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Learn more about huskies and shepherds -- the most common type of dog currently in our shelter

"Pointy-Eared Pups" like these shepherd and husky mixes are in great need of homes.

Woods Humane Society is seeing increasing numbers of “Pointy-Eared Pups" (German shepherd and Siberian husky-type mixes) in its shelter.

These breed types—known for their thick coats, intelligence, alertness, and high energy levels—have gone up from about 21.7% of the dogs cared for in 2019, to 26.7% in 2021, and their length of stay within the shelter is also increasing. Similar trends are being noted in shelters across the nation.

“Ten years ago, it was very common to see a large amount of adoptable chihuahuas and pit bull mixes at any given time in most shelters. Today, shelters are seeing high numbers of stray or returned Siberian husky and German shepherd mixes,” says Woods Community Engagement Manager Robin Coleman.

Why are there so many huskies and shepherds?

One cause of this trend may be that people adopt without knowing about the proper care these breed types tend to require. “Many people like the magical look and idea of these dogs, but we want to also help prepare them for providing the daily exercise, mental enrichment, training, and grooming that will help these dogs thrive in their new homes,” says Coleman.

Without a steady routine to fulfill their drive and expend energy, these breed types can be known to be vocal, jump fences, or dig out of unsecured yards. “But,” Coleman says, “with the right elements in place, they make amazingly loving, loyal, smart and gentle companions. Once they bond, they really bond.”

Currently, Woods has a large number of these types of dogs available for adoption, making up nearly 40% of its currently available dog population.

To help you decide if these breed types are right for you and to help owners keep these amazing dogs feeling their best—even if they don’t have a sled to pull or acres to patrol--here are 6 "Pointy-Eared Pointers" from the Woods staff.

6 Pointy-Eared Pointers

Watch our Pointy-Eared Play List
  1. Sniff Out Adventure & Enrichment. Husky and shepherd mixes typically have a lot of mental and physical energy. This makes them excellent adventure companions for families that like to hike or run daily. It also means that without a high level of stimuli, they may resort to destructive behavior, barking, and (their specialty) escaping. To deplete excess energy, our staff suggests enrichment games that allow them to express their natural behaviors, such as: delivering their food through snuffle mats or puzzle bowls that fulfill their urge to sniff and forage for food; curbing destructive behaviors with daily chew toys like stuffed and frozen Kongs or Benebones; playing a daily game of hiding toys or treats around the house or in designated cardboard boxes to put their noses to work; creating a “dig box” of dirt, crushed ice, or plastic balls for them to dig through to find treats or toys.   
  2. Tune in to Their Personalities. Huskies and shepherds are both known for being sweet, friendly, affectionate, playful—and talkative! Huskies, in particular, enjoy vocalizing with their dog-friends. Sometimes their noises can even scare people! When it comes to meeting new people, huskies are frequently outgoing, while shepherds are known for being more alert to strangers and protective of their homes.
  3. Beef Up Your Party Tricks. Both huskies and shepherds tend to have above-average intelligence, which means that behavior training can be a fun way to help drain some of their energy while building your bond and your list of impressive party tricks. German shepherds tend to make excellent students when you use positive reinforcement training methods and huskies respond particularly well to fast-paced, lightning rounds of working for rewards, followed by some fetch or play breaks.
  4. Don’t Dread the Shed. Both of these breed types have a thick, double-coat of gorgeous fur—which can quickly result in an abundance of shedding around the house. For their own health—and for your sanity—get started with a regular brushing routine. We recommend using an undercoat rake to help remove a shedding undercoat, keeping a lint brush handy, and intentionally using your brushing time as a calm, loving and affectionate bonding opportunity.
  5. Give Practice Exams. Pointy-eared pups could earn Academy Awards for their dramatic performances when they have to go to the vet. For this reason, and to spare these sensitive creatures any distress, our staff recommends that you start desensitizing them to medical exams as early as possible. Using lots of treats, praise, and affection, practice touching their paws, looking in their ears, taking a peek at their teeth, lifting their tails, and touching them (palpating) on the abdomen and legs. The more comfortable they are with this, the easier and less stressful visits to the vet will be. Find more information about fear-free vet visits at https://www.fearfreehappyhomes.com/.
  6. Play It Safe. Both husky and shepherd breed types tend to have some genetic predispositions for certain diseases, such as hip dysplasia. For this reason, Woods staff recommends getting pet insurance when you adopt and establishing vet care early on. When you adopt from Woods Humane Society, you can opt to enroll in 30 days of complimentary pet insurance upon adoption, and can make an appointment for a free wellness exam at your preferred local veterinarian’s office. For more information about common medical issues seen with these breeds, visit https://www.prestigeanimalhospital.com.
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