Sapsaree: The Korean Watchdog

Sapsaree on the street
Anna Smith
Written by Anna Smith

There are many different kinds of dogs, and all of them seem to make good candidates as companions and friends. Dog lovers know how hard it is to walk away from an adoption center with just one dog. I mean, how can you resist all those cute faces waiting to love and be loved? The Sapsaree, for instance, has one of the friendliest and cutest expressions you will ever see.

The Sapsaree is a Korean sheepdog breed with ancient ties to the country. They were traditionally believed to have the abilities to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Sap in Korean means “to dig out” while Sar means “ghost,” so you have a dog that can dig out ghosts. While popular in South Korea, this breed is quite rare in the States, and it’s the perfect pet if you want a smart and unique-looking dog.

If you’re thinking about adopting a Sapsaree, this article will talk about the dog’s temperament, characteristics, history, and care. This information will help you decide if the Sapsaree is a good addition to your lifestyle and home.

Breed Characteristics

Sapsaree's head

  • Adaptability: Good; will do well in an apartment provided that they are exercised and trained

  • Trainability: Good; like most herding dogs they are intelligent and very trainable

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; heavy shedders—need daily brushing

  • All Around Friendliness: Good; but not that accommodating towards other dogs

  • Exercise Needs: Moderate; a 30-minute daily walk will suffice

Dog Breed GroupWorking Dogs
Height 20 – 25 inches
Weight40 – 60 pounds
Lifespan10 – 12 years

The Sapsaree is a medium-sized shaggy-haired dog. They make superb family pets because they are devoted and loyal pets to their family. They are happiest when they are spending time with their owners and are known to develop separation anxiety if they are left alone for too long.

This friendly and affectionate breed is an ideal pet for families with kids. They love playing with children, especially if they were raised together. The Sapsaree is a friendly dog, but they don’t really get along well with other dogs. They will tolerate other dogs as long as they don’t pose a threat to their territory.

The shaggy coat of this breed is composed of long hair that requires a lot of brushing. They are heavy shedders, so daily brushing will help you manage their coats while keeping it clean. Grooming can be done after walks or exercise since debris tends to get stuck in their coats. This is not a good breed for allergy sufferers.

See Also: Top Hypoallergenic Dogs

As for exercise, this dog has lots of stamina but does not require a lot of exercise. They require moderate activity so daily 30 minute walks should be fine. They are ideal for outdoorsmen because they love spending time outdoors.

The Sapsaree can exist in small spaces like apartments and small homes, provided that they are exercised or if they have a fenced yard that they can roam in or stretch their legs. This breed is a working dog and not a lapdog, so they need physical activity to prevent boredom and destructive behavior.

Main Highlights

sapsari on a leash

  • Considered as a National Treasure in Korea.

  • Their shaggy appearance resembles the Old English Sheepdog.

  • A popular choice of breed in its native country.

  • A great herder.

  • A wonderful family companion.

  • Great with kids and other pets especially if raised together.

  • Do not get along with other dogs especially if they pose a threat to the Sapsaree’s territory.

  • They require a lot of grooming to manage their long hair.

  • Heavy shedder. Not a breed for allergy sufferers.

  • A very intelligent and trainable breed.

  • Can learn almost anything because they are born learners.

  • Need early training with a firm and consistent but gentle trainer.

  • Respond well to positive reinforcements, treats, and praises.

  • They love the outdoors and outdoor activities.

  • They can live in apartments and small homes provided they are exercised or have access to a small fenced yard where they can roam.

  • They are generally friendly and affectionate. However, they are always aware of their surroundings, which makes them good watchdogs.

  • They will alert you with a bark if there are strangers nearby.

  • They will not hesitate to surrender their lives to protect their family.

Breed History

2 Sapsaree dogs

Many believe that the Sapsaree has existed in Korea as far back as 2,000 years ago. Tombs and murals depicting the breed established it as far as 400 AD. They were originally royal pets but were later found throughout the country.

According to historians, the Japanese nearly exterminated the Sapsaree during WWII. At the end of the 1950s, purebred Sapsaree were rare.

Professors from Kyungpook National University decided to rectify the situation by formulating a breeding program. Thanks to their efforts, the Sapsaree is now an established breed with numbers around 3,000 in South Korea. Credits to the breeding program were attributed to Professor Ha Ji-Hong who spent his own time and money to finance this goal.

The breed is now becoming popular in Korea and is considered as a National Treasure. However, it has not gained international attention yet. The Sapsaree is recognized by all major Korean dog clubs including the FCI and the Korean Kennel Club.


Although this is a medium-sized dog, Koreans see the Sapsaree as an impressively large dog. Thanks to their shaggy appearance, these dogs are usually referred to as “lion dogs.”

Sapsaree have strong necks, straight backs, and their bodies are covered with thick hair. Their face is deep with their round eyes covered by their “bangs.”

In comparison to truly large dog breeds, the Sapsaree stands 48-58 cm at the withers and weigh approximately 18-30 kg.

Personality and Character

two Sapsaree dogs sitting together

The dog is well known in their native land for their intense devotion and loyalty. They love being with their master and spending time with their family. They make good watchdogs and will alert you to anything suspicious using their distinctive bark. They are very cautious when dealing with strangers and won’t attack unless they are provoked.

If you want to approach a Sapsaree, you should greet their masters first and let them introduce you to the dog. They are generally friendly and will usually accept strangers provided that you don’t pose a threat. They also adopt a friendly attitude toward other non-threatening animals.

As a family dog, you can’t ask for a better friend. The Sapsaree are loving, affectionate, loyal, and protective. A Sapsaree won’t hesitate to give their lives to save their family.

They play well with children provided that they were raised together. The breed also gets along with other pets especially if socialized early. However, they can be wary towards other dogs especially if they feel threatened in their territory.

Being an intelligent breed, the Sapsaree is a very trainable dog. They have a love for learning, and it seems like there is nothing that they can’t learn. They need a firm and consistent trainer and early training to establish proper behavior.

Because they are smart, training is very quick and easy with the Sapsaree. They find it easy to understand actions and commands and like to receive praises and encouragement during the learning process. They are very avid people-pleasers and are known to learn even without any special instructions.

Aside from being watchdogs and family pets, the Sapsaree also make good therapy pets due to their calm temperament. Their gentle demeanor, friendliness, and kind nature have helped many patients recovering in hospitals.

See Also: How to Train a Therapy Dog

They were originally kept in Korea as royal pets and over the years have evolved to become good housemates. The Sapsaree will not defecate or urinate indoors and are good at waiting for their masters to take them outside. They are patient and can handle most situations with calm grace.

This breed looks lumbering (perhaps due to their shaggy hair), but they are surprisingly athletic. They have moderate exercise needs, but they still require a daily walk or time to play outside.

Speaking of which, they love the outdoors and outdoor activities thanks to their sheepdog and watchdog heritage. They can cope with any living situation as long as their exercise needs are met.

Health and Potential Problems

Sapsaree lying on ground

The Sapsaree has an average lifespan of 10-12 years. Since the breed is still recovering from being nearly extinct, the genetics of the breed are still under development. However, they are generally hardy and healthy dogs.

Like most purebreds, the Sapsaree are prone to some health issues such as:

  • Congenital heart defects

  • Heart disease

  • Canine hip dysplasia

  • Patellar luxation

  • Entropion

  • Obesity

  • Skin problems

  • Allergies

Care Features

sapsari lying on grass

This breed is moderately active and loves to spend time outdoors. It’s also best if they have a fenced backyard to explore and stretch their legs. They need a moderate amount of exercise, preferably 30-minute daily walks.

Daily brushing of the teeth is recommended to prevent gum disease. Regular visits to the vet for vaccination should be followed and will help monitor potential problems.

This breed is a heavy shedder. However, daily brushing will help manage shedding and keep their coats clean. Not ideal for allergy sufferers.

Training this breed is an easy task because they are born with a love for learning. They are also people-pleasers so there is very little this dog cannot learn. They need a firm and consistent but gentle trainer. They respond well to praises and treats and can be motivated using a positive reinforcement method.

Feeding Schedule

The Sapsaree should be fed high-quality dog food formulated for their specific age.

Like most dogs, the Sapsaree can become overweight especially if they are overfed and inactive. Prevent your dog from being overweight by exercising them regularly and by giving the right amount of food and treats. Always follow instructions on how much to feed your dog to prevent obesity and bloating.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Sapsaree dogs sitting

The Sapsaree have black, brown, golden, gray, red, and mixed shades and markings for their coloring.

Proper grooming for Sapsaree owners can take a lot of time. This is mainly due to the dog’s double coat. They are heavy shedders and need to be brushed daily to help manage the falling hair and also to prevent matting of the coat. Brushing will also help get rid of any debris clinging to the dog’s coat.

Brush from the head going down and make sure to reach the undercoat to prevent mats from forming close to their bodies.

See Also: Dog Shedding Tool

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

This breed is perhaps one of the best breeds for families with children. They are very gentle towards kids and are naturally friendly. They love playing with kids too.

As with most breeds, early socialization is needed. Sapsaree raised with children and other pets from puppyhood generally get along better together.

The Sapsaree are friendly towards other animals and pets too. However, they don’t get along with other dogs especially if they feel threatened. This is why it’s best to walk this dog on a leash lest they encounter unfriendly dogs and strangers.

Wrap Up

black Sapsaree lying on ground

The shaggy dog from Korea is starting to win hearts around the world. Loyal and devoted to their family, they can be a bit protective and will not hesitate to use their full, rich bark to intimidate strangers or alert their owners. Often praised for their loyalty and friendliness, they need to be introduced by their owners to strangers before they can get comfortable.

This breed is a good choice for families with children or for individuals who like spending time outdoors. They have moderate exercise needs, but their sheepdog instincts demand a 30-minute daily walk or time to run around and explore.

The Sapsaree is intelligent and eager to please. You won’t have a hard time training them. However, they do need a leader and owner they respect and look up to.

Originally thought to ward off bad spirits and ghosts, the Sapsaree is a loyal, affectionate, and devoted pet. Their general nature is to be calm and friendly provided that they don’t feel threatened.

Although a popular breed in Korea, they are still uncommon outside the country. However, if you are lucky enough to adopt one, their devotion to their families will make you one of the lucky few to be loved by this breed.

Do you think the Sapsaree is a good choice for your household? Do you think you will be able to train them easily? Tell us by leaving your comments below. Check out our list of Korean dog names if you need naming inspiration for your Sapsaree.

About the author
Anna Smith
Anna Smith

Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna's passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed.