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The Samoyed is a medium to large purebred bred and used by the Samoyedic people of Siberia to hunt, pull sleds and to herd reindeer. In Europe they are also called the Bjelkier. It is a talented dog that today still excels at herding, sledding and cart pulling at shows. Bred to sleep with the family at night to help keep them warm it remains to be a devoted and loyal companion.
|Here is the Samoyed at a Glance|
|Other Names||Samoyedskaya, Bjelkier, Samoiedskaya Sobaka, Nenetskaya Laika|
|Nicknames||Smiley, Sami and Sammy|
|Average size||Medium to large|
|Average weight||35 to 65 pounds|
|Average height||19 to 24 inches|
|Life span||10 to 12 years|
|Coat type||Dense, thick, rough, long|
|Color||Cream, golden and white.|
|Popularity||Somewhat popular – ranked 61st by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Above average – fairly clever dog|
|Tolerance to heat||Low – does not do well in the warmth or heat|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent – can handle even harshly cold climates|
|Shedding||High – expect a lot of shedding as well as seasonal blow outs|
|Drooling||Moderate – not likely to generate much slobber!|
|Obesity||Fairly high – gains weight easily if food and exercise are not monitored|
|Grooming/brushing||Daily brushing needed – bathing can be time consuming|
|Barking||Average to frequent|
|Exercise needs||Very active – will need a good amount exercise and stimulation|
|Trainability||Moderately easy – fairly smart but stubborn and independent|
|Friendliness||Excellent – very social dog|
|Good first dog||Moderate – not really best for new owners, needs experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good to very good with socialization – high prey drive|
|Good with strangers||Excellent with socialization – approachable|
|Good apartment dog||Moderate – best in larger home with a yard|
|Handles alone time well||Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods|
|Health issues||Fairly healthy but has some issues such as eye problems, hip dysplasia, kidney problems and diabetes|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for pet insurance and basic care|
|Food expenses||$275 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$655 a year for grooming, toys, basic training, license and other miscellaneous costs|
|Average annual expense||$1415 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1150|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Samoyed’s Beginnings
The Samoyed is an ancient breed of dog called a basal breed as it predates the 19th century when modern breeds of dog emerged. Its ancestor is the Nenets herding laika, which was a spitz kind of breed. In Siberia the natives there called the Samoyeds (which is where the breed’s name came from) used the dog to help pull sleds, guard property and families and to herd reindeer. It was also a companion, the people had the dogs join them in family activities when the work was done and they slept with the family at night to help keep them warm.
It became popular with explorers of cold regions. Fridtjof Nansen used them to explore the far north when he went on polar expeditions. He actually would feed the weaker dogs to the stronger ones and would return with very few dogs left. They were used by Sir Ernest Shackleton on his expedition to the Antarctic.
In 1889 an explorer called Robert Scott returned home to England with some of these dogs. They were developed further and then spread to the rest of Europe. One enthusiastic breeder was actually Queen Alexandra and many of the Samoyeds we have today descend from dogs from her kennels. The first standard in England was agreed upon on 1909.
New Lease on Life
The first breed club in the US, the Samoyed Club of America came together in 1923. This is also the same year the AKC recognized the breed. Today as well as being a companion and still a working dog you can also find its fur used for many purposes. It has a similar texture to angora and shed fur is used to knit with and to create ‘flies’ for fly fishing. Sweaters made from this fur are said to be able to keep you warm when temperatures are far below freezing. The AKC today ranks the Sammy as 61st most popular recognized dog breed.
The Dog You See Today
The Samoyed is a medium to large dog weighing 35 to 65 pounds and standing 19 to 24 inches tall. It has a straight coat, a soft undercoat that is shorter and thick, and a harsh, long outer coat. Male coats tend to be fuller than females. Around the shoulders and neck there is a ruff of hair which again tends to be larger with males than females. Common colors are white, cream, golden and biscuit. It has a muscular and compact body with a somewhat longer tail covered in hair and carried so that it is rolled up on its back to the side. When relaxed the tail will fall but when alert again it will curl it back up. Its legs are strong and it has flat, hair covered feet.
It has a broad, wedge shaped head with a muzzle that is in proportion and ends with a nose that is liver, black or brown. It has black lips and almond shaped eyes that set deeply and wide apart with dark rims. Eye color for show purposes should be black or brown but in pets can be blue or other colors. Its ears are erect and triangular shaped but rounded at the tips and are covered in fur. Most of the time its ears are white in color but at the tip there can be a slight brown tint.
The Inner Samoyed
The Sammy is an independent and alert dog that makes a great watchdog who will bark to let you know if there is an intruder, but it will not do anything to that intruder, expect maybe try to make friends! It is loyal and friendly but because of its stubborn side and its liveliness it is not a good dog for first time owners. It needs ones who are experienced and can be firmly in charge. When raised well though it is devoted, gentle and easy going with a cheerful nature and it enjoys play time.
Sammys are intelligent and with the right balance of lots of exercise and mental stimulation it is a stable dog making a good family dog or companion. It is not aggressive in the sense that it will start trouble, but if another dog or person becomes aggressive towards it, it will not back down. It likes to chew, and if left for too long alone can be destructive in the home.
This breed does come with a slightly wicked sense of humor which you can see when it is trying to disobey you. Some bark an average amount but some are more frequent and they have a very high pitched bark which can be annoying. When it gets bored as well as being destructive and chewing things out in the yard it is also likely to dig it up. It enjoys being part of the family or the pack.
Living with an Samoyed
What will training look like?
This breed is moderately easy to train. This means while it will not need extra effort or attention it will still be a gradual process. The breed is certainly very intelligent but it also needs a very firm owner who is clearly in charge. Use positive techniques like treats and encourage it. Be consistent too, it is important that if there are more people in the house they are a part of the training and that the dog will obey them as much as they will obey you.
Early socialization is another important factor of its training. You need to be sure of its ability to handle different places, situations, animals and people and that you can trust it will not snap or overreact.
How active is the Samoyed?
This is an active breed and will need owners who are active too and happy to have a dog that joins them in activity or adds to it. It could adapt to apartment living as long as it gets out twice a day at least for vigorous long walks, but really it needs to be in a home with a yard it can play in, with a spot it can dig in. Taking it to a dog park is an opportunity to give it safe off leash time and socialization time. You can also play fun games with it. Remember it has a background of pulling things and of herding so games that use those skills are very welcome.
It should be watched during warm weather as it can overheat easily. However in the cold it is in its element. It is very important it gets enough chances to burn off energy and to have mental challenges for its behavior and well being. Because it is happy to drag things along leash training will be important or it will just try to pull you along when out with it. It also has a high prey drive and will run off and chase small animals otherwise.
Caring for the Samoyed
Taking care of the Samoyed can be quite a task so be prepared to put in a lot of effort in terms of grooming and maintenance. It sheds a lot so will need daily brushing and there will be daily vacuuming to do. Plus it sheds heavily seasonally too. This means clumps of hair falling out. Some people with mild allergies say that the Sammy does not trigger a reaction in them but it is a good idea to always test allergic reactions before buying anyway no matter what is said about any breed.
Bathing too is difficult. While you should avoid bathing too often so that you do not dry out its skin, the fact is it is likely to roll around in something disgusting on fairly frequent occasions so a bath is going to have to happen. Because of its fluffy coat and its thickness it can take a long time to get the coat properly soaked, then shampooed (using only a dog shampoo) and then the rinsing and finally drying! Because of the time and commitment it takes some owners leave it to a professional groomer.
You will also need to brush its teeth least two to three times a week, check its ears once a week for signs of infection and then wipe them using a dog ear cleanser, and clip its nails when they get too long. The last task is something else many leave to the groomer as you must take care not to cut too low, it can cause bleeding and pain to your dog if you get it wrong.
Depending on the size of your dog, its metabolism, age, health and level of activity a Samoyed is likely going to need 1 1/2 to 3 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day. This should be split into at least two meals for health reasons. When it is a puppy to keep its growth at a steady rate, feed it between 22% to 24% protein and 12% to 15% fat.
How is the Samoyed with children and other animals?
Sammys are excellent with children when raised well. It is playful and energetic with them, they make great play mates and they are also very affectionate towards them. Make sure children are taught how to touch, play and stroke a dog in a kind and safe way. There are a couple of things to watch out for. With its herding instinct it may try and herd the kids! Also if it is being boisterous and playful it might knock over small children by accident. Remember its beginnings had it sleeping with the family and children to keep them warm and it still loves to be with them now.
Even-tempered and socialized Sammys can get along with other pets, especially if it has been raised with them including even cats. But its strong chasing instincts means strange animals in its yard are likely going to seen as prey. It is very good with other dogs though as with any dog if it has not been spayed or neutered it is less so with dogs of the same sex.
What Might Go Wrong?
Samoyeds have a life span of 10 to 12 years. They are a fairly health dog breed but are more susceptible to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia, diabetes, skin allergies, eye problems, renal disease, pulmonary stenosis, patellar luxation, heart problems, cancer and hypothyroidism.
When looking at reports over the last 34 years of dogs attacking and doing bodily harm to people in the US and Canada, the Samoyed is not mentioned. This does not mean it is not capable of it though. When a dog does not get the exercise, stimulation, socialization, training and attention it needs it is capable of snapping in certain situations and that could cause injury. That is why it is so important to make sure you get a dog that suits your lifestyle and your level of commitment.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
A Sammy puppy is going to cost about $1150 though somewhere between $1000 to $2000 is possible. That is for a pet quality dog from a trustworthy breeder. If you are looking for a show quality dog from a top breeder that could cost you several thousand. For people willing to re-home dogs, there are shelters and rescues but the Samoyeds are likely to be adults not puppies. That would be more around $100 to $400. It is important to avoid buying from puppy mills, pet shops and some backyard breeders. The quality of the dog is lower but more importantly they mistreat their animals.
Initial costs for items needed and medical checks will come to around $450. This will be for things like a crate, collar and leash, spaying or neutering, a physical exam, deworming, blood testing, shots and micro chipping.
Annual costs covers food and treats for about $275, medical essentials like check ups, flea prevention, tick prevention, shots and pet insurance for $485, and other miscellaneous costs like grooming, toys, license, basic training and the like for another $655. This gives a total yearly cost that will start at around $1415.
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The Samoyed is a robust and energetic dog who needs active owners to be happy. It is a bright and responsive dog but training will need some consistency and a firm approach. When it is younger it is especially rowdy so that will need to be controlled. It does not like to be left alone for extended periods of time and that can lead to destructive behavior. You also need to be prepared for lots of loose hair and lots of barking.
If you are ready for some of the reality in owning a Samoyed then it can be a very loving and loyal dog. It can be great with children, it loves to join in with family activity and is happy in an environment where there is always something to do.
Featured Image Credit: Nik Tsvetkov, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Samoyed’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Samoyed
- Living with an Samoyed
- Caring for the Samoyed
- How is the Samoyed with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag