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Meet the Yakutian Laika

June 21, 2022
Faithful, versatile, and active

I write this blog with great excitement introducing the Canadian dog community to the Yakutian Laika. Joining the Working Group as a Listed breed, the Yakutian Laika hails from Russia's Far East Yakutia Republic by the Arctic Ocean. 1 They are an ancient breed that has served humans for centuries thanks to their wide range of functionality.


Laika are a group of indigenous Spitz dogs from Northern Russia, particularly Siberia. 2 At first glance, you might assume that they are strictly sled dogs, but they are so much more. Their jobs included hunting both mammals and feathered game, herding, sled pulling, and being affectionate companions. 3 The versatility, intelligence and loving nature of this multi-purpose breed impresses all lucky enough to meet them.

You might be wondering why you haven't heard much about this breed before. Laika are very rare. Like so many Northern Breeds, with the advent of mechanization, they were no longer needed as sled dogs and transportation; with their jobs gone, they were almost allowed to become extinct, if not for the efforts of a dedicated few who worked to recover the breed. Laika are now enjoying a worldwide resurgence as people discover the breed worldwide, including Canada! Two seasoned CKC member breeders have worked diligently to establish the Yakutian Laika in Canada: Patricia Cummins and Dawne Deeley.  

Patricia first saw the breed on a Facebook page 8 years ago, and her interest was sparked. After having only white (or nearly white) dogs for so many years, Patricia loved their variety of markings. She admired their beauty and their similarity in many ways to the Samoyed that she has owned since 1976.
On the other hand, Dawne is fascinated by the historical background of these dogs and the possibility they may very well be a "missing link" to other northern breeds. Dawne has owned and bred several Nordic varieties, including the Karelian Bear Dog and the Russo-European Laika, and she was intrigued by the Yakutian Laika's mystery.

Dawne and Patricia had been discussing introducing the breed to Canada. Dawne was sure it had to be done after seeing the Yakutian Laika during a Russian native breed showcase at the FCI World Dog Show in 2016. The two friends imported a bitch name Kalina from Finland in 2016, and a dog named Maks arrived later that same year. Their first litter was born in 2019, and people were smitten with the beautiful puppies.
 
When preparing for this blog, I was lucky enough to get interviews with both Dawne and Patricia.
 
 
How would you describe the Yakutian Laika's personality?  
Patricia: Intelligent, energetic, highly empathetic with their owners, independent, but with a strong need for human contact and companionship.
Dawne: Gentle yet determined, intelligent yet independent, gentle yet tough. They are very attached to their owners and NEED contact with their people. The Yakutian Laika's curiosity reminds me very much of a small child; they want to be 'in' on everything, and they learn very quickly. For a Spitz breed, they are easy to train if positive reinforcement is used and a lot of variety, so they don't get bored. However, I cannot overstress the need for early socialization; they're VERY sensitive to their surroundings, notice the slightest changes in their environment, and need to be introduced to things gently yet consistently.
 

How much exercise do they require?
Dawne: These dogs have a lot of energy and need ample exercise to keep them fit and healthy. They are clever enough to get into trouble if this need isn't met, and they're left to their own devices. Daily long walks are a must; outdoor playtime in a large yard is another good option. 
 
Would you recommend a Yakutian Laika for someone living in an apartment?
Dawne: I would offer this would only be an option if the owner can commit to regularly scheduled exercise, EVERY DAY. The breed has tremendous physical stamina, and they need a regular 'brain stretch' to go along with their outdoor activities. Another possible drawback is ... well ... they "talk." Yodelling, chortling, howling ... they have a repertoire, and they use it to communicate. This isn't all the time, but it might not be appreciated by your neighbours if you're not there to stop it! 
 
Tell me about their grooming requirements.   
Patricia: Their coat is relatively odour free and sheds dirt easily with regular brushing. Brushing once a week is all that is necessary most of the time, except when seasonal shedding starts. They have a dense undercoat that seasonally will shed out completely, and this requires regular brushing to keep them (and your house) tidy during those times. 
Dawne: As with other Nordic breeds, the Yakutian should NEVER be shaved in the summer or "cut down." Their coat developed the way it is for a reason; good weatherproofing in both summer and winter. Also, while they are clean and dander is minimal, this is not a breed I would recommend for anyone considering a truly hypoallergenic dog.
 
Are there any health concerns a prospective puppy owner should talk to their breeder about?
Patricia: They are generally extremely healthy. They can be extremely picky eaters, which in some respects is a benefit, as they never tend to be fat dogs! Hip dysplasia can be an issue and should be tested for, as with many breeds. Some deafness occurs, which appears to be linked to dogs with extreme white markings.
 
What about specific dog sports they are involved in?
Dawne: I doubt that there is an activity Yakutians haven't tried and succeeded in! Historically, they were the "4-H" dog - hunter, hauler, herder and 'home .'Modern-day owners have found they are one of the easiest Nordic breeds to train. They have made quite an impression in Herding, Agility and Rally, and outside Canada, they've racked up an impressive show ring record.
 

Can Yakutian Laika live easily with other dogs?
Patricia: Yes. Being a sled breed meant to work with others, they are generally quite happy to live with other dogs and even with cats, but always only with proper socialization and training. 
 
How are they with children? 

Dawne: They are wonderful with children and seem to have a sixth sense about the frailties of younger ones. However, their size could be intimidating to a youngster, and they can display a high level of exuberance if they suspect a play session is in the offing.
Patricia: Yakutian Laika are excellent with children, but their energy levels may be overwhelming for smaller children, so interaction should always be supervised, as with any dog.
 
Who makes an ideal Yakutian Laika owner? 
Patricia: Anyone who enjoys the outdoors would find this breed to be a great companion for walking, hiking, skijoring, and of course, dog-sledding!
Dawne: And someone who will be happy with a dog that wants to be involved with everything they do! 
 

Is there anything else you would like people to know about the Yakutian Laika? 
Patricia: I personally think this breed is one of Russia's hidden treasures! They are gentle, friendly, and love human companionship, relatively easy to train and easy to get along with. They are also relatively low maintenance. They love to go for walks and enjoy your company. What more could one ask for?
Dawne: They're wonderful! They're striking to look at, impressive, clever, and being accustomed to "Nordic Naughtiness" in other breeds, I find them easy to train and very adaptable. 
 
The Yakutian Laika might be the breed for you if:  
- You have an active lifestyle.
- You enjoy 'hands-on' grooming and maintenance of your dog.
- You participate in a wide variety of 'doggy' activities.
- You look forward to everyone stopping you and asking, "what breed of dog is that?"
 
The Yakutian Laika might not be the breed for you if:  
- You want a guardian or watchdog. They are alert but NOT aggressive. 
- You just want a couch warmer. They'll happily keep you company on the furniture, but they MUST have physical and mental stimulation.
- You want a "hypoallergenic" breed or one that requires minimal coat care. 
- You don't want a "Velcro" dog - because if they're not with you, they're not happy!!
 


Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakutian_Laika
2   Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laika_(dog_type)
3  Ibid., Wikipedia

The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.

Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

 Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch


Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member. 

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