Traits & Characteristics of the West Siberian Laika
Description of the West Siberian Laika

The West Siberian Laika is a hunting breed. It was developed from aboriginal hunting dogs of Zyrayan, Mansi and Hanty people living in the forest zone of Ural and West and Central Siberia.

Appearance and Body Structure: The West Siberian Laika is a middle to large size dog with lean and strong body structure.

Behavior and Character: Well balanced, active and very alert with quick reaction to environmental stimuli. Aggressiveness to humans is not typical. Typical gate during a hunting search is a gallop alternating with a fast trot.


Height: Dogs are 22-25 inches, bitches 21-23 inches at shoulder. Height of dogs at sacrum is about one inch lower than height at the shoulder and height of bitches at sacrum is about one half inch lower or the same as at the shoulder. According to modern breed standard, ration of length to height in dogs is 103-107 and in bitches 104-108.

Deficiencies: height one inch lower than minimal in males and one inch above the upper limit in bitches, as compared with the standard, and square body structure.

Faults: all deviations from the standard over 1 inch.


Color: White, gray and red and reddish gray of all shades and each of the above with white spots. White dogs may have a brown nose. Gray wolf-like color of various shades is caused by a complex color of guard hairs with alternating bands (zones) of dark and light color. This kind of coat color is sometimes called zonary gray or zonary red. According to the breed standard, ticking on head and legs of the same color is penalized, but is common among aboriginal dogs.

Faults: black and black and white (not zonary color of guard hairs); ticking on the body; ticking on head and legs of different than body color; brown and brindle color.


Coat: Guard hairs are stiff and straight. Undercoat is thick and soft. Because of the thick and rich undercoat, guard hairs are directed off body. This creates an impression of a well coated dog. On the head and ears, hairs are dense and short. On the neck and shoulders, the coat is longer forming a ruff emphasized by the frame around the face where long hairs of the neck meet with hairs of the cheeks and on the throat. On the back, hairs are longer, particularly in males. Legs are covered by stiff, short, dense hairs and on the posterior side of the legs hairs are slightly longer, but without feathering. On feet, hairs are stiff and short forming a “brush” between toes. Tail is well coated with stiff, straight hairs. On the lower side of the tail, hairs are longer, but not forming plumage.

Deficiencies: absence of undercoat or its weak development, absence of the ruff and pants (if not soon after the shedding in spring-summer time).

Faults: wavy, curly or long with feathering and plumage coat, too long hairs on front and hind legs and too short or too long hairs or with middle parting on the back.


Skin, Muscles and Bone: Skin is tough, pliant, without loose tissue and folds. Muscles and bone are well developed. Circumference of metacarpus in dogs 4 1/2 – 5 inches and in bitches 4-5 inches.

Faults: any deviation from standard.


Head: Lean, in view from above elongate wedge shaped, in a form of extended equilateral triangle with medium wide scull. In bitches, skull is narrower than in dogs. Muzzle is pointed and long, but not narrow, somewhat widened in area of fangs. According to recent version of the breed standard, the muzzle is as long as skull or slightly longer. In lateral view, muzzle is wedge-shaped. Skull is distinctly longer than wide. Stop is developed, but not sharp. Upper line of muzzle parallel to upper line of front. Supraorbital bones are moderately developed. Parietal ridge and occipital crest are well developed. Occipital part of the skull is rounded. Lips are lean and close.

Deficiencies: convex forehead, absence of the distinct stop and partial absence of pigment on the nose, lips and eyelids. High and too full cheeks, weakly developed parietal ridge, weakly developed occipital crest and roman nose.

Faults: heavy and coarse head, abrupt stop, dish-like face, short muzzle and square lips.


Ears: Ears are erect, pointed, high set, mobile, in form of extended triangle and with small ear lobes.

Deficiencies: wide apart, low set and not mobile ears.

Faults: ears with wide rounded tips, with large ear lobes, completely or partly pendulous ears.


Eyes: Not large, oval (almond-shaped eyes preferred), slanted, deeper set than in other hunting Spitz-like breeds. Eye expression is full of life. Eye color is dark brown and brown at any coat color. Light colored eyes are penalized, according to the standard.

Faults: round eyes, straight set, protruding, blue, yellow, gray, green or other than brown color.


Teeth and Bite: Teeth are white, large, well developed, strong, close and full set present. Bite: scissors only.

Faults and Deficiencies: any bite other than scissors.


Neck: Well muscled, lean, oval in section, as long as head. Angle of neck to the body, 45-55 degrees.

Deficiencies: too short, too long, low or vertical set neck, and neck with dewlap.

Faults: same deviations more strongly developed.


Withers: Withers are will developed , particularly in males.


Back: Back is strong, well muscled, straight and broad.

Deficiencies: soft, narrow and slightly sagging back.

Faults: humped or convex back.


Loins: Short and broad, well muscled and slightly convex.

Deficiencies: too long loins, straight or slightly humped.

Faults: same deviations but stronger developed.


Croup: Medium long and slightly sloped.

Deficiencies: horizontal and too little sloped croup.

Faults: the same traits but stronger developed.


Chest: Broad, deep and long, oval in section, lowered to elbows.

Deficiencies: flat or barrel-like chest, open wide and not reaching to elbows.

Faults: same deviations developed to a larger extent.


Abdomen: Relatively little tuck up.

Deficiencies: strongly tuck up or large belly.


Forequarters: Shoulders medium sloped, legs are well muscled, lean in frontal view straight and parallel. Legs slightly longer than half of height at shoulder. Elbows are well developed and directed posteriorly and parallel to the axis of the body. Metacarpus is not long and slightly sloped. All angles are naturally developed.

Deficiencies: straight shoulders, slightly curved forearms, elbows directed outward or inward; straight or excessively sloped metacarpus.

Faults: the same deviations but stronger developed.


Hindquarters: Angles at stifles and hocks are will developed. Legs are well muscled, straight and parallel in view from behind. Femur shorter than tibia. Metatarsus almost vertical. Vertical projection from pelvic bone straight down crosses anterior side of metatarsus.

Deficiencies: hind legs with too straight joints and hocks too close or far apart.

Faults: the same deviations but more developed.


Feet: Oval, compact, toes are close to each other, middle toes slightly longer than lateral toes and well arched. Dewclaws on hind legs, if present, should be removed.

Tail: Carried curled on the back, or sickle shaped, but in such a case, the tip of the tail should touch the back. If relaxed, the tail should reach to the hocks or to be a 1/2 – 1 inch shorter.

Deficiencies: too long tail, sickle-shaped tail or curved but not touching back.

Faults: plume-like tail, stick-like or saber shaped.


Biological Peculiarities and Character

The West Siberian Laika is a very healthy dog. So far, there are no genetic health problems known among them. However, like with any breeding organisms, chances of some deleterious mutations are always present. Under normal conditions of good exercise and feeding, West Siberian Laikas never have hot spots and other skin problems, ear infections or bad breath. Hip Dysplasia has never been recorded in this breed. Even when injured, Laikas heal quickly, simply by licking their wounds. West Siberian Laikas do not have their own smell and may be allowed inside, but it is healthier for a dog to live outside year round. In May-June they shed heavily changing to a lighter coat for the summer. Laikas like to rub their backs and sides in fresh cow manure or stinky carrion.

Adult dogs are very affectionate and like to spend as much time with their master as possible. Being a hardy hunting dog of the wilderness, Laikas need space and time for physical exercise. West Siberian Laikas can live happily, being chained or penned, but daily or at least several times a week, running free, playing and hunting is a must! This is an important condition for raising a West Siberian Laika and a good hunting dog.

The West Siberian Laika is a very affectionate and devoted dog to his master. Development of a strong bond with his master is an important condition for a successful hunting dog. Dogs living with their native owners in Ural and Siberia spend weeks and months living with the hunter in the wilderness, sleeping close to him by the fire or in a log cabin. This provides excellent conditions for development of a strong emotional attachment between the dog and the hunter.

West Siberian Laikas like to dig a lot, especially in the hot summer time. A large pen with earth, not concrete surface, with grass, including shady and sunny places, would be the best to accommodate such a dog. All West Siberian Laikas are very inventive trying to escape pens, if they have never been penned before, or left there neglected for a long time, without contact with the owner. They learn to unlatch doors, dig under the fence or climb or jump over it and cut the wire with their teeth. The latter can cause teeth damage. Laikas usually accept life to be chained or penned easily, if they are turned loose at a certain time to run free and spend time with their master. In a secluded place, at a safe distance from highways, a West Siberian Laika may be turned loose regularly, for a few hours. Dogs deprived from freedom and contact with humans become noisy, disobedient and prone to run away, until they satisfy their urge of free physical activity. Regular and frequent contact with their master, particularly hunting together and taking long walking trips, is important. If turned loose and left alone, the West Siberian Laika does not run too far and spends most of its time within 50-100 yards from the house. These dogs are not prone to wander far away, visiting other people’s backyards on their own, but they may disappear from sight for a while, barking at a treed squirrel, chasing some wildlife or digging for a rodent or other animal hiding in an underground den. Laikas have remarkable sense of direction, they will never get lost on their own and always find their way home. However, their hunting activities can create a problem, if the dog is kept in a close neighborhood. Laikas can be taught to leave cats alone and other animals living in the same household, but other cats coming close, including cats of immediate neighbors, may be treated like game. West Siberian Laikas are not inclined to chase cows and are easy to teach since a puppy, to leave other domesticated animals, such as goats, chickens and geese, alone. Cats and rabbits may be most tempting for these dogs because of their natural addiction to hunting fur bearing animals. All West Siberian Laikas are aggressive to small and big predators and will bark and attack them, if they are approaching the house or found in the woods. These dogs are very alert and react fast to any danger. In the wilderness, this is a beneficial trait, helping to prevent unexpected encounters with bears and mountain lions.

Laikas mature by 2 years of age, and females have their first estrus after they are 1 1/2 – 2 years old. Most of the females have one estrus per year, usually in February – March, which is an important criterion of a pure bred West Siberian Laika. Females give birth to relatively few puppies, 3-7 per litter. Since first hours of life, puppies of the Laika are well coordinated, and walk well when they are 3-4 weeks old. In some pups, ears are erect as soon as they open their eyes, but in some puppies, during their first weeks of life the ears are lop. By age of 8 weeks, all purebred and healthy Laikas have prick ears. Puppies of the West Siberian Laika have a stronger defensive reaction to unfamiliar sounds, people, animal and places, than puppies of cultured breeds. Their socialization
must be started as soon as possible. By 7 weeks of age, all pups must wag their tails and lick the hands of their caretaker.

The West Siberian Laika is an active and very alert dog with a well balanced temperament. Typically, it is not aggressive to humans, but some dogs are aloof with strange people and ever protective. They bark when someone is approaching the house or a camping tent on foot or in a vehicle. However, the majority of the Laikas are not quick to bite a human, but rather bark from a safe distance. West Siberian Laikas are reliable with children and loyal to the family. They are territorial and may be aggressive to strange dogs of the same sex coming close to the house. By the same reasons, they are not prone to wander and visit other people’s backyards. The West Siberian Laika is a good hunting dog and pet for those people who have proper conditions and are willing to spend time exercising them properly.