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The word “Samoyed” translates literally as “living off themselves,” referring to the self-sufficiency of both the dogs and tribes. The natives themselves called the dogs “Bjelkiers,”, or “white dogs that breed white.”
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The Samoyed is a strong, medium-sized sled dog. They stand 19 to 23-1/2 inches at the shoulder and typically weigh 45-65 pounds. They are very handsome dogs, friendly but dignified.
Samoyeds are in many ways medium between the smaller Siberian Husky and larger Alaskan Malamute, and this is reflected in many places in the standard.
There are many similarities between these breeds, particularly between the Samoyed and the Malamute.
Official AKC Standard for the Samoyed (condensed): (As submitted by the Samoyed Club of America, and approved by the AKC April 9, 1963. Contact the AKC or the SCA for a complete copy.
General Appearance. The Samoyed, being essentially a working dog, should present a picture of beauty, alertness, and strength, with agility, dignity and grace. As his work lies in cold climates, his coat should be heavy and weather resistant, well-groomed, and of good quality rather than quantity.
He should not belong in the back as a weak back would make him practically useless for his legitimate work, but at the same time, a close-coupled body would also place him at a great disadvantage as a draft dog.
Breeders should aim for the happy medium, a body not long but muscular, allowing liberty, with a deep chest and well-sprung ribs, strong neck, straight front, and especially strong loins. [Dogs and bitches] should both give the appearance of being capable of great endurance but be free from coarseness.
Because of the depth of chest required, the legs should be moderately long. Hindquarters should be particularly well-developed, stifles well-bent and any suggestion of unsound stifles or cowhocks severely penalized.
Substance. The bone is heavier than would be expected in a dog of this size but not so massive as to prevent the speed and agility most desirable in a Samoyed. In all builds, bone should be in proportion to body size.
The Samoyed should never be so heavy as to appear clumsy nor so light as to appear racy. The weight should be in proportion to the height.
Height. Males, 21 to 23-1/2 inches. Females, 19 to 21 inches at the withers. An oversized or undersized Samoyed is to be penalized according to the extent of the deviation.
Coat. (Texture and Condition). The Samoyed is a double-coated dog. The body should be well-covered with an undercoat of soft, short, thick close wool with longer and harsh hair growing through it to form the outer coat, which stands straight out from the body and should be free from curl.
The coat should form a ruff around the neck and shoulders, framing the head. Quality of coat should be weather resistant and considered more than quantity.
Color. Samoyeds should be pure white, white and biscuit, cream, or all biscuit.
Gait. The Samoyed should trot, not pace. When trotting, there should be a strong rear action drive. Moving at a slow walk or trot, they will not single track, but as speed increases, the legs gradually angle inward until the pads are finally falling on a line directly under the longitudinal center of the body.
Rear End. Upper thighs should be well-developed. Stifles well-bent–approximately 45 degrees to the ground. The hind legs should be parallel when viewed from the rear in a natural stance, strong, well-developed, turning neither in nor out.
Straight stifles are objectionable. Double-jointedness or cowhocks are a fault.
Front End. Legs should be parallel and straight to the pasterns. Because of depth of chest, legs should be moderately long. Length of leg from the ground to the elbow should be approximately 55 percent of the total height at the withers–a very short-legged dog is to be deprecated.
Feet. Large, long, flattish–a hare foot, slightly spread but not splayed; toes arched; pads thick and tough, with protective growth of hair between the toes.
Intelligent, gentle, loyal, adaptable, alert, full of action, eager to serve, friendly but conservative, not distrustful or shy, not overly aggressive. Unprovoked aggressiveness to be severely penalized.
Any color other than pure wite, cream, biscuit, or white and biscuit.
The Samoyed dog takes its name from the Samoyed tribes of Siberia from whom the founding stock of the breed was obtained. The name was originally spelled Samoyede, but the final “e” was dropped by the AKC in 1947.
The proper pronunciation of the name is Sammy-YED, not sam-OY-ed or SAM-oyed; there is no “oy” sound in the native language.
The Samoyed is a true working dog, having served as a herder of reindeer, as a sledge dog and as a household companion, watchdog and helper. The breed may be best known to the public for its work as a sled dog in both Arctic and Antarctic exploration.
As the lead dog on Roald Amundsen’s expedition, a Samoyed was probably the first non-native creature to set foot (or paw) on the South Pole. All the major characteristics of today’s Samoyed – the erect ears, the smiling face, the buff to white coat, and the plumed tail – are natural, and may be seen clearly in photographs of the breed from the early 1800s. [Ref: Informational postings by various Samfans.]
The dogs were originally called “Samoyede” by an English zoologist; the final ‘e’ was droped by the English Kennel Club and the AKC in 1923 and 1947 respectively.
Dr. Fritjov Nansen, the Norwegian explorer, obtained Samoyeds from a Siberian resident who was in contact with the Samoyede people. He used these dogs on a number of polar expeditions, recommended the breed highly to other explorers, and brought his remaining dogs back to Norway.
The Samoyede people live today much as they always did in remote areas of Siberia; a recent French video documentary on the tribe showed dogs that look like the Samoyed of today (except that some of them were black and white) running with reindeer and pulling sleds.
CHARACTERISTICS AND TEMPERAMENT
Coat and Grooming
The Samoyed is a double coated breed. This coat consists of a woolly undercoat and longer guard hairs. Twice a year, Samoyeds “blow” their undercoats, that is, they shed their undercoats completely.
It is a very intense shedding period that can last up to three weeks from start to finish. The good news is that this only happens twice a year. The remainder of the time, Samoyeds are relatively shed free (unlike smooth coated breeds). The bad news is that the shedding period can be rather messy.
The hair comes out in large and small clumps. Lots of vacuuming and brushing are in order. The undercoat can be carded and spun into yarn; it is best when blended with about 40% other fiber, such as wool or alpaca.
Due to the Samoyed’s subpolar origin, the fur is very warm despite its lightness.
The Samoyed is a very clean and relatively odor free dog. It tends to clean itself like a cat. Even when a Samoyed becomes covered in mud, it will clean itself. Casual observers might think that keeping a pure white dog clean would be a major chore, but fanciers of the breed understand its uncanny ability to shed dirt and most stains.
Even grass stains disappear from the coat in just a few days. Bathing needs are minimal; thorough brushings and/or “dry baths” using a mixture of cornstarch and baby powder often suffices.
A full bath may not be necessary more than once per year; in fact, too frequent bathing may remove some of the gloss and stain-resistance of the coat. Special “white-enhancing” shampoos with bluing are available to make your Samoyed sparkly white.
Other than during coat-blowing season, the Samoyed needs relatively little grooming. Daily brushing is ideal, but two or three times a week is sufficient; the brushing should be thorough to penetrate the outer coat and remove any loose undercoat.
A long pin brush, a slicker brush and possibly a rake are essential grooming tools. Trimming needs are minimal, and if done should be done so that it looks natural and uncut.
The body coat should never be clipped or trimmed except for medical reasons. Their nails should be checked and clipped periodically.
NEVER clip a Samoyed for the summer. After the undercoat has been “blown out”, the outer coat provides insulation from the heat and protection from the sun. It is actually reflective.
Exposed skin will be very sensitive to the sun, and will sunburn very easily; this can lead to skin cancer. Regular grooming and constant access to cool water are particularly important in the summer, especially in warmer climates.
Samoyeds are friendly by nature to both people and other dogs. Their demand for affection is moderate; they like being with their pack but are usually not “lap dogs” by any measure.
This pack-oriented nature means that they do better when included in the family (pack, from their point of view) than when left outside by themselves. As befits their Northern ancestry, they may enjoy spending periods outside – particularly during cold weather – but their “place” should be inside with the rest of the pack.
Samoyeds are quite intelligent, and can be very stubborn and get bored easily; all these are characteristics they share with Malamutes and Siberian Huskies.
Their strength and quickness can be quite surprising to someone who has met a fluffy white Samoyed during a quiet period, for their appearance are quite gentle and, as Daniel Pinkwater said of Malamutes, they can “sleep like cinderblocks.”
Their intelligence and strong independent nature make them a challenge to train; where a Golden Retriever, for instance, may work *for* his master, a Samoyed works *with* his master or not at all. Holding the dog’s respect is a prerequisite to training.
They learn quickly; the trick is teaching the dog to behave reliably without hitting his boredom threshold. It is these characteristics that have earned Samoyeds (and with the other Northern breeds) the appellation “non-traditional obedience dogs.”
Samoyeds do compete successfully in obedience trials, though, so it is not a hopeless cause. Samoyeds are often not the best choice for the first-time dog owner.
By nature, Samoyeds are friendly dogs. They were used as watchdogs by their native owners in Siberia, though, and display relatively more watchdog behavior than their Northern cousins the Malamute and Siberian.
They are completely unsuited to guarding duty, though.
Barking, Talking, and Howling
Samoyeds both bark and talk, though they generally do not howl. They tend to be rather quiet, with big deep barks that can be quite startling. Some Samoyeds are more frequent barkers, and these tend to have more high-pitched piercing barks. The Samoyed may also “talk” with a soft “aroo” or “woo-woo” sound similar to the Malamute.
CARE AND TRAINING
When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the puppy’s diet has been to date, as well as a recommendation as to the best food and feeding frequency in the future, both for while the dog is still a puppy as well as when the dog is an adult.
You should try and follow the puppy’s diet at the time you collect him from the breeder as best you can until the puppy is settled into its new environment. Then you can gradually change the diet to suit your preferences.
Remember that sudden changes in diet can severely disrupt the puppy’s digestive system and cause gastric distress.
As for the type and “brand” of dog food, basically, any reputable dog food manufacturer provides a dog food that is sufficient to keep a dog healthy. However, the premium brands of dog food have the advantage that one can feed the dog less and still get very good nourishment.
In addition, stool size and an amount are generally less with the premium dog foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs are partly art and part science. The dog food manufacturers have done the science part. The rest is up to you. Some people feed their dogs a mix of canned and dry food twice a day.
Others feed only dry and allow free feeding, and so on. Be sure and pick a frequency of feeding, brand, and type of food to suit your dog’s needs. For working Samoyeds, something equivalent to a Science Diet Performance or Eukanuba is in order.
For Samoyeds that go for walks and hikes, a Maintenance formula is usually best. Consult your breeder and veterinarian for advice.
One other thing worth mentioning here is how long to feed puppy food. Some research indicates that feeding puppy food for too long can increase the incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs that are susceptible to it. Some breeders start feeding adult food very soon.
Samoyeds are often extremely fond of fish, which many people find surprising. Fish can often be used as a diet supplement or special treat for Sammys.
Samoyeds are happiest when they can share in family activities. The best arrangement is one in which the dog can come in and out of the house of its own free-will, through a dog door. If a dog door is not possible, then training the dog to go to an outside door to be let out is also very easy to do.
Outside, the dog should have a large, fenced yard. The fence should be strong and at least 4 feet tall. Samoyeds are not as prone to digging or escape as Malamutes, but they rate pretty high by normal standards.
They are prone to dig shallow “wallows” in hot weather; they will typically just turn over a layer of dirt to get to the cooler earth just below the surface.
Because the Samoyed is an arctic dog, it can remain outside in very cold weather. However, it should be provided with shelter from the elements in the form of a good sturdy house. A well-insulated house with nice straw bedding is perfect for Samoyeds that spend most of their time outside.
Heating the dog house is usually not necessary. It should be stressed that leaving a Samoyed outside all the time is definitely inferior accommodations to being inside with the family.
Training Samoyeds, as any Northern breed, can be a challenge. With this breed, it is important to start young. Establish rules of the house early, and make sure that the puppy knows that you are in charge.
For example, if you do not want the dog on the bed as an adult, do not allow it as a puppy. The rule of thumb is that if you train a dog to do something, expect him to do it.
Therefore, if the puppy learns that certain things are allowed, it will be difficult to train them not to do them as adults. Things that are cute as puppies may not be all that cute when the dog weighs 60 lbs or more.
Since the dog is pack-oriented, it important to establish yourself as the head of the pack, or alpha, very early. Once you do this, the dog will respect you and training will be much easier. It is best to enroll in a puppy training class (or puppy kindergarten training as they are commonly known) soon after your dog is home and has all of its vaccinations.
This training is good for the dog and for you as the owner, as it will help you understand your new puppy and establish you as alpha very early in the puppy’s life, which is extremely important with this breed.
Once you have completed the puppy class, and have been working with the dog for a few months, a basic obedience class is in order.
Obedience training this breed can be very interesting and extremely challenging. Many owners will complain that their dogs act perfectly in class, but will not obey at home. This breed is intelligent enough to differentiate situations very well and will apply different rules of behavior for different situations.
You must stay on top of the dog and maintain control, which is easier to do while the dog is of manageable size than with a stubborn adult that has been allowed to get away with undesirable behaviors for a long time.
It is very important to remember that Samoyeds are a *working breed*. They need something to do. Putting them in the backyard and tossing them a bone and expecting them to be happy us a very bad idea. They need a lot of exercise and interaction to be happy.
The exercise can come in the form of mushing, which is, of course, best, or can easily be in the form of draft work, frequent walks, hikes, and playing. The dog makes a wonderful hiking companion, and with a dog pack, can carry food and water.
Skijouring, where a dog pulls a cross-country skier, is an excellent winter activity for those who don’t have the inclination (or the number of dogs) to take up mushing.
SPECIAL MEDICAL PROBLEMS
The Samoyed, as a breed, is relatively free of particular breed-related medical problems.
Snow Nose or Bad Pigmentation
Snow Nose is described as a pink/reddish marking on the black nose. It is commonly experienced amongst the northern breeds. Snow Nose can disappear over the warmer months and reappear over the winter months. There is nothing wrong with snow nose.
Pink or mottled noses are not faults in the Samoyed, and pink noses appear to be more “natural” based on research into the early history of the breed. One of the few “changes” we’ve made in the breed in the last hundred years is selecting for black noses.
Bloat is a condition that affects all large, deep-chested breeds. It is a potentially life-threatening condition which usually affects dogs in the prime of life. Basically, the dog’s stomach will swell from gas, fluid, or both (this is acute gastric dilation).
Once distended, the stomach may twist abruptly on its long axis. If it does a twist, but the twist is less than 180 degrees, it is called torsion. If greater than 180 degrees, it is called a volvulus.
Therefore, the term bloat can refer to any of these three conditions (acute gastric distortion, torsion, or volvulus). Acute gastric dilation is not serious and may clear up itself in a few minutes.
Torsion or volvulus are life-threatening and immediate veterinary attention is required. The chance for recurrence is around fifteen percent. The cause of bloat is unknown.
This is a genetic disorder that affects Samoyeds. Simply put, hip dysplasia is a deformation in the hip joint. That is, the head of the femur does not sit solidly in the acetabulum. The joint lacks tightness, and the condition results in a painful and often debilitating life for the dog.
Hip dysplasia is considered to be a moderately inheritable condition. Breeders will usually have breeding pairs OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified prior to breeding. OFA certification can be given only after a dog is over 24 months old.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How do Samoyeds handle the summer heat?
Like any dog, to cope with summer heat the Samoyed needs a constant supply of water to drink and shade from the sun. If the dog is allowed inside then it will find its own cool spot (probably on the kitchen or bathroom floor if it is tiled or linoleum-floored).
Outdoors, the dog will probably dig a shallow “wallow” by turning over a layer of soil to get to the cooler earth just beneath the surface. Some dogs like having ice added to their water to help keep it cool.
Some also enjoy a children’s wading pool filled with water in the summertime. The Samoyed sheds a lot of coat before summer, as soon as the weather starts to warm up, which also allows them to keep cool. Heavy exercise should be avoided in excessive heat. Curtail exercise times to be early morning or just after sunset.
Once the dog is acclimated to his environment, he is usually fine. NEVER clip a Samoyed for the summer. The outer coat is actually reflective and shades the dog’s skin. Exposed skin is very prone to sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer.
Samoyeds are remarkably adaptable animals. However, one should never try and push a dog beyond his capability to cope with the heat. To do so can be disastrous. One must keep in mind the type of climate the dog is acclimated for and not look for signs of heat stress.
Do not ever lock any dog in a car in direct sunlight, or in the shade for a great deal of time, even with the windows down a little for ventilation the heat generated by the dog is still enough to cause heat stress in summer.
What are they like with children?
Due to their gentle temperament, the Samoyed is generally a very good family dog. They seem to enjoy the company of children, though common sense must be used when mixing any dog with young children.
They are powerful dogs; children should not be left in total control of the dog. Samoyeds are generally patient by nature and will tolerate young children fawning over them, but this should be strictly supervised for the sake of the dog as well as the child.
With these caveats in mind, since Samoyeds love attention, well-behaved children get along wonderfully with well mannered and socialized Samoyeds.
What are they like inside a house?
Samoyeds, aside from the occasional invasion of masses of fur when they are shedding coat, are excellent house dogs. They are extremely clean dogs and surprisingly quiet. They are very sure-footed and in no way clumsy around furniture.
They will often pick out a favorite sleeping spot and stay there for hours. Favorite spots seem to be tiled and linoleum floors in warm weather, soft pillows or beds at other times. The dog may seek out drafty areas and possibly lie in front of doors with cold drafts during the winter.
How much do they eat?
It depends on the type of food. An average Samoyed will eat about 2 or 3 cups of a “premium” dog food (like Science Diet or Eukanuba) per day. The actual amount of food will vary depending on the metabolism and activity level of the dog, and the type of food that is given.
A working adult will eat approximately 3 cups of high-density food per day. Other dogs will generally eat less. Puppies require smaller, more frequent meals.
How much exercise do they need, and what kind?
You should not strenuously exercise a puppy under 6 months of age. Their muscular-skeleto system is not developed enough yet. Their play is enough to keep them healthy. You should play with your puppy and work on some of the basic obedience commands with him, in a playful way.
Once the dog is 6 months old, a kindergarten puppy training class or a basic obedience class is a very good idea. It will start you both out on the right foot. You can then more easily start taking the dog for walks in your area on a leash.
By the time the dog is full grown, at around 12 months, he will be ready for much longer walks, an hour per day or more. The obedience training will make the walks much more enjoyable. Hiking, with a dog back-pack, is great fun.
One can also bike with a dog, with a nifty device known as a “Springer.” Finally, sledding is an excellent form of exercise and is what the dog was bred for. Skijouring is an alternative winter sport. The sled dog part of the FAQ for rec.pets.dogs cover these things in more detail.
Do they pull sleds very fast?
The Samoyed, again, is the “happy medium” dog. They are not as fast as Siberians, but they are faster than Malamutes. They excel at endurance, though, and were the preferred dogs of a number of early polar (North and South) explorers.
How strong are they?
Again, the medium. Stronger than Siberians, but not as strong as Malamutes. A Samoyed won the 50-76 pound class at a recent [as this was written] weight pull by pulling 2,130 pounds (on a wheeled cart) 16 feet in 10.3 seconds.
Do they shed a lot?
Samoyeds blow their undercoats twice per year. They do not typically shed year round like many dog breeds. When they do blow their coat, they lose lots of hair (several grocery sacks full per week).
Do they like to fight other dogs?
No. Samoyeds are very pack oriented dogs. As such, they communicate with other dogs in a variety of ways. An ill-mannered, aggressive dog is not a good team dog and therefore not a good sled dog.
However, poorly socialized and trained Samoyeds can be aggressive towards other dogs. For this reason, it is very important for a Samoyed owner to train the dog carefully and make sure to properly socialize it with other dogs.
I’ve heard Samoyeds are dumb. Is this true?
No! Samoyeds are extremely intelligent working dogs. People often mistake the fact that they can be difficult to train as a sign of stupidity. Samoyeds are very clever and easily bored.
The key to training them is to keep them interested and to challenge their intelligence. A Samoyed probably knows what you want him to do, he just may not want to do it!
Just how cold can a Samoyed live in?
Samoyeds worked on Antarctic expeditions, where temperatures regularly reached -50 degrees (F) and may have touched -70. Dogs raised in more temperate zones will not develop the quality of coat necessary for those temperatures.