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The View of the Breed from Shadow-Wood

On this page: temperament | keeping them home | the new pup | thoughts on obedience | breeder’s notes-show quality/pet quality | breeder’s notes-canine terminology | breeder’s notes-Samoyeds of color | search the Shadow-Wood site

Since the people part of Shadow-Wood is made up of two, one Patti and the other Stirling, the view has two perspectives. We’ve combined these perspectives on this page. You’ll get our observations on the breed, on showing Sammies in conformation and obedience, and on training them for both rings. While the focus is on the new Sammy owner, experienced hands will hopefully find it interesting.

We won’t touch on everything. There is much that has already been well covered on other sites. To get to them please click on the ‘links’ button above–after you’ve finished your visit here, of course.

Ch. Shadow-Wood’s Sis Boom Bah
“Boom Boom”


Basically, we couldn’t imagine living without them. Teaching obedience has enabled us to get to know a lot of breeds and Sams are the best. Indoors they are quiet, generally well behaved (other than loving to get into the more disgusting items in your trash containers), and will follow human family members around from room to room just to be with them.

Sams in the house seldom bark. Ours make lousy watch dogs. We’ve often wondered if it would be useful to have a Bouvier, Akita, Dobie or Rottie around just to let us know when strangers are coming. “Not as a stranger” seems to be the approach Sams take to the world.

 Our Sams who are outside in kennels bark a lot if we’re not with them. And that’s the reason. They are a pack-centric breed and view us as the alpha members. So if we’re somewhere else they let us know that they should be there too. This is what outside Sams look like.

This is also what your outside Sams probably look like.

For enriching your understanding of the breed, read Vladimir Beregovoy’s marvelous article on the origins of the Samoyed, The Aboriginal Samoyed Dogs of the Yamal Peninsula. It is based upon his research and travel in the lands native to our breed.

Sams can do a lot. They are in the Working group for a reason. They can excel in obedience work, pull sleds, carry their own supplies on wilderness outings and herd. For examples and guidance on sledding and wilderness outings, see Expedition Samoyed’s web site. And for information on getting started on weight pulling and sledding, plus a source for equipment, see Nordkyn Outfitter’s site or Sled Dog Central.

As for herding, this was a quality we were very skeptical about, particularly after one of our males got out one night and pulled down a neighbor’s sheep by the hamstring. That seemed more like hunting than herding to us (unless you pronounce it ‘hurting’). But others have proved us wrong, and Sams can and do pass herding trials.

Oh, the sheep? Fortunately it wasn’t life threatening and our local vet was able to repair the damage with some skilled suturing. Of course, we then spent a bit of time improving our fences.


You’ve got to have a way to keep your Sammy at home. They are not one of those breeds that you can let out of the house and expect to be there when you look out again. Actually we did have an older bitch that we could let out. She’d just lay in front looking over her world. Then there was the day that a chicken wandered through. Tina looked at her in amazement as she clucked her way across the yard and let her go. The chicken then made the mistake of coming back through the yard. Twice was once too often. Did I mention that the Sammy is also a hunting dog–with them doing the hunting, not you?

Anyway, a Sammy’s view of home seems to be anything within a two-mile radius. And ours have proved to be incredible escape artists. We even had one who could climb a six-foot high chain link fence! Since he was a male and the sharp ends of the chain link were on top, that made us very nervous.

A hint on the climbing thing. Puppies whose first outside experiences are within the confines of exercise pens seem to believe as adults that fences are not for going over. Therefore basic puppy equipment should include a couple of exercise pens that can be linked together and set up on a deck or patio for the pup to play in.

Of course, there is always going under, isn’t there?

If you have a fenced yard and are feeling you’ve got it all under control, you don’t, Samoyeds love to dig. Unless you like moon-scapes you can’t just put them out in the nicely fenced back yard. You’ve got to build a fenced kennel area. After all, they need a confined area from which to bark.

Only problem now is that they’ll still dig. Unless you are going to have concrete runs, what to do? We’ve come up with a solution that works. Before putting in gravel, lay chain link fencing on the ground, anchor it with concrete to the kennel sides and to itself where it overlaps and then put in the gravel. They are only able to dig to the chain link, your runs will remain livable and your dogs will remain white, cream or biscuit, or whatever combination of those they are.


That cute puppy behavior we allow at the beginning is what we will have to correct later. Remember that at the bottom of it all, these are dogs, not people. They see the world from a dog’s perspective, not a human one. And they are a pack oriented dog, so they very much expect and look for alpha behavior. If we don’t supply it, they will.

What does that mean? Our Sammies are looking for a pack leader. If we aren’t going to fulfill that role, then our Sam will often be only too happy to. For the Sam who isn’t a natural alpha, that will just mean annoying behavior–basically like a visiting friend’s child, one who has never had limits set, rummaging through your house. For the Sam, however, who is a natural alpha, that means trouble. A very dominant dog with a human who can’t set limits has, for us, resulted in having to take the dog back and resocialize it. We are very careful now to match dog and human temperaments when selling one of our pups.

All this requires setting limits on what, admittedly, can be seen as cute, puppy-like behavior. Don’t want adult dogs on the furniture? Then don’t let that puppy on the furniture now. Don’t want an adult that jumps up on you? Then don’ ‘t let the pup jump up on you now. Don’t want an adult that argues with you when you want another behavior from him? Then don’t ever let a pup growl at you.

Watch an adult Sam discipline a pup that has stepped over the line and you’ll see a quick, lunging snarl, muzzle placed on the pup but no bite, and a yelp and scoot from the pup as it moves, chastened, to safety. Your correction needs to be immediate and impressive, yet do no harm. And it needs to be repeated at each instance until the behavior is extinguished.


First we want to dispel a myth that we think a lot of Sammy owners use as an excuse not to take the time to obedience-rain their dogs. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Samoyed is a FINE OBEDIENCE DOG!!!

Remember that we both have fourteen years each of teaching obedience classes and have trained many of our own dogs, so we are in a good position to compare the Samoyed to other breeds as to trainability. Again, to repeat, THE SAMOYED IS A FINE OBEDIENCE DOG!!! Period, end of discussion.

So that excuse is over. For more on the subject, see our ‘Musings’ page.

There is a second myth about obedience training that we also want to debunk. Many will tell you that you can’t do obedience training while you are showing your dog in conformation–that it will sit rather than stand in the show ring. Evidence to the contrary is that we often showed our dogs in breed and obedience at the same show. The only reason we stopped doing that is that the rings are usually far apart and the logistics are a killer. It didn’t bother our dogs. We were the ones who couldn’t handle it.

More evidence, should anyone need it, is that many Shadow-Wood dogs have both breed and obedience titles. And it’s not just that we have the magic touch. Some of those Shadow-Wood dogs were raised, trained and shown by others.

A final argument is that Damara Bolte, a premier professional handler in the conformation ring, used to bring her Mastiffs to our obedience classes to socialize them for conformation. She attributed part of reason for finishing one rather unruly young Mastiff to the obedience training he had had just before heading out on a conformation show circuit.

Key to training the Samoyed is to realize that you are working with an intelligent (usually) creature who learns quickly and can easily get bored. So that means short training sessions, not long, tedious drills. That usually works for the trainer too.

Additionally, our breed responds to enthusiasm and recognition for work done well, not to force and anger. So talking happily, using praise and training techniques that build a sense of teamwork and fun pay off. Training techniques that use force will not. Your Sammy will associate those techniques to the circumstance and to you, and you’ll turn what was a willing worker into something quite different. Some obedience trainers don’t know this. Educate them.

This is not to say that there shouldn’t be consequences. If, for instance, you are doing a heeling exercise and your friend is not paying attention, taking a quick right turn and allowing the suddenly snugged up collar and leash to bring together your diverging paths will do wonders. When we use this technique we’ll cheerfully say, “Where were you? What happened?” What is learned is that not staying at heel position isn’t fun and there’s immediate comfort and companionship upon returning.

And beware of the inappropriate use of food to train. Our observation is that dogs work best when they have to think about what they are supposed to do. Food training too often turns them into food-focused automatons who fail in the ring where the food isn’t allowed. The focus isn’t on solving the task–it’s on figuring out where the food is.

Unfortunately, the experienced trainers who tout the use of food can use it successfully because they are experienced trainers. It is very difficult for the novice trainer to use it with that knowledge and skill. See Patti’s article on The Dangers of Training With Food for more detail.

© Patti Rasmussen, 2000, all rights reserved

How do you identify a serious dog breeder and what would be the advantage of buying your puppy from such a person? Most breeders of purebred dogs are breeding for a specific purpose. The stock they select to breed from is made up of dogs that have enjoyed some success in whatever it is that they do with them. In other words, someone who enters sled dog races will be looking for dogs that come from kennels that have done well at that activity through the years. Someone who wants to have a hunting dog will breed to a dog that has proven its abilities in the field and that has produced dogs that are good field dogs. The same thing holds true for show dogs. Breeders of show dogs (which is what the majority of hobby breeders are) are trying to produce more and better show dogs, so they look for dogs that have been successful in the conformation breed ring to use. Ideally, the breeder will be trying to breed dogs that can not only succeed in the show ring, but can also participate successfully in any activities for which the dogs were originally bred (in the case of Sams -sledding, herding, etc.). However, for our purposes we are going to discuss only show dogs.

One of the most confusing things for prospective puppy buyers to understand is what we mean by a “show” dog and how it differs from a “pet”. Let me try to provide some insight. The American Kennel Club has on record from the parent club of each registered breed a written “standard” for that breed that specifies the characteristics that make the breed what it is and distinguish it from all others. The majority of those characteristics are easily seen physical traits, and that is what judges are looking at in the show ring. Technically any dog that has no disqualifying faults (in the Samoyed breed we have only two – blue eyes and any colors other than white,cream or biscuit) can be shown. In reality, a dog that does not have most of the qualities called for in the standard is not going to have much of a chance as a show dog. To understand what judges and breeders are looking for, we must learn some terminology.

You may hear people near a ring comment on a dog’s “type”. Type is the overall appearance of the dog including those things that make it instantly recognizable as a Samoyed, a Golden Retriever, etc. A dog that is very “typey” is one that seems to epitomize the essence of the breed. He looks like everyone’s idea of a Samoyed. A dog may be very sound and an excellent mover, but if it lacks breed type it is hardly a good representative of the breed.

The other heavily weighted trait that will be looked at is the dog’s movement. “Movement” means how well the dog covers the ground at a trot. This can also be referred to as “soundness”. (As a former horse person, to me “soundness” means the animal is not lame, but in dogs it is a synonym for correct movement) . It is important in show dogs because it is very important for a dog to move efficiently and correctly in order to do the job it was bred for. A dog that wastes a lot of energy on unnecessary or incorrect movement would tire much faster and be able to do less work than would a correctly moving dog. Since the dogs are being judged on how well they match the breed standard, it is obviously important that they look like they could do the jobs for which the breed was developed. The standard addresses this issue by describing what correct movement should look like in our breed

We look at three areas: the front movement – which requires that the dog be seen coming directly at you in a straight line; the rear movement – which requires that the dog be seen going away in a straight line; and the side gait – which is viewing the dog from the side as it goes past or around the observer.

There are many faults that a dog can have in its movement that would detract from its ability to work well and easily. Suffice to say at this point that what is wanted is a dog that “single tracks” coming and going (as a dog’s speed increases, its center of gravity moves under the body and the legs begin to converge until the paws are hitting on the same imaginary line under the body) and that when viewed from the side has smooth, ground covering strides that are well-timed and do not waste any energy on unnecessary up and down motion. In a working dog, you are also looking for strong drive from the rear. Just as a dog that is a wonderful mover can be a poor example of the breed if it has no type, a dog that has wonderful type is a poor example of the breed if it cannot move as it should.

Once we have looked at basic type and soundness, we get to what are considered the more “cosmetic” aspects of the breed. None of these are unimportant, as they all go into making up the overall picture of the dog, but it is clearly more of a detriment to a dog’s ability to do its work to have unsound movement than it is for it to have ears that are too big! Here we get in to things like coat quality (which should be weather resistant and stand off by itself), tail set (over the back, set neither too high nor too low), and the head.

Since our breed is one noted for its beauty, a good head can be very important in a show dog. The standard specifies ear size, shape and placement, eye size, shape, placement and color, and nose color. All of these things are important and are based on commonly accepted wisdom that they make it easier for the dog to do its job in the environment for which it was bred (think Siberian winters; short, mosquito infested summers). However, since the perfect dog has yet to be bred, there are often tradeoffs to be made when looking for dogs to send into the show ring. Obviously small, “cosmetic” faults like a break in pigment around the dog’s mouth are less important that an unsoundness that would prevent it from working. Often small things like that are the only difference between a show quality and a pet quality puppy.

That being the case, why are not all puppies produced by breeders who are breeding good dogs to good dogs “show quality”? Now we get in to less tangible, but vitally important qualities. It is possible to have two very similar dogs and have one be a best in show contender and one be a good representative of the breed that never finishes a championship.

The difference is in the “picture” the dog presents. One that holds itself with pride and confidence, that appears animated and alert, and that exudes that “certain something” that catches the eye of everyone who sees it. It can be called presence, pizzazz, elegance- whatever. It is something that sets the dog apart and calls attention to it.

Breeders have to decide for themselves what they are going to consider a show quality puppy and what will be considered pet quality. Some breeders will designate only the very best as show quality and others will want every dog that is at all acceptable to be shown. Don’t be afraid to ask a breeder what a puppy’s faults are and what makes it a pet or show puppy. Pet quality in no way implies that the puppy is less healthy, intelligent or personable than the show quality puppies. It just has one or more faults, major or minor, that would make trying to put a championship on it very difficult and/or impossible. In most cases, only an experienced dog person would be able to spot the faults. To anyone else it appears to be a beautiful dog.

The reality of dog showing is that given enough time and money, almost any dog that does not have a disqualifying fault can at least collect a few points here and there if not finish a championship. And, there are some wonderful dogs snoozing on couches that could have easily been champions had someone wanted to spend the time and money to do it. In the long run, what is important is that either kind of puppy will make a wonderful companion and friend for its entire life and that is the first thing to consider when looking at litters.

Dog terms to know:

  • Dog – a male dog (Can also be used to refer to either sex in general terms)
  • Bitch – the correct, and non-pejorative, term for a female dog
  • Spay – the removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female dog
  • Alter – the removal of the testicles of a male dog
  • Show Quality – a dog that seems to be a good enough breed representative to show in the conformation ring (breed showing).
  • Pet Quality – a puppy/dog that has one or more faults that make successful showing in the conformation ring unlikely. Has nothing to do with the dog’s quality as a pet and companion.
  • OFA – the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals – an organization that reads hip (and elbow) x-rays for presence or absence of hip dysplasia and maintains a registry of approved animals. OFA cleared dogs are issued an “OFA number” which includes the number, the sex of the dog, the age at which it was x-rayed (must be at least 2 yrs.old to get clearance), and the grade of the hips (Excellent, Good or Fair). Dogs that do not/cannot obtain OFA numbers should not be used for breeding.
  • Hip Dysplasia – a potentially crippling condition the frequency of which can be reduced by only breeding dogs that have been cleared by OFA.
  • CERF – Canine Eye Registry Foundation – a registry for dogs that have been examined by a certified opthamologist and found clear of a number of hereditary eye conditions. Exams must be repeated every year in breeding stock.
  • All Breed Show – a show at which classes are offered for all breeds eligible for registration with AKC. Usually includes Obedience competition
  • Specialty Show – a show which is limited to dogs of one breed. Often held in conjunction with a larger all-breed show. Specialties bring in large entries and provide an opportunity to see many dogs of a particular breed at the same time.
  • National Specialty – a very large specialty show held once a year in different parts of the country. Sponsored by the parent club (Samoyed Club of America), National Specialties offer many different classes and activities all devoted to that one breed. Wins and/or placements at National Specialties are very prestigious.
  • Match – a small “practice” show. Matches are used to provide ring experience for both puppies and handlers. A good starting point for someone new to dog shows. Also used to practice in the ring before entering obedience trials.
  • Conformation Showing – classes in which the dog is judged on its ability to meet the breed standard.
  • Movement – the way a dog covers ground. Used in the conformation ring to judge a dog’s ability to do the work it was bred to do. Movement is judged from the front, rear and side.
  • Type – the closeness with which a dog resembles the standard for its breed. What distinguishes it from other breeds. Includes size, color, coat, head style, etc.
  • Handler – the person who actually takes the dog into the show ring. Many people earn their livings as “professional” handlers and show dogs of many different breeds during the course of one show.
  • Bait – the food used by the handler to get/keep the dog’s attention in the show ring.
  • Free Baiting – showing the dog off by holding the bait out or up and letting it “stack” itself.
  • Stacking – the process of posing the dog in the show ring to show its characteristics to best advantage
  • Gaiting – moving the dog around the ring at a trot at the judge’s direction.
  • Obedience Showing – Classes in which the dog is judged on how well it performs certain specified exercises. Points are deducted for mistakes. Dogs that earn qualifying scores under three different judges earn AKC obedience titles.
  • CD (not something to listen to) – The title awarded to a dog that has completed three “legs” in the Novice ring. It stands for Companion Dog and consists of exercises to show the dog would make a well-mannered companion.
  • LEG – A qualifying score (at least 170 points, with no failed exercises and at least 1/2 of each exercise’s available points earned). Three legs under three different judges are required to earn an obedience title.
  • CDX – Companion Dog Excellent. The next level of obedience which includes jumping and retrieving.
  • UD – Utility dog. The highest level of classes at Obedience trials, it includes directed retrieving, jumping and scent discrimination exercises.
  • OTC – Obedience Trial Champion. Dogs that are very successful at Open and Utility can go on to compete for this title.
  • Agility – a new and exciting competition in which the dogs race around a course of specified obstacles and perform certain exercises. To see an agility dog at work, go to Mitzi’s Page.
  • Herding Titles – Dogs can earn various levels of herding titles by competing in sanctioned events that test levels from the herding instinct up through working a flock of sheep through a course.
  • Therapy Dogs – dogs that are used in visits to nursing homes, hospitals, children’s homes, etc. to give the pet-loving residents an opportunity to enjoy the companionship of a dog for short periods of time.

There are many other activities which can be enjoyed by dog owners – sled racing, weight pulling, packing are just some of those that can be performed by Sams.


Australian Champion
Kimchatka Touch of Class (Imp. NZ), BIS

Adski Samoyeds’ T. C.
[for larger image click on picture]

You know those beautiful white dogs that you associate with the name Samoyed? If that’s all we produce and breed to, we’re in trouble. Remember that Sammies also come in biscuit and cream, although you won’t see many since both breeders and judges prefer white even though the breed standard allows all.

So what? Well, it seems that after a few generations of breeding only white to white we start losing other characteristics: the black noses, lips, eyelids and the harsh guard hairs that enable survival in Arctic conditions. Somehow white with pink points isn’t what the standard calls for.

For a more in depth article on color in the Samoyed, click on Samoyed Color .