Water may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Siberian Huskies. Sure, they’re fast, but that’s when it comes to running as they’re pulling a sled through the snow. The fact is that huskies don’t have an instinctive draw toward the water as other breeds, such as the Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever. There’s a good reason for that fact, too—evolution.
Nevertheless, you have to wonder, do huskies like water? And can they learn to swim?
The Origin of the Siberian Husky
Its name should tell you everything you need to know, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The Chukchi people of northeastern Asia were the first to own and breed what we know as the modern-day Siberian Husky. The environment in this region is just as challenging as its namesake. Travel by sled was an excellent way to get around by these semi-nomadic people.
The breed came to the United States in 1909, when it came in third place at the All-Alaska Sweepstakes races. The Siberian Husky continued to make a name for itself, with the likes of Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen and his trek to the South Pole. One of the most famous pups named Balto saved the lives of many children in Nome, Alaska in 1925 by delivering serum during the diphtheria epidemic.
We know now that the Siberian Husky is fast and has outstanding physical endurance. But, does that translate to the water?
Water and the Siberian Husky
Let’s think about the environment and its effects on the breed. The husky has a double coat to keep it warm during the harsh winter weather. Getting wet could be deadly, even with this protection. Its thickness provides a barrier against melting snow. That suggests that water and huskies aren’t a natural mix.
There’s another fact about these dogs that provides another clue. Like Samoyeds and Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies rarely need baths. That’s because they do such an efficient job of grooming themselves. They don’t have an odor, either. That’s not to say that they don’t require some care. Brushing is essential with a breed that sheds as much as the husky.
Then, there’s the question of exposure. The mean temperature in Siberia during January is -4℉, with a high of 3℉. Even the average annual temperature is below freezing at 31℉. It’s a safe assumption that the husky may not like water merely because it isn’t around water much.
It also makes sense that a Siberian Husky would evolve to avoid water because of the consequence of getting wet in such cold weather. Remember that water-loving dogs probably get exposed to it early in their young lives, making them less afraid of it.
Swimming and the Siberian Husky
You can teach a Siberian Husky to tolerate water if you introduce him to it as a puppy. A good time is during the so-called dominance period when the pup is 3–4 months old. It falls in place with the dog’s instinct to push the limits and explore his world. You may find that he’s receptive to new things. Exposing him to a variety of settings, such as water, can make him less fearful as an adult.
However, there are a few caveats.
There are two stages in a puppy’s development where scary events can leave a lasting impression. The first is when he is between 8–12 weeks and the second, 7–14 months. You might relate if you had a bad experience as a child. You may still find pangs of fear even as an adult for something that frightened you when you were young. It’s the same with dogs.
Huskies are typically gregarious, fun-loving dogs. They’re easy to train and do best with mental stimulation to prevent them from getting bored. It’s imperative that if you’re introducing your pet to water during these time periods that it is a positive experience. Treats work wonders on that score. That will make it easier the second time you take him to the water.
The other things to bear in mind are the thickness of the Siberian Husky’s coat and the breed’s tolerance for hot weather. The husky’s coat will likely absorb a lot of water the first time he jumps into the lake. That can make swimming more challenging for him, despite the breed’s high energy levels. It’s worth mentioning that summer cuts are not a solution. His coat also protects his skin from sunburn.
As you may expect, the Siberian Husky has a high tolerance for cold but only a moderate resilience against hot weather. He’ll likely get overheated more quickly than short-haired dogs, especially if he’s very active. Keep that fact in mind with the harder struggle he’ll have with his thick coat. For that reason only, we recommend always monitoring your pet in the water.
Teaching Your Siberian Husky to Like Water
How to proceed depends a lot on your pup’s personality. Some dogs are more adventurous than others. The key is to go slow and watch your pet’s reaction. You may find it easier for your husky to figure out what to do if he can see other dogs swimming. That’s how they learn to mush. The experienced dogs in the team teach the younger ones to pull the sled. Then, instinct kicks in and does the rest.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the aftermath. The thickness of the Siberian Husky’s coat will come into play again when it comes to brushing him afterward. Getting your pup wet may cause mats and tangles that can require some work back on dry land.
You can learn more about introducing your dog to water and teaching them to swim here.
It’s not that Siberian Huskies don’t like water. It’s simply a matter of exposure. A pup as intelligent as this pooch can certainly learn to make a positive association with it. Start your dog young and keep an eye on how he reacts. It’s essential that the experience stays upbeat. If your husky likes to swim, Fi can help you track all their activity in the water. It's even waterproof!