Samoyed Dog Breed

White Samoyed Running in Snow
iStock.com/Abramova_Kseniya
  • Other names:
  • Bjelkier
  • Nenetskaya Laika
  • Samoiedskaia Sabaka
  • Samoyedskaya
  • View all 4...
Overview

Samoyeds, or "Sammies" as they are affectionately named, are more than just beautiful-- they are hardworking, practical dogs. Don't worry if you don't need them for guarding reindeer flocks, pulling sleds or keeping you warm on the Siberian tundra, they make exceptional companion dogs for anyone at any age. Members of this breed are gentle, affectionate and playful; they will remain so throughout their 10-12 year lifespan. Sammies love children and children love them! They live harmoniously with other pets and are friendly to strangers they've been introduced to.

Although they tend to be mischievous if left untrained or bored, they are unusually bright and easy to train for obedience (as well as housebreaking). Samoyeds shed constantly and heavily once or twice per year but are, otherwise, simple to groom. Ideally, your Samoyed will live indoors where he/she can bond closely with you but they also need a fenced yard. They have an impressively abundant and attractive coat that lets them survive (and thrive) in cold to well below freezing temperatures so they should not be kept anywhere where the climate is hot. Lastly, members of this breed should have an hour or two of outdoor exercise daily and they excel in many activities such as obedience and agility training, herding and sled pulling.

Samoyed Breed Details

Breed Specs
TypeLifespanHeightWeight
Purebred10-12 yrs.19-23½ in.35-65 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

The Samoyed, a member of the Working group of breeds, has existed as a working animal in Siberia and other cold regions for centuries--but these Spitz dogs are as equally prized for their cheerful demeanors as for their tireless work ethic. These versatile dogs are good both in a work capacity and as a family pet, so Sammies are good for practically everyone (especially those living in colder climates).

A few Samoyed dog facts: they're medium-sized (height at the shoulders averages 21 inches, and weight 45 pounds), with medium- to long-haired, double-layered coats in white and/or various shades of cream. Now for some Samoyed pros and cons:

PROS:

  • Loving, playful, and adaptable
  • Low to moderate maintenance needs
  • Intelligent and intuitive
  • Excellent "cold-weather" dogs
  • Socialize very well with kids, pets, and strangers alike
  • Easily trained
  • Fairly good health


CONS:

  • Sheds profusely
  • May turn destructive if left alone for extended periods
  • Daily exercise required
  • High prey drive; will instinctively chase other animals
  • Frequent barking tendency
  • Not suited for hot climates
  • Can be very expensive to purchase

Samoyed Breed Description

Sammies are medium sized dogs that, overall, appear impressive and capable of great endurance. They are compact and males will be easily distinguished and slightly larger than females. Males will weigh 45-65 pounds, standing 21-23.5 inches at the shoulder; females 35-50 pounds and 19-21 inches.

Samoyeds remain playful throughout the entirety of their life and are gentle, friendly and adaptable. Children will find an affectionate and loving best friend in their Sammie. Although they are a great choice for those of any age, they will be happy with an outdoorsy, active owner than can give them plenty of time and exercise. They also make great additions to households with other pets, even other dogs. It is possible they may be conservative around strangers at first, but after the initial introduction will be very social and friendly.

Members of this breed are moderate maintenance dogs. They will need once to twice weekly brushings and frequent cleanup will be needed for their shed hair. Fine hairs are constantly shed while a heavy "blowing of the coat" will happen at least once (if not twice) per year. Although it is said the coat is hypoallergenic, experts contend that no dog can be guaranteed to be so. Sammies will also require 1-2 hours daily outdoor exercise and/or playtime. They should not be solely outdoor dogs or left alone all day. These are unusually intelligent dogs that are easy to housebreak, crate train and they excel at obedience training.

Samoyed Breed History

Legend has it that the Spitz-type ancestors of the Samoyed (or Samoyedskaya as they are called in Siberia) had settled in the frozen Siberian tundra with their tribesmen after migrating further and further from their original homeland in modern day Iran. According to the AKC this refers to the Samoyede people "primitive to the Sayantsi family". With migration always comes changes in appearance and functionality (the Sammie is no exception). In Siberia it is common for temperatures to venture well into the negatives and owners needed their dogs to be able to keep them warm as well as for sledding, guarding, and reindeer herding. The Samoyede depended upon reindeer for much of their food supply and these beautiful dogs were able to herd as well as protect them from predators.

Since their settlement in the tundra, they have remained fairly unchanged and are said to be very much close to primitive dogs (with no wolf mixture as might be expected from the looks and functionality). The use of them for guarding and warmth has allowed this breed to closely bond with humans and become quite a joyous companion. Many explorers have utilized this breed successfully in their expeditions from Fritdjof Nansen's to the North Pole to Roald Amundsen, who in 1911, reached the South Pole with the breed.

Modernly, these dogs didn't appear in England until the last century or so and it is rumored that Queen Alexandra, herself, loved them very much. The first Sammie came into the U.S. as a gift from the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia in 1906; the AKC accepted this breed shortly after and these extremely adaptable dogs are now very popular and found in many regions The Samoyed Club of America has been the official club for the breed in the U.S. since 1923 and there is a wealth of info on their website for those considering the breed. Interestingly, the hair of this breed once shed is sometimes used in knitting and sweaters made with the hair can be of benefit in extremely cold temperatures; the shed can also be used to make flies for fly fishing. Due to the close companionship developed over the centuries between those seeking companionship and warmth and the Sammie, they are prized for their gentility and friendliness as well as their steadfast working spirit.

Samoyed Appearance

The climate of Siberia is well known for being, for lack of a better word, frozen and many features of the Sammie help to make it unaffected by these conditions. Powerful, agile, alert, beautiful-- these are all words that describe the appearance of this breed and experts contend they appear this way without any rugged appearance of other hardy dogs.

The overall shape of their body, slightly longer than tall yet still compact, is perfect for the sled pulling work (or any endurance activity) which they performed in their native land. Members of this breed have an elegant yet practical double coat that should always be white, cream, biscuit colored or white and cream; it sometimes appears to have a silver or "icy" sheen. It consists of a dense, short undercoat and a long, coarse outer coat that is straight. Although the coat is profusely abundant in both sexes (everywhere except the muzzle and feet), the "ruff" around the neck will be more prominent in males than in females. Sammies have a "foxy" face with a black nose, dark brown to black almond-shaped eyes and triangular ears that stand straight up and are covered with hair.

They are noted to have a famous "Sammie Smile" that makes them always appear joyous and pleasant; this is due to upturning corners of the mouth that prevent drool from leaking out and forming icicles in the below freezing tundra. Another notable feature, the plumed tail is carried curled over the back, towards one side and resting on the back.

Samoyed Coloring

The coat of this breed is said to exist in its light color due to being bleached by the sun in its Siberian homeland and they appear to have a silvery sheen that some call "icy". They are commonly white, cream, biscuit, or white and biscuit in regards to coat coloration.

Samoyed Size

Samoyeds are considered medium sized dogs and males should be easily distinguished from females; however, this does not mean females should not look powerful, agile or capable of great endurance. Female Sammies will stand 19-21 inches at the shoulder while males will be around 21-23.5 inches. They will also weigh a bit less at 35-50 pounds compared to males 45-65 pounds.

Average Adult Height

19-23½ in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

35-65 lbs

Samoyed Variations

Samoyeds are not big dogs but interest is accumulating around breeding Miniature Samoyeds. While the standard is usually 19-24 inches in height and 35-65 pounds (depending upon gender and genes), many potential owners still seek a smaller pet to fit their lifestyle. Since there are no Mini, Toy or Teacup Samoyeds, for now, we recommend smaller breeds similar in appearance such as the American Eskimo Dog.

Coats, likewise don't vary much among purebred individuals. If you see a short haired Samoyed it's likely the owner has trimmed or clipped the coat for ease of maintenance or because they mistakenly think this will keep the dog cool.

Samoyed Temperament

Sammies are very powerful animals that gained respect from their homeland for being steadfast and unaffected workers in subzero temperatures. They are gentle dogs that perform whatever task they are on with friendliness and happiness. To say they are gentle does not mean they cannot watch out for you (or a flock of reindeer) if need be but, in general, they are joyful companion dogs.

They are eager to be tasked and please you and are highly up to the task-- they are very intelligent! Don't let the sweet smile fool you, they are intuitive and independent thinkers and should be trained early. After establishing yourself as the pack leader, any type of training should be a breeze. Sammies excel in pulling, herding, obedience, and agility activities and make more than capable show dogs in these arenas. If not given enough human interaction, space and exercise this breed may develop destructive habits such as digging, barking more than usual and even chewing the hair off their legs. Do not tie them outside, leave them alone for long periods of time or make them solely outdoor dogs; giving them toys to play with also greatly helps.

Members of this breed are social dogs. They make excellent playmates for children, get along with other dogs and will greet most strangers in a friendly, yet conservative, manner. They have a naturally playful and inquisitive nature that can make them crowd pleasers or a handful to handle based upon how well they are trained. They may try to herd groups of children due to their herding instincts but this behavior can also be lessened with proper instruction.

Sammies are vocal dogs that will bark to alert or call your attention to whatever they think appropriate and will generally stop once acknowledged. They will be very sensitive and intuitive to your feelings and can tell a lot from your tone, therefore, it is important to be firm when need be in addition to always exuding love and encouragement.

Samoyed and Children

The Samoyed is very gentle and intuitive. They formed very close bonds with their owners in the Siberian tundra, always staying close and keeping them warm; it is said one of their primary jobs was to "keep children warm in the bed". While indoors they will be calm, outdoors they will be energetic and playful making excellent playmates for children. Due to their background as herding dogs for reindeer, they may have a tendency to herd groups of children. Although not harmful, this behavior can be avoided with proper training and socialization from a young age.

Samoyed and Other Pets

The Samoyed is very gentle and was to protect and herd other animals, especially reindeer. Nearly all owners agree that they are choice additions for households with multiple pets, whether they are canine or not. They do have natural doggy instincts to chase and bark but these behaviors can be lessened with obedience and leash training.

Samoyed and Strangers

Members of this breed are notably happy and friendly to those they are familiar with. They will act conservatively and somewhat reserved but are not naturally aggressive towards those they do not. Members of this breed make sufficient watchdogs and they are certainly not afraid to bark but they should not be obtained for guard dog purposes due to their sociable nature.

Samoyed Photos

Below are pictures and images of the Samoyed.

White Adult Samoyed Sitting
White Samoyed Head
White Samoyed Running in Snow
White Samoyed Puppy
White Samoyed Playing
White Samoyed Puppies
White Samoyed Puppy in the Snow
White Adult Samoyed

Samoyed Maintenance

Samoyeds are moderate maintenance dogs. Despite their long, elegant coat, they do not need hours of grooming per week. Once or twice weekly brushings will help reduce their constantly shedding coat and they should be bathed as necessary (at least twice per year). They need daily outdoor exercise or playtime, at least an hour if not two, that can be met in the form of daily brisk walks, hikes, runs as well as obedience, agility, herding and pulling activities. Training should not be difficult if done at the appropriate age and they are known for being abnormally intelligent. Owners insist they are easily house training and they excel in obedience training. They form close bonds with their owner and if left alone for long periods of time they will likely become unhappy and bored, leading to destructive behavior such as excessive barking, chewing and digging.

Grooming Requirements

With such a beautiful coat, one might assume the Samoyed is extremely high maintenance-- but this is not the case! They should be brushed at least once per week and many owners choose to perform this daily during shedding times. Shedding will be fairly constant with a heavy shed "blowing of coat" happening at least once per year; during this latter time the hair will fall in clumps and heavy cleaning will be necessary. This breed can be bathed when necessary but it is recommended at least twice per year. The teeth should be checked for tartar and cleaned regularly as well ears checked for signs of dirt or wax buildup. Make sure to monitor their nails for trimming, especially if you can hear them on hard surfaces when the dog walks (usually every 3 weeks or so).

Exercise Requirements

Sammies are a breed with moderate energy and they will need daily outdoor exercise. Ideally, unless you have acres of privacy for them to wander, you will have an outdoor fenced area for your Samoyed to release his moderate energy and satisfy his curiosity. Unless impeccably trained from a puppy, they do have a tendency to wander, chase and bark so keeping them on leash when not in enclosed areas is a necessary practice. Members of this breed enjoy putting their energy into a job and can become bored and destructive if their mind is not kept active.

Living Requirements

Members of this breed form a lifelong special bond with their owners so they are not happy spending all of their time outside alone. If possible, they should be kept indoors with their family although they can live outdoors in temperate to extremely cold areas. That being said, a fenced yard for them to spend some outdoor playtime is ideal (fenced because they are active and curious). They are easily house and crate trained and will not be overly active indoors.

Temperature Range

The Siberian tundra is one of the coldest places on earth and the Sammie has adapted and excelled in these conditions. Their thick double coat keeps them warm in these climates and they can also thrive in those that are cool and even seasonal. They may have difficulty adapted to very warm areas and should not be left outside unattended in these conditions. If you insist on having a Samoyed in hot regions, you should take care to keep them as indoor pets and exercise them during the cooler times of the day. Always make sure they have plenty of shade and water if necessary to leave them outside for a bit.

Random Details

Some interesting facts about the Samoyed breed:

  • Samoyed yarn: This breed's fur, once shed, can be used to make wool. The hair (mostly that of the soft undercoat) is often spun into yarn and then used to knit sweaters, hats, and gloves; knitting experts say Samoyed wool is much warmer than that of a sheep, but the Samoyed wool is often mixed with sheep's wool to give it added strength.
  • Talkative dogs: Samoyeds, more than most any other breed, express themselves with a wide range of vocalizations including yowls, yips, and howls (in addition to regular barks); canine experts believe the vocalizations are due to the Samoyed's keen intelligence and intuition.
  • The "Sammy Smile": This breed normally appears to be permanently smiling--but there's a reason: from their time spent in sub-freezing temperatures, Samoyeds have learned to constantly turn up the corners of their mouths to keep from drooling; on the icy tundra, the drool would quickly freeze and form icicles.
  • Polar expedition heroes: Numerous Samoyeds were brought from Siberia for the polar exploration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the dogs pulled sleds loaded with supplies in extremely harsh weather; not many survived, and the dogs that lived are believed to be the ancestors of all Samoyeds in existence today.

Samoyed Health

Hip dysplasia, bloat and Progressive Retinal Atrophy common health issues seen in this breed as well as countless others. Pulmonary stenosis and diabetes are two issues of more immediate consequence. Notably, hereditary glomerulopathy is a disorder linked to a genetic mutation and can result in kidney failure by 15 months age. Choosing a responsible breeder as well as regular trips to the veterinarian can help monitor for and prevent some diseases. Your Sammie should live around 10-12 years.

  • Bloat
  • Diabetes
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Pulmonic Stenosis
  • View all 5...

Samoyed Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Samoyed as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 14...