Buy A Samoyed
Before purchasing a
Samoyed, please read this article that has been adapted from: DON'T
BUY A BOUVIER! by Pam Green (c.1992)
(This article, written many years ago, has become a notorious classic
in Bouvier circles. It has been reprinted many times by clubs to use
for the education of prospective Bouvier owners. She gives her permission
freely to all who wish to reprint and distribute it in hopes of saving
innocent dogs from neglect and abandonment by those who should never
have acquired them in the first place.)
IN BUYING A SAM?
You must be or you wouldn't be reading this. You've already heard
how marvelous Sammies are. Well, I think you should also hear, before
it's too late, that SAMOYEDS ARE NOT THE PERFECT BREED FOR EVERYONE.
As a breed, they have a few characteristics that some people find
charming, but that some people find mildly unpleasant, and some people
find downright intolerable. There are different breeds for different
needs. There are over 200 breeds of dogs in the world. Maybe you'd
be better off with some other breed. Maybe you'd be better off with
a cat. Maybe you'd be better off with goldfish, a parakeet, a hamster,
or some house-plants.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO THE BREED "CHIEFLY" BY ITS APPEARANCE.
The appearance of the Samoyeds you have seen in the show ring is the
product of many hours of bathing and grooming. This carefully constructed
beauty is fleeting: a few minutes of freedom, romping through the
fields or strolling in the rain restores the natural look. The natural
look of the Sammy is that of a large, shaggy farm dog, usually with
some dirt and weeds clinging to his tousled coat. The true beauty
of the Sam lies in his character, not in his appearance. Some of the
long-coated and most of the short-coated breeds' appearances are less
dependent on grooming than is that of the Samoyed. (See also the section
on grooming below.)
DON'T BUY A SAM IF
YOU ARE UNWILLING TO SHARE YOUR HOUSE AND YOUR LIFE WITH YOUR DOG.
Sams were bred to share in the work of the family (hunting, herding,
pulling sleds, etc.) and to spend most of their waking hours working
with the family. They thrive on companionship and they want to be
wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house
and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being
left at home by themselves (preferably with a dog-door giving access
to the fenced yard), they should not be relegated to the backyard
or kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be
unsociable, unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such
as digging or barking, that will displease you and/or your neighbors.
An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer
to have your dog's companionship as much as possible, enjoying having
him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing many of your activities
by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship.
Likewise if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending
much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship,
but the pack hounds for example, are more tolerant of being kenneled
or yarded so long as it is in groups of 2 or more. A better choice
would be a cat, as they are solitary by nature.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU DON'T INTEND TO EDUCATE (TRAIN) YOUR DOG.
Basic obedience and household rules training is NOT optional for the
Sam. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond
to commands to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk at your side,
on or off leash and regardless of temptations. You must also teach
him to respect your household rules: e.g. is he allowed to get on
the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or
forbid is unimportant, but it is *critical* that you, not the dog,
make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You
must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly
lessons at a local obedience club or with a professional trainer,
and to doing one or two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions
per day. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your
daily life by being used whenever appropriate, and enforced consistently.
Young Sammy puppies are relatively easy to train: they are eager to
please, intelligent, and calm-natured, with a relatively good attention
span. Once a Sam has learned something, he tends to retain it well.
Your cute, sweet little Sam puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful
dog. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his
physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown
up without rules and guidance from you, surely he will make his own
rules, and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition
to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street
as if competing in a sled-dog race; he may grab food off the table;
he may forbid your guests entry to "his" home. This training
cannot be delegated to someone else, e.g. by sending the dog away
to "boarding school," because the relationship of respect
and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does
the training. While you definitely many want the help of an experienced
trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself must actually
train your Sam. As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the
household (except young children) must also work with the dog, insisting
he obey them as well. Many of the Sams that are rescued from Pounds
and Shelters show clearly that they have received little or no basic
training, neither in obedience nor in household deportment; yet these
same dogs respond well to such training by the rescuer or the adopter.
It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a significant cause
of Sam abandonment. If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably
during puppyhood, you would be better off with a breed that is both
small and socially submissive.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU LACK LEADERSHIP (SELF-ASSERTIVE) PERSONALITY.
Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy
led by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent,
affectionate, and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there
is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the
boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume
the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later and with more or
less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained
dog, the pack-leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against
other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture
and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow
or a bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance; and
individuals within a breed differ considerably. You do not have to
have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant,
but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self-assertion
of the successful parent ("Because I'm your mother, that's why.")
or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty
asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership,
then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition,
such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, AND be sure to
ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter
for you. If the whole idea of "being the boss" frightens
or repels you, don't get a dog at all. Cats don't expect leadership.
A gerbil or hamster, or fish doesn't need leadership or household
rules. Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership
personality enables you to train your dog, and being trained by you
reinforces your dog's perception of you as the alpha.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU DON'T VALUE LAID-BACK COMPANIONSHIP AND CALM AFFECTION.
A Sam becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he
doesn't "wear his heart on his sleeve." Some are noticeably
reserved, others are more outgoing, but few adults are usually exuberantly
demonstrative of their affections. They like to be near you, usually
in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a
corner or under a table, just "keeping you company." They
enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it, but they
are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention.
They are emotionally sensitive to their favorite people: when you
are joyful, proud, angry, or grief-stricken, your Sam will immediately
perceive it and will believe himself to be the cause. The relationship
can be one of great mellows, depth and subtlety; it is a relation
on an adult-to-adult level, although certainly not one devoid of playfulness.
As puppies, of course, they will be more dependent, more playful,
and more demonstrative. In summary, Sams tend to be sober and thoughtful,
rather than giddy clowns or sychophants.
DON'T BUY A SAMMY IF
YOU ARE FASTIDIOUS ABOUT YOUR HOME.
The Samoyed's thick shaggy double coat and his love of digging in
water and mud combine to make him a highly efficient transporter of
dirt into your home, depositing same on your floors and rugs and possibly
also on your furniture and clothes. One Sam coming in from a few minutes
outdoors on a rainy day can turn an immaculate house into an instant
hog wallow. His full chest soaks up water every time he takes a drink,
then releases same drippingly across your floor or soppingly into
your lap. Samoyeds are seasonal shedders, and in spring can easily
fill a trash bag with balls of hair from a grooming session, or clog
a vacuum cleaner if left to shed in the house. I don't mean to imply
that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Sam, but
you do have to have the attitude that your dog's company means more
to you than does neatness, and you do have to be comfortable with
a less than immaculate house. While all dogs, like all children, create
a greater or lesser degree of household mess, almost all other breeds
of dog are less troublesome than the Sammy in this respect. The Basenji
is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like habits; but cats are
cleaner yet, and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU FIND BARKING TOTALLY REPELLANT.
Most Sam owners begin with some degree of distaste for barking, but
as this is an integral part of the Sam, this dislike usually progresses
to some level of nonchalance - or get their companion debarked by
a veterinarian practiced in the procedure.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU DISLIKE DOING REGULAR GROOMING.
The thick, pristine white double coat demands regular grooming, not
merely to look tolerably nice, but also to preserve the health of
skin underneath and to detect and remove foxtails, ticks, and other
dangerous invaders. For "pet" grooming, you should expect
to spend 10-15 minutes a day (e.g. while listening to music or watching
television) on alternate days or half an hour twice a week. Of course
any time your Sam gets into cockleburs, filigree, or other coat-adhering
vegetation, you are likely to be in for an hour or more of remedial
work. During oxtail season, (western US), you must inspect feet and
other vulnerable areas daily. In Lyme disease areas during tick season,
you will need to inspect for ticks daily. "Pet" grooming
does not require a great deal of skill, but does require time and
regularity. "Show" grooming requires a great deal of skill
and considerably more time and effort or expensive professional grooming.
Almost every Sammy that is rescued out of a Pound or Shelter shows
the effects of many months of no grooming, resulting in massive matting
and horrendous filthiness, sometimes with urine and feces cemented
into the rear portions of the coat. It appears that unwillingness
to keep up with coat care is a primary cause of abandonment. Many
other breeds of dog require less grooming; short coated breeds require
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU DISLIKE DAILY EXERCISE.
Sams need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs, and
to maintain muscle tone. Because of his mellow, stick-to-you-like-glue
disposition, your Sammy will not give himself enough exercise unless
you accompany him or play with him. An adult Sam should have a morning
outing of a mile or more, as you walk briskly beside him, and a similar
evening outing. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times
a day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking. All dogs need
daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing
this exercise is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose
one of the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself
within your fenced yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description,
but don't be surprised if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth
since digging out critters is the job that they were bred to do. Cats
can be exercised indoors with mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will
exercise themselves on a wire wheel. House plants don't need exercise.
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU BELIEVE THAT DOGS SHOULD RUN "FREE."
Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to
run "free" outside your fenced property and without your
direct supervision and control. The price of such "freedom"
is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles, from
the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though Sams are
home-loving and less inclined to roam than most breeds, an unfenced
Sam is destined for disaster. A thoroughly obedience-trained Sam can
enjoy the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you
in appropriately chosen environments. If you don't want the responsibility
of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable
for you. A neutered cat will survive such irresponsibly given "freedom"
somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually come to grief. A better
answer for those who crave a "free" pet is to set out feeding
stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, which
will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY, FEED, AND PROVIDE HEALTHCARE FOR ONE.
Samoyeds are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding
program with due regard for temperament, trainability, and physical
soundness cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put
into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also
costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder"
who unselectively mates any two Sams who happen to be of opposite
sex and conveniently in the same proximity may well prove to be extremely
costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health, and lack of essential
socialization. In contrast, the occasional adult or older pup is available
at modest price from a disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter,
or rescuer to whom the dog was abandoned; most of these "used"
Sams are capable of becoming a marvelous dog for you if you can provide
training, leadership, and understanding. Whatever the initial cost
of your Samoyed, the upkeep will not be cheap. Being moderately large
dogs, Sams eat relatively large meals. (Need I add that what goes
in one end must eventually come out the other?) Large dogs tend to
have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most
medications is proportional to body weight. Spaying or neutering,
which costs more for larger dogs, is an essential expense for virtually
all pet Sams, as it "takes the worry out of being close,"
prevents serious health problems in later life, and makes the dog
a more pleasant companion. Samoyeds are generally quite healthy but
may be subject to two conditions which can be costly to treat: hip
dysplasia and bloat. (Your best insurance against dysplasia is to
buy only from a litter bred from OFA certified parents and [if possible],
grandparents. Yes, this generally means paying more. While bloat may
have a genetic predisposition, there are no predictive tests allowing
selective breeding against it. Your best prevention is not to feed
your dog too soon before or after strenuous exercise.) Professional
grooming, if you use it, is expensive. An adequate set of grooming
tools for use at home adds up to a tidy sum, but once purchased will
last many dog-lifetimes. Finally, the modest fee for participation
in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment
in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all
breeds. The modest annual outlays for immunizations and for local
licensing are generally the same for all breeds, though some counties
have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs. All dogs, of whatever
breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs,
and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies. Likewise
DON'T BUY A SAMMY IF
YOU WANT THE "LATEST, GREATEST FEROCIOUS KILLER ATTACK DOG."
"The Sam's famous disposition as the "friendly neighborhood
dog" is not a fable, a Sam with the typical disposition of the
breed would prefer to play with a criminal than attack one. Also because
of selective breeding for kind tempers, Sammies are "soft-mouthed"
dogs. In contrast to the protection-trained dog, trained to bite on
direct command or in reaction to direct physical assault on his master,
the "deterrent dog" dissuades the vast majority of aspiring
burglars, rapists, and assailants by his presence, his appearance,
and his demeanor. Seeing such dog, the potential wrong-doer simply
decides to look for a safer victim elsewhere. For this job, all that
is needed is a dog that is large and that appears to be well-trained
and unafraid. The Samoyed can serve this role admirably, with the
added assets of generally "husky appearance" and shaggy
"bestial" qualities adding to the impression of formidability
and fearsomeness. If the dog has been taught to bark a few times on
command, such as "Fang, watch him!" rather than "Fifi,
speak for a cookie," this skill can be useful to augment the
DON'T BUY A SAMOYED
IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO COMMIT YOURSELF FOR THE DOG'S ENTIRE LIFETIME.
No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to
a no-pet apartment, or because he is no longer a cute puppy, or didn't
grow up to be a beauty contest winner, or because his owners through
lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly
juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The
prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a "used"
dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large,
shaggy, poorly mannered dog. A Sam dumped into a Pound or Shelter
has almost no chance of survival -- unless he has thegreat good fortune
to be spotted by someone dedicated to Sam Rescue. The prospects for
adoption for a youngish, well-trained, and well-groomed Sammy whose
owner seeks the assistance of the nearest Sam Club or Rescue group
are fairly good, but an older Sam has diminishing prospects. Be sure
to contact your local Sam club or Rescue group if you are seeking
an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your breeder and local Sam club
if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your Sammy,
so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will
or with your family to ensure continued care or an adoptive home for
your Samoyed if you should pre-decease him. The life span of a Samoyed
is about 12-15 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give
an unequivocal loyalty to your Samoyed, then please do not get one!
Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer,
please do not get any dog.
If all the preceding "bad news" about Sammies hasn't turned
you away from the breed, then by all means DO GET A SAM! They are
every bit as wonderful as you have heard! If buying a puppy, be sure
to shop carefully for a *responsible* and *knowledgeable* breeder
who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and trainability,
and good health in all matings. Such a breeder will interrogate and
educate potential buyers carefully. Such a breeder will continue to
be available for advice and consultation for the rest of the dog's
life and will insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable
to keep it. However as an alternative to buying a Samoyed puppy, you
may want to give some serious consideration to adopting a rescued
Sam. Despite the responsibility of their previous owner, almost all
rescued Sams have proven to be readily rehabilitated so as to become
superb family companions for responsible and affectionate adopters.
Many rescuers are skilled trainers who evaluate temperament and provide
remedial training before offering dogs for placement, and who offer
continued advisory support afterwards. Contact local Sam breeders
or Sam club members to learn who is doing Rescue work.
If the Samoyed breed is right for you, then
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