What to Know About Samoyeds

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on April 28, 2022
7 min read

Named after the Samoyedic people of Siberia, Samoyeds are gorgeous, fluffy, and smart white dogs. The nomadic reindeer herders in Siberia bred these dogs to help herd and pull sleds. People in Europe also call the Samoyed "Bjelkier". They are also casually called “Sammies.”

Samoyeds are related to the spitz (a northern dog breed) or laikas (a Eurasian dog), which were used for guarding and hunting. They are cold-resistant and highly functional.

Samoyeds are small yet powerful dogs with a thick coat. They are super-energetic and social dogs who need love and attention. The Samoyed learns fast, but you may need firm control over them.

Like other dog breeds, Samoyeds can develop or inherit several health issues. Since they have a long breeding history, they are more likely to have genetic conditions.

Samoyeds are active and functional dogs. They have natural upturned corners of the mouth, which makes them look like they are always smiling. This smile is an adaptation to harsh, cold weather. It prevents excessive drooling so that no icicles would form on the Samoyed's face.

Samoyeds were bred in the coldest Siberian town of Oymyakon, which has temperatures of minus 60 degrees. This is why Samoyed characteristics also include a thick white coat that helps them fight against brutal weather conditions.

If you're wondering how big Samoyeds get, they aren't very tall. The male Samoyed is 21 to 23.5 inches, while the female is 19 to 21 inches. Males weigh between 45 and 65 pounds. Females are lighter, weighing between 35 and 50 pounds. The average Samoyed life expectancy is 12 to 14 years.

Physical. Samoyeds are cute dogs with a white double coat. The coat is pretty long, so they may need frequent grooming. The outer coat is longer with harsh hair, and the undercoat is softer, thicker, and wooly in texture. 

They have a moderate-to-high shedding level and rarely drool due to their smiling mouth. 

Social. Samoyed personality is social with much affection for people and children. They are open to everyone and even greet strangers warmly. However, Samoyed temperament may be less accepting of other dogs and animals. 

This dog breed depends a lot on the owner's attention. Samoyeds are known for their playful and active nature. They are always jumping and running, so you'll have to keep them engaged. This dog breed is also quite protective.

The Samoyed has a high adaptability level but can be miserable when left alone.

Samoyeds usually shed all the time. Shedding can get extreme during the shedding season that occurs once or twice a year. Their coats are long, so daily brushing will keep them clean and remove any loose hairs. 

A metal comb and slicker brush work best in untangling any knots in the coat. Depending on the coat length, a Samoyed will need to be trimmed weekly or monthly. 

Exercise. Samoyeds love to be a part of the family and participate in fun activities. They are super-social and highly energetic. They like daily exercise and enjoy playtime with their owner. 

Samoyeds are always at the edge of running away. Thus, it's better to take them to a fenced yard for daily walks. These dogs also run pretty fast, so use a leash to keep up with their pace. 

Training. The Samoyedic people in Siberia used to live in tents and face extreme weather conditions. When the nights got the coldest, they huddled with their dogs to warm themselves and their pets. That's when the strong bond between Samoyeds and humans developed. 

They are highly adaptable animals, so they require their owners to train them. Always stay with them whenever you leave them open in the backyard, as they can be pretty destructive on their own. 

Samoyeds are smart and mischievous dogs. They train easily, but you should be strict and loving with them.

Nutrition. Samoyeds are not too picky about their food. They like all types of meals, including homemade items and canned foods. Keep in mind to get high-quality dog food with the supervision and approval of your vet.

Dog's nutrition also varies according to their age and size. Some dogs also gain weight faster and are more likely to become obese. Samoyeds love having treats in their training sessions. But excessive amounts of treats, particularly sweets, can lead to several health conditions.

It's better to develop your dog's meal plan with your vet's guidance and clear any concerns related to their nutrition. Then, make sure to provide your Samoyed with clean, fresh food and water.

Samoyeds are healthy dog breeds, but they can inherit and develop several health conditions. These dogs were bred from different founders, indicating the chances of genetic disorders in them. Some common ones include:

Samoyed hereditary gomerulopathy  (SHG). SHG is an inherited, sex-linked renal (kidney) disease. It is more common in males, while females are primarily carriers. The symptoms in female Samoyeds may appear when the dog becomes 2 to 3 months of age, but they don't result in renal failure as they do in males.

The glomeruli in the kidneys function as blood filters, removing wastes and extra water to form urine. Glomerulopathy is caused by a structural weakness in the kidney’s main filtration layer, called the glomerular basement membrane or GBH. 

Healthy glomeruli do not let proteins pass into the urine. In SHG, the kidney’s basement membrane degenerates, and the plasma proteins pass into the dog's urine. This is when the symptoms appear.

Male Samoyeds seem healthy for the first three months of their lives. After that, the symptoms start to appear that worsen over time. You'll see your dog becoming lethargic and losing muscle. The glomerular filtration rate also reduces, indicating progressive renal failure.

Diabetes mellitus. Diabetes in Samoyeds is similar to human's Type I (insulin deficiency), but with a few differences. It affects Samoyeds in their middle age. The average age of diagnosis is seven years. 

Diabetes mellitus in dogs is caused by a chronic inflammation that develops in the pancreas. Another possible cause is autoimmune damage of islets of Langerhans' beta cells. These are the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin. Dogs with diabetes also showed insulin antibodies. 

The common symptoms of diabetes in dogs include increased urination, excessive appetite, dehydration, vomiting, weight loss, infections, poor coat health, and frequent seizures.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The retina is a layer of cells at the back of the eye. These photoreceptors sense light and send images to the brain. PRA is a group of degenerative diseases that slowly deteriorates the dog's vision. They target the dog's photoreceptor cells and may eventually result in complete blindness. The first symptom of this condition starts to appear when the dog is two to five years old. 

Some common symptoms of this condition include night blindness, clumsiness, and dilated pupils.

Dwarfism with cataracts.  Samoyeds can inherit a defect at the COL2A1 gene location that results in dwarfism and cataracts at the same time. The affected dog has short limbs as well as retina malformations and retinal detachment. In dogs with identical genes at this location, the most common symptoms are malformation of the retina which causes a range of ocular changes.

Pulmonic stenosis. This is a specific health issue that occurs more frequently in Samoyeds than in other breeds. Pulmonic stenosis refers to a congenital defect of the semilunar valve between the heart's right ventricle and the pulmonary artery. As a result, the blood flow from the heart to the lungs is constricted.

The condition causes shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), and increases the risk of congestive heart failure in dogs. 

Hip dysplasia. This common skeletal disorder in dogs is when the ball and socket of the animal’s hip joint do not fit well or develop property together. As a result, both bones rub and grind against each other, causing severe pain.

If left untreated, hip dysplasia can worsen over time and may lead to eventual deterioration of the hip joint. The common symptoms of hip dysplasia are decreased activity, low thigh muscle mass, enlarged mass in the shoulders, extreme pain, and stiffness.

Samoyeds have high trainability, energy, and barking levels. They also have increased mental stimulation needs, so you may need to give them special love and attention. They are social dogs and like to run and roam around. 

They have a long, double coat, so regular grooming is essential. Since they are entirely white, daily brushing can remove all the dirt particles and tangles from their coat.

Samoyeds also require special attention for their teeth. You should brush them often with a dog's toothpaste.

Samoyed comes from the Samoyedic people who migrated from Asia to Siberia hundreds of years ago. They used to breed dogs for labor assistance in the coldest Oymyakon town of Siberia. Samoyed dogs helped their owners in sledding, hunting, and protection.

The Samoyede people used to feed on reindeer and utilize their fur and leather. The Samoyed dogs hunted reindeer for them. Over time, the people started to herd reindeer instead of hunting them. So, Samoyeds started to behave as stock dogs to guard these herds.

Arctic explorers introduced this dog breed in Britain in the late 18th century. Queen Alexandra was the biggest lover of Samoyeds, who promoted the breed as human-loving companions.

In the 19th century, the first Samoyed breed, Moustan of Argenteau, became popular in America. The American Kennel Club (AKC) also registered this. 

By the 20th century, the dog sled teams of the explorers Scott, Amundsen, and Shackleton had become some of the most well-known Samoyeds.