by Joy Ritter
The Samoyed: More Than Just Fluff
Samoyeds are one of the first dog breeds, originally developed by the Samoyed people of Siberia. These dogs had jobs, from herding reindeer to keeping children warm in the hut at night. Everything they did was with, and for, their humans.
Samoyeds are generally healthy dogs and they often live 10 to 15 years. They're a wonderful breed, but they're not for everyone. If you're thinking about adopting one, you should be prepared to care for it properly. If you don't have the time, then you're not ready for a Samoyed.
Grooming and Care
First, you need to take the time and effort to learn to wash your Samoyed properly. This is a very hairy breed, and your dog's coat will mat without proper grooming. Samoyeds have a long outer coat that doesn't shed as often, and a thick, wooly undercoat that falls out a couple of times a year. You need to bathe your Samoyed once at least every four to six weeks, and give her a thorough brushing with proper grooming equipment at least weekly. Check with your local pet store or groomer to get personalized recommendations for grooming tools.
Samoyeds also look bigger than they actually are, so ask your breeder or vet about how much you should feed yours. My rule of thumb is two cups of good-quality dry food twice a day.
Start training your puppy at 8 weeks. It's very important to start early; the breed is very smart and bores easily. You don't want to wait until your dog is big, because they grow up to be very strong.
Samoyeds respond best to positive reinforcement, but they don't respond well to negative tactics. That translates into pats and treats each time your dog behaves well. And if your dog misbehaves, I suggest ignoring the behavior instead of scolding the dog.
Samoyeds are a working breed, meaning they need to have a job. That job might be to jog with you 3 miles a day or play with the kids in the backyard. But if your dog doesn't have a purpose, she'll amuse herself at your expense.
That means this dog isn't good for people who watch TV all day or spend most of their time on computers. But if you like to go to the beach, camp and hike, you'll get along well with this breed. Samoyeds like to pull sleds, and they're great at skijoring. They also love snow, but they don't like water. That double coat gets very heavy, and it can actually cause them to drown.
Be creative about what jobs to give your Samoyed. You can get a harness and teach her to pull a wagon or scooter. Samoyeds also make great therapy dogs: They naturally, intuitively interact with people who are old or sick. They enjoy rallying, and some can do great agility work. You can try obedience with a Samoyed if he is older than 5, but you must have a sense of humor about it.
Your Samoyed can learn to do tricks too. They love to perform. These dogs are clowns; their trademark "Samoyed smile" is well-earned.
A Social Breed
Samoyeds were originally bred to be with their people constantly, and they remain very social. They're great family dogs and very tolerant of small children. They make terrible guard dogs but great dog ambassadors: You can't walk down the street with a well-groomed Samoyed without having people practically mob you.
Samoyeds want to do what their owners are doing. They'll follow you to the bathroom or watch as you pull weeds. They aren't dull-witted, and they aren't a breed you can ignore. They're very oral, and they like to talk to you. But if you give any encouragement, they bark way too much. Ultimately, you really just need to keep alert and use your common sense. And if you discover you like them, you'll see that they're like potato chips: You can't just have one.