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rec.pets.dogs: Samoyeds Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/samoyeds
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below. 
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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   Michael D. Jones, October 4, 1993 []
   Copyright 1993-1997 by Michael D. Jones.
   Thanks to the authors of the Alaskan Malamute FAQ, which provided the
   model and some of the text for this FAQ.
Table of Contents


   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 be long in 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
   _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.
   Blue eyes.

   [Ref: Ward (see below)]
   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 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." 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
   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.

  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
   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
   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 Malmutes 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 is 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 appelation "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.

   When you collect your puppy, your breeder should tell you what the
   puppy's diet has been to date, as well as 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 in to 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 amount is generally less with the premium dog
   foods. Keep in mind that feeding dogs is partly art, and partly
   science. The dog food manufactures 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 dogs 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 good 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 accomodations 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.

   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 twist, but
   the twist is less than 180 degrees, it is called a 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
  Hip Dysplasia
   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.

   _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 summer time. The Samoyed sheds a lot of coat before
     summer, as soon as the whether 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 covers 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
   _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
     reguarly 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.

   Ward, Robert H. and Dolly. _The New Complete Samoyed_, 1985, Howell
   Book House. ISBN 0-87605-298-7.
  Breed Rescue Organizations
   There is no national breed rescue organization for Samoyeds, but many
   local breed clubs engage in rescue work.
  Breed Clubs
   Samoyed Club of America
          Lori Elvera, Corresponding Secretary, 3711 Brices Ford Court,
          Fairfax, VA 22033

   In the United States: Contact the Samoyed Club of America for breeder
   recommendations in your area.
  Internet Resources
   Samoyed Club of Americal Web Page

   SamFans mailing list
          To subscribe, send a message with the following subject:
          Subscribe samfans firstname lastname to
 Replace your own first name and last
          name for firstname lastname.

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