Are Huskies Good With Kids? (And What Does That Even Mean?)
The Siberian husky is more than just a cute face. Under all of that fluff and scruff is a unique personality that deserves careful consideration before you add one to your family—especially if your home includes small kids.
Meghan Connolly, DVM, owner of Atlantic Veterinary Behavior in Gaithersburg, Md., is here to help with these dog deliberations. In addition to helping us answer whether huskies are good with kids, she digs into what we mean by labeling breeds as "family-friendly" and the steps you can take to facilitate safe child-pup relationships.
What Makes a Dog Good With Kids?
What do we mean when we say that a dog is "good with kids" or "family-friendly?" For Connolly, the ideal dog for a home with kids is one that's relatively easygoing and on the calmer side. These traits will serve them well in the presence of young children who aren't old enough to respect personal space and whose behavior can be erratic and boisterous. Thus, it follows that anxious dogs who are easily startled and those who show any signs of guarding behaviors are not ideal for homes with kids, she explains.
Interestingly, kid-friendly isn't synonymous with kid-sized, as some of the most gentle, laid-back dogs are also some of the biggest. And yet, size does matter (think of a 60-pound pup trying to play tug of war with a toddler). Medium- and large-breed dogs aren't inherently bad choices for homes with children, but they will require extra precautions and constant supervision to mitigate unintentional harm caused by the size disparity. On the other hand, very small dogs can also be less than ideal because it's easy for them to get hurt (even accidentally) if a child steps on them.
Can an Entire Breed Be Good With Kids?
Connolly notes that certain breeds can have generalized characteristics that make them more likely to do well in a home with kids but that each individual dog ultimately has their own personality. With this in mind, she typically encourages people with children to adopt older dogs who've already lived in a foster environment and have been exposed to kids. This will give you a much better idea of what to expect, and you (ideally) have the added bonus of skipping the potty-training stage. Older pups are also more likely to possess a laid-back temperament.
But if your heart is set on a puppy, Connolly advises observing both parents and their previous litters, if possible, for a more accurate picture of what's to come. "If going with a breeder, let them know you're looking for a family pet," she explains. "There are 'working lines' of breeds who can make wonderful family pets, but these dogs tend to be high-energy. They need to be kept very busy and can be a bit too hyper for those with young families."
Unfortunately, raising a dog from puppyhood doesn't automatically guarantee kid-friendliness, and Connolly says she sees a lot of puppies and adolescent dogs in her behavior practice who can display aggressive behavior and guarding issues. As with all breeds, early socialization, positive reinforcement training, and adequate mental and physical exercise are crucial for helping husky puppies become safe, healthy companions.
Are Huskies Good With Kids?
Connolly describes huskies as friendly and affectionate dogs who can do well with children, but she advises prospective pet parents to do their research. "Familiarize yourself with the breed and with the individual dog, if possible," she explains. "Huskies can be loud and require a lot of exercise (think hikes and running for several miles vs. a short walk around the block). They're also notorious for escaping and taking off when given the chance." Huskies can also be destructive if they don't get enough exercise—both mental and physical.
These characteristics don't necessarily disqualify huskies from a family-friendly designation. But knowing their traits and taking into account their size (adults weigh between 35 and 60 pounds, some bigger), can help you set up your home and your schedule in a way that helps your husky flourish and keeps all of your children safe, furry ones included.
With this in mind, Connolly recommends taking the following steps to facilitate success:
- Only let your husky play off-leash in areas with a high, secure fence.
- When on leashed excursions, be sure to use a secure harness and leash.
- Supervise all interactions between your husky and your young children.
- Use an exercise pen, gates, or a crate to create a safe space for your husky where they can relax away from your children when needed (and when you aren't able to supervise).
- Make sure your husky stays busy. Bred to be working dogs, they need to regularly exercise both their bodies and brains. Connolly recommends accomplishing the latter with frozen Kongs and other puzzle toys that your dog can safely enjoy on their own.
How to Introduce Dogs and Kids
When it comes to introducing dogs and young kids, it's always best to be proactive rather than reactive, Connolly says. If you already live with a husky and plan to add a small human in the near future, she offers the following tips as a starting point:
- Because the sound of crying babies can be distressing to some dogs, play recordings of upset babies to help your pup get used to the noise.
- Set up a safe space (e.g. crate, exercise pen, or bed) where your dog can escape from tiny hands.
- Work on a "go to mat" cue so that if and when your hands are full taking care of your child, you can ask your husky to go to their designated spot. This is also a safe place for them to be when the baby is playing on the floor.
- Have your partner or a friend help you walk the dog while you push the stroller until your pup adjusts to walking near it.
- If your dog has a history or reactivity, consider starting basket muzzle training. (Note: Using a basket muzzle doesn't mean your dog is "bad." It can be a useful tool for keeping you and your dog safe.)
It's a good idea to give your veterinarian a heads-up about the changes ahead in your home. They are in the best position to give you advice about your unique pet, and they may even refer you to a trainer or veterinary behaviorist for more in-depth preparation. You can also check to see if there are baby prep classes available in your area or online.
If you already have small children and are planning to welcome a furry family member, set up spaces where your child and your dog can safely play apart from one another. And if your child is old enough, you can start teaching them how to use a gentle touch and the importance of respecting your new dog's personal space in preparation for how you want them to interact with your pet.
Once the dog is in your home, you can begin focused socialization and positive reinforcement training. Adult dogs can be socialized too, it just takes some more time and patience. This is especially important for dogs who were adopted from shelters or those who missed out on proper socialization as puppies.
Whether you're adding a new dog or a new human to your home, it's of paramount importance that you never leave your small children alone with your pup, regardless of your dog's size or temperament. Neither dogs nor children are 100-percent predictable, and even the best intentions can lead to accidents. Finally, if you notice any reactivity, anxiety, or other concerning behavior from your pet at any point, reach out to your trusted vet and trainers for help so they can partner with you in finding a solution.