by Bonnie Dalzell, MAPhysically spitz breeds are very close to the wolf ancestors of dogs. Take a wolf and curl its tail and you have a grey Malamute or a Siberian Huskey. However behaviorly they are dogs and although they can be challenging to own they lack the full repetoire of mature wolf behaviors. With training they will usually learn to respect their owners and are not unexpectedly attempting dangerous challenges to move up in the pecking order at every opportunity.
Spitz breeds are square proportioned dogs with prick ears and a curled tail. The northern and oriental spitzs generally have a primitive type coat with guard hairs around 2 inches long and an undercoat which thickens in winter. The equatorial spitz have short coats.
The northern spitz are conservative in color tending towards wolf grey, with red dilution being seen as well as the presence of black and silver bicolor. Some are spotted. The chow comes in many solid colors. Akitas are found in almost all the colors seen in domestic dogs except merle. Basenjis are found in red, black, bicolor black and tan, and brindle all generally marked with the irish type white neck ring, legs and tail tip. The Canaan dog is often spotted. The Samoyed is white, pale cream or white with pale cream markings.
Many spitz breeds are general purpose dogs in their native lands, used for hunting, hauling and guarding. According to Raymond Coppinger and Richard Schneider intense selection on dogs used in competitive sled dog racing has pretty much eliminated the hunting behaviors from the racing lineages of Alaskan Huskies and Siberian Huskies because of the danger to the team and driver if the team leaves a groomed trail to pursue game.
Some spitz, such as the Finnish Spitz and Norwegian Elkhound are specificially reguarded as hunting breeds. The Elkhound is used on moose (elk is the European name for what North Americans call a moose (Alces alces), red deer or stag is the European name for what North Americans call an elk (Cervus elaphus). The Finnish Spitz is used as a bird dog to flush birds in forest and bush.
The toy spitz breeds retain the spitz body form but have been bred into a companion dog personality. We will discuss them further in the section on Toys and Companion Dogs.
However, the working spitz breeds - wether they are Northern Spitz, Oriental Spitz or Equitorial Spitz - can be difficult dogs to own. They are independent and may be untrustworthy off lead, they produce a disproportionate percentage of dog bites and they do push their owners and challenge authority as they mature. Akitas have enjoyed a popularity among people who think they want a protection dog, Malamutes among those who think they want a wolf.
The positive side of owning a spitz, in addition to their beautiful primitive dog body form, is that one can learn a great deal about basic canid behavior in a breed with relatively little modification of these behaviors. But you must be prepared to train your dog and devote a great deal of time to interacting with him. These are not push button plug and play animals.
I have been fortunate enough to have 3 Malamutes and a Siberian huskey in our Difficult Dog Rehabilitation training class this past year and they have all done quite well enabling me to observe and work with two breeds of working spitz. The owners were all able to make progress with the dogs and they now are well behaved around other dogs when they feel their owner's are in control. The rescue dog who was dangerous to humans if a toy was on the ground near him has learned to stop being dangerously possessive. These dogs responded to a combination of reward for acceptable behavior and firmness towards unacceptable behavior training, but it took many months and a lot of dedication on the part of their owners. The toy guarder was a rescue who had been evaluated as a 'euthanize him because he is too far gone' candidate.
It is relatively easy to find a 'rescue' Malamute, Akita or Siberian Huskey - that is a year old dog whose owners want to find a different home for him (generally it is male). This fact in itself should alert you to the difficulty of owning one of these breeds.
Some of the Spitz breeds include:
NetPetMagazine Main Pages