The Yakutian Laika is an incredibly tough, temperamental and tenacious sled dog native to Russia and more specifically to Yakutian region. For thousands of years this dog was the mean for survival of the indigenous people of treacherous territories of Far North. It still remains a highly effective all-purpose working dog although lots of its specimens are turned into solely family pets.
The Yakutian Laika is a truly ancient primitive breed, which development goes back to the time of early domestication of a wolf. Archaeological findings and modern analysis showed that progenitors of the breed had already existed 7 000-8 000 years ago. In the extreme severe conditions of the Tundra and Polar Zone sled dogs were the only mean of transportation because they were quite undemanding in feeding and could get by with an unbelievably scanty diet.
The Yakutian Laika was also indispensable due to its universal usage: dogs were the source of nourishing proteins and pelts; they were sacrificed in the process of religious rituals. The breed was also an accomplished hunter and was capable of tracing and killing a wide variety of local small mammals.
The Yakutian Laika was first and foremost a sled dog, which endurance and stamina made possible lots of geographic expeditions to the Far North. Actually both Earth poles were explored with assistance of draft dogs. The majority of American explorers of the Arctic heavily relied on their Laikas in their challenging trips.
Despite its ancient background the breed was first mentioned in written records only in 1633 when the first marine voyage from the Lena River was accomplished. Thereafter it earned multiple references in Russian literature. For example, in the first volume of the «Geographic Statistical Dictionary of Russian Empire» (P. Semenov, 1862) it was described as a highly treasured hunting and draft dog and an essential part of the everyday life of aboriginal people.
Up until 60s of the XX century the Yakutian Laika provided preferable way of winter transportation in northern areas of Russia as well as it remained an indispensable helper and companion of almost every family in these regions. In later years these lands started to experience the effect of global industrialisation and traditional canine transport was mostly supplanted by snowmobiles and helicopters. The Russian government acknowledged the breed as no longer essential in self-sustained households of indigenous folks. The dogs were ruthlessly exterminated in great numbers and systematic breeding was completely abandoned.
As the result of this prosecution the population of the Yakutian Laika reduced from 33 000 in 1953 to just nearly 30 high-quality specimens by the end of the 90s of XX century. In 1998 a few enthusiasts decided to invest their time and efforts in the revival of the breed. For the breeding program they carefully selected only best members, which became the foundation of a modern line of the breed in Yakutia. The position of the dog has been fully secured as soon as its loyal breeders attained the recognition by the Russian Kynological Federation (RKF) in 2004.
For centuries the Yakutian Laika was an irreplaceable and faithful assistant of a man in the conditions where the slightest demonstration of weakness was punished with death. It always received respectful attitude from its human family, which treated it as its member rather than a simple domestic animal. This means that it developed into a fabulous companion dog, devoted, lively and biddable. The breed is extremely gentle and considerate with children to whom it commonly establishes especially tight bonds. Nevertheless its friendly nature doesn’t exclude the necessity of certain amount of socialisation, preferably in the early age.
The Yakutian Laika is slightly reserved with unknown people but in the most cases it’s excited to acquire a new playmate. Human aggressiveness was considered by dogs’ breeders as a major fault and was meticulously eliminated from its characteristics. The breed is endowed with very sensitive nose and ears, which make it rather capable watchdog. However its barking is no more than a mean to show its anticipation of the perspective of making a new acquaintance. This dog will most probably fail in the role of a guardian because of its friendly nature.
The Yakutian Laika used to pull a narta (sled) in close collaboration with dozens of other dogs so it’s quite accepting of other dogs. The breed surely prefers to have one or several constant canine companions. It can be introduced with few issues to the household with pre-existing dog, although it should be performed with necessary caution. The second primary duty of this breed was hunting and it preserves much of its prey drive. That’s why its communication with other small and average animals should never go unsupervised. The Yakutian Laika will most likely get on with a home cat if they have been reared together.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· eye problems;
· problems with digestive system.
As a working dog the Yakutian Laika should receive minimal grooming. The owner should brush this dog on a weekly basis to get rid of possible matts and tangles in its coat. Its hair actually repels dirt and requires additional washing only when it’s absolutely necessary. This breed is virtually deprived of specific doggy odour.
The rest includes such common care practices as nail trimming, ears’ cleaning and teeth brushing.
The Yakutian Laika’s training is rather a pleasant and easy task thanks to its biddable nature and keen intelligence. This dog has strong inclination to independent thinking so it won’t follow the handler’s orders unless it fully trusts him. Pulling a sled is an inborn talent of this breed and it needs insignificant training in this respect.
The Yakutian Laika got used to seek human leadership and guidance but it doesn’t respond well to corrective training techniques. It works more eagerly if learning process is based on positive reinforcement and tasty treats. As with any other dog, the Yakutian Laika should learn certain rules and norms of decent behaviour in human society so elementary obedience training is imperative.
The Yakutian Laika is characterised with amazing stamina and vitality and won’t be satisfied with a short daily walk. Its exercise regimen should include a brisk walk of at least an hour long. However it’s not enough to make this breed totally happy because it surely needs a daily opportunity to expend its energy in a free run. The dog fits ideally for the country house with a roomy yard where it will be able to move and play to its heart content.
The Yakutian Laika is ill-suited for extremely busy people who don’t plan to dedicate appropriate amount of their time in active pastime with their canine friends. The specimen, which lacks outlets for its energy, will get bored and will demonstrate its displeasure with unreasonable barking, hyperactivity, destructiveness and other types of unwanted behaviour.