Woolly huskies - gorgeous but potentially dangerous for their health

Today Czar and I got to spend the afternoon at Melbourne's Dog Lovers' Show at the Royal Exhibition Building with the Siberian Husky Club of Victoria. 

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Czar is such a social butterfly that this was his idea of heaven, a never ending supply of pats! 

Most people just wanted a pat and a photo. Some people hung around for a chat because they were contemplating getting a dog, maybe a husky, would it suit them/their lifestyle? Some people already had huskies and wanted to ask advice, or about the club. (Number one answer; the SHCV isn't based in any particular LOCATION, we meet all over the place, depending on the space and activity in question.) Most of these people were wonderful - open minded, asking good questions, really thinking about our answers. Some of them decided that huskies weren't right for them, and to be honest, all of us manning the stand were in complete agreement that this is an awesome answer. Every husky puppy that doesn't go to a poorly prepared or poorly suited home is one less puppy that's going to end up in a pound, shelter or rescue.

But there were a few people who left us shaking our heads. People who'd succumbed to impulse buying a puppy from a pet shop (i.e. From a puppy farm). People who were more interested in telling us how wonderful their dog was in a way that painted a picture of a fat, spoiled, naughty puppy. And, my absolute favourite, people who wanted to find a breeding partner for their entire (un desexed)  dog without the faintest idea of what they're getting themselves into.

One such person who approached me today was looking into breeding his long or woolly coated Siberian. I was aghast. I do personally know one woolly Siberian who is always beautifully groomed and very well kept, but I also know how hard it is to keep up with the grooming of normal, double coated Siberians - a long coat is about three times harder! A simple google search comes up with forums with consistent comments like this about woolly coats.

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Huskies are already a breed that is dumped with depressing regularity and their grooming needs are one of the commonly stated reasons why. Which is weird because they actually don't need much - their outer coat is self cleaning and rarely smells, they don't need clipping and many of them have minimal shedding for most of the year. But twice a year they drop their entire fluffy white undercoat, which is pretty unbearable to live with!

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If their outer coat is long, that shedding isn't released naturally, but gets matted quickly. Matted fur is a danger to any dog's health, leading to skin disease, discomfort, and in some extreme cases, restricted movement and even strangulation. It takes a dedicated owner indeed to properly care for a woolly coat.  For this reason, woollies are considered undesirable in the breeding population.

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Several breed standards, list woolly coated dogs as outside the acceptable variation of the husky. This doesn't mean they're not purebred - they're a naturally occurring coat type, caused by a particular genetic combination of sperm and egg that often occurs in only one puppy in many litters. But breeding that puppy is highly likely to produce woolly offspring, and is widely considered irresponsible breeding.

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Needless to say that I didn't encourage the young person who asked today to go ahead and give his woolly Siberian a "parenting experience". I tried to discuss with him how difficult it is to find great homes for four to eight puppies, and how he'd need to be confident that every home would give a puppy he'd bred the care and attention that he gives to his own dog. Sadly, I was probably a bit too harsh, because he scuttled off quite quickly. But later I wondered if maybe I'd struck another guilty note with him - maybe his own dog wasn't as well cared for as I'd suggested, but was a matted and dirty dog, like those described here:

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If that's the case, maybe the young person got off lightly. He certainly scuttled away before I could tell him what I really think of people who neglect their high needs choice of dog, and of the breeders who sell these puppies but don't forewarn naive buyers about the work ahead of them! 

Thankyou to those people and groups whose comments and photos have been used here - I am hoping to add links to all sources over the next few days. In the meantime, the URL is displayed on images where possible.