Have you ever admired an Alaskan husky, or a pure bred Alaskan Malamute, and thought “That’s the dog for me – if only it were smaller.” Well, now your wish has been granted, in the shape of the Alaskan Klee Kai, also known as the miniature husky. The two names are interchangeable.
OTHER NAMES FOR THE MINIATURE HUSKY OR ALASKAN KLEE KAI
This mixed breed (or ‘designer dog’, depending on your point of view) is also know as the Miniature Alaskan Husky, Mini Husky, Klee Kai or simply ‘AKK.’
It is not classified as a pure breed by the American Kennel Club, but the Alaskan Klee Kai has been recognized by the United Kennel Club (since 1997), the National Kennel Club, the American Rare Breed Association (since 1995) and the Dog Registry of America, so you won’t be short of opportunities to register and show your new pet. There is also an Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America.
ORIGIN OF THE MINIATURE HUSKY
Linda S. Spurlin says that she found the first miniature husky in Oklahoma in the 1970s and took it back to her home in Alaska, where it attracted so much attention that she decided to begin a breeding program. Both Siberian and Alaskan huskies were used for breeding purposes, probably along with smaller American Eskimo Dogs and Schipperke. Ms Spurlin gave the new breed its name, Klee Kai, derived, she says, from Eskimo words meaning “little dog.” She started to sell her miniature huskies to the general public in 1988, but in 1995 she handed the breeding mantle to Eileen Gregory of Colorado.
MINIATURE HUSKY SIZE
This may be the most important consideration for potential Alaskan Klee Kai owners, who want to be reassured that their puppy will not revert to the size of a full-grown husky when it matures. In fact, this is one of the few breeds which comes in a range of sizes to suit most preferences. The available sizes are Toy (up to 13 inches, measured from the withers to the ground), Miniature (over 13 inches, up to 15 inches) and Standard (over 15 inches, up to 17 inches). An adult size over 17 inches is considered a fault, for showing purposes at least. Weight will range between 10 pounds and 23 pounds, depending on height.
MINIATURE HUSKY COAT TYPE AND COLOR
A miniature husky is a double-coated dog. It has a soft, dense undercoat, plus an outer coat of longer, tougher hair called guard hair. The outer coat can come in a standard or fuller length. Twice-yearly coat shedding is a feature, and during this time your pet will require regular grooming in order to avoid tangles, especially in the longer-haired variety. In fact, during the shedding periods your Alaskan Klee Kai will actually help you by rubbing his coat against outside walls and fences to remove the loose hairs.
Only minimal grooming and bathing is required at other times, so coat care is relatively easy, but do remember that grooming is an essential part of the bonding process between you and your canine family member. The double coat provides warmth in winter but keeps your pet relatively cool in the warmer months. As is the case with all double-coated dogs, shaving should be avoided except where there is a medical recommendation.
There are three accepted color combinations for the Alaskan Klee Kai: gray and white, black and white, and the rarer red and white. There is another variation, an all white coat, but this does not comply with the breed standard and will exclude the animal from competitive breed shows.
OTHER FEATURES OF THE MINIATURE HUSKY’S APPEARANCE
A miniature husky has mask-like markings on its wedge-shaped face, and symmetrical markings on its body. Its triangular ears stand erect and its brushy tail curls over its back whenever it is on the alert or in motion. Eyes may be brown, blue, amber, green or parti-colored, and occasionally one eye will be a different color from the other. This is known as ‘bi-eyed’. Being bi-eyed or having parti-colored eyes is a common husky characteristic.
MINIATURE HUSKY TEMPERAMENT
Socialization training of your miniature husky puppy needs to begin the moment you bring him home, and should be continually maintained in order to avoid the development of the aggressive trait known as ‘small dog syndrome.’ The Alaskan Klee Kai’s ancestry means that it has strong hunting instincts, and it will probably not be able to cohabit easily with small pets such as birds, hamsters, mice, rabbits, and even cats, without regarding them as prey. However, if this is a deal breaker, it may be possible to overcome these instincts by rearing the pets together from an early age.
For similar reasons an Alaskan Klee Kai may not be able to tolerate the behavior of small children, who are inclined to prod, poke and tug dogs when they are near them. The mini husky may defend itself by snarling, nipping or even biting.
These limitations aside, miniature huskies are loyal to their owners and like to spend as much time with them as possible. Because they are very alert and intelligent and do not respond well to strangers they make good watchdogs, although their size will limit their effectiveness as actual guard dogs.
They are also a very vocal dog and will appear to hold a conversation with you or tell you their news. Although they do not do a great deal of barking, they can be prone to howling. Be aware that the amount of noise your miniature husky makes could potentially make him unpopular with your neighbors.
MINIATURE HUSKY CARE
As already indicated, the Alaskan Klee Kai does not shed all year round, but only during two distinct shedding periods, when regular grooming is required. This makes it a fairly easy-care pet, and many owners are also attracted by its reputation of not having any distinctive canine odor or ‘dog breath.’
This may be because the miniature husky is a very fastidious animal who enjoys grooming himself so much that he will happily spend hours engaged in this each day, minimizing the need for bathing. If you do skip the bath sometimes, don’t forget the regular nail trimming which still needs to be done.
They are a very energetic and active dog, and will need a long walk every day and an outdoor play space. Make sure the area is well-fenced, because Alaskan Klee Kai are renowned escapees.
MINIATURE HUSKY TRAINING
In addition to the recommended early socialization, it would be a good idea to participate in obedience classes with your new Alaskan Klee Kai. Their desire to please and come out top of the class will make this an enjoyable experience for both humans and canines. Agility training is also likely to be both useful, and could lead to successful participation in agility trials at dog shows.
Before you become a miniature husky owner, be sure that you are prepared to devote the required amount of time to training your pet and interacting with it on a daily basis. Their combination of intelligence and energy means that they can easily become bored if left alone for long periods, and they are known to often find an outlet for their frustration in destructive behavior such as digging and chewing.
MINIATURE HUSKY HEALTH
It is probably too early in the breed’s history for a definitive list of health weaknesses to be issued. However, it has already been noted that miniature huskies are susceptible to heart murmurs, liver disease, thyroid disease and Factor VII deficiency (a blood clotting disorder similar to hemophilia). They can also tend to suffer from juvenile cataracts, cleft palates, the reproductive organ disorders cryptorchidism (in males) and pyometra (in females), luxating patella (a dislocation of the kneecap common in small dogs) and umbilical hernias. Research is also continuing into the occurrence of hydrocephalus or ‘water on the brain’ (possibly the result of selective breeding for miniaturization) which can see some Alaskan Klee Kais not surviving beyond puppyhood.
Don’t let this ominous list worry you too much. Alaskan Klee Kai breeders are making every effort to remove these health problems by continual selective breeding. If you buy from a dependable and ethical breeder your puppy will already have undergone a health check before he joins your family, and as a responsible owner you should continue having his health screened at least once a year.
MINIATURE HUSKY LIFESPAN
All small dogs tend to live longer than larger ones, and miniature huskies do not deviate from the type in this regard. They are said to live for 12 to 16 years and occasionally as long as 20 years.
MINIATURE HUSKY PURCHASE COST
The laws of supply and demand come into play in the Alaskan Klee Kai market because it is still a relatively rare breed, currently having only an estimated 700 living examples. This means that some unethical breeders may try to trick you into buying a puppy advertised as an Alaskan Klee Kai when it is nothing of the sort. Do your research carefully, and check your breeder’s credentials with a dog registry or club.
Alaskan Klee Kai puppies are currently being advertised in the range $1200 to $2700. Prices may vary from state to state, and may or may not include the cost of shipping your puppy from his birthplace to your home. (If you decide to travel a long distance to pick up your puppy in person, you will need to factor your travel costs into the purchase price.)
If you are prepared to take an older animal, perhaps a healthy dog originally intended for a breeding program but deemed unsuitable for some reason, you can save quite a lot. This is because he may be a few months past the ‘perfect’ age for joining his new family, considered to be 8-10 weeks old.
MINIATURE HUSKY ONGOING COSTS
Experienced dog owners know that the purchase price is just the beginning of the dollar outlay you will need to make if you want to keep your pet in top condition, but if you are new to the idea of having a canine family member you may need to think about how much you will need to spend on your dog’s wellbeing.
Allow for up to four sets of puppy vaccinations at $20 to $50 per visit. After this, your pet will still need to visit the vet once a year for a health check-up and blood tests, costing at least $100 and possibly as much as $200 each time. These are the minimum veterinary costs for a healthy animal, but if any diseases or accidents occur, plan to spend much more. Pet insurance may be worth considering if you want to reduce the chance of sky-high vet bills.
A healthy diet is very important for your Alaskan Klee Kai. He will cost less to feed than a larger breed, but could still set you back $500 a year for food and occasional treats. Microchipping costs about $50, and each kennel club you register your pet with will charge you about $35 for the privilege. If you decide on neutering or spaying, expect to pay anything from $50 to $200.
Your dog will need something to sleep on, such as a dog bed or basket, a collar or harness plus leash, a few stimulating toys, and grooming products. Don’t forget the obedience classes too, at about $150 for an 8-week course.
Remember the warning about digging and chewing? Add the cost of damage repair to your budget. Much as you are going to love your miniature husky, you will inevitably want to take the occasional vacation without him. His personal vacation at the boarding kennel will cost you around $35 per day.
It may seem mercenary to add up the cost of dog ownership when all you want to do is adore and care for a puppy belonging to a breed that you have already fallen in love with. Puppy love is certainly a good start, but that ‘head-over-heels’ stage will eventually settle down into long term affection and companionship. Alaskan Klee Kais are certainly the perfect partners for this kind of relationship when they are given a good, healthy start and appropriate training, allowing them to lead an active, happy life in a loving home.