Yakutian Laika: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Yakutian Laika
The Yakutian Laika is a hardy, athletic sled dog.

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The Yakutian Laika is a large spitz dog breed from Russia with pointed ears, an athletic build, a thick double coat, and a tail that curls upwards over its back. This rare breed has been prized for centuries in Russia as a sled dog, hunting dog, and all-around family companion. 

Spitz dogs (sometimes called Northern breeds) are known for their characteristic wolf-like appearance, including a wedge-shaped head and triangular upright ears. Many spitz breeds were bred to work alongside humans in cold conditions. Yakutian Laikas have always been treated more as companions than strictly working dogs, so they evolved to be extremely friendly toward humans. With the proper daily exercise and training care, your Yakutian Laika can become a devoted and lovable family member.

Breed Overview

Group: Spitz and primitive types (FCI)

Height: 21 to 23 inches

Weight: 40 to 55 pounds

Coat: Double coat with medium-length thick, glossy, and straight fur

Coat Color: Solid white or combination of white and black, brown, gray, or red

Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Temperament: Affectionate, playful, energetic, intelligent, loyal

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Russia

Characteristics of the Yakutian Laika

The Yakutian Laika has a very affectionate personality, especially with its own family (including respectful children). However, these dogs may be wary of strangers initially until they get to know them or understand that they are welcome. They're protective of their owners and eager to please, which also makes them trainable as long as lessons are consistent, positive, and mentally stimulating.

This breed has a high prey drive, so shouldn’t be trusted with small pets, though it can learn to live peacefully with a family cat. It's best to introduce your Yakutian Laika to cats early on to help it keep a friendly temperament toward them throughout its life.

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

History of the Yakutian Laika

The Yakutian Laika is an ancient dog breed that was bred by aboriginal people living in Northeast Russia at least since the 1600s, but possibly for thousands of years. It was loosely bred for centuries, but its numbers dwindled to dangerously low levels by the end of the 1900s, which put it at risk of disappearing forever. A group of Russian breeders passionate about the Yakutian Laika revived the breed in the late 1990s. The breed was repopulated using the first breed standard developed for the “North-East Sled Dog,” which was written in 1958. In 2004, the Yakutian Laika was accepted by the Russian Kynological Federation.

The Yakutian Laika is not yet recognized by the primary all-breed kennel clubs in North America (the American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and the United Kennel Club), but it’s part of the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, which is a stepping stone toward eventual full recognition. It is recognized internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). 

Yakutian Laika Care

The Yakutian Laika is similar to other working breeds when it comes to its exercise needs, so owners should be prepared for a high-energy dog that requires plenty of activity each day. Training can be difficult at first, but this dog's intelligence helps it overcome stubborn habits when handled properly. Grooming a Yakutian Laika is easier than some other long-haired breeds, but it still sheds heavily twice per year.


Like most dogs bred to pull sleds, Yakutian Laikas have abundant energy, stamina, and drive. They need a lot of daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from becoming bored and restless, which can result in destructive behaviors. At least an hour of exercise per day in the form of long walks, running, hiking, and fetching a Frisbee or ball is a good amount of activity to start with. Your Yakutian Laika will likely need more exercise to remain well-mannered at home during puppyhood and young adulthood.

If you live in an area that gets snow, Laikas can easily be trained to pull a sled—something they excel at and love to do. They may also enjoy training for competitive dog sports like agility to exercise both their body and mind.


The Yakutian Laika’s fluffy coat is relatively easy to care for. This dog naturally looks and feels clean, as its double coat repels dirt. No trimming is required, and occasional baths are sufficient on an as-needed basis.

The breed sheds a little most of the time, but it “blows coat” twice per year when it loses much of its undercoat. These heavy shedding seasons will require more care from owners to reduce shedding and remove extra fur. Outside of these seasons, brushing a few times a week is usually sufficient.

Like other dog breeds, Yakutian Laikas also need their nails trimmed, teeth brushed, and ears checked on a regular basis. Dogs that are active outdoors will likely require fewer nail trimmings than those that mostly stay in the home or yard. If your dog's ears are dirty, clean them with a pet-safe ear cleaner and a cotton ball. Red or inflamed ears are a sign of ear infection, in which case you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Though the Yakutian Laika likes to please its owner, these dogs can be fairly independent and may be more challenging to train than other working breeds. Start with basic obedience lessons when puppies are about eight weeks old, then move on to more advanced lessons as your dog matures. Early socialization in puppyhood is important to help your Laika grow up to be confident and accepting of strangers. 

It’s best to use positive training techniques and demonstrate to your dog that you are a fair and consistent guardian. Treats go a long way toward achieving success, but other reward options like affection and playtime can also be beneficial depending on what motivates your specific dog.

Yakutian Laika
The Yakutian Laika loves playing outdoors. Getty Images
Yakutian Laika
The Yakutian Laika may have brown, blue or different colored eyes. Getty Images
Yakutian Laika
Yakutian Laika puppies benefit from lots of early socialization and training. Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Yakutian Laika is generally a very healthy breed with few serious inherited diseases. However, like most purebreds, this breed can still develop common health issues. Reputable breeders test adult dogs prior to breeding them to lower the risk of passing these problems down to puppies.

The following are common conditions associated with this breed:

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Dysplasia causes a malformation in your dog's joints as they grow, and severe cases may require corrective surgery.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat): Common in large, deep-chested breeds, Bloat consists of a buildup of gases in the stomach that cause it to twist. Your veterinarian may recommend preventative surgery to tack the stomach down.

According to the AKC, the national breed club recommends that breeders perform OFA tests on the elbows, hips, and eyes before breeding Yakutian Laikas.

Diet and Nutrition

Some Yakutian Laikas, especially those that are highly active, may need to eat an energy-dense, high-quality food so they consume enough calories to support their level of activity. Others may be less active and require a lower-calorie diet to avoid gaining too much weight or experiencing canine obesity.

Monitor your dog's weight to help prevent joint disorders like dysplasia and arthritis, as well as other health problems like diabetes. Since Yakutian Laikas are prone to Bloat, it's best to feed this breed at least two smaller portions per day rather than one large meal. Talk to your veterinarian to determine a healthy meal plan based on your specific dog's age, weight, and activity level.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Yakutian Laika

The Yakutian Laika is extremely rare, especially in the United States, and is not yet recognized by any of the main kennel clubs in North America. Finding these dogs in animal shelters is unlikely, but your local shelter may introduce you to similar breeds in need of forever homes.

If you'd like to adopt a Yakutian Laika puppy, it's essential to research responsible breeders. Adopters should be allowed to meet the litter's parents and see their medical history. Some travel may be required, and breeders typically charge between $1,200 and $1,400 for puppies (although prices can vary based on pedigree and availability).

To start your search, check out resources like the national breed club's directory and the AKC:

Yakutian Laika Overview

  • Easy-care coat

  • Hardworking and athletic

  • Intelligent and affectionate

  • Rare breed that can be difficult to find

  • Requires lots of daily exercise

  • May be challenging to train

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love the Yakutian Laika, you might also like these similar breeds: 

There are plenty of dog breeds out there that can join your family. With a little research, you can find your next best friend!

  • Is the Yakutian Laika Rare?

    The Yakutian Laika is a very rare dog breed in North America, but prospective adopters can still find puppies by researching the national breed club and responsible breeders. Owners should be prepared to join a waiting list or travel to adopt this breed.

  • Is a Yakutian Laika a Husky?

    While these dogs have many similar characteristics, the Yakutian Laika and Siberian Husky are two separate breeds. Huskies are typically larger, and Yakutian Laikas are better suited for new dog owners (although both breeds do best with active families experienced in dog training).

  • How Much Exercise Does a Yakutian Laika Need?

    As a high-energy working breed, the Yakutian Laika needs plenty of exercise to stay happy, healthy, and well-behaved. Owners should provide this breed with at least an hour of vigorous activity each day.