How I Choose A Breed

August 19, 2007

Choosing a breed is a really important part of picking the right dog for your family. Energy level, grooming requirements, personality traits- all of that plays a big role. Unfortunately, a lot of people get caught up on an aesthetic trait- and there’s nothing WRONG with that, but you have to also be realistic about your own capabilities when it comes to exercising and training a dog. So this post is really about how *I* chose the breed, and MY requirements.
I had a really long list of requirements, too. 🙂

The mental- smart, trainable, not TOO barky (something on the order of a collie was okay, but a sheltie would make me nuts), not too independent but not too clingy, either. Stubborn was fine, as was creative, to a degree- I wasn’t looking for a push-button dog, but I also wanted a dog who wanted to work with me and would find it rewarding (along with food) to be in my presence- some corgi girls deign to give you their attention once in a while but can be REALLY hard to motivate for that reason. I didn’t want a dog that would be innately difficult to train for reliability offleash outdoors (which ruled out beagles and most of the nothern breeds) since the dogs are offleash a lot at our family farm which has perimeter fencing, but the interior fencing isn’t all (or even mostly) dog proof, and finding a dog on 2000 acres, 1/2 of that thick, scrubby bush? No fun. Basically? I wanted something similar to my corgi and my collie in personality and drive- a blend of the two would be perfect. And while I don’t mind prey drive, I wanted a dog who could live peacably with other pets, including small animals, and this ruled out most of the terriers.

The physical- I wanted a healthy breed with a natural look and not too many major health issues. I wanted a dog big enough and sturdy enough to play with Malcolm (10″ was my minimum height, and 12# my minimum weight- these were based on a dog I was fostering, a Chihuahua mix, who played VERY well with him) but not taller than 20″ at the shoulder, and preferably towards the smaller end of that. Since most breeds in that height range are shown on the table in the breed ring, I wanted a dog that typically weighs less than 30 pounds, the maximum I’m comfortable lifting frequently on and off a grooming table. This last requirement ruled out another Cardigan Corgi.

The aesthetic and purely shallow things- I wanted a natural-looking breed without too extreme grooming requirements for the show ring, preferably with erect ears. (Yes, it’s shallow, but I like them.) I wanted at least a double-coated dog like my Corgi but a dog with a bit more coat would be great too, as long as it wasn’t so long that it dragged the ground. I preferred a breed which came in multiple colors, and despite this requirement, came very close to putting down a deposit for an American Eskimo puppy- but in the end, decided to keep looking. I don’t mind fluff drying, but I’m not a good enough groomer to prepare something that needs extensive scissoring for the show ring, like a poodle. Oh, and I wanted a clean face- no beards to gather gunk- this took out the Tibetan Terrier, a breed which a friend owns and has been successful with.

The practical- I wanted a breed that wasn’t dominated by professional handlers in the show ring. (There went the shelties!) It didn’t have to be an AKC breed as long as I could show it with UKC or another real kennel club. That said, I wanted a breed that wasn’t OPPOSED to AKC registration so that hopefully it would eventually become AKC recognized and open up another venue for dog sports- by far the largest one in my area, where we have relatively few UKC shows. I also wanted a breed with a large enough gene pool that if I *did* fall in love and want to breed someday, it’d be feasible. (which removed the Alaskan Klee Kai from consideration) And along with that, I wanted a breed that I’d be comfortable placing in a wide variety of living environments if I did breed- a breed that could be a good family dog, performance dog, show dog, companion, and possibly even small service dog (hearing, psychiatric, seizure alert, etc.).

After sifting through every breed book I owned (including several from the UK and Australia), reading most of the United Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, and Canadian Kennel Club websites, and talking the problem to death with my best friend, and getting to meet a number of breeds I’d never really considered, I finally settled on a breed- the German Spitz (Mittel).


A Brief History of the German Spitz

August 19, 2007

Fino and Tiny, painted in 1791 by George StubbsThe natural features, erect ears, foxy face, and curled tail characterize all the breeds in what we call the Spitz family and most of the northern and primative group of dogs. The German Spitz, specifically, is thought to descend from sled or draft dogs brought to Germany sometime in the early middle ages. Early reports of Queen Charlotte’s dogs describes them as herding dogs, and in all likelihood the prototypical German Spitz was an all-around farm and family dog fulfilling many different roles depending on the needs of their owner- simple herding, crittering, playing with children, and as a watchdog and companion. The smaller sizes evolved as companions.
The German Spitz was originally introduced to England by Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III in the 18th century. At the time, it was a much larger dog- around 30 pounds. At the time, these were called Pomeranians, since they were believed to originate in Pomern. The modern toy form of the Pom originated with Queen Victoria over a hundred years later when she found her first toy speciman of the breed (In Italy? need source -ed.) and the standard was revised to the modern size. But the original, larger form persisted in Germany, merely known as the Spitz and divided by size (and color.)
In the 1970s, a Pomeranian fancier in England decided to look to Europe in an attempt to reintroduce the color white into the British Pom, where it had apparently been lost. This led to a group of fanciers trying to incorporate a larger size of Pom (the “Victorian Pom”) which was unsuccessful due to the resistance of fanciers of the smaller modern version of the breed, and it was decided instead to bring the German Spitz into the UK as a separate breed, and not allow interbreeding of the two smaller varieties (Mittel and Klein.) The first Spitz imported into the United States under that name arrived in the mid-90s and their numbers have grown slowly since then.
There is some confusion in the US about the origin of the American Eskimo. American Eskimos come, originally, from German Spitz, but a century of indepdent development has created a unique standard and character.

“The New Complete Pomeranian”
German Spitz World UK website, and the article there by Rosemary Bergman.
Picture courtesy of