Samoyed (Sammie): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Samoyed dog ( autumn)
elenaleonova / Getty Images

The Samoyed is a large and gentle breed of dog that is easily recognizable by its thick and fluffy white coat. Often referred to as Sammies, Samoyeds crave attention and are more than happy to put in a bit of work for their humans, be it herding, hunting, or hauling a sled.

Sammies are perfectly optimized to withstand cold weather. They have an incredibly efficient double coat that insulates them against freezing temperatures and an upturned mouth that prevents drool—and thus icicles—from forming at their lips. Despite their inherent hardiness, Samoyeds are just as glad to lounge around as a family pet as they are to hold a job. And with their friendly nature and easy-to-please personalities, Sammies make excellent animal companions—provided they get plenty of love and attention.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 21 to 23.5 inches (males); 19 to 21 inches (females)

Weight: 45 to 60 pounds (males); 35 to 50 pounds (females)

Coat and Color: Thick undercoat beneath a soft, fluffy, and straight outer coat, primarily bright white, though some are more cream or biscuit (extremely light brown)

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Samoyed

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Samoyed

It may come as no surprise that the hardy, thick-coated Samoyed originates from Russia, a country where frigid temperatures demand a well-insulated barrier against the cold. Their name comes from the semi-nomadic Samoyede people of Siberia, who have relied on the breed for centuries for things like hunting, herding reindeer, pulling sleds, and snuggling for warmth on freezing Arctic nights. 

Sammies are classified as a basal breed, meaning their existence pre-dates the origins of most modern dog breeds. Their strong work ethic and incredibly friendly nature have made them a good companion to humans throughout their long existence, which has helped the breed proliferate. It was Arctic explorers who first brought the breed to England in the late 18th century, where the Samoyed’s regal coat and warm personality made them a fast favorite among the English elite. They were the breed of choice for Alexandra of Denmark, who became Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions in 1901 after the death of Queen Victoria.

In 1906, a dog named Moustan of Argenteau was the first Samoyed officially registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in the United States. While Sammies had already gained popularity among North American mushers, the recognition by the AKC marks the first official instance of Samoyeds being sanctioned as a premier, show-worthy breed.

John F. Kenney Jr. holding samoyed puppy
John F. Kennedy Jr. nuzzles up to a Samoyed pup from the sled dog concession, December 30, 1965. Bettmann / Getty Images

Samoyed Care

That fluffy coat doesn’t come without its responsibilities. Samoyeds are intense shedders, and require frequent grooming to stay looking and feeling their best. Because of their double coat, dirt and debris gets lost in their fur, resulting in mats and tangles. Regular brushings are a key part of Samoyed care, particularly during their peak shedding season, which usually happens twice a year. While it is possible to properly groom a Samoyed at home, it is often recommended that Sammies receive professional grooming services to ensure that their baths and brushings are done as thoroughly as possible.

In terms of exercise, Samoyeds need daily walks and plenty of attention from their human companions. A Sammie who is more often than not left to his or her own devices may act out due to physical and mental frustrations. Long walks, active play sessions, and a good daily dose of one-on-one bonding time help Samoyeds stay happy and stimulated. Because they’re quite accepting of other dogs, having a canine playmate for your Sammie is a good way to make sure that all of their energy needs are met.

Training a Samoyed is often easy, as they have strong bonds with their humans and aim to please them. While a Sammie may be a little bit stubborn about picking up new behaviors, actively working on training helps strengthen their bond further and plays on the Sammie’s working history. Nosework, agility, and herding are all good ways to make use of a Sammie’s natural talents.

Samoyed puppy
AleksandarGeorgiev / Getty Images
Samoyed agility course
s5iztok / Getty Images 
Samoyed training with owner
Artsiom Malashenko / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Similar to other purebred dogs, Samoyeds do have some common health issues, though they are generally known for being pretty healthy dogs. If purchasing a Samoyed from a breeder, ask for a complete health history of their genetic line so that you know whether your dog will have a higher propensity for one of these more common Samoyed health conditions.

Diet and Nutrition

Samoyeds don’t require any sort of special diet. Most are perfectly happy and healthy eating high-quality commercial or home cooked food, though as with all dogs, they should be watched for signs of weight gain and have their diets limited accordingly if they’re packing on too many pounds. If you notice uncontrolled weight gain, potential food allergies, or gastric distress, talk to your vet about customizing a diet that will work best for your Samoyed. In addition to meals, Samoyeds need plenty of fresh water.

Pros

  • Gentle and placid temperament

  • Can withstand cold climates

  • Great for families with children and/or other pets

Cons

  • Large amounts of shedding

  • Needs lots of time and attention

  • Can develop habits like chewing furniture if left alone

Where to Adopt or Buy a Samoyed

If you think you'd like to adopt a Samoyed, start by contacting one of the following organizations:

These groups will be able to provide guidance and next steps for adoption, and may even refer you to a local branch or rescue. If you aren't certain the breed is right for you, you may be able to try fostering a Sammie to see if they are a good fit for your home.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There is a perfect dog out there for everybody. Continue reading through our dog profiles to learn about other popular breeds and how to care for them, or just go to a shelter and connect with different types of dogs to find an ideal pet companion.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

 Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed profiles.