Examples of some typical breeds in this group:
Akita, Pomeranian, Siberian Husky, Chow, German Spitz
Your dog is this type if he:
Has a great willingness to go running, even in cold, wet weather (although some breeds strongly dislike swimming or baths). Spitz-types are generally confident and perhaps even stubborn at times. They can also be quite vocal when active. Spitz-types usually have short, erect ears, a bushy tail that often curls over the back (though not always), and a thick, profuse double coat comprising a top-coat and an under-coat.
Exercise and play
Spitz are usually very energetic and need long walks, although this obviously varies with size and breed. The smaller Spitz breeds, bred to be companion dogs, do not have the strong working instincts of their larger ancestors who were bred to hunt (e.g. Norwegian Elkhound), herd (e.g. Finnish Lapphund - the reindeer herder) or draw sleds (e.g. Siberian Husky). As you would expect, these Toy-Spitz types share many characteristics with Toy Dogs, so we would recommend also reading the Toy Dog Type page if you have a Toy-Spitz, such as a Pomeranian or German Spitz (Klein).
With their thick coats to protect them in very cold conditions, Spitz Dogs love wintry weather but many of the larger breeds hate being in water and become very unhappy when bathed or if they slip into a pond. They will quickly try to rub themselves dry against anything available, from grass to carpets, a behaviour that harks back to their Arctic days when a wet dog could quickly become perilously hypothermic.
Be careful that this type of dog doesn’t overheat in warm weather; exercise them only on cool mornings and later in the evenings in summer. A shaded area in the garden or on some cool kitchen tiles will be appreciated for a lazy snooze in the heat of the day.
Spitz-types enjoy the company of their family and can soon become destructive if bored or lonely. Small companion breeds such as the Pomeranian and German Spitz are especially close to their humans and need encouragement to play independently. Roll an appropriately-sized ball or mini stuffed rubber treat-dispenser for him to chase and pounce on. Over several play sessions, extend the distance between you and the dog, working towards you being able to leave the room for a few minutes before returning. This will help boost his confidence and ability to play independently of you.
Toy Spitz Dogs often enjoy small, safe, soft toys that they can cuddle up to if a human lap isn’t available. Larger Spitz breeds also love human company but they are usually very happy to amuse themselves with their own games for short periods. Tough, safe treat-dispensing toys can be hidden around the garden for them to enjoy seeking out and then manipulating to get to the contents.
Spitz dogs also enjoy digging and so hiding treats and treat-toys in a doggie ballpit area just for your dog and out of bounds for children will help focus and direct you Spitz innate need to dig away from your lawn or vegetable patch.
If your Spitz doesn’t like the bed you provide, he could well dig his own, especially on warm days when he will enjoy rolling in the dust and lying in a shady hollow of freshly dug cool earth. Make sure your fences are high (larger Spitz dogs are renowned for their climbing abilities) and deep (they are skilled tunnellers, too). Angling the top of the fences inwards and avoiding trellis fencing is also advisable.
When not playing, Spitz-types often love to relax at ‘look-out posts’ from elevated areas where they can survey their territory. You might consider constructing a solid platform for him, sited well away from fences, where he can enjoy surveying his domain.
Playing with you
Smaller Spitz breeds don’t require the same level of exercise as the larger, energetic breeds but being companion dogs, they do enjoy having lots of attention. They love playing with appropriately-sized toys, chasing balls and a good rope-tug. They often enjoy learning simple tricks and revel in the praise and adulation that this can earn them. Quality time and a good cuddle from someone they love is often far more appreciated than a simple food reward.
The larger Spitz breeds need a good deal of exercise, particularly those who enjoy pulling sleds and trolleys, and they must have a safe area where they can run free regularly. Care must be taken with off-lead walks as their hunting instincts are strong, making them likely to take off after a squirrel or cat and can run for very long distances, oblivious to roads and other dangers. Early, thorough recall training is essential.
Toy Spitz breeds enjoy sharing all aspects of your life including car journeys, walks, being carried and even sleeping on a bed at your place of work if your employer allows it. Snoozing on your lap in the evening and being groomed is often this dog’s idea of heaven. If human contact isn’t available, the Toy Spitz often enjoys cuddling up with his other friends: another dog, a cat, or even a soft toy ‘comforter’.
There is a risk of your Toy Spitz dog becoming socially over-dependent on you if he spends a lot of time in your direct physical company, so it’s important to teach him self-reliance early on to prevent separation-related problems. Get him used to short periods on his own from as early an age as possible, separating yourself from him in another room from time to time and giving him a toy to occupy himself with, even when you are in the house.
Provide a comfortable, den-like indoor kennel (sometimes called a dog crate) or a cosy dog bed in a dog-proofed room where he can snooze or chew a favourite toy on his own. Put an old, worn jumper or T-shirt in with his bedding to act as a comforter; it should smell of you, so something from the laundry basket is preferable to a fresh, clean item of clothing. You could also install a plug-in pheromone diffuser for added reassurance, available from your vet or pet store. Always exercise your dog before you need to leave him alone in the house so that he is toileted and ready to relax, and then hide a safe treat-filled chew-toy for him to find and work on to keep himself busy while you are away.
The larger Spitz breeds might seem aloof sometimes, but that’s usually only with people that they don’t know; they bond very quickly with their family and familiar friends. They not only need considerable exercise and mental stimulation, but also lots of human contact and interaction, and may become vocal and destructive if left alone for too long.
At home, larger Spitz types enjoy being groomed and petted, provided they have learned from a young age that grooming is a pleasurable, rewarding experience. Their thick double coat will shed twice a year and the amount of hair that comes out is quite considerable. Twice-daily grooming during this period will help to limit the amount of hair shed on your floors, clothing and furniture.
All Spitz Dogs can develop close relationships with a family cat or another dog, but the larger breeds also have quite strong hunting instincts. They can usually learn that a carefully introduced family cat is a friend, but a great deal of work and vigilance is required when introducing a new cat. Take care with all other pets if you have a larger Spitz breed. Unfamiliar cats, birds and small furry animals seen in the garden and out on walks will usually be considered fair game, so it is essential to make sure you train and maintain as good a recall as possible. Indeed, it is probably best not to take risks on walks by allowing your dog off-lead where you are likely to encounter toy or small dogs. On-lead walks are usually advised in public areas, with off-lead exercise restricted to private, enclosed, well-fenced land.
As Spitz types can be rather vocal, it is useful to teach them to ‘speak’ and ‘shush’ when asked. When mature, larger Spitz breeds often howl rather than bark. If you teach him to bark when asked, it will not only mean he can have a good ‘shout’ when it’s convenient for you both, such as outside on a walk, but also that you can quieten him more easily when he barks indoors.
Most Spitz dogs love their food and will enjoy hunting it out and working for it. The smaller Toy Spitz dogs, however, are often renowned for being fussy eaters. In common with other Toy Dogs, this situation is often created unwittingly by an over-attentive owner who is too quick to replace food with something more palatable at the first sign of indifference. If you instantly replace any unfinished food with something freshly-cooked instead, your dog will quickly realise that refusal brings increasingly luxurious delights!
Make mealtimes longer-lasting and more interesting by devising different ways of delivering his food. Simply presenting your dog’s daily food allowance in a bowl, morning and evening, is not very exciting for him – particularly the larger breeds that were bred to work for their living. Scatter about a quarter of your dog’s daily food allocation outside for him to discover. Feed him another quarter of his daily allowance in treat-dispensing toys that he has to agitate and move, and use a handful for training rewards throughout the day. The remaining amount can be split into two meals, morning and evening, so that he continues to bond with you as a parental food-provider.
If feeding wet food, use other more convenient treats as rewards in training, but be careful to include them when calculating his daily requirements. Feed him in at least two meals per day, but in one main meal of half his allowance and up to 4-5 smaller portions for the other half, hidden in various locations so that he has to actively seek them out.
As long as you are following daily feeding guidelines (see dog food packaging) overall each day and monitoring your dog’s weight to keep him in ideal body condition [link to body condition video], don’t worry if the resulting amount you put in his bowl looks small, and certainly don’t add more. Provided he has had his daily food allocation and you are feeding a complete diet, he will have all the nutrients and energy he needs to help him stay happy and healthy.