Knowing how to pronounce Samoyed is one of many fascinating aspects to learn about this outgoing, intelligent, and cheerful Arctic dog. Depending on where you live, you might hear it as Sammy-ed, Sa-moy-ed, or Samm-ah-yed. All are correct, but it’s just as easy to refer to them as Sammies or Sams. No matter what you call them, they’re all gorgeous snowballs of fun and energy combined with tenacious work ethics.
A Samoyed with a mass of shockingly-white fur is an amazing sight. From the tips of their triangular ears to the end of their curved, sweeping tail, if they stood still, they could be mistaken for a pristine snowdrift against a Nordic landscape. Purebred Sams also have equally-stunning solid color coats of cream and biscuit, as well as lovely white and biscuit combinations.
Sams are protected from freezing temperatures by a dense, weather-resistant double coat with a silky underlayer. They’ve very muscular, ready to spring into action with a push off from short, stocky legs. They’re almost two feet tall and while some males reach 60 pounds, females can be as petite as 35 pounds. Broad-chested with a thick fur halo, a Sam is about as long as he is tall.
These pleasant pooches aren’t called “Smiling Sammies” for nothing. Their short snouts and upturned mouths, lifted to keep icicles forming at the corners, create natural, amused expressions. Dark black or brown almond eyes twinkle, and they often prance a bit when really excited.
When you have a canine companion that challenges you to keep going, it’s a wonderful and unexpected friendship. That’s what you have with a Samoyed. For all his quirks—and alas, his frequent barking—he’s like a fluffy movement-oriented life coach, encouraging the people he loves to run, bike, hike, fetch, snowshoe, and play games many times throughout the day.
Dogs bred for work in the Arctic, like Samoyeds, can often handle more extreme sports such as sledding and skijoring—dog-assisted cross-country skiing—and agility games, too. As long as a veterinarian clears your Sam for health, there’s no reason not to stimulate him mentally and physically in these ways. Task-oriented activities are in his wheelhouse, and this kind of focused engagement makes him happy and reduces boredom. A bored Sammie is destructive and fussy, even plucking out his fur if distressed.
VetStreet recommends once your Samoyed puppy is properly vaccinated, it’s wise to place him in kindergarten when he reaches 10–12 weeks. Leash training, crate conditioning, and essential socialization are some of the many skills he’ll learn. But even younger than that, he’s eager for connection, so introduce all members of the pack as soon as possible, especially children, cats, other dogs, and your friends.
The same independent spirit that serves him well when hauling supplies across the barren tundra may present training challenges unless you assert your role as the alpha of the pack. Even though they generally want to please you, Sams are highly intelligent but often stubborn. Your approach to positive, no-fear training must be loving, firm, and consistent. Even after a year or more of puppy school, or if you bring an adult rescue into your home, it’s wise to occasionally enlist the help of a behaviorist so both you and your Sam continue to learn new tricks and obedience guidelines.
Training also helps with effective vocalization. Yips, woofs, and snorts are just a few ways Sams talk to you, and their body language is so dramatic! But they also bark. A lot. You won’t like it, and your neighbors won’t either. The Samoyed Club of America suggests positive reinforcement with treats and rubs as you teach him the value of commands such as “settle” and “quiet.”
A Sammie is a true family-oriented dog, eager to play outdoors and herd children around, but when it’s time to snuggle indoors by the fire, he’s a gentle, calm pillow, content with his family all around him. A sharp, alert attitude means his watchdog tendencies are fairly good to protect the tribe, and barks let you know something’s going on. But he’s also friendly and welcoming to anyone popping by, especially if you encouraged socialization skills early in life.
If you really want to do something special with your Sammie, consider training him to be a therapy dog. His gentle demeanor makes him a welcome visitor at participating care centers, and he’ll relish the extra pats and hugs offered by residents.
Clever and mischievous Samoyed dogs are excellent problem solvers, which is a valued skill in the wild, but not so much in your backyard. If there’s a hole under a fence, Sams will find it, dig into it more, then slip through and be gone like a ghost. Instead of constant leashing or crating—both of which a determined Sammie will chew through—use reinforced high fencing buried deep in the ground to ensure he has a secured area in which to roam.
Many Arctic dogs like Sams have instinctual digging habits, harkening back to their ancestors making shelters in deep snow. Channel this behavior more constructively by treating your Sammie to a dig date where it’s allowed, such as on a beach, in the woods, or at a dog park. Designating a corner of the yard as his personal playspace might work, too. Condition him with treats and toys to excavate only in this area.
Because he’s so fond of curling up with his human companions, a Sammie is often okay living in an apartment. However, his barking might be considered a nuisance, and he requires vigorous exercise a couple of times a day. So in many ways, he’s often happier and healthier with accessible outdoor space to call his own.
A Samoyed’s temperament is energetic without being hyper, but he still needs humans who easily keep up with him. These dogs love to give chase, and that includes racing after cats, backyard wildlife, and smaller pooches. Such a scenario might not end well and require your intervention. But medium- to large-sized dogs of the opposite sex provide good companionship and playtime.
Double-coated dogs like these require more salon time than other breeds. The amount of Samoyed shedding is one reason why you hear him referred to as a cloud dog—snow-white fur floats all over!
They require regular brushing to keep ongoing shedding under control, and daily attention in the spring and fall, when their coat is going through its seasonal transformation known as “blowing coat.” Sammies in colder climates have less reason to shed, but you’re not off the hook completely. Keep a pin brush, metal comb, and slicker brush on hand, and a professional groomer on speed-dial.
Fortunately, Samoyeds have such clean fur they only require a bath every three months or so. If their fur is full white, some people use special shampoo to keep it that color. Other basic care includes frequent teeth cleaning with doggie paste, and weekly ear checks and nail trims. A veterinarian can help establish a good routine.
Most Samoyeds are robust with few health issues. However, like all sled-pulling dogs, they’re prone to particular medical conditions such as hip dysplasia, a genetic orthopedic condition that causes arthritis, pain, and bone degeneration. In mild cases, a veterinarian’s remedy might include certain medications and joint health supplements, but more severe instances often require surgery.
Controlling your Samoyed’s weight is also important for both general care and prevention, so be careful with treats.
Karen Shaw Becker, DVM, author of Real Food for Healthy Pets and co-founder of Dr. Becker’s Bites, recommends you ask specific questions of breeders before choosing a pup. “Samoyeds who contribute to the gene pool should be screened for hip, elbow, eye, and heart problems; and DNA tested for progressive retinal atrophy,” she says. “Please don’t buy a puppy until you personally review copies of these test results of the mom and dad.”
“Samoyeds have more frequent reactions to sulfa or sulfonamide drugs and can have a genetic predisposition to hereditary glomerulopathy, a type of kidney disease,” she adds. Other health concerns might include diabetes and skin issues.
In warmer climates, it’s easy for Sams to overheat, so they shouldn’t be left outside for long. When they come in, they might need to sit by an oscillating fan to cool off. A general rule is if it feels hot and humid to you, a Samoyed is already uncomfortable and should be indoors. Plan exercise time for early morning or later in the evening when temperatures are more tolerable.
“For a dog whose ancestors thrived in sub-zero Siberian temperatures, the Samoyed does remarkably well in more moderate temperatures, as long as he can exercise year-round,” Becker says. So you don’t have to hibernate in wintry climates to enjoy his company. And you will for a long time, as a Sammie has 12–14 year lifespan.
Samoyeds are members of the Nordic spitz canine group, which originated in Asia. The Samoyed breed is one of 14 with direct ties to ancient wolves. “Samoyeds have a long, rich history as a part of Samoyedic culture in Siberia,” Becker says. “These dogs were important family members for indigenous people, joining them in their dwellings to provide critical warmth and companionship.”
Sams have natural herding instincts because their Siberian ancestors helped with the nomadic reindeer hunts of the Samoyede people. Relegated to the far northern reaches of frozen earth, Samoyedes bred these dogs not only to be powerful haulers and effective hunters but also close companions for their children.
Teams of trusty Samoyeds led the way for adventurers during an era known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They traveled with famous explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, and Robert Falcon Scott.
Also during this time, Queen Alexandra of England fell in love with the breed and helped popularize its standing as both a show dog and companion. Many of her dogs’ descendants are found in kennels throughout the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.