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Siberian Huskies do not bark the way most other domestic canines do, but howl amongst their pack members much more the way wolves do.
As pets, they are known to vocalize by whining or yowling, which must be addressed through corrective training to avoid becoming a persistent behavioral annoyance. Because they do not bark, they are largely incapable of performing satisfactorily as watchdogs because they will not alert to the presence of strangers in the manner desirable for watchdogs (Coppinger 2001).
Similarly, Siberian Huskies are not as threatened by strangers as are many domestic dogs; therefore, even if they were able to bark, they are as likely to greet a stranger on the property with a sniff and a wag of the tail (or perhaps, more likely, with indifference) and will not perceive stranger as a danger to themselves or their families.
The Siberian Husky also exhibits a hunting prey drive that is more reminiscent of the wolf than many other domestic dogs and may be unpredictable around other household pets, particularly those that trigger its hunting instinct by their rapid movements. For this reason, Siberian Huskies must be introduced with caution to other pets such as cats, ferrets, Guinea pigs, and hamsters. As puppies, they will accept other pets more readily instead of considering them prey, but it is a considerable issue in the case of adult Siberian Huskies not raised with other pets..
On the other hand, Siberian Huskies are very good with children, tolerating their attention patiently. This may also have something to do with their closer similarity to the wolf, as wolves are particularly known for their extreme patience with cubs and for tolerating their trying behavior. It is not clear exactly how dogs know that human children are infants, but it is obvious that certain breeds, such as Siberian Huskies recognize that human children warrant the same treatment normally reserved for puppies, or in the case of wolves, cubs (Morris 1993) Training Siberian Huskies:
Siberian Huskies are not particularly easy to train for several reasons, also probably related to their closer similarity to the wolf than are other domestic dog breeds.
They do not take very well to corrections and are prone to protesting after being given commands with which they disagree, especially when followed by corrective techniques using tension on the leash. They will sometimes yowl or even shriek as if in extreme pain after corrections; needless to say, they are not well suited to inexperienced trainers or to owners who are sensitive to external appearances (Derr 2001). Similarly, Siberian Huskies are more prone than other breeds to running off, stealing food, and destructive digging. In their natural habitat, Siberian Huskies often dug snow holes to escape the bitter cold and wind-blown snow; consequently, they will transfer that behavior to domestic environments, digging under even well-constructed fences until they manage to wriggle out completely (Gladwell 2006).
In domestic situations, this behavior, combined with the Siberian Husky's strong prey drive may result in tragic circumstances of attacks on neighborhood pets. Siberian Huskies also contribute to the incidence of unwanted impregnation of other dogs, both pets as well as loose dogs, because of their ability to escape from confinement and their tendency to roam long distances once on their own (Coppinger 2001) Scavenging and resourcefulness with respect to finding food is another distinctly wolf-like trait shared by Siberian Huskies, causing them to steal food rather aggressively wherever it is left unattended, which may also increase their motivation to dig their way out of enclosed areas. Inside the home, Siberian Huskies may express great creativity getting into locked compartments and stealing food for other pets, even pets with whom they have already learned to coexist peacefully (Larkin 2006).
In terms of other forms of training, Siberian Huskies are notoriously impatient pupils who lose interest and focus relatively quickly in comparison to many other more trainable breeds. This, too, is likely a function of the degree to which the breed was selected for wolf-like traits relating to endurance rather than for more dog-like traits such as human bonding. Whereas dogs will instinctively look to humans for solution to problems, wolves do not. In typical experiments of this type, domestic canines are presented with food that requires them to pull a rope to receive it. After several trials, the rope is reconfigured so that it no longer allows them to pull the food all the way to the dog. Domestic dogs will always look toward the human present in the room, even nudging or otherwise seeking out assistance (Budiansky 2000).
Wolves in the identical situation will not look to the human for help, but continue their own efforts indefinitely. Siberian Huskies are far enough removed from wolves that they will behave like other domestic breeds in this particular scenario, but the experiment serves to illustrate the difference between them. Siberian Huskies do not maintain direct eye contact with humans, even their owners, in the same manner as most other dog breeds, which may be considered a more subtle illustration of the same difference, in principle, between wolves and domestic canines as regards their human relationships.
Therein lies the explanation for the relative untrainability of Siberian Huskies: ordinarily, it is precisely the inherent need for human attention, leadership, and approval for which most domestic breeds were selected that enables them to be trained effectively.
Working dogs like Siberian Huskies were not selected for these particular traits and, therefore, are not motivated to perform for their human companions to the same degree.
Like wolves, they will tolerate human contact, although Siberian Huskies will form close relationships within the family. But they will do more or less as they please, which attitude they bring to training as well. They may follow instructions but their attention span is comparatively limited and they will lose interest in non-exercise types of training rather quickly (Larkin 2006)
The Siberian Husky is a working dog bred by ancient people who required a companion capable of helping them pull heavy sleds through long distances across unforgiving territory and in extremely harsh climates. Like all domestic canines, the Siberian Husky was designed by humans for a specific purpose by selectively breeding of its natural traits and characteristics conducive to their envisioned role in human society.
Like all domestic canines, Siberian Huskies are direct descendants of the wolf and all of their behaviors are modern manifestations of inherent characteristics of the wolf.
Whereas certain breeds were selected for traits like retrieving, or for their scenting abilities, or speed, the Siberian Husky was developed primarily to feature extreme physical stamina and endurance over long distances while pulling a heavy load. As is always the case in circumstances of purposeful artificial selection for specific traits, other (non-selected) traits often become diminished in successive generations that produce the desired characteristics of breeding efforts. In the case of the Siberian Husky, the particular traits for which they were artificially selected by humans mirror many of the predominant traits associated with wolves. In this respect, Siberian Huskies remain much closer in their behavior and characteristics to the wolf than most other domestic canine breeds.
Wolves evolved over millions of years to pursue prey over vast distances and through harsh snow-covered terrain. Through selective breeding, man gradually produced wolves that exhibited greater natural responsiveness to human beings and that bonded more readily to humans than normal in the wild. In the case of many canine breeds, the characteristics emphasized by breeders were overt friendliness and dependence on humans. Siberian Huskies are closer to other modern dogs than to wolves in that they are capable of bonding with us, but as between different canine breeds, they retain more wolf-like qualities than any other modern breed.
Scientists recently began studying the mechanism by which Siberian Huskies manage to exert themselves for extended periods of time without experiencing physical fatigue or breakdown as a means of discovering possible clues to achieving similar feats in human beings. In the absence of any possibility of similar studies on wolves, the Siberian Husky is the closest candidate for helping us solve the mystery of the stamina and physical endurance of wolves.
Budiansky, S. (2000) the Truth About Dogs: An Inquiry Into the Ancestry, Social Conventions, Mental Habits, and Moral Fiber of Canine Familiaris.
New York: Viking
Conniff, R. Africa's Wild Dogs. National Geographic Society (vol. 195, No. 5, May, 1999)
Coppinger, L., Coppinger, R. (2001) Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origins, Behavior and Evolution.
New York: Simon & Schuster
Coren, S. (1995) the Intelligence of Dogs: A Guide to the Thoughts, Emotions, and Inner Lives of Our Canine Companions. New York: Bantam
Derr, M. What Do Those Barks Mean? To Dogs, it's All Just Talk; the New York Times, April 24, 2001.…[continue]
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