The Laika dog is a landrace instead of a breed. Like the Greenland Dog, it developed naturally alongside native people to fulfill functions such as hunting, keeping predators at bay, and pulling sleds.
Its instinct to “tree” predators like bears, that is, to charge and chase them up a tree, has some people confuse them with the Russian or Siberian Bear Dog, also called the Caucasian Ovcharka.
However, the Ovcharka is a molosser or mastiff-type dog that is much larger and more aggressive. On the other hand, the Siberian Laika is one of several Siberian dog breeds more like Northern spitz dogs.
Today the Laika has been separated into several distinct breeds. The Russo-European Laika, the West Siberian Laika, and the East Siberian Laika are hunting dogs considered aboriginal to Siberia. But there are also sledding Laikas like the Yakutia and herding Laikas like the Nenet, a samoyed predecessor.
History of the East Siberian Laika: Where Do They Come From?
The East Siberian Laika is a genuinely ancient breed with fossil remains in East Siberian dating back to the Neolithic period. This makes them well over 2000 years old and possibly older, as Laika-type dogs’ fossil remains have been found in Northern Europe dating back 10 000 years.
It is likely that they first came to Siberia with migrations of Mongolian and Chinese peoples, making them closely related to Japanese and Chinese dogs like the Akita. It is possible that early Laikas were bred with wolves on occasion.
The name ‘Laika’ derives from the Russian word “layat” and means “barker.” This refers to these dogs’ natural tendency to bark over anything they find important. This may happen due to intruders on their territory, a near-by predator, or flushing out game for hunters.
As a Landrace, they were initially not bred for looks the way most modern breeds today are. Instead, the most functional dogs were the best kept and most likely to survive. This created a type of dog that needs no training to hunt but that is versatile and can do just as well as a sled dog.
Like many primitive breeds, the Laika began to disappear in the 20th Century. It has only been through ongoing breeding programs in Russia that this remarkable dog has survived and been preserved.
What are the Physical Features of the East Siberian Laika?
|Physical Features of the East Siberian Laika|
|Height||Males are 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder.|
Females are 21 to 24 inches high.
|Weight||40- 55 pounds|
|Lifespan||12 – 15 years|
|Color||A wide range of colors, including the agouti or grizzled colors of wolves. Also black and tan, white, red, ticked, or patched.|
|Nose||The nose is usually black but may have a snow nose.|
The ESL (East Siberian Laika) is a medium-to-large size dog. At its upper limits of 26 inches for a male and 24 inches for a female, it stands only slightly higher than the average Siberian Husky. It is also roughly the same weight.
At first glance, the Laika might be mistaken for a Husky, or perhaps a Husky mixed with a wolf. It often has the grizzled or agouti colors found in wolves. However, it can come in a wide variety of colors.
This gives it a wolf-like appearance.
As with any landrace, there is a lot of variation in how a Laika may look. Their homeland is vast, and there are plenty of regional differences. In general, they are powerful dogs with rangy, long legs.
They bear an alert expression with high-set, erect ears, and a wedge-shaped head. Their coat is medium length but thick and insulated with a dense undercoat and stiff guard hairs. They shed heavily in the summer. Males typically have a more pronounced ruff around the neck.
Both eyes and nose are usually dark, although, like many Northern breeds, it may turn pink in the winter (known as a snow nose).
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General Care of the East Siberian Laika
|East Siberian Laika‘s General Care|
|Shedding||Sheds heavily when the seasons change|
|Exercise||This is a working dog that will do best in its natural role as a hunter or sledder. At least 90 minutes of vigorous daily exercise should be provided.|
|Housing||These are dogs that are comfortable living outside in cold climates. They need space and are not good for city life.|
|Temperament||Loyal, intelligent, but also stubborn and given to independent thinking. Can be territorial and dominant with other animals.|
|Trainability||Handler soft and eager to please. Do not respond well to harsh training. An Independent streak may require an experienced trainer.|
This is a high-energy breed and is not suited to anybody who only wants a companion. While they make an excellent friend to the right owner, they need to be out in the wild as often as possible, where they can make use of their instincts to hunt small game or pull sleds.
A rugged and hardy breed, the Eastern Siberian Laika can live happily outside in cold temperatures. It needs to be watched in warmer climates for heat stroke signs, and it is not recommended to keep them there.
They are not city or apartment dogs, as they need space to roam and run. Owners also report their Laikas to have an aptitude for escaping their yards. So high and secure fencing is necessary.
Food & Diet Requirements
Until recently, Laikas of all kinds lived closely with hunter-gatherer societies and with reindeer herders. This means their diets consisted mostly of raw meat such as reindeer, salmon, seal, or squirrel.
As such, Laika’s may struggle with low-protein kibbles and a diet high in grains. A vet can help you find a quality kibble that will suit your dog’s particular requirements.
A raw diet might be best for this particular breed, based on its recent evolution. However, if you choose this route, be sure to first speak with a certified veterinary nutritionist.
Another factor to consider is that, like the Greenland Dog, the Laika may require less food than other dogs its size and for its activity level. Therefore, its diet should be monitored closely to avoid obesity.
A slow-feeder bowl can also keep it from gulping food down so fast it develops bloat.
As with all Northern double-coated breeds, you can prepare for a tsunami of hair whenever it is shedding season. A good blowout will help mitigate the damage, but this is certainly not a hypoallergenic breed.
Another tip is to never ignore the ear and dental hygiene of your dog. In particular, bad teeth can cause a host of other health issues for your dog.
The East Siberian Laika needs an active owner who can make use of its natural skills and instincts. They prefer to travel long distances and flush out game or haul sleds. This is not an ideal hiking dog since they are primed to harass any local wildlife.
If keeping them in their natural state is impossible, regular, ground-covering exercises like bikejoring will help prevent frustration and destructive behaviors.
|Severe Health Problems||Hip dysplasia|
|Mild to Moderate Health problems||Monorchidism|
|Rare Health Problems||Cataracts and eye defects|
A dog that survived for millennia through hardiness and natural selection, the East Siberian Laika is mostly a healthy dog with very few concerns.
As with any medium or large dog, breeding dogs should be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia.
There are also cases of monorchidism, where only one testicle descends into the scrotum.
Occasionally, there may also be cases of umbilical hernias, where the spot around the umbilical cord does not completely close up. If this is severe enough, it may need surgery to close as it can be life-threatening.
Northern dogs should also be checked for eye problems such as cataracts.
Because of their preferred lifestyle, they are also prone to hunting-related injuries.
What is the East Siberian Laika’s Life Expectancy?
The East Siberian Laika is a healthy dog that usually lives between twelve and fifteen years.
The Trainability of the East Siberian Laika: Temperament and Intelligence
The East Siberian Laika is described as an intelligent dog that is more trainable than most primitive breeds. However, it typically functions without training, adjusting its hunting quickly to look for the game its owner prefers.
They are usually fearless dogs that will charge predators such as bears and chase them up trees, as this video demonstrates.
They are usually friendly and loving to humans. Still, They have a strong territorial instinct and have made ruthlessly protective guard dogs of their homestead in some areas of Siberia.
Although, in most cases, they are more given to barking to warn strangers away.
Their barking may prove a problem to neighbors, so it may be worthwhile to train your dog to keep the volume down.
They are described as handler soft. This means they do not respond well to harsh training and will do better with positive reinforcement.
Like any primitive breed, they may have an independent streak that may lead them to make up their minds about what to do in a given situation rather than look to their owners for guidance.
Sociability With Other Pets
The ESL is an intelligent dog. If socialized with livestock on the farm or the housecat, it can learn to leave both alone and view them as part of its pack.
But this will not stop it from chasing strange cats or animals away.
Since it has such a developed prey instinct, small pets like rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept securely locked away to prevent an incident.
This is also a dominant and territorial dog. It will need intensive socialization and clear leadership from a young age. Even so, it may be best to keep it away from other large dogs, mainly if they are of the same gender.
Suitable Home: Are East Siberian Laikas Good Pets?
The East Siberian Laika makes a good pet the right home. If kept in a small space without adequate exercise and stimulation, the dog may quickly become destructive. Its ability to escape the securest of yards can also make it a nuisance to the whole neighborhood, especially if somebody keeps a cat.
However, if kept in its natural state where it is allowed to hunt or repurposed for sledding, the Laika is a devoted and loyal companion.
How Much Does an East Siberian Laika Cost?
The East Siberian Laika is still extremely rare outside Russia, and import costs may have to be factored in. Still, a puppy is estimated to set you back between $800 and $1000.
To find a reputable breeder, it may be best to go through the Primitive and Aboriginal Dogs Society, dedicated to rare and ancient breeds like the ESL.
Although finding an Eastern Siberian Laika might prove difficult, this could be the perfect dog for an experienced owner who enjoys the great outdoors. Not only will they flush out prey for hunters, but they will ward off bears and mountain lions, warn off intruders, and haul heavy loads across rugged terrain.
While these are not city dogs, they are intelligent and trustworthy companions to anybody at home in the wilds or rural areas. If this sounds like you, helping to preserve this breed may be a worthwhile venture.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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