If you've ever spotted a canine at the dog park that doesn't quite look like a Pomeranian but also doesn't really resemble a Keeshond, it's probably a German Spitz! This rare breed is also known as the Deutscher Spitz, Klein Spitz, Mittel Spitz, or Gross Spitz. Their thick coat, charming faces, and high level of energy make them well-suited for all types of pet owners.
We've compiled all of the information you need to know about the German Spitz, including the breed standard, personality traits, health concerns, and how to find one of these beautiful dogs!
German Spitz Characteristics
The German Spitz sports a fluffy double coat. This means that it has a wooly, insulating undercoat in addition to the long straight topcoat that causes it to resemble the Pomeranian dog breed.
The German Spitz also has a narrow, fox-like head that gives this dog an endearing look. It also features high-set triangular ears, a tail that curls over the back, and, in some dogs, a black mask (similar to those seen on pugs).
The average life expectancy of these dogs is 15 years.
German Spitzes are non-sporting dogs, which is a broad group that describes several breeds. Many non-sporting dogs, such as the German Spitz, are well-suited to serve as house dogs and watchdogs.
German Spitz Dog Size
The German Spitz can vary in size since there are three different forms of the breed, according to the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.
The Klein Spitz, the smallest type of this breed, typically grows to a height of 11-15 inches and a weight of 21-23 pounds. The Mittel or medium-sized Spitz generally stands 14-15 inches tall by the time of adulthood and weighs 22-24 pounds. The largest Spitz, the Gross, reaches a height of around 17-18 inches and a weight of 33-44 pounds.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the organization that most closely monitors the German Spitz, allows for those three sizes in their breed standard.
However, American kennel clubs commonly recognize two sizes - the Klein (small) and Mittel (medium) Spitzes. The reason that many clubs do not recognize the Gross Spitz is that it has become endangered over the years.
German Spitz Dog Personality
Dashing good looks are not all this German breed shares with their Pomeranian cousins; they also have similar personalities. Regardless of your German Spitz's size, this breed is typically alert, high-energy, and cautious of strangers!
Their independence means they don't often cry or act sheepishly, but it does mean they can be confrontational if not properly trained.
German Spitzes were long used as watchdogs, and this past work experience has played a large role in shaping their personalities. If you notice your Spitz climbing to a high point in your home, don't be surprised if they start barking soon after!
This breed loves having a vantage point, and the more they see, the more likely they are to yap. When they believe someone is intruding, Spitzes of all sizes can be marathon barkers. Early socialization training is crucial so that your pet learns good behavior around new acquaintances.
Due to the small size of Klein Spitzes, their yap can be especially harsh on the ears, so a behavioral school might be the ticket if your Spitz is getting too talkative.
Fortunately, the German Spitz's intelligence gives it an impressive potential for trainability. If you've got a particular personality quirk you want to work on with your pet, these dogs will likely get the message sooner rather than later.
German Spitz Dog Exercise
Exercise and fresh air are vital if your pet is to live a healthy and happy life. Fortunately, dogs tend to be fun workout partners! The German Spitz may be a non-sporting dog, but it still has impressive energy reserves. Their high prey drive from years of farm work has resulted in a canine that can go from curling up on the couch to bounding across the yard at the drop of a hat.
As mentioned, the German Spitz can come in a small, medium, or large size. While it is true that a dog's exercise needs are dependent on its weight, these differences in size are not large enough to require separate workout regimens for each type. Instead, an hour of exercise per day is a tried-and-true guideline for the average dog. Since the German Spitz loves to bark, you don't need to worry about whether or not your pet is getting enough exercise. If this breed feels under-stimulated, they'll quickly let you know!
If your pet is running around the house, scratching, whining, biting, nipping, playing rough, digging, or chewing, let them outside or take them for a walk! Rainy day? No problem! The German Spitz's small size makes activities like fetch, treat puzzles, and obstacle courses manageable for the indoors. These activities will get your Spitz the exertion it needs, and it can also cut down on anxious behavior during fireworks or thunderstorms.
Unlike breeds such as the Afghan Hound or the Border Collie, German Spitzes do not need an extremely large amount of space to run at full speed. Walks, dog parks, and playtime in an enclosed area are suitable.
If your pet struggles with obesity, increase their daily activity as long as a veterinarian has advised that it is safe to do so.
German Spitz Dog Training
German Spitzes do well in dog shows that judge the aesthetic of canines, specifically the utility group. Utility group is another term for non-sporting, and some refer to this group as "the dogs who don't fit anywhere else." You can see a German Spitz winning a utility group judging in 2016 here!
Good pet training is about mental health as much as it is about physical stimulation. This is why your German Spitz should get plenty of opportunities to socialize with others, even if they don't seem interested.
Bred as a watchdog, however, the German Spitz is understandably cautious of strangers.
Excessive barking can be controlled through good behavior training and positive reinforcement, though you may find that this breed can be stubborn. Long periods of barking could be a sign of pent-up energy, so make sure your German Spitz is getting the exercise it needs.
Managing Excessive Barking
Yelling at a dog to be quiet is often ineffective, but they can be taught to associate a verbal command with silence. When your pet is quiet, say "Quiet" in a firm voice.
The first few times your pet is rewarded for their silence, they won't know what to associate the command with. Once the animal starts yapping, however, repeat the command and give them a calming treat when they fall quiet.
Eventually, your German Spitz will associate the word with calming down.
Remain firm when correcting your Spitz's behavior, but also try to stay engaging. If you merely yell at a dog to stop barking, it appears to the dog as if you are also barking. Canines need distinct, recognizable commands and consistent behavioral training.
If you cannot remove whatever stimulus is causing your dog to bark, try desensitizing them to that stimulus. For example, if your German Spitz barks at all of the dogs that pass by your window, try to find a canine park near you.
Long, regular interactions with different breeds, personalities, and smells will ease your pet's defensive mechanism.
German Spitz Dog History
Known in its native land as the Deutscher Spitz, this breed is the oldest to come out of Central Europe. While the precise roots of the German Spitz have been lost to time, the earliest references that can be found date this dog to at least the year 1450.
Much of the breeding for the German Spitz took place in a small province located between Germany and Poland, known as Pomerania. As you have probably guessed, Pomerania is also where the Pomeranian comes from, which explains the German Spitz's close resemblance. Spitzes of all types were used as watchdogs in homes, as well as on farms and boats. They were fantastic security systems, and primarily used by peasants.
This breed's history changed in the 18th century when it was discovered by several royal families. Queen Victoria was a notable Spitz lover, and we might not even know the breed at all had it not been for the English aristocracy.
Why, then, are German Spitzes not more common today? Well, this breed saw a rapid decrease in numbers once the First World War began. Unfortunately for these dogs, they arrived in the United States during the early war years, which was not the best time to be a German in America (even if you were just a pooch).
The numerous names of German Spitzes are partially due to anti-German sentiments that Americans held during that time, and one Spitz-type was forever renamed the "American Eskimo Dog."
Due to World War I, the history of many dogs brought from Germany to America become muddled around the early 20th century. Such breeds include the German Spitz, Keeshonden, Pomeranian, and American Eskimo Dog. All of these canines play a crucial part in each other's foundation, though many of the specifics are no longer known.
German Spitz Health Problems
German Spitz's are generally healthy and not susceptible to many health problems. However, small breeds are often prone to conditions such as a collapsed trachea, patellar luxation, and retinal dysplasia.
We've assembled all of the pertinent health concerns for the Spitz breed, and how an owner can detect and possibly help.
Collapsing trachea is, unfortunately, just what it sounds like. Within the trachea, there are normally C-shaped rings of sturdy cartilage that give the windpipe its tubular shape. The cartilage in many small breeds' tracheas, however, begins to deteriorate and flatten out over time or due to physical damage.
Similar to how a pinched water hose will only dribble out a small amount of water, a collapsed trachea does not allow the appropriate amount of air into your Spitz's body.
Symptoms include difficulty breathing, a cough that sounds like a goose honking, wheezing, and fainting.
Treatment ranges from weight management and medication to surgical implants that hold the windpipe open.
Literally meaning "slipping kneecaps," patellar luxation refers to the misalignment of the patella and the groove in which it normally rests.
Toy breeds such as the German Spitz have been selectively bred for their small size, which can result in joints and ligaments that are too far or too close to each other. Signs of a luxated patella are limping, kicking the foot out to one side as the dog walks, or generally reduced mobility.
Treatment for patellar luxation depends on the severity of each dog's case. The lowest grade of luxation can often be tolerated by some pets, and it might even be possible for you to manually realign the dog's kneecaps, though consultation with a veterinarian is strongly advised.
Higher grades of luxation often require surgery that deepens the groove in which the patella rests so that it does not slip out as easily.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a condition that steadily wears away at the dog's eyesight. PRA targets the photoreceptor cells inside of the retina, wearing them down until complete blindness sets in.
There are two forms of PRA: one which is inherited (also referred to as retinal dysplasia), and late-onset PRA. Inherited PRA, or retinal dysplasia, refers to dogs who were born with abnormally developed photoreceptor cells. A puppy with inherited PRA is often diagnosed by the time it is 2-3 months old. German Spitzes with late-onset PRA are born with normal retinas, but their photoreceptor cells deteriorate over time and they are often not diagnosed until 3-9 years old.
Fear of dark rooms, not recognizing family members until they smell them, and general clumsiness are all symptoms of either form of PRA. There is no treatment, but dogs with progressive retinal atrophy are rarely bred. Responsible breeders test their stock for the inherited gene that causes PRA.
How to Care for a German Spitz
German Spitzes do not have the training demands, exercise requirements, or dietary restrictions that some other dogs must keep in check. The health of the German Spitz relies on the same standard pet care that all breeds benefit from. This includes daily exercise, good food, constant access to water, socialization with other pets or people, and lots of love from their owner!
Dogs spend an estimated 50% of their days asleep! So, a huge part of caring for your pet is supplying them with a comfortable bed. Some people enjoy a soft mattress, while others prefer sleeping on a firm surface. Dogs also have their preferences, and similar to us they're subject to change over time.
Finding the perfect bed for your furry friend starts by paying attention to the pieces of furniture in your home that your pet likes best. Do they usually opt for the big couch cushion? Go with a dense, fluffy bed. Is your pet always snoozing on the carpet? A thin, firm bed would be best.
Another important thing to consider when shopping for your dog's bed is whether or not they have any preexisting conditions. If your pet has patellar luxation, for example, they probably shouldn't be climbing up the stairs of a doggy bunk bed!
The German Spitz has a dense coat, so unless you live in a cold environment try to avoid a covered dog bed that could get warm.
The final important accessory for your pet will be its leash and collar. Traditional, around-the-neck collars are always effective, but not ideal for dogs who pull at the leash. Moreover, the German Spitz is prone to tracheal collapse, making harnesses that wrap around the chest the best option for susceptible dog breeds. Your pet's leash should be 4-5 feet long.
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Nutrition and Feeding for a German Spitz
German Spitzes are of all sizes, so there is no standard amount of food required for the breed. Instead, a dog's food should be determined by its weight and daily activity level. Give your dog 2-4% of its body weight every day, split into two meals. Dog food calculators are especially handy with this multi-size breed.
A German Spitz puppy does not need the same amount of food as an adult. The nutritional requirements of a puppy demand higher calorie concentration and vitamins that assist the development of muscles. Small yet energetic dogs like the German Spitz gain weight easily. Adults don't benefit from food that meant for puppies. Once your German Spitz reaches full maturity, give them food made for adults.
Dog food, whether it be for a puppy or an adult, should have all of the necessary proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins that canines need to live healthily. As with most products, you get what you pay for. Kibble is no exception, so it is generally advised to purchase the highest quality dog food that you can afford.
To be certain that the kibble adheres to a top-quality nutritional standard, check whether or not the chow has been approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO guidelines require that dog food be nutritional and safe for the average dog. However, if your pet has a preexisting condition, consult a vet to create a specific diet plan.
Make sure your dog's food bowl is not too high off the ground for them. The ideal height is the measurement of your Spitz from paws to shoulders, with 5 inches subtracted.
The German Spitz has a thick double coat that can be found in a variety of colors. Coming in cream, brown, orange, black, and white, German Spitzes have many different looks. Grooming this beautiful but abundant coat is generally easy to manage most times of the year. However, come shedding season, German Spitzes require closer attention.
When your dog is not shedding, brush its coat 2-3 times a week to remove any dead or loose hair. Frequent bathing is not necessary, so only give your furry friend a full spa day if they're especially dirty (or if you just want to treat them). During shedding season, which happens twice a year during spring and fall, a German Spitz needs to be brushed daily.
Detangler or conditioning sprays can also keep the Spitz's hair from matting. Simply cover your pet's face and spray their body lightly. Don't try to soak the dog's body with the spray! A single spray per section of hair should be plenty.
Brush in the natural direction of the hair. When you reach the tail, hold its base so that you don't accidentally catch a tangle of hair and yank on it.
A slicker brush is perfect for the Spitz's dense fur because of its fine, short wires. Longer pin brushes also work fine, but make sure that you're targeting the dog's topcoat. Its wooly undercoat does not mat easily, so do not feel like you have to penetrate through the dog's hair all the way down to its body.
Use quality canine shampoo and conditioner, and a washcloth to clean around the face. You should never cut their hair too short because they will lose insulation.
As you're grooming, check the dog's body for signs of infection or bumps and report any abnormalities to your veterinarian at the next checkup.
Children And Other Pets
The German Spitz, like many other toy breeds, is more of a reactive dog than a proactive one. So, they do not seek out unfamiliar people or situations if they can be avoided. Instead, the German Spitz may yap around strangers or other pets.
Children will love the playful and energetic Spitz, but the same is not inherently true for your pet. Since these are small dogs, they can be easily overexcited by children, especially those that have not been taught how to handle a canine.
As you introduce your furry friend to a child, pay close attention to the dog's body language.
Body Language to Look Out For in Pet/Child Interactions
German Spitzes may love to bark, but this doesn't often communicate complex emotions to us. Instead, we have to rely on the animal's body to tell us how it's feeling. The body language of many human emotions mimics that of a dog, such as tense muscles to show anger. Though, there's one emotional signifier that humans do not have: a tail.
The tail's height is a good clue for their emotional state. The German Spitz's tail naturally curls over its back, and this is called its neutral position. If your pet's tail is higher than its neutral position, it is feeling confident, perhaps even aggressive. If the tail is tucked between its legs, your dog is nervous!
There is no official rescue group for the German Spitz, but there is both a Spitz Facebook group and a website for the Rescue Me! organization. The Rescue Me! group pairs dogs of all breeds with new homes. Unfortunately, they don't allow you to search for German Spitzes specifically, but instead for Spitz dogs in general.
Another good resource for prospective dog-owners is Petfinder. Looking for a German Spitz puppy, a particular coat color, or a dog that gets along well with other people? Petfinder has filters for these criteria and many more.
Sadly, there is no official breed organization or kennel club for the German Spitz. However, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization) is a multi-national organization that is largely responsible for the breed standard of the German Spitz.
Additionally, there is a nonprofit Facebook group known as the German Spitz Club of America that is the perfect spot for Spitz lovers.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the largest kennel club in the world. While the AKC does not currently have a breed-specific Parent Club for the German Spitz breed, they have vast resources when it comes to grooming, nutrition, and general pet care. The AKC may not have a Spitz-specific kennel club yet, but they do have this detailed guide on how to form one!
This breed also belongs to the Foundation Stock Service (FSS) group of the American Kennel Club. The FSS is a program that promotes new, experimental, and endangered dogs. Though the larger size of this breed is endangered, the German Spitz is not.
The reason the German Spitz is part of the Foundation Stock Service is that its numbers do not justify a kennel club. The German Spitz is considered rare, but not endangered. This is because the Spitz has seen dwindling numbers since the early 20th century.
Currently, the German Spitz does not have an official breed club, but that is what the FSS aims to change. With the support of aficionados and the multi-national Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization), these dogs may soon spike in popularity. The FSS helps breeders and owners find each other so that German Spitzes can eventually have a kennel club all of their own!
More About This Dog Breed
You may be wondering why the German Spitz goes by so many different names. "Spitz" can refer to many different dog breeds in the same way that the Terrier group describes several canines. In fact, the original names for the German Spitz's two biggest lookalikes (the Keeshond and the Pomeranian) were the Wolf Spitz and the Zwerg Spitz.
The German Spitz that we're referring to also has multiple names! These names include the Deutscher Spitz, Gross Spitz, Klein Spitz, and Mittel Spitz. Deutscher Spitz is merely the German translation of this breed's name. However, the other titles refer to the dog's size and not its breed.
The German Spitz might have had a very different life in the United States had the war years not stained its first impression on Americans. Even though this breed is rare, however, groups such as the AKC's Foundation Stock Service program are working hard to further establish this delightful dog. Want a pet who can curl up on your lap, follow you everywhere, play with plenty of energy, and isn't afraid to speak their mind? Look no further than the German Spitz!