Eurasier

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Eurasier

The Eurasier is a loving, gentle and devoted dog that will fit into any family that can give it the attention and companionship that it craves. A medium-sized Spitz, it was conceived and developed in its native Germany over the past fifty years, and is sure to become a more familiar sight in the UK following its recent admission to the Kennel Club breed register. From the outset, it was intended that the Eurasier would be a companion dog, and the qualities of an even temper, calm disposition, and affectionate nature have thus been promoted throughout.

It needs to be fully integrated into its family, accompanying its people everywhere, from walks in the park to trips to the supermarket. Though it dotes on those closest to it, the breed is reserved, and even uneasy, around strangers, who need to take their time before forcing their attention on an unwilling recipient. Socialisation can help with this, but the Eurasier may not be ideal for those wanting a dog as a social focus while walking on busy streets. Despite its recent origins and small gene pool, this is an intelligent and healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 12–14 years. Time will tell whether this good health will be maintained as the number of breeders keen to capitalise on the Eurasier’s growing popularity expands.

About & History

The history of the breed is very well documented, as it was only in 1960 that it began to be developed. The Eurasier owes its existence largely to the single-minded dedication of a German named Julius Wipfel, from Wienheim in Germany. Julius and his wife, Elfriede, took in a dog left behind by an Allied soldier withdrawing after the post-World War II occupation of Germany. This dog, of uncertain ancestry, was nicknamed “the Canadian”, and despite its penchant for killing wildlife, and even other small pets, the Wipfels felt it to be the most enchanting dog they had ever owned.

After the Canadian’s death, Julius felt compelled to create a breed in his image, but with a softer temperament. After much self-directed study of genetics, including experimental breeding of pet birds, Julius chose to cross Keeshonds with Chow Chows. He posited that the two breeds were sufficiently close genetically to produce offspring that were consistent in appearance and temperament. However, the pups that resulted from these mating were actually of three distinct types, a so-called “mixed type”, a wolf-dingo type and a Polar type.

Of these, the Polar-type pups were closest to the dog Wipfel was seeking, while the wolf-dingo pups had reverted to primal behaviours and were unsuitable as pets. Using a network of like-minded enthusiasts, Wipfel close-bred these dogs, which became known as Wolf-Chows over the ensuing decade, without the introduction of new genes. However, after consulting with a renowned geneticist regarding his new breed in 1972, he decided to breed five Wolf-Chow bitches to a single male Samoyed. From this point on, the breeding register became a closed book, and it is from these foundation matings that the entire modern breed is built. The name Eurasier alludes to its mixed origins in European and Asian dog breeds. The Federation Cyanologique Internationale recognised the breed in 1973, while it has only been admitted to the Kennel Club Register since 2013.

Appearance

Eurasier Large Photo

The Eurasier is a well-balanced Spitz-type dog with a generous coat of hair that is not so dense as to hide the dog’s contours. It has a wolf-like head with a marked furrow running between the eyes leading from the flat skull to the muzzle, and a barely perceptible stop. The muzzle is in proportion to the other features; strong but not coarse with a neat bite. The nose, lips and tight-fitting eyelids are all black. The eyes are oval-shaped and slightly oblique and are usually a dark brown colour. The ears are quite close-set, medium in size, and pricked with rounded tips.

The neck, back, and loins are straight and very well-muscled, with pronounced withers, meaning the point of the shoulder sits just above the level of the spine. The breed has a long ribcage that has a reasonable spring, but is not very wide, and the abdomen has a slight tuck. As is typical of a Spitz, the tail is broad and bushy, and is carried either lying over the back or curled to the side. Both fore- and hindlimbs are moderately angulated and well-muscled in their upper halves. There is a symmetry to their appearance, in that the upper and lower limbs are approximately equal in length. The Eurasier has strong bone structure, and the paws are oval in shape and tight, with arched toes. All nails are usually black.

The breed has a very thick undercoat and an outer coat of coarser guard hairs. The coat is long on the tail and at the backs of the limbs, while longer hair is also seen around the neck, though it should not form a mane. All colours are permitted, apart from white or liver.

Male Eurasiers range in height from 52 to 60 cm (20–24 in) and weigh 23–32 kg (51–70 lb), while females are 48–56 cm tall at the withers, and weigh 18–26 kg (40–57 lb).

Character & Temperament

As described previously, the Eurasier was always intended as a companion, rather than utility breed. Viewed through this lens, it is easy to understand the breed’s devotion to and dependence on its family. They are at happiest when in the centre of the home, involved in all family activities, and they form a very strong bond with their owners. Given the constant contact that they crave, their high level of intelligence means that they are very intuitive dogs that can seem to have the ability to read minds. Within the family, they are affectionate and sensitive, and are generally very calm around the house.

Though not a high-energy breed, they are nonetheless very alert and make good watch dogs. Their inherent suspicion of strangers may also help in this regard, and even close family friends may find it takes some time for the Eurasier to warm to them and accept their presence, and even longer before petting or cuddling is permitted. Having said that, it is very rare to encounter a Eurasier with any aggressive streak; they simply shy away from situations in which they are uncomfortable. The breed is said to have virtually no hunting instinct, and so may be a good choice for households with smaller pets.

Trainability

Photo of Eurasier puppy

Intelligence is one of the notable characteristics of the breed; their ability to “read” their owners mean that good behaviour will usually follow from calm and consistent guidance from their people. On the odd occasion when the Eurasier does step out of line, a gentle scolding is generally all that is required, as they are very sensitive and dislike conflict.

Their distrust of strangers can be difficult to overcome, but socialisation training, either through formal classes or by introducing family and friends consistently from puppyhood onwards, can help this shy breed cope better with unwanted attention.

Health

The limited gene pool available during the establishment of the breed in the 1960s might have been expected to lay the groundwork for a plethora of inherited diseases; however, the Eurasier is a very healthy breed. Its tight eyelids are the source of several of the relatively minor ailments listed below.

  • Addison’s Disease – Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, this is a condition that may be first diagnosed in young to middle-aged Eurasiers. It is caused by autoimmune damage to the adrenal glands, which are two tiny organs located within the abdomen that produce a range of hormones necessary to maintain health. Crucially, they are the site of corticosteroid and mineralocorticoid production, and reductions in these hormones can result in a range of symptoms. Intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea, often with blood, are the most common signs, though dogs may first present with dramatic signs of shock and collapse. Treatment with hormone replacement therapy is usually very successful, and most dogs with Addison’s disease go on to live long and healthy lives.
  • Distichiasis – The growth of eyelashes in abnormal locations. This can cause problems if the accessory hair is coming in contact with the surface of the eye, as this causes pain and inflammation. Visualising these distichiae can be difficult, and may require examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist, but treatment is generally straightforward, involving removal of the offending hair follicle(s).
  • Ectropion – Outward rolling of the eyelids. Usually obvious from a young age, may cause recurrent eye infections and persistent irritation. Surgery can be used to correct the abnormality.
  • Entropion – In contrast to ectropion, entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelids. This tends to be more problematic, in that the hairs of the lid rub against the sensitive surface of the cornea, causing pain, ulceration, and scarring to the clear surface of the eye. Again, surgery is necessary to resolve the problem.
  • Hip Dysplasia – This is the most prevalent significant problem within the breed. It is due to a failure of one or both hip joints to develop normally with abnormally shaped or excessively lax joints causing pain in growing dogs. It may thus be first noticed as stiffness or lameness from five months of age. Many of these young dogs will outgrow the problem after several months, but it is likely to manifest again in middle age as osteoarthritis and chronic lameness. All dogs used for breeding should be screened for hip dysplasia through radiographic (x-ray) examination, and prospective buyers should insist on seeing hip scores for both parents.
  • Hypothyroidism – In common with around 60 other breeds, Eurasiers are at increased risk of developing an underactive thyroid gland. The process underlying this condition is similar to that for Addison’s disease, with autoimmune destruction of the gland leading to a drop in circulating hormone levels. The symptoms of weight gain, hair loss, and lethargy may all be reversed with medication, but lifelong treatment is required.
  • Patellar Luxation – Some Eurasiers with poor hindlimb conformation may suffer intermittent lameness as a result of one or both kneecaps slipping out of their normal position. This is usually observed as a three-legged, skipping gait when exercising.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Although the Eurasier is a strong and muscular dog, it does not have huge exercise requirements, and is often content with as little as 30-minutes of walking per day, though it will be happy to do more when possible. With their lack of tracking and hunting instincts, they usually exhibit excellent recall, even in public spaces, and so can exercise off the lead in most situations. They are also noted for their calm demeanour in the home, and make for easy housemates.

Grooming

The thick coat is surprisingly easy to care for, though it does shed very heavily twice a year. Brushing is needed once or twice weekly, but the coat is relatively impenetrable to dirt, and so does not need regular washing. The Eurasier almost always has black nails, and so owners may find they need to have these trimmed by a veterinary nurse or groomer rather than attempting to do so themselves. This can be required as often as every 8 weeks, as the breed’s relatively low activity levels mean they do not wear down during exercise.

Famous Eurasiers

The geneticist and Nobel Laureate, Konrad Lorenz, inspired and instructed Herr Wipfel in his establishment of the breed, and to Wipfel’s delight, Konrad himself purchased one of the first bitches arising from the introduction of the Samoyed to the breed line. Konrad named this pup “Babette”.

Cross-Breeds

I have yet to encounter a Eurasier cross-breed in my veterinary practice, but those in the Eurasier breeding fraternity tell me there is a subset within the breed, known as the Elo, that is bred without regard for appearance, but simply to further enhance the positive behavioural characteristics of the breed.

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