Animals

Behind the Breed: Alaskan Klee Kai

Alaskan Klee Kais are adorably wonderful dogs that look just like miniature Huskies! The Klee Kai is a relatively new breed, having only been first developed in the early 1970s, and ancestors include Siberian Huskies and American Eskimo dogs. They do come in three sizes but generally, they will be 13-17 inches tall and weigh 5-22 pounds (depending on their height). Like the dogs they look like, Alaskan Klee Kais have a thick double coat that sheds a moderate amount year-round and needs regular brushing. For fans of huskies without the space for one, a Klee Kai might be a great alternative!

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Linda Spurlin and her family developed Alaskan Klee Kai in the 1970s and 1980s by carefully breeding Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies, American Eskimo Dogs, and some Schipperkes. Spurlin wanted to create a cute, active canine companion, one that had the iconic husky look without the same need for space. The name ‘klee kai’ actually means ‘small dog’ in an Inuit language, referring to the breed’s adorable size. The genetics and health of Klee Kais, both as a breed and individuals, were vital to Spurlin; by initially breeding several breeds together to create the Klee Kai, she avoided breeding extra small/dwarf huskies in a way that often results in unhealthy dogs. After over two decades of work with the breed, Spurlin did stop breeding Alaskan Klee Kai and another woman named Eileen Gregory continued the work. Nowadays, Alaskan Klee Kais are still considered rare and were only recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2020.

As far as care goes, these small dogs can still be a handful and definitely need plenty of regular exercise and grooming. A Klee Kai’s double coat comes in three recognized colors: red and white, black and white, and grey and white. Like huskies, these dogs moderately shed throughout the year and they profusely shed when they blow their coats during the spring and summer. Alaskan Klee Kais also need regular nail trims, dental care, and the occasional bath to keep them clean and healthy.

Dog sports (like agility and obedience), hiking, or long walks are just some examples of things Klee Kais love doing! Given the right routine (and tolerable neighbors!), Klee Kai can easily live in an apartment; but like their bigger relatives, these dogs can be quite talkative and will definitely tell you all about what they’re thinking or what’s going on outside. And also like Huskies, Klee Kais have a strong prey drive, making it critical to either raise them with cats (and train them to treat the cat with respect!) or live without small animals and keep a close eye if there are some around.

Training and socialization are vital for Klee Kais but these activities can be extremely fun, as the breed is dedicated to their people, smart, and curious. Even with that, any owner will definitely need to keep an eye on their Klee Kai because they are also speedy and intelligent escape artists with a strong prey drive. Positive reinforcement training, safe off-leash areas, and fun activities can often make a difference! Activities like puzzle food games, hide & seek, scent work, and red light green light can also help keep a Klee Kai busy and entertained.

While Alaskan Klee Kais do look exactly like a miniature husky, they are actually their own breed! Developed by an Alaskan woman named Linda Spurlin in the 1970s/80s, these small dogs are still considered new and rare, with the United Kennel Club and American Kennel Club only recently recognizing the breed. Finding a true Alaskan Klee Kai can be a bit difficult because of that but having one can be so much fun. Like any other breed, Klee Kais have their own needs and despite their small size, they can be a handful at times. If you’re looking for an active, happy watchdog and aren’t too concerned with fur getting everywhere, a Klee Kai might just be for you!

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