Pitsky

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
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A handsome cross between the American Pit Bull Terrier and either the Siberian or Alaskan Husky, the Pitsky is a new hybrid dog breed that has been growing in numbers in recent years. Breed fanciers admire this attractive dog for its enthusiastic personality and loving nature.

Incredibly smart, the Pitsky requires an experienced trainer and should receive plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep them on track. They are loyal to their family and have the potential to become over-attached – something which should be nipped in the bud from a young age to avoid full-blown separation anxiety.

About & History

The Pitsky is a cross between the much-loved All American Pit Bull Terrier and either the Siberian Husky or, less commonly, the Alaskan Husky. Though the Pitsky has likely only been around for a couple of decades, its ancestors have a far longer history.

The American Pit bull Terrier derived from the British Bull and Terrier breed, which was exported to the United States in the late 1800s. Traditionally, these dogs were used for bull baiting and dog fighting, though soon earned a name as respectable farm hands and wonderful companion animals. The Siberian Husky has a truly extensive history and can be traced back several thousands of years. Whilst they originated in the Arctic where they were kept as pack dogs, they gradually made their way south to Alaska and Canada and then on to America. They were historically used as sled dogs and would have assisted people with hunting. Nowadays, they are recognised as an alert and intelligent pet.

Alaskan huskies are different to Siberian Huskies in that they are not recognised as a true breed and are seen more as a type of Husky. They tend to be leaner and lighter than Siberian Huskies, though are otherwise very similar. As there is no breed standard for the Alaskan Husky and breeds such as the German Shorthaired Pointer and Greyhound have been mixed into the line, they can have quite a varied physical appearance.

Appearance

Hybrid dogs, particularly those that have not been around for very long, can vary tremendously in their looks from litter to litter. This is particularly true for the Pitsky if the mix includes Alaskan Husky, which is a breed with an already wide-ranging physical appearance.

Developed from two naturally athletic breeds, it was inevitable that the Pitsky would have a well-muscled, strong body. Though both the Husky and Pit bull are athletes in their own right, they were bred for very different purposes and have entirely different body shapes. A first generation Pitsky may take more after their lean and long-limbed Husky parent or they may more closely resemble the robust and stocky Pit bull.

Ears may stand erect, flop loosely or do anything in between these two extremes. While their eyes may be the popular piercing blue colour associated with Huskies, they may also be brown or green, and having one eye coloured differently to the other (heterochromia) is not unheard of. Tails within this breed are particularly variable, with some pups having the thick-furred tail of Spitzes that curls over the back and others possessing a low-set tail with less fur.

The coat of the Pitsky may be a single or double coat and there is a huge range of potential fur colours, including black, white, red, grey, fawn and brindle. A mixture of a few colour combinations is frequently seen and there is an almost unlimited number of potential patterns and markings.

Males will usually stand at heights of 43cm to 56cm, while the more petite females will measure from 40cm to 53cm. Males weigh from 22kg to 29kg and females are typically a couple of kilos lighter, weighing 20kg to 27kg.

Character & Temperament

A dog with energy to spare, Pitskies don’t tend to have an ‘off’ button. A breed that would happily run five miles and then join you for a game of football, the Pitsky is best-suited to a very active family that can provide them with plenty of space and outdoor access.

Loving and affectionate, Pitskies tend to bond closely to their family and will get along well with the children in the home as long as they have been introduced to them from a young age. Of course, with such a powerful dog, young children will need constant supervision and will have to be taught how to respect the family dog. The strong bonds that these dogs form with their family members can pose a challenge in some individuals who become over-attached. Pitskies should not be homed somewhere where they will be left alone for long periods of time.

Some Pitsky dogs can be high-strung and hyper and will need firm training to keep them on track. When it comes to mixing with other pets, caution is advised. Dog-to-dog aggression is a possibility, particularly with two unneutered males. Similarly, smaller pets are at risk, as the Pitsky has a high prey drive.

Trainability

It is vitally important with high-energy, strong dogs to start their training programme from as young an age as possible. Failing to train this breed may well result in an unruly pet that is hard to handle through no fault of their own. Trainers should always set clear goals and remain consistent at all times. Though the Pitsky can have a strong and dominant personality, they respect leadership and do not lack the intelligence to perform well in practically any task set to them. Steer clear of boring and repetitive training sessions that may well result in a frustrated dog that stops listening. Short and interesting sessions will help to keep Pitskies on side.

Health

As with any hybrid, predicting health patterns in a Pitsky can pose a challenge, as they are such a new breed. From studying their parents, we know to be aware of the following conditions:

Hypothyroidism

Low levels of thyroid hormone can wreak havoc on the body, slowing down the metabolism and predisposing a dog to chronic infections. Some owners may confuse the condition with natural aging or laziness, and often the signs are not particularly obvious. If a vet is suspicious that a dog has an underactive thyroid, they will start by running some blood work.

Confusingly, the thyroid hormone may be low for reasons other than hypothyroidism, such as in a dog with chronic liver disease. Vets may also check a dog’s TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), which tends to be high in hypothyroid dogs. If the clinical suspicion is high enough and a dog has a low thyroid hormone but high TSH reading, a medical trial will likely be started. While some symptoms may improve in a matter of days, long-standing skin issues and any alopecia may take weeks or months to resolve.

Hip Dysplasia

Large dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia – a condition whereby the hips do not form as they should during their development, leading to lifelong mobility issues. Typically, between six and twelve months of age dogs will begin to show the first symptoms, such as an uneven gait or a reluctance to exercise for long periods.

Imaging studies can diagnose the condition and treatment varies depending on how severely the dog is affected. In the worst cases, a bilateral total hip replacement may be advised.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Just thinking about all of the exercise that a Pitsky needs has us a bit out of breath! Not only should they have a good hour-long walk once or twice every day, they should also be allowed to participate in lots of different fun activities, such as agility, obedience and fetch.

Pitskies should be homed with very active families, though even the most active adults will struggle to keep up with this live-wire who loves to always be on the go. Failing to provide them with sufficient exercise will likely lead to an over-weight dog and may also cause behavioural problems, so is to be avoided at all costs.

Grooming

The grooming needs of each individual Pitsky will differ depending on their coat type and length. Those with a longer, double-coat should be groomed around 3 times a week, while shorter-coated dogs will likely only need a quick brush once a week to remove any dander.

Similarly, ear care will be dependent on the type of ear conformation that the Pitsky has inherited, with pendulous ears requiring weekly cleaning and frequent inspections to check for the early signs of an ear infection.

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