The name Samoyed comes from the Samoyede, a semi-nomadic people from Asia who migrated to Siberia a thousand years ago. They bred dogs for hard work in the coldest habitable places on earth. In the Siberian town of Oymyakon, for instance, temperatures falling to minus-60 degrees are common. When not sledging heavy loads across vast expanses of Siberia, Samoyed dogs earned their feed as watchdogs and hunters. At first, they used their dogs to hunt reindeer. But in time Samoyede culture shifted from hunting reindeer to herding them. The bold white hunting dogs and haulers found a new role as stock dogs, moving and protecting the herds.
Samoyed are 19 to 23.5 inches tall and weigh 35 to 65 pounds. Powerful, agile, tireless, impervious to cold Sammies are drop-dead gorgeous but highly functional. Even their most delightful feature, a perpetual smile, has a practical function; the mouth’s upturned corners keep Sammies from drooling, preventing icicles from forming on the face.
Along with his smile, the Sammy’s defining trait is his ultra-thick white coat. In the winter months, it’s so dense you can barely see his skin underneath which means heavy shedding in the spring (as well as a little all year round). And believe it or not, Samoyed “wool” is a favorite of weavers; the wool is carded, spun, and woven or knitted into warm, beautiful clothing. Daily brushing will help to remove dirt and loose hairs and keep the dog looking his best. Mats or tangles can be worked out with a slicker brush or metal comb.
Samoyed life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. They are powerful and tireless, with a thick all-white coat impervious to cold. These are smart, social, mischievous dogs who demand love and attention. A Sammy sentenced to solitary confinement in the yard is a miserable and destructive canine resorting to digging, jumping the fence, getting into garbage, or chewing shoes. Sammies need a very firm but loving hand while training.
The Samoyed is not a “lone wolf” dog he enjoys close association with those he loves and is mentally and physically unsuited for being left alone in a kennel or back yard; he thrives on being part of household activity. His loyalty and alertness often make for a good watchdog. As pack animals, they must learn early who the alpha dog is and the alpha dog must be you.
At heart, the Samoyed is still a hunter. He is likely to chase after small animals that he perceives as prey which is difficult for him to resist chasing squirrels, rabbits, or even cats. For his safety, even a well-trained Samoyed can’t be trusted off leash when he’s not at home in his fenced yard.
Samoyeds like to stay busy. Keep him active with walks, games, hikes, and canine sports. The Samoyed’s characteristic smile reveals his friendly, good-natured disposition and he is especially fond of children.
Samoyeds need early exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Samoyed puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Caring for a Samoyed
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Samoyed.
The Samoyed should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Samoyeds enjoy being with their people and participating in family activities. They need some daily exercise and enjoy play sessions with their owner in a safely fenced yard or long walks on leash. The breed has a strong urge to run away and roam, and if loose a Sammie might travel for miles, putting himself at risk. Do not allow him to exercise strenuously when it is extremely hot; limit high-level activity to early morning or evening when it’s cooler. During the heat of the day, keep your Sammy inside with fans, air conditioning, or cooling pads.
Training the Samoyed is challenging. This breed is smart, and learns quickly, but you must approach training with the right attitude. Give him something to figure out; don’t bore him with repetition. Agility and tracking make perfect “thinking exercises” for the Samoyed.
Samoyeds generally want to please a fair and consistent owner and generally are very trainable with voice commands. Harsh training methods are usually not necessary, with a properly bred Samoyed.
Samoyeds can be very vocal, in part due to their unusual intelligence. They should be taught the meaning of “Quiet” and “Settle”, for their owners’ and neighbors’ benefit.
Samoyeds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions.
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is defined by an increased pressure in the eye, and can be found in two forms: primary, which is hereditary, and secondary, which is caused by decreased fluid in the eye due to other eye diseases.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thigh bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint.
- Samoyed Hereditary Glomerulopathy: This is a genetic disease of the kidney. The condition is more severe in males who appear healthy for the first three months of life until symptoms appear.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It’s thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma, and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina.
- Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis: This is a heart problem is caused by a narrow connection between the left ventricle and the aorta.
- Cancer: Symptoms include abnormal swelling of a sore or bump, sores that do not heal, bleeding from any body opening, and difficulty with breathing or elimination.