Pomeranians are spirited small dogs with a bold personality. With their fluffy coats, they’re always smiling bright and cheerful. However with all that fluff, you may be wondering what these little Pomeranians were actually bred to do.
Pomeranians were originally bred for jobs that you’d least expect, such as pulling sleds, guarding homes and protecting livestock. Prior to the 19th century, Pomeranians weighed 30 pounds, thus giving them the ability to do more types of work. However, Pomeranians were eventually down-sized to become family companions.
The history of the Pomeranian is a long and interesting one. In fact, it’s one that you’d least expect from these dogs. Let’s dive in and explore the roles and jobs of these dogs, and how they developed into the little cheerful dogs we love today.
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The History of Pomeranians
Like with so many dog breeds, the history and origins of the Pomeranian is a questionable one. However, we do know that they may have originated from Iceland, along with many other spitz-type dogs, such as the Husky and Samoyed.
In fact, it they weren’t popular until domestication in Europe, when Pomeranians became popularized by Germany. Pomeranians are internationally popular dogs today, but their history can be traced as far back as 400 BC, as evident by various paintings and artifacts.
What’s even more interesting is that the ancestor spitz dogs of the Pomeranians were much larger than the ones you see today. In fact, historians believe that ancient Poms weighed roughly 30 lbs – well into the medium-sized dog breed territory.
These Pom ancestors had many wolf-like characteristics, which is even seen among Poms today. These traits include the pointed erect ears, the sharp snout, double coat and fluffy curled tails. All of which, are spitz traits. It explains why they all look similar.
With how friendly and cheerful these dogs are, you would have never have guessed their close genetic link to the historic wolf. Needless to say, all breeds from the Spitz family are closely related to wolves, including the Akita Inu, Malamute, and many more.
Pomeranians in Royalty
We all know about Queen Elizabeth II and her “royal” Corgis, but did you know that Pomeranians also had royal treatment and fame too? Prior to the 18th century, these spitz dogs were simply known as “wolf dogs,” though they were treated like royalty.
This breed was brought into the royal family by Queen Charlotte in 1761. And when Queen Charlotte had married King George III, she brought along her pet “wolf” dogs. Quickly, they captured the interest (and the hearts) of the English nation.
After growing in popularity with the royal family, these dogs were renamed to the “Pommeranian” (yes, that’s spelled with a double ‘M’). The unique name was given because Queen Charlotte renamed them after the German region in which they were imported from, called Pomerania.
From there, they became popular companion and lap dogs even among the commoners (later on in the 1800s). The amazing thing is that they’re still popular companions centuries later. For hundreds of years, the positive and attractive vibe still retained in these dogs.
The Queen’s Royal Pomeranians
As previously mentioned, Pomeranians didn’t “explode” in popularity until the 1800s. In 1888, Queen Victoria paid a visit to Florence, Italy. It was there that she fell in love with a Volpino Italiano. It was love at first sight. She couldn’t resist the big round eyes and elegant fluffy coats.
What really struck a chord was the fact that these dogs reminded her of her grandmother’s (Queen Charlotte’s) pet dogs. So of course, she brought back four Volpino Italianos back to England and into the royal family, where they became treasured pets.
Like with the wolf dog, the Volpino Italiano is a member of the Spitz family and has a similar origin. The dogs were eventually renamed to the Pomeranian despite having an older history.
The Queen has her favorites among the dogs, and some of them become jealous of the attention she pays to others. Among those she likes best is one named ‘Marco.’ This is said to be the finest Spitz dog in England. It has taken a number of prizes.– The Toronto Daily Mail (1894)
Queen Victoria was one of the most beloved royals of all time, especially during the Victorian era. As such, she had a huge influence on the pop culture of the country. Just the fact that she owned these dogs created a human demand in England.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long. Pomeranians were seen as a “fashion statement” and became the highest demanded toy dog breed in the country. Even today, the Pomeranian remains a highly sought-after lap dog in the country.
What Pomeranians Were Bred For
The original jobs and roles of the Pomeranians are those you’d expect out of a Siberian Husky, Pyrenees or a Rottweiler – all large dog breeds. But a Pomeranian? Not so much. After all, this breed is meant to sit on your lap all day.
Believe it or not, Pomeranians were initially bred to be skilled multi-purpose working dogs. They were sleigh dogs, guard dogs, and livestock protectors a few hundred years ago. According to PetPom, the ancestor Poms weighed up to 30 pounds! They were big and strong dogs.
Breeders and dog enthusiasts still refer to these ancestor dogs as “throwback poms” and though rare, we’ll still see some in litters today. That being said, let’s explore the various interesting jobs that these now toy dogs were originally tasked to do.
Pomeranians bred as sled dogs
Though they may not have the speed, endurance or physical capabilities of a Siberian Husky, the Pom was once used to pull sleds and carts. It’s kind of difficult to imagine today, but if you think about it, they still retain qualities that hints at this past job.
For example, the Pomeranian was developed with a thick and fluffy double coat. With their thick double coats, they were protected from the harsh winters in the arctic region. In other words, the Pom ancestors were ideal for working in freezing conditions of snowy regions.
One Pomeranian owner on Reddit tells us:
I may not have the agility dog I want, but I’m sure happy I have a Pom that lives to join me when I go sledding. But only if he gets to run with it and not be in it.– Goombawrangler (Reddit)
Perhaps, this Pomeranian is showing its ancient instincts of running with sleds? Instincts are not very easily bred out of a dog breed. In fact, some owners describe their Pomeranians to be their happiest when they’re romping around in snow.
Yes, it’s a bit hard to imagine these toy dogs pulling you on a sleigh, but you must remember that they were much larger in the past. For reference, at 30 pounds, the Pomeranian may be around the size of the Miniature Australian Shepherd!
Needless to say, after they were bred to be small family companions, they no longer participated in this type of work. You’d probably get weird looks strapping a Pom to a sled. Today, more qualified (and much larger) spitz breeds do the pulling instead.
Pomeranians bred as guard dogs
While they were much larger, Pomeranians were effective guard dogs for properties such as farms. Now? Not so much. Back then, they were much more alert and had the size to ward off intruders if it came down to it.
However, Pomeranians can still make effective watch dogs because of the temperament and qualities they share with modern guard dogs. It’s just that you shouldn’t expect your Pom to be a good deterrent or attack dog.
For instance, they’re vigilant and confident dogs, as are Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers. Both of which, are some of the most feared and reputable canine guardians.
Few things can get past my Pom. She will bark at anything, so you’ll feel confident that they’ll let you know if someone unusual is on your (more like ‘their’) property.– Greg S. (Pomeranian owner)
And according to The Spruce Pets, Poms will alert you through their barking if they sense some intruder on the property. At the very least, Pomeranians make great dogs if you need a second pair of eyes, or in this case, ears.
The only thing is that you shouldn’t rely on a Pomeranian to actually protect your territory. Weighing in at under 8 pounds, there’s very little they can do. Plus, I don’t think many people will be scared of a petite lap dog.
Still, Pomeranians are fantastic at getting your attention if they suspect that there is something “off” in or around the house. But if you can get your hands on a rare “throwback” Pom, then maybe a guard dog role is more suitable!
Pomeranians bred as all-purpose farm dogs
One of the most interesting and surprising jobs of the old Pomeranians are the ones that they had to do on farms. Their roles included guarding livestock and herding sheep. Yes, that’s right – Poms were once technically sheepdogs!
According to National Purebred Dog Day, these dogs were used as herding dogs for sheep. If a 25-pound Pembroke Welsh Corgi can herd cattle (weighing hundreds of pounds), then the old 30-pound Pomeranians can certainly herd sheep.
Unfortunately, we don’t have much information on this, as they likely haven’t seriously participated in herding for many centuries. However, we suspect they were decent herders. Given the agile nature and quickness of the Poms, they had the traits for the job.
We took a look on YouTube and found downright hilarious and adorable videos of small Pomeranians trying to herd cattle. Perhaps, the herding instincts are still intact!
Had I known about these hidden ancient instincts, I would have sent our family Pomeranian to herding trials.
The Modern Pomeranian
Though those historic jobs of Pomeranians are interesting and amazing, you likely won’t find a Pom that pulls sleigh, guards homes or herds cattle now. Though, we’ll never say never. With that said, what are Pomeranians bred for today?
Pomeranians are part of the Toy Dog Group, according to the AKC. And like all the other dogs from this group, they were bred to be companions – and only companions.
Pomeranians bred as companion dogs
These dogs are sociable, cheerful, bright, warm and lively – all the best qualities of a top toy lap dog and companion. They’re now bred for this role and they excel at it thanks to their adaptive intelligence that helps them communicate efficiently.
Although they will alert you of intruders, they’re generally very friendly dogs. They can live in harmony with other dogs and pets in the same household – at least with the proper training. Some will make the argument that they’re actually pack dogs at heart.
There’s no place a Pomeranian would rather be than on your lap. It’s why they frequently make the lists of top lap dog breeds. If you need a buddy to lounge around, they’re there for you. You want to stretch your legs? Poms will happily go for a walk.
Poms are such an intuitive breed. They can see your heart. I had a rough day and was sitting on the cold steps of my office building waiting for my bus..all the sudden a big, fluffy pom runs up to say hi (made my day).– Smtrixie (Reddit)
Many owners claim that their Pomeranians are great at reading emotions. Perhaps this is just their instinctive IQ at play. In other words, they have an extremely high EQ. If you’re having a bad day, they’ll somehow know and come comfort you.
However, this is also why they’re such sensitive dogs. They need positive reinforcement training due to their high-strung personalities. And for a great companion relationship to transpire between owner and dog, you must reciprocate their love and affection.
There’s a reason why Pomeranians are consistently on the AKC’s list of top 30 most popular dog breeds – year after year. They’re just that great of a dog companion!
Is a Pomeranian For Me?
Having personally owned a Pomeranian for 13 years, I can tell you that Pomeranians are some of the most joyous and bright dogs you can find. They are bred for companionship and they do their jobs as good as any dog.
You may not be able to count on them to protect the house or track down small game. However, if you are looking for a canine friend that will always have your back (your family’s too!), then a Pom is an excellent choice for almost every person.
But just because they’re “lap dogs” doesn’t mean that you can ignore their physical and or mental needs. They don’t need much, but daily walks are still necessary. Love, affection and attention is the most important thing for these dogs, though.
Grooming can take some time as they tend to shed quite a bit, especially during shedding season. So if you’re allergic to dogs, I’d suggest one of these 57 hypoallergenic dogs instead. However, they are small dogs and may not shed that much fur.
Overall, Poms are some of the best dogs the canine kingdom has to offer. They were literally bred to be a “man’s best friend.” So if you bring one home, you won’t regret it!
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