Shadow-Wood Musings

A running commentary on the world of dogs, updated periodically.
My particular gripe is people who say our breed is not good at obedience.
For Patti’s musings on training for obedience with food, click here.

Who says they can’t learn?

My pet peeve just got triggered again. We received an e-mail from someone who was thankful to find on our pages our opinion that Samoyeds make fine obedience dogs. She had done a lot of research and decided on a Samoyed. Once she had her new friend at home she started hearing that Samoyeds were learning-impaired. Here’s part of what she wrote:

  • I did a HUGE amount of research, joined SamFans, asked a billion questions before deciding on a Sammy (who was born in December and coming to me in February) as my new baby. After making the decision very stupid people kept telling me how difficult these dogs are, and how they are incapable of learning much more than “come”. I was interested in perhaps doing agility for entertainment in the season where dog and I can’t bike or skijor, and was told not to bother trying. I became nervous about my decision to choose a Sammy despite having met several and feeling they were very responsive to me…

It turns out a number of these geniuses were on the alt.rec.dogs.behavior  list and were holding forth about something they clearly didn’t know squat about. My wife and I have heard this same misinformation for years from both dog trainers and obedience judges–and consequently have had our working Sammies surprise a number of knowledgeable people. Incidentally, anyone wondering whether we have the background to for such an opinion about Sammies’ ability to learn, particularly as compared to other breeds, should check out our ‘us and dogs’ page.

How others see our breed

Now don’t get me wrong. If I wanted a good shot at a high in trial dog, I’d probably settle on a Border Collie or Sheltie–or maybe a Golden or Dobie. But for a quick learning, fun to be with, and decently scoring dog, the Sam fits the bill.

And the problem isn’t caused by maliciousness on the part of the nay-sayers. It’s easy to believe because they so rarely see Samoyeds in obedience classes or in any type of working exhibition, such as obedience or agility. It is therefore a simple conclusion to come to, for there is little evidence they see to refute it.

Unfortunately, we Samoyed owners have only ourselves to blame for this belief. In fact, if you listen closely, some of the worst offenders and perpetrators of the ‘they can’t learn’ myth are fellow Samoyed fanciers. I’ve always had the opinion that it’s the best excuse available for not taking the time to do obedience work: “this breed can’t learn, so there’s no use for me to try .”

It just continues to discourage and anger me that the same tired old ‘can’t learn’ story keeps being believed. I’ve heard it for almost 30 years, and it continues to be wrong.

Stirling Rasmussen, January 3, 2000

Remember, we have a working breed !!!!!