Huskies are not typically considered the first choice for a service dog. However, that does not mean a husky is a wrong choice. Good service dogs derive from all types of dog breeds, and in many cases, huskies can make great service dogs.
We did the research to help you better understand what good service dogs do (and how they differ from emotional support animals), why we think you should consider choosing a husky for a service dog, and where to find a husky service dog.
Huskies make good service dogs, as they are easy to train and are intelligent during service dog training. Other dogs make good service dogs, but huskies have a mentality of being guard dogs and make ideal service dogs as they were initially bred to be working dogs.
Throughout dog training, types of service dogs are better for service dog work than others. Huskies make good service dogs, as they are loyal, much like a Labrador Retriever, and strong, like a German Shepherd.
The Bottom Line
- What are service dogs? Service dogs assist their human owners with specific disabilities or mental health diagnoses, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD. A good service dog is trained to pay attention only to its owner or service dog handlers. Any other dog that appears to be easily distracted or is ill-behaved is not a service dog.
- Why Huskies as service dogs? Huskies are intelligent, strong, and loving dogs that can be trained in many ways, making them an excellent option for service dogs.
- How to get a Husky service dog? Huskies, like other dogs, can be trained from their puppy years as service animals. You will need a recommendation from a professional to get a service dog.
- What's the difference between a service dog vs. an ESA? Service animals must receive special training for their roles, but Emotional Support Animals help their owners through their presence.
What Are Service Dogs?
Service dogs can help their human owners cope with a specific disability. One of the most commonly recognized service dogs is a seeing-eye dog. However, other service animals focus on services like psychiatric service dogs receiving substantial training to assist humans with mental disabilities like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other conditions.
Why Huskies Make Great Service Dogs
While huskies are often not the obvious choice for service dogs, they're not the worst. There are several reasons why.
One of the primary reasons to consider Siberian huskies as service dogs is their intelligence. The Smart Canine claims that huskies have below-average dog intelligence by some metrics. However, they are smart where it matters: in their strong ability to communicate with humans.
Huskies have considerable adaptive intelligence and are uniquely independent-minded. In the history of their relationship with humans, they have worked as search-and-rescue dogs, communication-oriented animals, and of course, great sled dogs. In short, they have a diverse set of potential skills, and their intelligence can make them capable and reliable service animals with training.
Size and Physical Characteristics
The Siberian husky can also make a good service dog due to its particular size. Most huskies weigh between 35 and 60 pounds putting them solidly in the range of medium-sized dogs: not too big and not too small. In other words, most huskies are big enough to effectively support their owners, with a sizable profile sufficient to assist reliably in public. However, they are not so large that they cannot conveniently accompany owners in cars, trains, or other forms of public transportation.
Huskies are also notoriously vocal dogs. This physical attribute can make them more capable of communicating effectively with their owners.
While huskies can make fantastic service dogs, it is essential that they best fulfill this function in climates that are appropriate to their breeding. The classic image of huskies pulling sleds in the Arctic is more than a myth. Huskies are bred for — and are most suited to — cold climates. Their thick coat can become uncomfortable in an excessively hot or humid environment. Aside from being inherently harsh to the animal, this can also undercut dog training and service dog work; after all, if they are more uncomfortable, they will have trouble performing their job.
In short, while a Siberian husky can be a good service dog, don't forget the 'Siberian' part. If you live in a warm climate, you should probably consider an alternative breed as a dog owner.
Love for Humans
Huskies have a reputation for being an independent breed and sometimes uniquely stubborn. However, training can help to correct this — or better yet, redirect it.
Siberian Huskies are particularly loving animals and can be especially fond of the humans around them. While this may make them less than ideal as watchdogs, it can be helpful for them to work as service dogs or ESAs. They will develop a strong loyalty to their human owners and a particular affection expressed as a persistent need for attention.
If an owner expects to be away frequently, this can be challenging. However, huskies can be rewarding if the human owner needs consistent help from a service animal.
Skilled Sled Dogs
Finally, huskies have skills that stand out from most dog breeds: They are exceptional sled dogs—the original reason for breeding them and remain any husky's intuitive skill.
These traits also mean huskies are particularly useful as search-and-rescue animals. They are sometimes used in cold climates, on ski mountains, in the wilderness, and in similar places where essential search-and-rescue service animals are needed. While using a husky as a sled dog is less common today, this may still be a worthwhile attribute in colder and more remote regions.
What Tasks Can a Husky Perform?
Huskies may not be the most common choice for service dogs (other breeds are often more popular), but they can still train to perform specific tasks.
Search and Rescue
As noted, huskies are famous for their search-and-rescue abilities though this may seem irrelevant to the husky owners of today. However, this may be relevant depending on the climate and setting a dog owner lives. For instance, a dog owner living in a remote area could benefit from having a husky service dog as a search-and-rescue animal. Huskies can also be essential for local emergency responders— police, firefighters, EMTs, or others — to assist in search-and-rescue cases, particularly in snowy areas.
Guiding Individuals With Visual Impairment
Huskies are good medium-sized dogs and can be helpful as seeing-eye dogs. While considerable obedience training may be necessary to discourage the stubbornness that is often innate in the breed, their size and loyalty can make them a strong candidate for a guide dog and develop a strong bond with their owner.
Psychiatric Support Dogs
Huskies' playfulness, attention-seeking, and loving nature can make them effective as psychiatric support dogs. Huskies are great pets despite being a little stubborn and challenging to manage. However, they consistently seek attention. If giving attention is used to train them for tasks appropriate to a psychiatric support dog, they can learn to manage their impulses and provide a supportive bond for individuals with mental disabilities who are in need.
Other Tasks (With Training)
A Siberian husky is not the most common type of service dog. In practice, huskies were primarily bred for running and leading sleds, responding to orders rapidly. Once an immediate activity is over, they may grow bored and become more stubborn.
However, huskies are also trainable and intelligent dogs, particularly with a pet owner devoted to doing the work. A husky can be an effective service dog with consistent training, effort, and patience.
How To Get a Husky Service Dog
Getting a service dog letter for your husky can take time if you take the typical route of seeing a licensed mental health professional in person. If you are not working with a licensed mental health professional, you must find and schedule an appointment to meet with them.
This mental health professional may or may not decide that you need a service dog and can deny you a PSD letter. If you want to speak to someone else for a second opinion, you must start this process again. This method is time-consuming and costly, depending on your health insurance.
Luckily for you, Pettable has a more straightforward alternative.
Fill Out Assessment
The first step in obtaining a husky service dog is to fill out an assessment to help clearly outline your situation and needs. You must also determine the type of support animal letter needed — for housing or travel.
Speak to a Mental Health Professional
After completing the necessary paperwork, you need to meet a mental health professional to determine if you meet the criteria for an emotional support dog.
Secure Service Letter
After a licensed mental health practitioner has determined that an emotional support dog is appropriate for your situation, they will provide a legal letter for you. In most cases, this letter can be expedited.
Can I Train My Own Husky To Be a Service Dog?
Sometimes, you can train your husky to be a service dog. However, you will have to begin this process early. Huskies' independent nature makes them stubborn and sometimes uniquely challenging to train. Consistent and reliable training beginning when your dog is a puppy can help to make this objective more practicable. Professional advice and visits to experienced dog trainers can be constructive if this is your goal.
Where Can I Adopt a Service Dog?
Because huskies are not typically bred to be service dogs, they'll need explicit training to fulfill this role. Your best bet is, to begin with, a puppy and provide consistent training early on in such cases. Many husky breeders and several husky rescue services can help obtain a young husky.
What Disabilities Qualify for a Service Dog?
Service dogs are employed to serve both physical and mental disabilities, including:
- Auditory disabilities
- Mental disabilities including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other conditions
Huskies may be trained to assist with many of these roles, but given the breed's stubbornness, they may be best suited to support individuals with mental disabilities.
What is the ACAA?
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is a law that makes it illegal for travel providers to discriminate against people with disabilities, and it requires that air travel be made accessible to all passengers. All accommodations provided to meet that standard must be given free of charge.
In addition to the ACAA, disabled passengers should also know about the Bill of Rights for Disabled Passengers. This bill of rights includes ten legal protections passengers have as airline patrons in the United States. This does not expand or restrict any disability rights established already but summarizes existing law.
Recent Changes in Airplane ESA Policy
In December 2020, The United States Department of Transportation amended its rules on emotional support animals. Effective January 2021, the US DOT no longer classifies ESAs as service pets. The new laws, similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, define a service animal as a "dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."
As of September 2022, there have been no policy changes regarding which animals are allowed to board with passengers.
Airline Pet Policies to Know
If you plan on traveling with a husky, there are many things to consider to ensure safe travels for you and your dog. There are some airline-specific rules you should be aware of, but there are some general rules to get you started.
Most, if not all, airlines will require you to pay a fee to bring your husky as a carry-on for the flight. This fee may increase depending on the size and weight of your dog.
Some airlines restrict the breed of dogs that can be stored in cargo. Short-nosed breeds will not commonly be allowed because they will likely have difficulty breathing during the flight.
Travel requirements may change between domestic, international, and US inbound, so you should ensure you know the laws and procedures of the country you are flying to or from.
What's the Difference Between Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs?
The primary difference between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs is training. While both provide mental and emotional support, psychiatric service dogs assist and perform unique tasks for which they need training. Emotional support dogs provide support through their presence.
Another significant difference between ESAs and psychiatric service dogs is their right to be in public and private spaces. Because ESAs are not service dogs, their handlers must follow the rules of any private businesses or public spaces. Psychiatric service dogs are service dogs, so they can be in "no pet" spaces to remain with their handler.
Frequently Asked Questions About Husky Service Dogs
There is much to learn if you consider getting your service dog.
How much does a service dog cost?
Huskies are not typically sold to be service dogs. However, a husky puppy may cost around $1,000. This price will likely be considerably less from a shelter (as opposed to a breeder).
How to catch a fake service dog?
A service dog must be well-trained and obedient; if a dog is not obeying commands or straying from its owner, they are likely not a real service animal.
Can you get a service dog for anxiety?
When well-trained, huskies are very loving animals and can provide reliable support for anxiety.
Can any dog be a service dog?
In theory, any dog can be a service dog, but the service in question is a factor. For instance, small dog breeds are unlikely to make good seeing-eye dogs. Generally, species like the border collie, standard husky, German shepherd, and golden retriever make great service dogs.
Do service dogs have to be on a leash?
Yes, all service dogs must be on a leash.
Does insurance cover service dogs?
No, insurance does not cover the cost of service dogs.
How to get a psychiatric service dog?
To get a psychiatric service dog, you need a diagnosis from a mental health professional of a qualifying mental health disability and a corresponding "prescription" for a service animal.
How long does it take to train service dogs?
Huskies are notoriously stubborn and may take two years to become reliable service dogs.
Are service dogs allowed everywhere?
Service dogs, including huskies, are allowed in areas where the public can go, with some reasonable exceptions (for instance, sterile environments like commercial kitchens).
How to get a service dog for PTSD?
To get a service dog for PTSD, you will need a diagnosis from a mental health professional and a "prescription" service dog.
Does My Psychiatric Service Dog Need A Vest?
According to the ADA, psychiatric service dogs are not required to wear vests or any identification. You are welcome to buy an identifying vest if you believe that that will make you feel more comfortable being in public with your PSD, but the choice is up to you.
What Can Disqualify A Husky From Becoming A Service Dog?
Generally, dogs that display aggressive behaviors in public are poor choices to be PSDs because private businesses are legally allowed to ask you to leave if your service dog is behaving unruly.
How Many Tasks Does A Service Dog Need To Know?
There is not a specific number of tasks a service dog needs to be able to complete to be considered a "real" service dog. They need to be able to complete at least one task related to their condition or illness, and if you want to teach them more, you can!
What Age Is Too Late To Train A Service Animal?
There isn't a specific age that makes it impossible to be trained. As long as your dog can or has the accommodations to follow you around and provide support, they are the right age.
There are also benefits and drawbacks to providing training to a dog at any age, so it is best to do what works for you and your situation.