From the water retrievers to the hounds and bulldogs, the canine kingdom has some all types of unique dogs. Spitz dogs are some of the most interesting types of breed. And some of the most popular dog breeds are considered spitz dogs too.
In short, spitz dog breeds are dogs known for their long and fluffy coats. These dogs tend to have erect ears and a sharp muzzle. If you’re having a hard time imagining this, just think of the Pomeranian (also a spitz-type). But there’s more to a spitz than just their looks.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the origins of the spitz-type dogs and discuss what makes these dogs such special animals. Plus, we’ve narrowed down the most common and best spitz dog breeds that you may be familiar with already.
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Table of Contents
- What’s a Spitz Dog?
- Spitz Dog Breeds
- 1. Pomeranian
- 2. German Spitz
- 3. Siberian Husky
- 4. Alaskan Malamute
- 5. American Eskimo Dog
- 6. Samoyed
- 7. Finnish Spitz
- 8. Finnish lapphund
- 9. Norwegian Buhund
- 10. Norwegian Elkhound
- 11. Norwegian Lundehund
- 12. Swedish Vallhund
- 13. Icelandic Sheepdog
- 14. Keeshond
- 15. Chow Chow
- 16. Akita Inu
- 17. Shiba Inu
- 18. Japanese Spitz
- 19. Canaan Dog
What’s a Spitz Dog?
While the term “spitz” can refer to a multitude of dog breeds (as you’ll see later), spitz dogs all share some similarities, including physical qualities and origins.
Most spitz dogs will have pointed and relatively small ears. Their almond shaped eyes sit above their sharp muzzles and strong jaws. Expect to see a fluffy tail that’s almost always curled upwards.
These dogs have a dense and fluffy coat. All spitz type dogs have double coats, which just means they have two layers of fur (undercoat and top coat). The undercoat is especially thick with spitz dogs, which is why they give off the “fluffy” appearance.
Some believe they’re related to wolves, which may explain their wolf-like appearances. Though these characteristics are not always seen with a spitz, they’re much more common than not.
The Spitz Temperament
Just like how terrier breeds are known for being lively, spirited and bold, spitz dogs have a perceived “standard” for personality and temperament too.
According to Canidae, Spitz dogs are typically intelligent breeds with a curiosity for life. They’re just overall good dogs with a sweet disposition. In addition, some spitz breeds are known for their undying loyalty, such as the Akita Inu and Husky.
When it comes to humans, spitz breeds tend to develop a strong bond and love nothing more than to play with their favorite people. They’re affectionate, but typically sociable and cheerful dogs too.
She’s the sweetest and most loyal pup ever, but only when she wants to be. Darlene’s always so adamant on sleeping on my side of the bed. Even if I move her, she comes right back.– Jennifer W. (Pomeranian owner)
On the other hand, spitz dogs don’t usually do too well with obedience and working canine intelligence. This doesn’t mean they’re dumb dogs. Rather, they’re just really stubborn dogs with an independent mindset.
For these reasons, these dogs need firm and consistent training. It may be a little difficult to train one if you’re a first-time owner. You’ll need to dedicate more time and commitment, but they’re worth it!
Where do Spitz Dogs Come From?
The origins of the spitz type isn’t completely clear. However, we do know these dogs likely originated from the blistering cold regions of the arctic circle. According to the AKC, they probably came from Scandinavia, Russia (Siberia) and North America.
Almost always, they were developed to help their human companions with outdoor working tasks, such as herding, hunting and pulling sleds. That’s right, even the small Pomeranian pulled sleds at one point. Though, they were much bigger in the past.
Siberian Huskies have a portion of their genome that traces back exclusively to this ancient Siberian wolf.– Pontus Skoglund (DNA researcher)
What’s even more interesting is that spitz dogs are genetically linked to wolves. Although prehistoric wolves are extinct, their genetic legacy has been passed down to many spitz breeds, including the most popular Arctic sled dogs.
If you think about it, it’s amazing that these loving dogs we keep in our households have a genetic connection to these wolves that lived tens of thousands of years ago.
Spitz Dog Breeds
We’re still uncertain of which dogs are classified as spitz type today. The fact is, there’s no official standard for categorizing dog breeds as spitz.
With that said, it’s estimated that there’s somewhere around 50 to 70 spitz dog breeds that actually exist. However, we’re going to just cover the most common, unique and best spitz type dogs.
Highlights: Cheerful, Playful, Fun-loving
The Pomeranian is one of the most common spitz type dog breed in the world. With a bold and lively personality in a compact size, it’s easy to see why they’re one of America’s most popular toy dog breed.
They may have a small body, but Poms come with a big dog personality and demeanor. Always inquisitive, these toy breeds are all about companionship and human interaction. But keep in mind, the shedding can get a little excessive.
They’ve come a long way since pulling sleds in the cold arctic regions. Even if they wanted to they wouldn’t be able to today. However, they still retain a lot of the “key” spitz qualities that make them such attractive dogs.
Pomeranians are undeniably loyal companions. And while they may not be the most obedient, thanks to the stubborn streaks, they’re the perfect pet for households with respectful children.
2. German Spitz
Highlights: Attentive, Loyal, Energetic
You can think of the German Spitz as a larger Pomeranian. As a matter of fact, the two dog breeds are closely related and share the same ancestry (surprised?).
Weighing about 25 pounds and growing up to 15 inches tall, the German Spitz is what we imagine the old sled-pulling Pomeranians to be like. They’re significantly bigger but have similar personalities.
For instance, German Spitzes are just as lively and attentive as any other spitz breed. In addition, they’re known for their undying devotion, as seen with the Pomeranian and other similar dogs.
And while they’re intelligent dogs, they’re independent too. But despite the stubbornness, they’re still highly trainable dogs with some consistency.
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3. Siberian Husky
Highlights: Loyal, Sociable, Mischievous
Siberian Huskies are America’s most popular spitz dogs. According to the American Kennel Club, they’re consistently in the top 20 popular list every single year.
The Siberian Husky is very similar to your “typical” spitz dog. They check all the box marks for key spitz characteristics, including the notoriously heavy shedding (thanks to the thick double coat).
But aside from shedding, they’re playful and highly active dogs. And because they’re so friendly, they don’t make good guard dogs. On the other hand, they’re great playmates for older children.
Huskies are often misunderstood dogs. Their adventurous spirit makes them likely to run if given the chance. Most people mistaken this for disobedience, but they’re actually some of the most loyal dogs.
4. Alaskan Malamute
Highlights: Affectionate, Playful, Devoted
Alaskan Malamutes are often mistaken for the Siberian Husky. Although the two breeds are similar, the Malamute is much larger. Sometimes, they’ll weigh twice as much as a Husky!
These dogs are one of the oldest dog breeds around and believed to be genetically linked to the domesticated wolves that traveled with Paleolithic hunters. In other words, they’re a classic spitz dog breed.
Yes, they’re called the “Alaskan” Malamute, but they actually originated from Siberia with the Siberian Husky. The difference is that the Malamute’s ancestors came to Alaska several thousands of years ago.
Like the Husky, Alaskan Malamutes are world-class sled dogs. They’re great at hauling heavy sleighs across the arctic, but lack in speed. Still, they’re high energy dogs that require a huge amount of daily activity.
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5. American Eskimo Dog
Highlights: Playful, Smart, Cheerful
The American Eskimo Dog is a spitz dog breed that’s known for their high intelligence and stunning white and fluffy coats.
With mild temperaments, the Eskimo Dogs aren’t too timid nor aggressive. They are always vigilant, but not too aloof around unfamiliar humans. In many ways, they’re like the “goldilocks” of the spitz types.
Don’t be fooled by the name. These dogs are not historically connected to eskimos. Rather, they were brought to America by German immigrants in the early 1800’s. As such, they’re closely related to the German Spitz.
In fact, you can call the German Spitz the direct ancestors of the American Eskimo. And while they’ve been in America for a long time, the AKC didn’t register their first dog until 1995.
Highlights: Adaptable, Affectionate, Calm
Samoyeds are seemingly the happiest dogs ever. Thanks to their upturned mouths, they look like they’re always smiling. In fact, there’s even a nickname for this. We aptly call this the “Sammy Smile.”
However, the construction of their mouths isn’t purely for show – it has a practical purpose too. The smile keeps them from drooling, which is can be useful in sub zero temperatures and prevent icicles from forming.
While these spitz dogs look eerily similar to the American Eskimo Dog, they’re very different in temperament and appearance. For example, Samoyeds are much larger and can grow up to 24 inches tall.
They’re known as great family dogs due to their loving and affectionate personalities. Samoyeds are gentle enough to play with kids, but also big enough to withstand the rough play. Oh, and they have the signature spitz coat too.
7. Finnish Spitz
Highlights: Friendly, Sweet, Energetic
The Finnish Spitz is a spitz breed that originates from the icy regions of Russia, but arrived in Finland over 3,000 years ago. They were bred to be courageous hunting dogs that specialized in tracking birds.
It’s the method they use to hunt that makes these spitzes stand out. A Finnish Spitz will run ahead and follow a bird until it lands on a tree. The dog will continue by running around the tree and barking.
If it isn’t obvious, the point of this action is to “distract” the bird while the hunter creeps up on the bird. For this reason, they’re nicknamed the “barking bird dog.”
Finnish Spitzes are known for their iconic “flame-colored” coat and with their typical spitz-type head shapes, they look like foxes. But when it comes to hunting, they hunt like a skilled dog.
8. Finnish lapphund
Highlights: Friendly, Vigilant, Nimble
As one of the most popular dogs in Finland, the Finnish Lapphund is a much newer spitz dog breed than the Finnish Spitz. They’re tough and rugged medium-sized dogs, but have a pleasantly friendly demeanor.
Unlike the Finnish Spitz, the Lapphund was not meant for hunting. Instead, these dogs were developed to be excellent reindeer herding dogs. It’s why they’re such confident dogs. After all, reindeers can weigh up to 400 pounds!
The Finnish Lappies may be brave and hard-working on the field, but they’re completely different at home. For the most part, they’re submissive dogs. Plus, their vigilant nature makes them hesitant with the unfamiliar.
Although they love barking and shed like all the other spitz breeds, Lappies are very popular because of their top tier companionship.
9. Norwegian Buhund
Highlights: Sensitive, Cheerful, Intelligent
The Norwegian Buhund is a medium-sized Nordic spitz dog with a long history tracing back to the Viking age. These dogs were once companions and guardians that traveled across the continent with Vikings.
However, the Norwegian Buhund has come a long way since its Viking days. They’re docile dogs that love to lounge around (or do any activity) with their owners. The Buhunds are the ultimate home dogs.
While these dogs can be independent (like any other spitz), they’re typically more obedient than other dogs. Part of this is because they’re always eager to please their owners. And with the right training methods, they’re quick learners.
Expect your Buhund to weigh up to 40 pounds and standard nearly 19 inches tall. They’re not too big, but not too small. They’re just right for any household.
10. Norwegian Elkhound
Highlights: Brave, Dependable, Affectionate
There are few spitz dog breeds that you can depend on more than the Norwegian Elkhound. Believed to have sailed with the Vikings, these robust dogs are among the oldest in Europe.
Norwegian Elkhounds have all the physical traits that make them obvious spitz dogs. But what makes them unique is the silver-gray and black coat that gives them an exotic yet elegant look.
Although they’re classified as hound dogs, Elkhounds are working dogs at heart. From their sturdy legs to their muscular frames and powerful thighs, they were built to work hard.
And despite their relatively modest size, they were used to hunt the most fearsome and biggest wild game. Elkhounds mainly helped with taking down elk and bears. How many dogs can do that?
11. Norwegian Lundehund
Highlights: Devoted, Active, Alert
The Norwegian Lundehund is one of the most unique and interesting spitz dog breeds. At least, in regards to what they were bred for. They are the only dog breed developed for puffin hunting.
Norwegian Lundehunds were bred on a remote island, called Vaeroy (just off the coast of Norway). This island is home to over a million puffin birds.
As such, these dogs would climb the rocky terrain and will squeeze their way through the bird’s burrow in order to snatch the puffins. They were exceptionally good at this job.
Fortunately, puffins are endangered today and these dogs are just friendly companions for homes all over the world. They’re athletic and clever, but require a decent amount of exercise for a healthy life.
12. Swedish Vallhund
Highlights: Affectionate, Energetic, Vigilant
Another spitz-type Viking dog, the Swedish Vallhund is a dog of ancient legends. Historians believe these dogs roamed across the continent over a thousand years ago.
Around the 8th or 9th century, they were believed to be brought into Wales, which may explain their similarities to the Corgi. For example, the erect ears, sharp snout and elongated bodies are seen in both.
Because they were bred to herd cattle, they’re known to be very vocal dogs with high energy that needs to be dealt with. With sufficient exercise, Swedish Vallhunds are cheerful and affectionate spitz dogs.
But even with plenty of exercise, they’re prone to being overweight. To successfully raise a healthy Vallhund, you’ll need to regularly keep their diet in check.
13. Icelandic Sheepdog
Highlights: Jolly, Curious, Friendly
As Iceland’s only native breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog was developed to herd livestock with their piercing barks. They have all the qualities of a spitz breed, including pointy ears, curly tail and dense coat.
It’s believed that these dogs were brought to Iceland from Norway over a thousand years ago. The Norse settlers needed herding dogs to help on the farm, which was how the Icelandic Sheepdog was born.
Despite their fox-like appearance, the Icelandic Sheepdog is very approachable. They’re charming, friendly and always cheerful. And with affectionate owners, they’re always eager to please.
These dogs still herd today, but more and more are entering the homes of families all across the world, especially in Iceland. In fact, they’re the national symbol of Iceland.
Highlights: Friendly, Sociable, Energetic
Originating from Holland, the Keeshond is a spitz dog that’s proudly become the national symbol of the Dutch. While many spitzes are known for having a fox-like face, the Keeshond is most famous for the look.
In the past, they were guard dogs and companions often working on Dutch vessels alongside sailors. Though Pugs are the official breed of the Dutch’s House of Orange, Keeshonds are the symbol of the opposing Dutch Patriots Party in the 18th century.
Some believe they were named “Keeshond” because of the Patriot’s mascot dog, named “Kees.” Others think it was because the two Patriot leaders were nicknamed “Kees.”
Regardless of how they got their name, Keeshonds have become outing and affectionate dogs that love their owners. They’re smart enough to understand which strangers the owners “approve” of and which are not.
15. Chow Chow
Highlights: Proud, Independent, Loyal
The spitz-type dog breed made it all the way to the Middle Kingdom as evident by the Chinese Chow Chow. In ancient China, the Chows were a symbol of royalty and owned by the country’s noblemen.
These dogs may possibly be the oldest dog breed that’s still in existence. They’re so old that they’re depicted in ancient artifacts dating back to the Han Dynasty in 206 BC. However, it’s possible they’re even older.
The biggest difference between the Chow Chow and other spitzes is the head shape. Other spitz dogs have a sharper snout with longer, erect ears. The only commonality is the dense double coat.
Chow Chows are as friendly as any other dog breed. The only concern is that they’re independent-minded and can be a little stubborn. But what spitz dog breed isn’t?
16. Akita Inu
Highlights: Dignified, Devoted, Brave
The loyal Akita Inu, otherwise known as the “Great Japanese Dog,” is the national symbol of Japan. They were bred to be the ultimate guardians of the home, and they don’t disappoint.
With a muscular frame and an impressive stature, these heavy-boned spitz dogs represent dignity, courage and undying loyalty. In fact, some will make the argument that they’re the most loyal dogs in the world.
Akita Inus are reliable and dependable companions. They hardly bark, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t great watch dogs. They get along great with family and familiar people, but are always alert and wary of others.
And although they’re fearsome big dogs, they have a strange affinity towards children, especially those of the family. It’s why some Japanese family consider them amazing nanny dogs too.
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17. Shiba Inu
Highlights: Alert, Energetic, Perceptive
The Shiba Inu is one of the most internationally recognizable spitz dog breed today, largely thanks to the “doge meme.” They’re internet famous and rightfully so.
Originally bred in Japan as a small hunting dog, Shibas have quickly become companions in households all over the world. However, just because they’re small doesn’t mean they’re good lap dogs.
Most Shibas are very independent, strong-willed and also have a bit of a stubbornness to them. If you try to turn them into cuddle buddies, they won’t like it very much. They’re active and energetic, meaning they’ll need moderate exercise.
Although they have bold personalities, they can also be highly affectionate in the home. And if you’re looking for a watchdog, the vigilant Shiba Inus are some of the best.
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18. Japanese Spitz
Highlights: Fun-loving, Loyal, Playful
The Japanese Spitz is all about fun and companionship. They’ll do whatever they can to put a smile on your face. Just call them the comedians of the spitz-type dog breeds.
Loyal and sweet-natured, the Japanese Spitz is up for anything. Whether you want to go for a swim, a hike or just watch TV, they’ll be ready for it. All they want is to spend quality time with their owners.
In terms of physical appearance, they look very similar to many other spitz dogs. In fact, they’re often mistaken for white Pomeranians, American Eskimos, German Spitz or a mini Samoyed.
They make incredible kid-friendly dogs, but at the same time, are decent watchdogs due to their alertness. If you have other dogs or pets, they’ll befriend them too. It’s rather hard to not like a Japanese Spitz.
19. Canaan Dog
Highlights: Alert, Vigilant, Optimistic
One of the first official AKC breeds, the Canaan Dog originates from Israel, where it has become the national dog. They’re a member of the spitz family and were bred to guard and protect the home.
Given their jobs as guardian dogs, you can expect them to be alert and vigilant. They’re always suspicious of strangers. However, with the family, they’re calm and docile dogs.
They may not be as big as other dogs, but they have a dominant personality. That being said, you’ll need to have strong leadership within the pack. They require consistent and firm training, but also plenty of socialization.
Thanks to their strong work ethics, there are few things the Canaan Dog won’t excel at. They’re known to be great in agility trials, obedience training, herding and more. Off the field, they can be affectionate companions.
So which spitz dog is your favorite? Did we miss a breed that deserves to be on this list? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
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