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As a spitz breed of dog, the Japanese Spitz is a small to medium companion animal. There are many breed standards across the World that don't seem to agree on the exact size of the spitz, however all agree that the Japanese Spitz should be bigger than its toy cousin, the Pomeranian.
The breed was developed in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s by crossing a number of spitz-type canines and is now recognised by Kennel Clubs across the globe, except the US, where they believe the Japanese Spitz to be too similar in appearance to the American Eskimo Dog and the white Pomeranian to be a distinct breed.
Japanese breeders developed the Spitz by cross-breeding other spitz dogs - particularly the German Spitz, which made its way in Japan from north east China. In the 11 years between 1925 and 1936 many different white spitz breeds where bred into the developing Japanese Spitz with the aim of creating a superior breed.
The standard for the Japanese Spitz was written just after World War II and quickly accepted by the Japanese Kennel Club. By the 1950s the Spitz had grown in popularity in Japan and had started to be exported, making its way into Sweden in the early part of the decade. From Sweden the breed moved into the UK, where it was accepted by the UK Kennel Club in 1977 and placed in the utility group.
The Japanese Spitz is now recognised by the Kennel Clubs across the globe (apart from the US) and is popular as a pet and companion dog.
Average height to withers: 13.5" - 14.5" (dogs) 12"-13.5" (bitches)
Average weight: 8-8.5 kg (dogs) 7-7.5kg (bitches)
The Spitz is a small dog, with a somewhat 'square' shape, a deep chest and a very thick, snow white coat. The coat has two layers - the outer 'guard' hairs stand off from the soft undercoat, making sure that the Japanese Spitz is protected from the inclement weather of the regions Spitz breeds originate from. The fur is shorter on the ears, muzzle and forelegs with a ruff of longer fur around the neck. The ears are triangular and pricked and the full tail is held high and curls over the back.
In contrast to the pure white coat, the Japanese Spitz has black pads and nails, a black nose and dark eyes with white eyelashes. The lips and rims of the eyes are also black.
Energetic, faithful and intelligent, the Japanese Spitz is the ideal companion anima,l being brave, affectionate and loyal, which makes them ideal pets for older people and children. Despite their size they make good watchdogs as they have a tendency to bark as a warning of approaching strangers.
As a companion animal, the Spitz is happiest when with the family and is known for its devotion. They are energetic dogs and love being outdoors. They are playful, alert and obedient and particularly affectionate with children.
The Japanese Spitz can live quite happily with other animals providing they are introduced when the dog is young. The Spitz can be domineering and may establish itself as the boss, despite its size, even with much larger dogs.
One of the most frequent problems to affect the breed is luxating patella, where the ligaments holding the kneecap in place weaken and allow the it to move and dislocate. It's a painful condition that can cause severe lameness.
The Japanese Spitz is also prone to runny eyes, which although not a serious condition, can cause problems in showing animals as it can lead to discolouration of the fur around the eyes.
Although the Spitz has a thick coat and can tolerate cold weather, he prefers to be inside with the family. They can live in apartments or flats but need lots of off-lead time when out on walks.
Despite their appearance, the Japanese Spitz is a low-maintenance breed. The texture of their coat means dirt and mud merely falls off the hairs or can be brushed out easily and they rarely small 'doggy'. They shed their coats once a year and like most other breeds, they moult minimally all year. They can have a great fondness for swimming, which can mean that regular baths are unnecessary.
Many experienced fanciers suggest that because the coat is 'dry', the Spitz shouldn't be bathed more than once every two months as shampoos and detergents can strip the coat and skin of its natural oils, which can lead to dryness, sensitivity and itchiness.
A pin brush should be used twice a week to remove knots and tangles from the coat. Grooming the Japanese Spitz is relatively straightforward thanks to its smooth, silky hair which is said by some to resemble 'teflon'.
The Spitz benefits from obedience training and this should be initiated at a young age to provide plenty of mental stimulation and avoid the formation of bad habits.
An intelligent dog, the Spitz will quickly learn how to behave if taught with gentle consistency as although they enjoy all the trappings of being a lap dog, they are clever enough to have a very independent streak and will need firm handling from puppyhood.
Interestingly the Japanese Spitz can suffer with itchy gums during teething and will require a dental toy to relieve discomfort during this process. Playful encouragement and praise will ensure the Spitz learns quickly and remains eager to please. Harsh treatment and punishment is likely to be met with resistance. It's also important to socialise your Spitz at an early age as getting him used to different places, people and situations will result in a friendly, obedient, well-mannered adult dog.