West Siberian Laika Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The West Siberian Laika (WSL) or Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is an ancient Spitz type hunting dog originating from Ural and West Siberia. The breed was developed through selective breeding from primitive hunting dogs of the Mansi (Voguls) and Khanty (Ostyak) indigenous people. These dogs known as the Mansi and Khanty Laikas are the actual descendants of wolves and primitive Spitz dogs, who had accompanied these aboriginals from prehistoric times. The mentioned selective breeding program started during the 1920s in several Russian cities, including Moscow and Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg), at the time when some local hunters had brought with them a few of these incredibly potent hunting dogs from their hunting expeditions in the Ob River region and North Ural. The breed standard was approved around 1930, but its modern shape was maintained after the WWII. The West Siberian Laika is one of three widely recognized Laika breeds, other two being the Russo-European Laika and East Siberian Laika. All three breeds are by the FCI included in the group 2: Nordic Hunting Dogs in the class of primitive dogs.

About West Siberian Laika Dogs

The West Siberian Laika is the most popular and most numerous of the Russian Laikas and like its cousins it is primarily bred and used for big game hunting. However, that doesn’t mean this breed hasn’t been tried and tested in some other “roles”. On the contrary, apart from being an excellent hunting dog, WSL has proved its worth as a wonderful family companion and an incredible watchdog. Indeed, this Laika is usually very fond of all family members and is equally affectionate to every one of them. Of course, the primary owner gets the most of its attention and loyalty since he is literally the Alpha and Omega to this dog. Nonetheless, WSL will for sure enjoy the company of every other member of the household, including kids. Yeah, indeed, surrounded by its loved ones, Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka can be very cheerful, silly, and eager to play. On top of that, this dog is very tolerant and careful with children. So, you can rest assured your kids will have a lot of fun with your Laika, but still, it is recommended that you supervise them since this is not some small and harmless dog.

West Siberian Laika has a wolf-like appearance.

No, I’m not a wolf, am a West Siberian Laika :)

Main West Siberian Laika characteristics are intelligence, agility, speed, strength, boldness, resourcefulness, alertness, adaptability, independence, cheerfulness, stubbornness, endurance, and persistence. Looking at some of these, it is more than obvious that this can be a very intimidating dog, especially, if there are some unwanted guests at your property. Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka can be sometimes very protective of its master, its human family, and its property. Besides, it is quite aloof and suspicious towards strangers. This is the reason WSL is not just a good watchdog, but an excellent guard dog too. This dog is very alert and sensitive to changes in its surroundings. He will always warn you with a loud bark whenever somebody comes near your property. Usually, it will end with a warning only, but if Laika finds that person to be a threat in any way to its human family, he will confront it and sometimes even bite. This will, of course, happen in very rare occasions, but it’s still a possibility (temperament of individual dog may vary). So, I advise you to put some warning on your front gate to avoid such unpleasantries.

The usual life expectancy of a West Siberian Laika is around 10-12 years. The breed was strictly developed as a hunting dog, not some showman’s exhibit, and thus only the strongest and healthiest dogs were kept and bred. As a consequence, WSL is a very healthy breed that can rarely suffer from usual canine diseases and parasites, but not any genetic health problems. However, in order to keep your dog healthy, both mentally and physically, you will have to exercise him as much as possible. Indeed, Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is an incredibly energetic and active dog, who can work all day long. That’s why you will regularly have to take your dog for a long walk in the wilderness or some park, but that just won’t be enough. You will always have to combine this with some challenging games. Remember, daily exercise is something that will prevent your Laika from becoming bored. Once bored, WSL can be very destructive and is prone to excessive barking, so you got the point. Apart from daily exercise, you and your family members will have to spend as much time as you can with your dog to prevent such unwanted behavior.

Living Conditions

With such restless spirit, it is perfectly clear that the West Siberian Laika is not some indoors companion (though it is very clean and has no doggy odour), neither is this dog suitable for city life. Of course, he won’t object to be sometimes petted by family members inside the house, but that just isn’t something he will cherish as much as some work or play in the open. So, if you wish to buy a WSL and make him happy, you will definitely have to have a very large yard with a lot of free space. This is something that is absolutely mandatory in the case of this dog! Know that your Laika will only thrive in such living conditions where he can run and play freely. This breed was after all, developed from Siberian hunting dogs that were bred and kept in remote rural areas in taiga forests. And like them, the West Siberian Laika has that wild side that guides it to explore the surroundings, to hunt, to roam, to simply be one with nature. So, it is perfectly clear why this breed is primarily recommended to owners that are living in villages or small towns with rich natural environment.

WSL Training And Relationship With Other Dogs And Pets

WSL is an expert in treeing small game!

Treeing is my speciality :)

The West Siberian Laika is a robust, hardy and very agile dog with strong inborn hunting instincts. It is simply incredible how easily a WSL puppy develops its hunting habits without human lead. Just let your dog out in the forest and watch him improve on his own. Ok, you will definitely have to make some co-working adjustments in time, but not nearly as much as with some other modern hunting dog breeds. This is the reason Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is such an exceptional and highly prized hunting dog. However, such strong prey drive can only mean trouble for other small pets and it really is. The West Siberian Laika will instantly hunt down every cat or other pet at sight. This can often end up very badly since this dog is very skillful at chasing and merciless in confrontation. The things aren’t much better with other dogs too. WSL usually tends to be very dominant and aggressive towards unfamiliar dogs, especially those of the same sex and those that come at its territory. The best way to fix this is that you raise your Laika together with other pets and dogs.

The other solution in this case is, of course, proper socialization and training in obedience. Both trainings are essential when it comes to strangers too. Luckily, the West Siberian Laika is a very smart dog with a good memory that is highly trainable. As a plus, he is always eager to learn and will gladly work and spent time with its master. You should start with socialization and training while a puppy is still very young (four or five weeks old). In the beginning you will usually have to work carefully with your dog until you get him invested in the training. The best way to train your Laika is through the use of positive reinforcement methods, so make sure you prepare some tasty treats. During training you should definitely avoid bullying or yelling since this can have a negative impact on the dog’s personality. In the right hands and with proper treatment, WSL can easily learn even the most demanding commands. However, keep in mind that even the well socialized Laikas that were raised with other pets won’t ignore chickens and small rodents. They are simply too tempting.

Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka Physical Characteristics

The Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is a larger medium-sized dog of square shape – the height at the shoulders is approximately equal to its length. It has a wolf-like appearance with the strong, compact and slightly elongated body covered with a medium-length double coat. As usual to all Nordic breeds, this waterproof and elements-resistant coat consists of soft and dense undercoat and harsh and straight topcoat. The hair is slightly longer around the neck, on the chest, buttocks, and tail. The length and density of coat vary depending on the type of climate in an area. If a dog is living in a cold-climate area, the coat is usually longer and more profuse and vice versa. That is why WSL can equally well adapt to cold as well as warm climates. These Laikas are seasonal shedders. When they shed, they shed a lot, so you will have to groom your dog at least once a day. During the rest of the year, weekly brushing will be just fine. Main West Siberian Laika colors are wolf or coyote gray, white, red or tan. All these colors can vary in shades and combinations. The most usual color patterns are different shades of gray, combination of pale red  white, and predominantly white with colored patches. The dogs with sable coats are not accepted.

The West Siberian Laika has a typical wedge-shaped head with the muzzle that is pointed at the nose. Laikas from the Mansi strain have longer muzzles than those of the Khanty strain. The large teeth usually meet in the scissor bite, which is the only allowed bite. However, the vice bite is also quite prominent in this breed. In fact, the bite in some dogs is changing from scissor bite to a vice bite by the age of five or six years. So, keep that in mind. The broad nose is usually black or brown. The almond-shaped eyes occur in brown, dark brown, and rarely in yellow and blue color, but only the brown and dark brown eyes are accepted by the standard. They are slightly slanted and moderately close-set. The triangular, erect ears are covered with insulating hair. The moderate neck is very thick and muscular. The chest is well developed, slightly narrow, and not that deep. The curled and bushy tail is usually laid atop the dog’s straight and strong back. The forelegs are well-boned, muscular and long. The hind legs are slightly angled and very strong. The oval feet have arched toes and hard pads. The West Siberian Laikas living in the colder climates have well-furred feet.

West Siberian Laika Dog Size And Weight

– Height between 22 and 24 inches (56-61 cm)
– Weight between 45 and 55 pounds (20,5-25 kg)
– Height between 20,5 and 23 inches (52-58 cm)
– Weight between 40 and 50 pounds (18-23 kg)

Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is a superb hunting dog that can be specialized to hunt only a single type of game.

Time for hunting!

Superb Hunting Dog

Like I wrote above, every West Siberian Laika is born with strong hunting instincts. They are simply an inseparable part of this dog’s personality from day one. Laika puppies will start improving their hunting abilities as soon as you take them to wilderness (but not before the age of four or five months). You will only have to make some minor corrections considering certain hunting rules and commands. There are plenty of reasons why this is such an expert hunting dog. Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka is incredibly agile, energetic, fierce, bold, persistent, strong, and fast. It has high stamina, keen senses, and can work all day long. This dog has been equally well used in the hunt on big game (bear, wolf, moose, elk, boar) as well as small game (squirrel, marten, badger). The WSL can be even trained to successfully hunt birds, such as grouse, pheasant, wild duck, etc. Like other Laika breeds, this one is a bay hunting dog that silently tracks down a game until it is trapped. Then, he starts barking to keep the game at bay until the hunter arrives. If the dog is treeing a quarry, he is noisy all the time. The tone of his bark changes depending on the type of game he is after. However, the thing that separates West Siberian Laika from other similar hunting dogs, like Russo-European Laika or Karelian Bear Dog, is that this dog can be specialized to hunt only a single type of game. Whether it is a bear or some bird, this dog can be taught to be focused solely on that particular game. This is very useful since such dog cannot be distracted by some other animals.

Great Companion And Helper

The West Siberian Laika is indeed a great hunting dog, wonderful family companion, excellent guard and watchdog, but there is a lot more to this breed. This is as well a perfect companion dog for all active and sporting people, who regularly practice jogging or hiking in nature. He will gladly accompany you in such daily activities, but know that his hunting instincts can often lead him astray. If a WSL catches some nice scent or spots any game, he will gladly go after it and stay behind. So, always keep an eye on your dog when in nature. It is known that Mansi and Khanty sometimes use their Laikas for reindeer herding. Zapadno-Sibirskaïa Laïka inherited this herding skills and proved to be a reliable helper for every farm owner. As a plus in this case, WSL can easily learn to leave farm animals alone and is excellent in keeping the wild predators at bay. In the end, there is one more thing you have to know about this breed, especially, if you wish to breed your Laika. Females can usually have only one estrus per year! This is something similar to Basenji or Dingo, but unlike them some females can regularly have two estruses per year. With that being said, it is time to bring this article to a close. So, as you can see, the West Siberian Laika is an ideal dog for every man who loves being a part of nature. If you are such a person, then this dog is your perfect choice!

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