So, after a huge amount of research in to what dog we should welcome to the family, we narrowed down our selection to either a i) German Shepherd ii) Samoyed or iii) Rescue and as it happened, we had the opportunity to meet a litter of Samoyed puppies and we fell in love.
So why am I writing about this. Well, my partner has had experience with dogs in the past, however I had pretty much no experience with dogs which is why I took this process so seriously. When I read about the Samoyed characteristics (and met up with some), I loved everything about them, however one concern lingered… they are “strong minded”, “difficult to train” and “not for novice owners”. Well, this is my experience from our puppy up til 7 months old . She is my first dog. She is a Samoyed.
We found Freyja from a very proud and extremely diligent breeder who cherishes the breed and helps run the rescue society across the country. She is highly committed to showing, rescuing and consequently raising and caring for her dogs right from nutrition to socialisation and her continued support has helped massively. This not only helped us as new dog parents, but provided us with a brave, confident and happy puppy from the beginning. The world was her oyster and she had more curiosity than a cat.
We brought Freyja home at 8 weeks old to help with the bonding and imprint stage and my initial observation was how smart she was. Within 5 repetitions, she was learning and mastering to please. Positive training is said to be effective for a Samoyed and I agree with this. I smile and use an enthusiastic high pitched voice (I do sound silly!) but honestly it works. I have even got her enthusiastically rolling on her back to get her belly brushed now. I don’t expect her to be super-dog, but covering the household basics is essential. Everything else is a bonus and she is doing this very well. She can get frustrated learning more complex tricks but she is so excited to show off when she has them nailed. I wouldn’t say that our Samoyed is hard to train. It’s keeping her attention and convincing her to do it. My experience on this is to keep training short and diverse. She learns quickly so there is no need to keep repeating the same things over e.g. 30 minutes. She’ll find something more fun to do… who could blame her!
As expected though, she can struggle to focus. She is not particularly food or toy motivated (like most of the other dogs) and this is extremely difficult when there are dogs and people around. We have found however that she is play and movement orientated. If I play-bow to her, she will perk up and jump in for a game. Similarly, if quickly dart off somewhere, she will run to my side with the biggest smile on her face (hide & seek in the forest is a GREAT recall game and she loves it!). This meant during puppy classes that walking nicely in a line around some cones (lead by a toy or treat) is very dull to her. But darting around quickly, excitedly and throwing treats in playful directions for her to pounce on (yes, pounce!) then she has a blast and we finish the course in record time! Gradually over time, our communication has improved and she is recognising a slower pace which is of course brilliant. But let’s see what happens on the next course… I think this is just a case of working out her interests. Same as any dog I imagine and engaging with that enthusiasm. At least I know she won’t get fat!
Her biggest challenge I have found has however, been to contain her excitement. She loves everyone and every dog. So much so, that she bounces off to strange dogs and people which could place her in danger. For her safety, we have therefore been teaching her to sit when she see’s dogs or people and be calm. Although not full-proof, this has really helped her behave when she see’s people and she has even been calmly lying down recently (7 months) when she see’s dogs instead of bouncing on them like her old self at 3 months! This calm energy has also I believe helped calm the pulling on the lead.
A big trait recognised in Samoyed’s is their vocalness. For this, I taught her early on to speak on command and as a result, we can also teach her ‘quiet’. She nailed this pretty quickly and I think it’s probably useful to teach this before she learns to howl… She makes some amazing sounds but I do want to control the barking or our neighbours might get creative! Naturally, I ignored her if she had a tantrum (very important!) and she’s learnt this gets her nowhere – hello headphones! But when she gets in to a barking frenzy over e.g. the neighbours cat, I have found stroking her calmly while making a shush noise and telling her “quiet” does tend to calm her down. Turning my back at that point is useless but recognising the trigger and rewarding her calm has so far been quite productive. She still has her moments and it’s really useful in terms of knowing when someone is at the house (who needs a doorbell!) but generally she knows not to nuisance bark. We love her woo’s and she doesn’t have to be silent, but we’re not a hectic household – we like our calm 🙂
Samoyed’s are also known to chew. Luckily her parents are not big chewers so this shouldn’t be a strong characteristic of hers. However, all puppies chew! The best thing we found was to use basic redirection training to safely control her teething urges. She needed to chew, so we gave her safe toys to chew on. If she went for your hand, give her a toy, and voila! Solved. As long as she is not bored and unsupervised, there should be minimal destruction. At 7 months, I am pleased to say she has been an angel.
To build trust and good behaviour we gave her an ultimatum from 3 months old. I know she doesn’t understand this but I do believe she has learnt that if she behaves, she can be out of her pen while we work (under supervision) to sleep and play wherever she wants, but if she gets naughty she goes straight to her pen for a sleep. We can’t play all day long, so this I think has helped her recognise the behaviours we want inside the house and she really does learn quickly 😉 It’s not just tricks. She is smart and she works things out to her advantage. I do love this as it makes her feel like a valued member of the household and not just a ‘pet’.
All in all, I would say her training has been very successful as a first time dog owner. I have been very hands on and I am so proud of her. She is so (incredibly) gentle, loving and friendly. She knows how to make everyone feel special. I would describe her as a ‘fluffy ball of happiness’ and I have no regrets in bringing her home. I believe as Freelancers, working from home has helped in raising her from an early age but most importantly, she was brought up brilliantly by Allison during her first 8 weeks and this I believe has been critical for me as a first time dog owner. I have had so much to learn, and she gave Freyja an incredible start to life. I can’t imagine my life without her now. She shows you just how beautiful the world is and how much fun there is to be had. Why take life so seriously when you can splash in a puddle while you watch the sun set! 😉
*This is one Samoyed experience and worth noting that this will not necessarily be everyone’s experience. Every dog is different as every person is.