Keeping your spitz happy
Spitz dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but they can be characterised by a fluffy coat, confident nature and a love of lots of cuddles.
The term ‘spitz’ is not actually a specific breed, but instead refers to particular ‘type’ of dog. Spitz-types are confident creatures, vocal when active and usually have short, erect ears, a bushy tail that often curls over their backs, and a thick, fluffy double coat.
Spitz dogs come in a range of sizes, from smaller companion dogs to much larger working dogs. Some of the most popular spitz-types are Akitas, Pomeranians, Siberian Huskies, Chows and German Spitz.
Typical spitz behaviour
Spitz dogs love running, even in cold, wet weather, although thanks to their luscious furry coats, many are less keen on swimming and baths. They’re usually a confident type of dog that enjoys meeting new people and other animals, although larger types can be slightly more aloof. Full of energy, spitz-type dogs make for a fun and loving family pet.
Exercise and play
Spitz are energetic dogs and need a lot of physical activity, although this will vary with size and breed. Smaller spitz breeds that are better suited to companionship don’t have the same strong working instincts as their larger counterparts, so if you have a toy-spitz type, such as a Pomeranian or German Spitz, we’d recommend you read our guide to toy dogs.
Thanks to their thick coats, spitz dogs love wintry weather, so the cold won’t deter them from a long walk, but larger breeds dislike being in water. If they get wet, they’ll usually rub themselves against anything from grass to carpets in a bid to dry off. This behaviour could hark back to their Arctic ancestry, when being wet meant hypothermia was a very real threat, although not many of today’s spitz have this heritage.
It’s also important that spitz dogs don’t get too hot, either. It’s easy for them to overheat on a warm day, so exercise them only on cool mornings and later in the evenings in summer. A nice patch of shade in the garden or cool kitchen tiles make for an appreciated snoozing spot in the heat of the day.
As spitz types can be rather vocal (and larger spitz breeds often howl rather than bark), it can be useful to teach them the ‘speak and shush’ technique. This is where you train them to speak on command by rewarding them after they bark, and then to shush, by rewarding them for silence after you’ve asked them to speak. For more guidance on how to train your dog, see our page on basic dog commands [LINK].
Spitz-types love the company of their family, so they can become rather mischievous if they get bored or lonely. Toy spitz dogs such as the Pomeranian and German Spitz are especially close to their humans and need encouragement to play independently. Try rolling a ball or treat dispenser for them to chase and pounce on, and 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 helps to boost their confidence and their ability to play independently.
Larger spitz breeds are equally fond of human company, but they’re happier to amuse themselves for short periods. Try hiding treat-dispensing toys around the garden for them to seek out and tussle with.
Spitz dogs are also keen diggers, so consider installing a doggie ball pit to help distract them away from your prize petunias or vegetable patch. It’s also important to make sure any fences you have are sunk deeply into the ground, to stop your spitz dog digging underneath.
They’re renowned for their climbing abilities (so keep fences high), and love relaxing at ‘look-out posts’ on elevated areas, where they can survey their territory. You could construct a solid platform for your spitz (away from fences!) where they will enjoy presiding over their canine kingdom.
Smaller spitz breeds don’t need the same level of exercise as their larger counterparts, but they still love keeping active by playing with toys, chasing balls and having a good rope tug. They also enjoy learning simple tricks and revel in the praise this brings – quality time and a big cuddle with someone they love is usually far more appreciated than a simple food reward.
Larger spitz breeds need a lot of exercise and should be allowed to run free regularly, although bear in mind that their hunting instincts are often quite strong. It’s not uncommon for them to take off at the sight of a squirrel or cat and run for very long distances, sometimes oblivious to roads and other potential hazards, so it’s important that you work on recall training early on in puppyhood.
Toy spitz breeds want to share in all aspects of your life and love being carried and cuddled. Snoozing on your lap or being groomed is this dog’s idea of heaven! If you’re not around for them to cosy up to, they’ll happily snuggle up with other furry friends, such as another dog, a cat, or even a much-loved soft toy.
The larger spitz breed may seem aloof sometimes, but that’s usually only with people they don’t know. They also need lots of human contact and enjoy being petted and groomed, although be aware that they will shed – quite considerably! – twice a year. Grooming them twice a day during this period will help limit the amount of fur you find around the house.
When it comes to other pets, all spitz dogs can develop close relationships with a family cat or other dog, but larger breeds often have strong hunting instincts, so time and care is required when introducing a new cat to your dog. Your larger spitz will probably consider unfamiliar cats, birds and small furry animals fair game when you’re out and about, so it’s advisable to keep them on a lead in public areas.
While larger spitz types are generally happy in their own company, toy spitz dogs can become over dependant on you, especially if they spend a lot of time in your company, so it’s important to teach them self-reliance early on to prevent potential separation-related issues.
Get your dog used to short periods on their own from as early an age as possible, separating yourself from them in another room from time to time and giving them a toy to occupy themselves with, even when you are in the house.
When they must be left alone, put an old jumper or t-shirt in with their bedding to act as a comforter. This should smell of you, so something from the laundry basket that you’ve already worn is ideal. You could also install a plug-in pheromone diffuser near their bed for added reassurance, available from your vet or some pet stores.
Always exercise your dog before you need to leave them alone in the house so that they’ve had the opportunity to relieve themselves and are ready to relax.
Most spitz dogs love their food and enjoy hunting it out and working for it, but some smaller toy spitz types can be fussy eaters. As tempting as it is to want to fulfil your dog’s desires, resist the urge to replace uneaten food with something else at the first sign of indifference, otherwise they’ll quickly learn that refusing to eat brings about increasingly luxurious and yummy treats instead!
Make mealtimes more exciting by devising different ways of delivering your dog’s food; simply presenting your dog’s daily food allowance in a bowl morning and evening isn’t very exciting for them – particularly the larger breeds that were bred to work for their meals. Try scattering a quarter of your dog’s daily food allocation outside for them to discover themselves, and put another quarter into treat-dispensing toys that they have to nudge and move to claim their reward. A handful can be used for training rewards throughout the day, and the remaining amount can be split into two meals, morning and evening, so your dog still recognises you as the parental food provider.
If you feed your spitz wet dog food, use more convenient treats as rewards for training, but be careful to include them when calculating their daily requirements. Feed them at least two meals per day, but divide each up into separate portions and hide them in various locations so they have to actively seek them out.
As long as you follow daily feeding guidelines (which can be found on your dog food packaging) and monitor your dog’s weight, don’t worry if the amount you end up putting in their bowl seems small. Providing your dog has their daily food allocation and you’re giving them a complete diet, they’ll have all the nutrients they need to stay happy and healthy.
If you’d like more information on caring for your Spitz or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM.