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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Nicknamed the “Smiling Sammie,” the gentle and outgoing Samoyed loves his family, including cats if he’s raised with them. This reindeer herder is a tad stubborn, and positive reinforcement training works best with him. His beautiful white coat must be groomed two or three times a week and sheds heavily.
You can save your Sammy’s hair from when you brush him and have it spun into yarn that can be knitted into a soft, warm cap, socks or scarf.
The smiling Samoyed, nicknamed the Sammie, is one of the world’s most beautiful dogs. He stands out for his white fluffiness, wedge-shaped head, prick ears and plumed tail, gently wagging over his back. Behind that Arctic-pure appearance lurks a smart, fun-loving, energetic dog. The Sammie has many excellent qualities, but he’s not the right breed for everyone.
First, the positives: the Samoyed is gentle and calm. He bonds deeply to his people and can be a good choice for families with children. He tends to be friendly toward strangers and generally gets along well with other animals, especially if he is raised with them.
Now for the bad news: the Samoyed is not a stuffed dog. He’s active and requires daily exercise. He barks a lot and must be taught when it’s okay to exercise his lungs and when it’s not. If he’s bored, he may decide to re-landscape your yard with some nicely placed holes. He’s an independent thinker and can be stubborn when it comes to training. That stunning white coat? It sheds and requires frequent brushing to keep loose hair under control.
Fortunately, all of that can be overcome if you are willing to spend the time it takes to train, exercise and groom the Sammie. Train the Samoyed with firmness and consistency to overcome his tendency to be stubborn. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. Plan to give him daily exercise in the form of a long walk or active play in the yard. He’s also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, herding, obedience and rally. Health permitting, you might even want to take up dog-sledding or skijoring. It's always a good idea to check with your vet before starting a new exercise program with your dog.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Samoyed needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Sammie who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Legend says that the Samoyed people, and their dogs, were driven by other tribes far away, north and north and north, until at last they were on the very edge of the world, in a vast land of snow and ice. They lived as nomads, herding reindeer, aided by their able dogs, who also pulled sleds and kept them warm at night.
The Samoyed is one of fourteen breeds identified as ancient through DNA analysis of the canine genome. They give us a good picture of what some of the earliest dogs probably looked like.
In more modern times, Samoyeds took part in Arctic and Antarctic explorations of Nansen, Shackleton, Scott, and Amundsen. Britain’s Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, loved the breed, and many of her dogs appear in the pedigrees of English and American Samoyeds today.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Samoyed in 1906. Today he ranks 72nd among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Sammy’s smile is heartfelt. He is friendly and his greatest joy is being a beloved member of an active family who will include him in everything they do. The Samoyed is gentle with toddlers and with other pets, but he can be an active playmate for an older child.
He is smart and likes to have a job, whether that is bringing in the paper every morning, being a walking, jogging, biking or hiking companion, practicing his training every day, or participating in a dog sport such as agility, herding or weight pulling. In snowy regions, he’s the perfect companion (health permitting) if you enjoy snowshoeing, sledding or skijoring (cross-country skiing that involves being pulled by the dog). Whatever his job or activity, he does it with enthusiasm.
The Sammy’s alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, but he’s so people-friendly and trusting that he will welcome a burglar into the home and show him where the silver is. A Sammy is not inclined to be shy or aggressive.
Now for the down side. The Sammy enjoys chasing things and barking. He needs a securely fenced yard, not an underground electronic fence, to keep him safe, as well as someone to remind him to keep his bark to a low roar.
He’s also an independent thinker. That can make training him a challenge. He gets bored easily, so keep training sessions short, fun and positive. Whatever you do, don’t leave him alone for long periods to entertain himself. You probably won’t like what he gets up to.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Samoyed, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.Health conditions that have been seen in the Samoyed include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), heart problems (like aortic stenosis and pulmonic stenosis), diabetes, and hypothyroidism.
The Samoyed Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Samoyed to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP), an OFA cardiac evaluation, an OFA DNA test for PRA, and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Samoyed at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Samoyed’s thick double coat in white, white and biscuit, cream, or all biscuit stands out from the body as if surrounding the dog with a halo of hair. The undercoat, which is what protects the Sammy from the elements, is soft, short, thick and woolly. The outer coat is made up of harsh longer hair.
Brush the Samoyed’s coat at least once a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles and remove dead hairs that will otherwise wind up on your floor, furniture, and clothing. Expect to brush it daily during seasonal shedding periods. You’ll need a slicker brush, pin brush and metal Greyhound comb. Bathe the Sammie about every three months.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian. Introduce your Sammy to grooming at an early age so he will learn to accept it willingly.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Samoyed and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Samoyed Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the SCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Samoyed puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Samoyed might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Samoyed in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Samoyeds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Samoyed. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Samoyeds love all Samoyeds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Samoyed Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Samoyed rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Samoyed home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Samoyed, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Samoyed to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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