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Alaskan Husky vs Siberian Husky: What’s the Difference?

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Have you ever been in a friendly staring contest with a Siberian Husky? Those piercing blues are spellbinding. Many Alaskan Husky mixes have striking similarities to Siberian Huskies, but they are very different breeds. How can you tell a Siberian Husky from an Alaskan Husky? Let’s find out.

A Brief Introduction to the Spitz Breeds

Both the Alaskan Husky and Siberian Husky are members of the Spitz family of dog breeds. Spitz is a German word that means “pointed,” You will recognize Spitzes by their pointed ears and pointed muzzles. Spitz breeds have lived in places where chilly climates and frozen ecosystems are a part of daily life, such as Scandinavia, Asia, Russia, and North America. Equipped with thick, dense coats and double layers, these dogs experienced frequent exposure to the most brutal and challenging terrain and weather throughout their history. They were working dogs initially bred for efficiency and stamina, performing tasks such as herding on farms and mushing sleds. Spitzes are not just adorable furry faces. These breeds have been helping humans for centuries. Despite the tough jobs and intense physical work, these incredibly driven breeds tirelessly did all types of work that helped to support their families and communities.

A Short List of Spitz Breeds 

The total count of Spitz breeds is between 50 to 70. The Alaskan Husky, Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Alaskan Klee Kai, Akita, Chow Chow, Finnish Lapphund, Pomeranian, Samoyed, Shiba Inu, Swedish Vallhund, and Schipperke are just a few of these kind, loyal, and dutiful Spitz breeds. The Spitzes are much loved in their home countries, and many can be found in North America today.

Siberian husky dog in autumn nature park

Alaskan Husky vs. Siberian Husky: What’s the Difference?

The well-loved Husky breeds were bred for cold climates and endurance in any condition. They prefer snowy and below zero temperatures to run and gallivant in. They are as rugged and brave as they are friendly and loyal. They will go the extra distance, literally speaking, to pull sleds to any remote destination. Working dogs of the Arctic were bred to ferry goods across the frigid and vast Arctic region. They are joined in this category by breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Labrador Husky, and Chinook.

Let’s look at some essential facts about the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Husky breeds and how the two breeds differ. It is essential to note the difference between them so a future dog owner can make an informed decision.

Origin of the Siberian Husky

What is known as today’s Siberian Husky has its origins in Siberia, a massive Russian province in Northern Asia. This breed could be as old as 4,000 years. These dogs belonged to the Chukchi tribe and were often much-beloved family members. They served as working dogs transporting the tribespeople to find food, often in short supply. The Siberian Husky, Sibe for short, had to adapt to brutal conditions in Northern Asia. Their thick, dense coat was well equipped for a tundra ecosystem. Make that two coats, with an undercoat that protects their bodies from exposure. Sub-freezing temps were perfect for Sibes to develop into sled dogs. They could run longer distances with lighter loads, and this job remains their primary purpose in some regions.

two huskies, one with brown and white fur and brown eyes, one with black and white fur and blue eyes

Siberian Husky Physical Traits

The Siberian Husky is a medium-sized dog of medium build. They can weigh up to 65 pounds and reach a height of 24 inches. As mentioned previously, their ears are pointed. Their coats are a multitude of colors with markings of piebald and saddle-back. The breed standard coat is black, black/white, agouti/white, black/tan/white, brown/white, gray/white, red/white, sable/white, and white. Their thick, plump double coats allow for survival in extremely frigid conditions. A Sibe’s eyes are often a stunning shade of blue due to a recessive trait and a mutated ALX4 gene.

Siberian Husky Personality Traits

Siberian Huskies are an active, energetic breed that craves and demands constant exercise. Sibes thrive in the great outdoors whenever they can be free. They are spirited and will test their boundaries because they desire to run and race outside. It is recommended that Sibes stay on their restraint devices or fenced in so they don’t run away or break free, as their independent nature may prevail. Siberian Huskies are excellent companions and are very good with small children. They are dependent on their owners for weekly, or even daily, runs and as much playtime and energy as possible to avoid signs of separation anxiety. They are naturally happy in dog packs and would do well with another furry friend. A Sibe does tend to prey upon other animals, so cats and farm animals may become targets. For fun, they enjoy sledding, running, and skijoring. They are best suited for a life in cooler weather because of their super thick coats.

Do Siberian Huskies Bark a Lot?

The answer is no. They are, of course, capable of barking but are not predisposed to being territorial dogs. This breed is loyal and amiable but not highly protective of their families. Their instinct is not to bark at strangers, so they are not considered guard dogs. When they are vocal, it is usually by howling like the wolves they are thought to resemble strongly.

Alaskan Husky: Is It a Pure-Bred Dog?

The answer is no. The Alaskan Husky is not a pure-bred dog like the Siberian Husky. It is a Spitz breed, which means that its ears are pointed. It combines various Spitz breeds of sled dogs and is bred to perform well as a distance mushing sled dog in Alaska’s frigid wilderness conditions. Alaskan Inuit villages were prime locations to cross-breed Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds, and German Shorthaired Pointers. These breeds are chosen in any combination based on what the mushers need. The Alaskan Husky is not a show dog, nor could it be entered into competitive shows. It is not a breed recognized by the AKC or CKC.

husky walking in the park in summer

Alaskan Husky Physical Traits

Like the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Huskies are a medium-sized breed, but they can be slightly taller than the Sibe, reaching 26 inches. However, the Siberian Husky can still weigh more, with the Alaskan usually only weighing 55 pounds. Unlike the Sibe, an Alaskan Husky’s eyes are typically brown. There is no standard breed coat color for an Alaskan Husky because it is mixed and could have the coloring of any Spitz breed. Alaskan Huskies have a double coat, the same as their Siberian cousins.

Alaskan Husky Personality Traits

Bred much like the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Huskies are the happiest when active. They were meant for endurance and distance work, requiring a fair amount of exertion to keep occupied and out of mischief. They are loving, enjoy people, and like to cuddle. But they will try to dig a hole when stuck in the backyard, so train them as young pups, or they may present behavioral challenges. Similar to the Siberian Husky, make sure your Alaskan is on a leash or harness, or it may just run away to find a place to get some exercise. They can be stubborn and independent-minded but are affectionate and do well with adults and small children.

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Alaskan Husky vs. Siberian Husky: Are They Easy to Train? 

Huskies are extremely intelligent and pick up activity quickly, but they are one of the most challenging breeds to train because they were bred for athleticism and endurance. Their stubborn streak and independent spirit will affect how well training goes. It takes a persistent trainer to get through the natural defenses of these very defiant breeds. The Alaskan and Siberian Huskies have similar tendencies since they were bred to perform a task and do it well. An owner of either headstrong Spitz breed should begin puppy training courses to get a good routine set. Otherwise, the Husky will be in charge of the owner, not vice versa.

Front view of a dog sled team in action

Alaskan Husky vs. Siberian Husky Health Issues 

Many dogs are predisposed to certain illnesses inherent to their breed. Within the Spitz family, some dogs will develop issues into their older years. For Alaskan Huskies, the diagnosis of hip dysplasia and retinal atrophy are common. Another common diagnosis is autoimmune hypothyroidism. Also, laryngeal dysplasia is an illness associated with the Alaskan Husky breed, a congenital disability of the larynx that causes the dog to make a wheezing sound. For Siberian Huskies, eye problems are widespread, as 10% of dogs in this breed will develop cataracts. This vision disorder can begin at 6 to 12 months old and is a risk factor for blindness. Frequent vision checkups with your veterinarian are essential to diagnose and treat any issues.

Huskies can also develop follicular dysplasia, which leaves patches, skin infections, hair loss, or abnormal fur growth. Siberian Huskies are especially susceptible to this disorder. Because of the Spitz breeds’ double coats, they can shed quite a lot. Be sure to check their skin and coat regularly, and keep an eye out for excessive shedding. When asked about the number one reason people take their pets to the vet, a veterinarian, and professor at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Marty Becker, said, “It’s for skin problems. That’s across the country and all demographics. The dogs are biting, scratching, licking, chewing or face rubbing. … It’s clear that the pet is suffering, but people don’t think the reason for this is excessive shedding.”

Alaskan Husky Encephalopathy

Alaskan Huskies can suffer from a severe and often fatal disorder called Alaskan Husky Encephalopathy (AHE). This neurological disease attacks the central nervous system. Proteins are required to carry thiamine or B1 to the cells. Huskies with AHE are unable to produce this protein. An affected dog presents signs of disease at six months to 2 years old. There are genetic tests available to check for this disorder. These tests are designed to identify the specific genetic mutation of the SLC19A3 gene.

Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky: What’s The Difference? 

The Alaskan Malamute is more similar to the Siberian Husky than the Alaskan Husky. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to tell the two apart! Both the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute are visually stunning Spitz breeds, strong, and built for a working dog’s harsh climate and life in the North. Let’s look at the similarities and differences between these breeds because they share several physical traits.

Alaskan Malamute outside

Alaskan Malamute Physical Traits vs. Siberian Husky

The Alaskan Malamute, Mal for short, is a well-built dog even larger than the Siberian Husky. A Mal weighs anywhere from 75-85 pounds as an adult, so it would be considered a large breed. This breed has a thick weatherproof coat for long brutal winters and Arctic climates. To a novice, these breeds are a mirror image. But those who judge and breed know the intricate ways they differ. The Alaskan Malamute would not usually have the bright blue eyes of the Siberian Husky. The coat shades of an Alaskan Malamute also differ from the Sibe. The Alaskan Malamute has coarse fur with longer fur on the top across the shoulders, through the neck, plume, and breeching. The Siberian Husky’s coat is smoother overall and more even. The Malamute has ears that stick out toward the front, while Sibe’s ears stick straight up.

Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky Personality Traits

The Alaskan Malamute is a fan of hard work and has the muscle to prove it. Daily workouts are something it loves. Both breeds are great runners and need time to go outside and participate in activities with their humans. Both love rigorous sports such as sledding and skijoring, which are ideal for cold weather climates where snowfall and ice are not infrequent. The Mal is quite a strong breed and has been trained to pull heavy weight by sled, which is why it lives for challenges in agility training, backpacking, and weight-pulling competitions.

Alaskan Malamute vs. Siberian Husky Grooming 

To compare the grooming routines of an Alaskan Malamute and a Siberian Husky is comparing nearly polar opposite dogs. This is despite visual similarities in the appearance of both coats. A Siberian Husky doesn’t need constant grooming. Their coats are easier to manage and more hypoallergenic than the Alaskan Malamute. The Sibe does benefit from being brushed weekly, however. They have a double coat and shed the underbelly twice a year. As for the Mal, their thick and waterproof jacket is excellent for protection in the Alaskan wilderness but can be very difficult to handle. They tend to mat and get fungal infections as well as hot spots. Consistent grooming is necessary to keep their skin healthy and their coat free from matting.

What Is an Alaskan Klee Kai? 

The Alaskan Klee Kai is also in the Spitz family. It is a miniature version of the Alaskan Husky and resembles its cousin breeds, the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky. Introduced in the 1970s, this diminutive dog was produced by mixing the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Husky, American Eskimo Dog, and Schipperkes. Klee Kai literally means “Little Dog,” and it ranges from 5 to 22 pounds. It is a rare breed. They are intelligent, active, high-energy and make excellent companion dogs. They do tend to be somewhat nervous around strangers and, unlike their larger relatives, do not immediately warm up to just anyone. Unlike other closely related Spitz breeds, they would make a good guard dog.

Alaskan Klee Kai breed

Alaskan Klee Kai vs. Alaskan Husky 

The Alaskan Husky was bred to pull sleds, while the Alaskan Klee Kai was designed to befriend its family and provide comfort and love as a companion animal. Because it wasn’t bred for physical activity, the Alaskan Klee Kai is much smaller than the sturdy, athletic Alaskan Husky. The small yet stunning Klee Klai was bred to have the most desirable characteristics of Huskies in a petite portion. Huskies can weigh as much as 60 pounds, while a Klee Kai is no more than 22 pounds as a standard size and weighs even less in the miniature and toy breed variations. The Alaskan Husky and Alaskan Klee Kai come in similar colors. They are both highly intelligent breeds. They both possess a strong hunting drive and can be expected to chase or try to capture any smaller creatures. High-energy Huskies are at their best in the great outdoors, pushing their endurance and activity level. Your Alaskan Klee Kai is happy with its family and prefers guided walks and staying close to its owner.

Alaskan Husky vs. Siberian Husky Conclusion

The Alaskan Husky and Siberian Husky are striking and elegant breeds that have found their way into the hearts of many owners. As members of the Spitz family, it is incredible how evenly matched they are in many respects. They have similar appearances and personality traits and were both bred as workings dogs for colder climates, so it’s understandable why they are sometimes mistaken for the same breed. These breeds are athletic and have a lot of energy, and they will love going on long walks or runs with you several times a week. Alaskan Husky and Siberian Husky are affectionate, playful, and loyal dogs, making excellent pets for any family.