Building a Relationship with a Husky

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Cooper and Nikki

My second husky puppy was not at all like the first one I picked out. The first one I picked out was a Christmas present for my wife who had recently lost a dog she cared very much about. We didn’t know anything about them and I thought they just looked cool.

Sammie is now ten years old and I really never paid much attention to her. I was more of a cat person at that time. The kids now grown and gone and my wife spent the most time with her. I really didn’t even know about mushing other than I knew what the Iditarod was. Not that it mattered much to me at that time.

When we lost our lab/pit mix due to a heart failure we wanted to get another dog so Sammie wouldn’t be alone. Sammie seemed a gentle beast and so I began to look for another husky. I asked my vet the next time I was there if they had any clients that had huskies. Amazingly they did, and puppies old enough to go to new homes.

I like to think that this was one of those times when something was meant to be. The stars aligned at this point in my life. They aligned because some higher power decided it was time for me to change. The family with the puppies only lived 6 miles away from me! The price was very reasonable and the dogs looked great.

I had full pick of the litter and picked out 8-week-old Mr. Cooper. I took him home not knowing that this time I had a full-blown husky. Sammie for all her goodness does not pull, get excited, or do any of the normal husky traits except escape. Now in her golden years she’s given that up as well.

I was about to start a long journey and education of just exactly what a husky is in pure form. I’m not talking about show quality but a real working husky. I wrote about my trials and tribulations my first year with him in my book (“Behind Blue Eyes” available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99)

It’s a small book and I won’t rehash it here. This article is a little continuation of my education and enlightenment living with these dogs.

I now have 3 huskies and two of them consume a lot of my time. I continue to learn from them on a daily basis. Building a relationship takes time. In my case it seems to grow stronger slowly. With Cooper (3) and Nikki (2) I still see growth in our bond.

I’ve come a long way from what most first-time owners go through. I went through the frustration period, and instead of giving up, I immersed myself into learning everything I could about them. Mainly it was done to try to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Either through dumb luck, or the fact I studied them so much has made a huge difference from that first year. One thing I’ve found that has really helped… is to be part of their world, their history, and their heritage…and that is mushing.

To me it makes no difference that we do it on wheels. The commands are the same, the only differences are the lack of snow, and they are pulling me on a bike not a sled. They sleep with me as well. More team bonding, but they are also allowed to stay out all night if they prefer.

So, they live as pets and workers at the same time. I guess that makes me a Hybrid-Musher. But the benefits of this I’ve seen first-hand. We live together, and work together as a team. I may be the Captain, and them the crew, but we are also family.

This is not a foreign concept to a husky. In fact, it is what they have done for thousands of years. If you study the history you will begin to understand them like I have. Then you take what you’ve learned and put it into modern-day life and adapt.

You adapt so that all, get the most of what they need and want. You will hear many times that a husky is not owned. That your relationship is a partnership, and both sides have to make concessions. This to me, is in fact the truth.

The husky will accept not getting everything he wants. But you must do the same in order to reach a happy medium. Give and take, that’s what it’s all about. You build this partnership…this new life together as a team. And much like any relationship it can either continue to grow or wither and die. Based solely on each person or dog doing their part to keep it alive.

This might seem like a foreign idea to most dog owners. Unless they have lived with a husky, they really won’t understand how it works. I’ve always said they do not fit the normal ideals of what a dog is. They are more than a dog in so many ways. It’s an education in itself to live with them.

I look at myself now compared to 3 years ago and I have changed in many ways. They changed me, my attitude changed, my compassion increased, along with so many other positive things.

I owe it all to the Siberian Huskies.

These days I can tell what they want by the way they look at me, and how they present body language. I’ve learned to read them and they read me. We may not have the same language, but they communicate all the time. The body and especially the looks they give you. A husky has many facial expressions and it takes time to understand the nuances.

I don’t force them to run. Some days I can tell they are not in the mood. They want to relax and goof around the yard. I let them, and we run another day. Seldom do they bark but when they do I know what kind of message it is. They speak in “Roo-Roo’s” and I can tell what that means most of the time. I can look at their gait and tell if they are good or have something wrong.

It’s taken 3 years to get to this point. 3 years of constant study of every little move and thing they do. I’m now just realizing how wonderful it is to see the rewards. The rewards come in many ways as well. A well-trained team running down the road in light or dark, wet or dry.

Confident, and all of us enjoying our little adventures together.

I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn next.

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