where you want him to jump that presents the problem.
Another major difference between them is that in rally you’re allowed to talk to and encourage (but not touch) your dog. In obedience you aren’t allowed to talk to him. In rally you also get a redo; in regular obedience you don’t. Most people think that rally judges are easier than obedience judges in terms of strictness about heel position and so forth. (I’ve actually heard obedience people claim that rally “ruins heeling.” However, that’s really an individual matter.)
SkijoringSkijoring is a Norwegian word that mean “ski-driving.” It’s a cross between sledding and cross-country skiing. You can skijor with horses, motorized vehicles, or in this case, your Siberian. At one time people commonly used this method of getting about the slopes; nowadays it’s done for recreation and competition.
Races vary in length from the short-distance (3 to 10 miles) and long-distance (20 and 50 miles) skijoring events for you to sample. If you’re really ambitious, you could try the 64 miles (100 kilometer) Alaskan Iditasport. Siberians, as you would expect, excel at this sport and compete at both sprint and long-distance forms.
Although some people claim you don’t need to be an expert skier to participate in this sport, don’t be fooled. You do. If you can ski, however, this sport is a lot easier to master than dog sledding.
The number of dogs one needs to skijor is variable — most commonly it’s one to three. Note: No leashes are involved. You need to guide the dog by voice and gesture. The commands and harnessing equipment are the same as for bikejoring. The correct skis for this sport are ultra-light skate-skis. No metal-tipped skis should be used because they’re too dangerous around your dog.
Possibly the trickiest thing to teach the friendly Husky is the “On by!” command. It’s important that your Husky zips right on by another team without slowing down. As with every other sport, have your dog checked by a veterinarian before embarking on this hobby. And start slowly, getting your dog accustomed to each element before throwing it all together.
A fun fact: In 1928, equine (horse) skijoring made an appearance at the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The experiment, sadly, wasn’t repeated.
Therapy DogOne of the most satisfying activities you and your Husky can do together is providing therapy. Unlike many other activities, a therapy dog doesn’t need to be in tiptop physical shape, and neither do you. Older dogs and even dogs with disabilities can contribute to the health and happiness of others.
Many organizations offer therapy dog training and certification, and some hospitals require this certification before you’re allowed to visit. Dozens of great organizations will certify your dog; the AKC provides a list of organizations approved by them. Check with your local institutions as to what they require.
The role of a therapy dog is varied. In some cases, his job is simply to stand there and be petted and loved on. Other therapy dogs take a more active role. They can help patients exercise and improve joint mobility. They encourage withdrawn, depressed, and lonely people to interact in a positive fashion.
To excel in this activity, your dog simply needs to be calm, well-behaved, well-groomed, and gently interested in people, which makes therapy perfect for older, settled dogs. In fact, most organizations won’t grant certification to a dog under a year old. Although they don’t need to do tricks, even though that’s always an advantage, they do need to be obedient to commands. Therapy dogs can be welcome visitors to hospitals, nursing homes, and other places where challenged people can enjoy their unique beauty and charming personality.
Even though the AKC doesn’t itself offer therapy dog training and certification, it does grant your therapy dog an official AKC title, depending upon how many visits your certified therapy dog has completed. The highest title is AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD), which requires 400 visits.
A therapy dog is not a service dog. A service dog is a specialized, highly trained dog who provides a vital service for a disabled owner, and in that occupation has special privileges. Some people abuse the system and pretend their beloved pet is a real service dog. No one is fooled.
TrackingEver consider having your Husky become a search and rescue dog? Is your Husky forever sniffing around and paying minute attention to every blade of grass and rock on the trail? If so, consider the sport of tracking. It could be the start of a hero dog at work. Every dog with a nose has the potential to excel. The beauty of tracking, at least from your Husky’s point of view, is that he is in charge. No more stupid following directions and obeying commands. No, in tracking it’s just the article, the wind, and your dog. You’re simply an afterthought, trundling rather helplessly behind your sharp-scenting dog. Huskies love to lead, and in this sport, he is the one who decides where you’re going.
Your dog can earn his first Tracking Dog (TD) credential by following a previously laid track 440 to 500 yards long with between three and five changes of direction. At the end of the track is the article, usually a glove well imbued with human scent.
The track is laid 30 minutes to two hours before the event by a human tracklayer. The dog, on a 40-foot lead, follows the track, while you follow behind offering encouragement. More advanced dogs earn the following:
- The Tracking Dog Urban (TDU): dog follows a track in a difficult urban environment (Scent clings to grass a lot better than to concrete.)
- The Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX): dog follows an older scent (three to five hours)
- The Variable Surface Tracker (VST): dog can handle both urban and rural environments
- The Champion Tracker (TC): credential honors your Husky after he manages all three levels
The AKC is fairly lenient in its tracking requirements. Your Husky can wander a bit away from the track as long as he appears to be working. Other organizations require your dog to track with precision. Tracking is really more a test of your Husky’s focus than his actual scenting ability. He may suddenly just get bored and run off chasing squirrels. The only way to know is to try it.
If you and your Husky are incredibly dedicated, you can win the coveted Versatile Companion Dog (VCD) title: certified in Agility, Obedience, and Tracking.