Training Samoyeds as an assistance dog is a relatively new practice, but it’s quickly caught on because of its great initial success. While this use may be new, the breed has a working history spanning centuries in its native Siberia. These dogs have long been used for herding, sled pulling, and other work, instilling many useful traits and capabilities into the breed.
As a medium-sized dog, the Samoyed can handle certain physical tasks like retrieving and carrying items, but it isn’t suited to the most physically demanding tasks performed by the larger breeds most commonly trained as guide and other assistance dogs: Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds. Remember, sled pulling is executed by a team of dogs; an individual Samoyed, though strong, lacks the size to pull someone in a wheelchair or support an unstable adult human.
Of course, there’s a lot more than a dog’s size to consider when choosing the right breed to partner with. When looking at the many types of dogs you might match up with, take into account other physical characteristics, temperament, space and daily care needs, the sort of help your disability necessitates, your own preferences, and other factors.
Here’s some basic information about Samoyeds to help determine whether it might be an appropriate assistance dog breed for you or your loved one.
Why Samoyeds Make Good Assistance Dogs
With centuries of use as a helpful, versatile working dog, training Samoyeds for service work seems an obvious call. These are strong, agile, adaptable dogs with the energy, stamina, intelligence, and desire to complete tasks throughout the day.
Samoyeds have a calm demeanor and great indoor disposition, so they’re happy to stay at home much of the day and don’t require any great amount of space; they’re considered a good breed for apartment dwellers, especially among the medium to larger sized dogs. However, they do need at least a daily walk, and they love some quality outdoors time.
Unlike most other herding breeds, Samoyeds don’t have much of the protective instinct that can prompt stress, distractions, or behavioral problems in public. In fact, while these dogs bond most strongly with one person—useful in assistance dog work—they’re affectionate with the whole family and moderately friendly with strangers and other animals. Combined with their adaptability to different environments, they’re well suited to going out and performing tasks in a variety of public settings and situations.
Samoyed Physical Characteristics
These dogs prominently feature a thick, fluffy white double coat that obscures their solid, muscular frame. The coat is weather resistant, and it makes Samoyeds particularly tolerant of the cold; the flip side, however, is that they don’t do as well in hot and humid climates. They weigh in around 55 pounds when fully grown and reach around 20 inches tall.
Samoyeds are energetic, enthusiastic dogs, but they don’t tip the scale into hyperactive. This is an ideal balance for an assistance dog. They are playful, loving, and loyal, typically a little more so with one person, but they find time and affection for everyone in the household. The breed is reliably affable around unknown people—including children—and pets.
As is usually the case with working dogs, Samoyeds need a fair amount of mental and physical stimulation on a daily basis to prevent boredom-related behavioral issues like digging, chewing, or excessive barking. They love to apply their smarts and curiosity to carrying out tasks, and are eager to please those around them.
Samoyed Care and Health
Along with a good daily workout, Samoyeds need a thorough brushing at least two or three times per week to maintain their considerable coats and prevent matting. They’re also relatively heavy shedders during the spring and fall shedding seasons, and daily brushings are optimal at these times. An occasional bath is beneficial as well.
The breed’s lifespan can reach around 15 years with regular veterinary checkups, a healthy diet, lots of exercise, and sticking to an ideal weight. A few health problems are seen disproportionately often in Samoyeds, including hip dysplasia, dermatitis conditions, and an eye disorder called progressive retinal atrophy.