The smiling Samoyed, nicknamed the Sammie, is one of the world’s most beautiful dogs. He stands out for his white fluffiness, wedge-shaped head, prick ears and plumed tail, gently wagging over his back. Behind that Arctic-pure appearance lurks a smart, fun-loving, energetic dog. The Sammie has many excellent qualities, but he’s not the right breed for everyone. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Samoyed.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

First, the positives: the Samoyed is gentle and calm. He bonds deeply to his people and can be a good choice for families with children. He is friendly toward strangers and generally gets along well with other animals, especially if he is raised with them.

Now for the bad news: the Samoyed is not a stuffed dog. He's active and requires daily exercise. He barks a lot and must be taught when it's okay to exercise his lungs and when it's not. If he's bored, he may decide to relandscape your yard with some nicely placed holes. He's an independent thinker and can be stubborn when it comes to training. That stunning white coat? It sheds and requires frequent brushing to keep loose hair under control.

Fortunately, all of that can be overcome if you are willing to spend the time it takes to train, exercise and groom the Sammie. Train the Samoyed with firmness and consistency to overcome his tendency to be stubborn. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards. Plan to give him daily exercise in the form of a long walk or active play in the yard. He's also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, herding, obedience and rally. You might even want to take up dog-sledding or ski-joring.

Brush the Samoyed's thick double coat two or three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. Expect to brush it daily when he's shedding. You'll need a slicker brush, pin brush and metal Greyhound comb. Bathe the Sammie about every three months. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Samoyed needs to live in the house. It's an unhappy Sammie who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Samoyeds

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Samoyeds have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and autoimmune thyroiditis.

The Samoyed Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Samoyed to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA cardiac evaluation, an OFA DNA test for PRA, and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Atrial Septal Defect High $500-$1,500
Aortic Stenosis High $500-$1,500
Corneal Dystrophy High $300-$3,000
Pulmonic Stenosis Medium $1,000-$7,000
Uveodermatologic Syndrome High $1,000-$3,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Samoyed Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Samoyed Club of America.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Sometimes health problems aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Samoyeds can live 10 to 12 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Samoyed to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Samoyeds

Pet insurance for Samoyeds costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Samoyeds are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance offers full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Samoyeds are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Samoyed is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.