The Samoyed Club of SA encourages its members to participate in activities that prove that the breed of today maintains the qualities so cherished in the past. Several of our number are actively engaged in herding, sled dog racing, weight-pull competition and pack hiking. The club runs an awards program to recognise working achievements, and hires out a Christmas sled as a fundraiser.
Despite the popular perception of a sled dog, breed aficionados have long known of its innate herding abilities. Contemporary anecdotal evidence of the Samoyed's herding heritage is abundant. There are numerous accounts of incidents where a Samoyed escape artist is eventually found rounding up the neighbour's sheep. Samoyeds are “loose-eyed” herding dogs similar to Collies, Australian Shepherds, Shelties, Belgians etc., relying on body language and bark to control the stock. They exhibit a variety of different styles when working stock - some work very close, even shouldering or chesting the stock, while others work at a distance relying more on barking. They tend to prefer actual work to competition work, relishing the greater variety of tasks.
Competition .... Although the first recorded sheep dog trial was held in 1873, herding competition for “the dog fancy” seems to have started in the USA in the 1980's, and Samoyeds were there at the start. In 1992, Samoyeds were the first breed outside the Herding Group to be admitted to AKC herding competition. They have been eligible for competition with the American Herding Breed Assoc. since its inception in 1986, and for even longer with the Australian Shepherd Club of America.
Following a 2005 submission by the Samoyed Club of SA, the breed is now accepted for herding competition in Australia, and several dogs have competed successfully since then, nationwide. ANKC-affiliated herding groups and clubs hold training sessions and herding trials in most states of Australia through the cooler months of the year.
Sled Dog Sports
Although the dogs were used primarily for herding reindeer, these versatile animals also made their mark hauling sleds for the early polar explorers. Today, Samoyeds take part in sled dog sports relevant to the breed's working history - racing, weight pull competition and pack hiking.
Besides the Samoyed Club, events are conducted by two other clubs in South Australia:
The first open (all breeds) sled dog race in South Australia was held in 1996, and the Samoyed breed was represented – all previous events had been restricted to Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. Samoyeds have competed in sled dog racing events regularly since then. Since 2005, the Samoyed Club has held an annual open event, the “White Flash Bash”, which is included on the national sled dog racing calendar.
OK, there’s a slight technical problem - no snow! So instead of sleds, we use scooters for one and 2 dog teams, and 3-wheeled gigs for larger teams. In recent years, a new event has been introduced to encourage newcomers to get started in the sport - bikejoring - where the musher rides a bike instead of a scooter.
Racing is held in the winter months in the pine forests of Mount Crawford and Kuitpo. In deference to our climate, race distances are fairly short - from about 2 to 8 km, depending on the size of the team and the experience of the musher.
Advice and assistance is available from club members on scooter building and on ordering of harnesses and other equipment.
The Club held its first Weight Pull competition in 2002 – the first open competition in the state – again, all previous events had been restricted to Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. A number of Samoyeds have qualified for working awards in the Weight Pull discipline, and in Adelaide, several dogs have pulled loads over 500kg and the state record for the breed is currently 700kg.
Competitions are subdivided into several weight classes so that dogs compete against other dogs of similar size.
A 4-wheeled cart is used to carry the weights and the pulling surface is generally carpet over concrete or bitumen, although pulls can also be held on a “natural” surface. Dogs wear a special harness which is attached to the cart via a tug line. The competition starts with an empty cart (about 120 kg). At the completion of each round, weight is added to the cart. A successful pull requires the loaded cart to be pulled a distance of 5 metres within 60 seconds, and allows the dog to progress to subsequent rounds. In each weight class, the winner is the dog that successfully pulls the greatest weight. In the event of a tie, the fastest time wins.
This is a non-competitive activity, although credit can be gained towards a working certificate if certain criteria are met. Basically, you take your dog for a walk, but the dog wears a backpack (saddlebag) which can be loaded up with food, water, spare clothing etc.
Unfortunately, there have been no organised pack hikes in South Australia for several years.
For many years, the Samoyed Club visited the Adelaide Children's Hospital on Christmas morning, together with dogs and sled, to take Santa and presents around the wards. Sadly, bureaucratic madness has prevented this in recent years, but the club sled is still used as a fundraiser at various Christmas functions.
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