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So You Think You Want a Samoyed

We started this website because Samoyeds took over our life (in the best way possible!) We want to share our experiences with potential Sammy owners and long-time Samoyed enthusiasts alike. 

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Anya is a gorgeous dog. It makes it difficult to go anywhere! We get stopped during every trip to the pet supply store and every walk at the park. Right after the person says how beautiful she is, the most common thing out of their mouths is “Where can I get one?”

Which terrifies me.

I get the appeal, I really do. Samoyeds are unnaturally beautiful, sweet tempered, and their smile is irresistible. But they present a unique challenge to even experienced dog owners, and are not a low-maintenance breed. If you are considering bringing a Sammy into your life, you need to dedicate yourself to doing plenty of research and educating yourself on the breed and their care.

This is just a high level overview of things to know:

Grooming 

That glorious white coat does not look that way all the time. That beautiful dog prancing around the show ring? It took hours to get him to look that way. A pet Samoyed, or off-duty show-dog, often looks like a shaggy sheep. Anya has yet to find a mud puddle she did not like to splash in, and she often resembles a blotchy brown mess.

To keep her looking white, and to keep her clean enough for therapy dog visits, requires extensive grooming.

Samoyeds have thick double coats, that easily mat. They require daily brushing to keep the coats neat, clean, and mat free. You may think I’m being ridiculous, but mats are a real problem. They can grow with time, causing irritation and even hot spots (incredibly painful and tricky to treat). Anya gets a 20 minute brushing every day, and once a week gets a longer, more intense brushing to ensure everything is completely knot-free.

A simple brush and comb won’t do it. You’ll need to invest in a very good quality undercoat rake, greyhound comb, slicker brush, and pin brush, at minimum. Buy the best you can afford; you’ll use these tools every day!

A special note: PLEASE don’t think you can avoid brushing by just clipping or shaving your Sammy. A Samoyed should NEVER be clipped or shaved. Their double-coats protect them from the cold, but also insulate them from heat, and also protects their delicate skin from burns. 

Anya gets more baths than most Sammys because she does visit hospitals and assisted living facilities, and needs to be squeaky clean. She gets a bath every week. Most Samoyeds do fine once a month or as needed, as long as they get regular brushings.

Hair

The hair is a completely different issue than grooming. Hair will become your friend if you bring a Sammy home. If you are fastidious, just-so person, stay clear of Sammys. Their hair will invade every inch of your living space. it will cover your clothes. It will clog your vacuum. It will somehow end up in your food. No amount of brushing or bathing can save you from this fate.

We brush daily and remove trash bags of hair during it, yet hair still ends up everywhere. If you’re going to share a space with a Sammy, get used to vacuuming and lint brushes…and ingesting hair with your food.

Once or twice a year, your Sammy will “blow” her coat. Everything you thought you knew about dog shedding will come to a crashing halt. Your home will resemble a snowstorm. It will come out in handfuls. You will fill up trashbags, and it will keep coming.

We made a game out of it, collected the hair, and built a Sammy-hair duplicate…even taller than Anya.

Noise

Samoyeds are not quiet dogs. They like to talk. They are known for their signature “woo woo!!!” as well as for their bark. They may not bark at anything in particular, they just like to make conversation. If you have unsympathetic neighbors, you may have an issue with the noises they make.

Interested in obedience? You may have trouble getting through without the Sammy talking back to you. We have a friend with a beautifully trained Sammy who competes in high level obedience. He holds his breath during every competition, because every now and again his Sammy will talk back or voice his disapproval of the other dogs in the middle of a complicated exercise.

Health

Samoyeds are relatively healthy dogs, but they do have certain health issues common in the breed. Hip Dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, bloat, and other illnesses and disease are all common. When looking for a dog, make sure you go to a good breeder. Make sure the parents are CERF and OFA certified.

Vet care is expensive! Even regular well visits, vaccinations, flea and tick medicine, and heartworm pills are costly, let alone surgeries or emergency care. Anya cracked her teeth, and it cost us thousands. But she’s our baby, and so we have an emergency fund just for her. It’s essential that you plan and budget to care for your pet’s needs.

With that, also understand the a Samoyed (and any dog, or any pet) is a lifelong commitment. They have a life expectancy of 10-15 years. Ensure you can care for the dog throughout its life, not just until you move, have a baby, or until it gets sick.

Temperament

Ah, the Sammy temperament. It is at once the best and worst thing about them.

Samoyeds are loving, affectionate, friendly, inquisitive, mischievous, independent, and incredibly smart.

If you are looking for a one-person, loyal dog…or even worse, a guard dog, stay far far away from Samoyeds. They love absolutely every one. An intruder will be licked to death. They will go home with a stranger.

That said, they adore their people. Anya’s life goal is to be in our laps all day. This is not a dog that can be kept outside, or left alone 10 hours a day. Time away from their pack is torture to a Samoyed. They need to be intrinsically involved in your daily life.

They are smart…and sneaky. Anya figured out how to put down the windows in the car when we put them up one day. She also figured out how to open all doors. My childhood Samoyed learned how to move furniture in order to get to high-up objects (i.e. things on the counter). You will end up investing in child-proof locks and triple-checking everything will become second nature.

Energy

While incredibly beautiful, a  Samoyed is, above all, a working dog. It is not a couch potato, or a lawn ornament. This is a dog bred to cover hundreds of miles at a dead run pulling weight.

If not given a proper amount of exercise and work, a Samoyed will find a way to employ itself…by digging, chewing, barking incessantly, or escaping. A yard is not exercise. A twenty minute stroll isn’t either. So many Samoyeds are sent to shelters because they were underexercised and underworked and bored out of their minds.

Anya was one of them. She would chew everything, zoom around, and barked non-stop. We were told she could never be “fixed”.

Within one week of a solid exercise routine, and she was suddenly a sweet, calm, well-mannered dog who would lie quietly at our feet.

During the spring and summer, she needs a solid two hours of exercise to meet her needs. In the winter, three to four. We take long walks (at a heel), go running, she hikes at the park carrying a backpack, she weight pulls, she does agility. We keep changing it up, and she loves it, and is then happy to nap the day away.

Samoyeds need serious exercise. If you aren’t able to dedicate a couple of hours each day to a Sammy, rain, sleet, or snow, this isn’t the breed for you.

Training

Training a Samoyed is a unique challenge. This is no Lab, happy to obey repeatedly. This is a dog bred to be independent and think for itself. Training a Sammy requires patience, a calm disposition, and a real sense of humor. Samoyeds and their owners are often kicked out of obedience classes, but not because the dog is bad!

Anya is a typical case.

We took a group class for basic obedience when we first got her. She learned every command the class would cover (down, sit, some, stay, and leave it) in the first class, in the first 20 minutes. While the other dogs were struggling to learn sit, she was rapidly going through each command flawlessly. After a few more minutes, she got sick of it. She looked at us like “Seriously? how many times do I have to show you I know down?” So she started barking.

Then she started ignoring us. Then she started adding her own spins to commands. (“Want me to lay down? Okay, I’m going to add a roll over to it, just for fun”)

She wasn’t bad. She was bored. She was the gifted child in the class, under stimulated and under challenged.

Group classes weren’t for her. We ended up working with a private instructor to work with her at her own learning pace, in short sessions to keep her attention and to keep it fun for her. Now she’s considered an advanced obedience dog and works off leash.

When training a Samoyed, stay positive, keep sessions short, and keep it fun!

We still work with Anya every day. Just 10 minutes a day, and we occasionally teach her new things, like silly tricks or herding dog commands, just because she enjoys learning!

A Samoyed is a wonderful breed, for the right owner who loves grooming, long walks, snuggling, and is willing to be consistent with every day training!