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    July 2012
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The Samoyed

Thankyou to Samoyed Rescue NSW for this article


The Samoyed was named after a nomadic inuit tribe from northern Siberia in Russia, called the Samoyede people.  The Samoyede people were a gentle, nomadic tribe of family groups, that were accompanied everywhere by their dogs. They used the dogs to herd reindeer, pull sleds loaded with goods, and keep them warm in the frigid Siberian winters. The dogs were also used to baby-sit the inuit children and were brought into their chooms (or tents) at night to keep the families warm.  It was this close bond over thousands of years that made the Samoyed such a people loving, family orientated dog.  The temperament of the well-bred Samoyed is a reflection of the breed's beginning: brought up within the family, eating at the campfire, snuggling in the beds, this dog is the ultimate companion, gentle with family members and happy to work.

The first mention of Samoyeds outside Russia comes from an English newspaper advertisement in 1891, placed by Ernest Kilburn-Scott, offering for sale "Lovely white Russian (Samoyed) sled dog pups, like small polar bears, most gentle and affectionate. Splendid coats and tails. Very rare. Parents imported."

At about the same time, Arctic explorers were putting together teams of dogs for polar expeditions, and Samoyeds fit the bill for their stamina and willingness to work. In 1911, a Samoyed lead dog on Roald Amundsen's trip to the South Pole was the first animal over the pole.

The breed's history seems contrary to the Samoyed today, for few people captivated by the dog's long white coat, smiling face, and affection for people can imagine it pulling a sled or herding reindeer. The Sam seems more at home on a sofa than in harness, but in truth, he is happy in both places.

In spite of his regal beauty and affectionate manner, the Samoyed can be  difficult dog to own. He requires considerable grooming to prevent matting and keep his coat clean. He sheds profusely each year, leaving white hair everywhere. Grooming is important to help keep him comfortable if your area has hot, humid summers. 

If you are a gardening enthusiast, I do not recommend a Samoyed unless you keep him in a separate area.  I have known people to describe their backyard as a moon crater. It is a Samoyeds natural instinct to make “beds” for itself.  In the arctic conditions they would dig hollows to protect themselves from the climate.  In Australia they tend to dig shallow ditches to find that cooler wetter ground and make themselves as comfortable as possible.

Although highly intelligent, this breed can be difficult to train, for the dogs have a mind of their own. They learn tasks easily but tire quickly of repetitive training, and thus do better with motivation than with correction (I.e. Positive reinforcement food / clicker training). Some resent obedience training so much that they perform their exercises with a hang-dog look, convincing spectators that the owner must frequently beat the dog into submission. If you make training fun for them with positive reinforcement Samoyeds make excellent agility dogs. However, strong correction is sometimes needed, for the dog will run the show if not notified that the handler is in charge.

A Samoyed always needs to know who the leader of the pack is and is a natural born digger. Samoyeds like malamutes and huskies are a dominant breed and highly intelligent. If you give them an inch they will take a mile!. All northern breeds are highly motivated pack members of their chosen family but the owners need to firmly establish their alpha leadership in the “pack”.  Northern breeds will always look for a way to out smart you.  But people need to understand that Samoyeds do this with a sense of humor and smile on their face not with a malicious intent.

For those with a sense of humor to cope with this recalcitrance nature and who have the time to groom, the Samoyed is a wonderful family pet. The breed is excellent with children, always loves to play, and has a great witty sense of humor. Samoyeds will alert you to visitors (but may tend towards licking them rather than scaring them away)., Samoyeds also make wonderful therapy dogs, and are competitive in agility (with positive fun training). 

The Samoyed has changed little in temperament, appearance, and ability from the time and place of his origin. He is still the consummate family dog, affectionate to almost everyone, at home on sofa or in harness, traveling hither and yon with his master. No one could possibly be lonesome with a Samoyed for a companion as they bond so closely with people.  They are sympathetic and very responsive to owner’s emotions and people often say he knows exactly when I’m sad and lonely and when to give extra cuddles.  Samoyeds have also shown to be receptive to owner’s health and have been known to become extremely attentive and depressed days before owners have fallen seriously ill due to the close link they form with their family.

For this reason the worst thing you could possibly do to a Samoyed in their eyes is leave them in the backyard.  If you don’t want a long haired dog inside, then the Samoyed is NOT for you.  If you are worried about having white fur on your clothes, don’t get a Samoyed.  Because a Samoyeds wants nothing more than to be with you ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE.  This means inside, outside, in the bathroom, away on holidays, in the car down to the local shops, and walking the human kids to school.  As far as a Samoyed is concerned they are one of the kids (or sometimes the master if you don’t enforce strong leadership) and therefore should have all the rights of one.  They are often characterized as showing human emotion and characteristics.  Their faces show deep emotions and they are the master of the big sad brown eyed puppy look (don’t let them fool you).

The Samoyed personality is quite unique in the dog world.  “Fun” is the Samoyed motto.  If the activity is considered fun by the dog, he’ll throw his all into it, but if the fun stops, he’s likely to switch off and go looking for something else to amuse himself.  If you find your Samoyed is showing bad behaviors (e.g., excessive barking, digging, chewing) always ask yourself “what should he be doing instead, and would he consider that fun?”  If the answer is “no, sitting around all day doing nothing while I’m at work is not considered fun”, then this will help you to understand why he prefers to pull clothes off the line.  The best answer to this problem is of course to make your dog’s environment more fun by giving him things that he can do during the day.

  General Appearance

Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1906, the Samoyed is a member of the Working Group (although some fanciers think the breed could do equally well in the Herding Group). The breed standard describes it as a medium-sized dog (of moderate build, almost square, with the length slightly longer than the height. Dogs (males) are noticeably larger than bitches, with broader heads, but they should not look bear-like.  Standing 20-22 inches and weighing from 24kg.  Males generally shed their coat once per year.  Females stand 18-20 inches at the shoulder and weigh considerably less – up to 20 kg. 

It is a double-coated hair (not fur) breed, well suited for work in cold weather. The undercoat is short, soft, and thick, and the guard coat is long and harsh with straight hairs standing straight out from the body. The Samoyed people combed the undercoat for use in yarns, and today some spinners include Sam hair in hats, sweaters, and scarves. Although the original Samoyed dogs were of several colors, the standard calls for the coat to be white, cream, biscuit, or white and biscuit. All other colors are disqualifications. Most Samoyeds are white, and many have biscuit marking on the ears and around the eyes. The eyes should be dark, and the lips and eye rims black. The nose should also be black, but a liver, brown, or Dudley (flesh-colored) nose is acceptable. Blue eyes are disqualifications.

The Samoyed should move at a trot with grace and dignity. His is a ground-consuming, steady pace, well-suited for herding reindeer over the tundra or pulling a sled to the South Pole. He has a deep chest, well-sprung ribs, strong loin, well-muscled rear and strong neck. Males should be masculine without being aggressive; females feminine without appearing weak. Aggressiveness in a Samoyed is rare but is also deemed a huge fault and should never be bred from.

The Samoyed’s coat is a thick double layered hair coat. It is not a fur coat like common breed dogs and thus tends to have lower allergic reactions if though it is long.  The coat should be thick and requires little washing.  Even when coated in mud, after drying the dirt tends to fall off easily or with gentle brushing leaving a white coat underneath.  This occurs as there coat is naturally resilient and repellant. Thus you should not wash a Samoyed more than once a month as you remove this protection barrier.  The Samoyeds also do not have a strong smell (common in breeds like cattle dogs and golden retrievers).  A Samoyed will only smell if ill (normally from hormonal imbalance or gastric upsets) or if the under coat is left wet for long periods of time.  For this reason when washing a Samoyed it is important to dry the thick under coat as quickly as possible, investment into a strong hair dryer or dog blower with a good supply of talcum powder is a great investment when owning a Samoyed.


Generally healthy, alert and active the Samoyed, like most medium and large breeds, can unfortunately be plagued by hip dysplasia. Recent findings also indicate a predisposition to hypothyroidism (causing smelly coat) and related autoimmune diseases such as Von Willdebrand’s Disease, a bleeding disorder.

Fleas and tapeworms (carried by fleas) can be a problem because of the breed's long coat, so prevention is especially important. Any veterinarian can recommend a flea prevention program. 

Bloat is another condition which is considered common in all deep chested breeds, this include the Samoyed.  Bloat is the result of excessive air mixed with food and liquid in the stomach which prevents the contents passing through to the bowel.  Bloat can cause the stomach to twist which can trap other organs and cut off blood supply.  Symptoms can include attempts to vomit, anxiety, tight stomach, whining, pacing, wanting to drink excessively or the dog may turn and look at his side repeatedly.  Bloat is usually caused by rapidly eating large meals combined with drinking large amounts of water before or after.  To avoid this it is best to feed two small meals per day, do not let the dog drink excessively before or after a meal for 1 hr and do not exercise the dog before or after a meal for at least 1 hour.  This also means to not leave bags of bowls of dry dog food lying around.  A Samoyed and most northern breeds will eat till they drop.  If they accidentally over eat dry food DO NOT under any circumstances give them water to help wash it down.  Remove ALL water they can get to (include closing the toilet door and emptying the bath) as the water will only expand the food in their stomach and can make it life risking.  Because this condition is potentially fatal and some symptoms may not be as obvious as stated above, always take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect bloat. 

There are three other conditions worth mentioning, that are not Samoyed specific, but they are not uncommon and they can have terrible consequences if not treated early

Hot spots are caused by an allergy – most commonly flea bites or reaction to strong shampoos.  A hot spot happens when an area of the dogs skin becomes inflamed due to irritation,  The best treatment is to clip the area and treat with a topical cortisone or an injection – both of which your vet will prescribe.

Heat stroke can affect any dog but owners of large-coated breeds need to be more aware.  Heat stroke is a shut down of internal organs due to overheating.  Do not leave any dog locked in a closed car, not even for a short period, always provide fresh water and shade for your dog at all times and don’t exercise your Samoyed in the heat of the day.

Stomach obstructions.  Dogs, especially puppies, are prone to chewing foreign items and sometimes these things get swallowed.  If something swallowed cannot be digested by the dogs stomach (eg, golf ball, rubber toys, socks) this can cause an obstruction in the stomach which stops the normal food from passing through the digestive system also.  Symptoms can include the dog not seeming like “himself”, lethargy, not eating and abnormal or no bowel movement.  This condition can be life-threatening – take your dog to the vet ASAP if you suspect anything.

Diet is a very broad and complex subject and this talk does not allow time to discuss the topic in depth.  So my best advice would be to research as many diet alternatives as possible with a view to finding what you consider to be a balanced diet for your dog.  There are a few conditions that might indicate a poor diet.  Consider a change to your dogs diet, after discussion with your vet, if your dog exhibits the following:

-                      tear stains – may indicate too many coloured additives in food

-                      diabetes – is usually the result of poor diet over a long period, although this is hereditary too

-                      excessive pooping – suggests a high level of wheat product in the diet

-                      aggression – can indicate that the diet is too high in protein

-                      dry, flaky skin – could be that the diet is too low in fat

Most adult dog’s diets should consist of mostly meat or meat products, around 30% fat, some vegetable product and a low amount of carbohydrates.  Remember Samoyeds and all northern breed dogs are natural dogs, they are not meant to eat processed food.  The more raw and natural foods you can give them the better.

One other alternative you might like to consider is rescuing a mature aged Samoyed.  Often the hard work is done for you because an adult Samoyed may come already housebroken and with a good level of obedience.  If the thought of not having as many years of enjoyment with an older dog lessens the appeal of rescuing, then consider this fact – buying a puppy does not guarantee that you will have a dog for 16 years either.

If I was asked to sum up the Samoyed in one sentence I would probably quote a line that I read while researching this talk.  It comes from the website of the Samoyed Association of Canada and says “charming, intelligent, active and playful through to old age, the Samoyed is amazingly comical, yet thoughtfully sensitive”.  I think that sums them up quite accurately.  What sets this breed apart, aside from their magnificent beauty, is their love for all people.