Japanese Spitz

Anna Cherry
Dr Anna Cherry (BSc Hons, BVSc, MRCVS)
 
Photo of adult Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz is a loyal, energetic and affectionate companion that is highly intelligent and good with children. They are a small-to-medium sized 'Spitz-type’ breed. However, there is some variation in their size around the world, due to differences in breed standards. These little dogs have captivating personalities and are full of fun and love to play. They adore being around people and will thrive in your company, staying close to your side.

Despite their small size, this breed is courageous and bold and are excellent watchdogs. They are renowned for their thick and fluffy pure-white coat, which is offset by their large dark almond-shaped eyes that are slightly slanted. This breed will enjoy curling up in your lap for a warm snooze. But do not be fooled, this is not a sedentary breed, as they also love to be active and get outdoors for walks.

About & History

The Japanese Spitz, as the name implies, is native to Japan. However, it's not entirely clear how this beautiful breed was developed. Some sources believe that the breed was created around the start of the 20th century by crossing different Spitz breeds from around the globe, in the hope of producing a ‘healthy’ breed of dog.

Others believe that the Japanese Spitz descended from the Samoyed, which is another Spitz breed that is also native to Japan. It’s easy to see how this could be plausible given how similar in appearance these two breeds are, in fact, the Japanese Spitz appears to be its 'mini-me'! Others speculate that lurking somewhere in this dog’s genes are those of the White German Spitz. Despite the origins of this breed remaining a mystery, the end result is a magnificent little dog that is a joy to be around.

It was not until the late 1940s that the Japanese Spitz was finally given recognition by the Japanese Kennel Club. This breed is now found throughout the world and was officially included by the UK Kennel Club in their ‘utility’ group (these include non-sporting breeds of dog) around 1977. However, due to the similarities in the physical appearance of this breed to the American Eskimo Dog, to this day it is still not recognised by the American Kennel Club.

Besides being an excellent companion, this breed also make good watchdogs thanks to their alert, bold and vigilant nature.

Appearance

Japanese Spitz Large Photo

This breed characteristically has a wedge-shaped face with large dark ‘almond’ shaped eyes that are set at a slightly slanted angle. Their ears are small, erect and triangular in shape. The skin around their eyes, nose and mouth is black, which acts to clearly delineate their features against their white fur. They have a pointy muzzle, deep chest and a compact square-shaped body. Their small ‘cat-like’ feet are heavily feathered and allow this breed to be agile.

Their magnificent long thick pure-white double coat is one of their most striking features of this breed. It comprises a coarser outer layer that stands off from the fine undercoat, giving the Japanese Spitz a ‘teddy bear’ like appearance. They also have a thick ‘lion-like’ mane of longer fur extending from their neck and shoulders down to their brisket. The fur covering their muzzle, ears and down the front of their fore and hind legs is shorter. They have a long fluffy tail that is characteristically carried curled over on top of their lower back.

Standards for this breed do vary worldwide, especially in regard to size, although, they are always consistently larger than their cousins, the Pomeranian.

Character & Temperament

The Japanese Spitz makes a wonderful companion, as they are loyal, energetic, playful and affectionate. Their loving and gentle nature means they are also good around young children. This breed thrives being around people and will love to be at the centre of your family. They are a very loyal breed and will want to be by your side at all times. Their sociable nature means that they mix well with other dogs and other household pets. Despite their ‘lap-sized’ appearance this breed enjoys being active and spending time going out for walks and running off lead. This is not to say you won’t find this amiable dog curled up on your lap for a little time-out later.

There’s no need to invest in a burglar alarm, as this breed makes an excellent watchdog and will readily bark to alert their families of the arrival of a visitor to their home. They really do believe that they are a large dog trapped inside a small dog’s body. However, if they are not socialised well as puppies this trait can be problematic, as they can become overly suspicious of strangers. It is not uncommon for this breed to initially be aloof to visitors to your home, but once they relax they will quickly win your guests over with their vibrant and entertaining personality.

Word of warning, make sure you have plenty of time to spend with this breed, as due to their love of company they can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone. This can lead to unwanted behaviours, such as excessive barking and destruction.

Trainability

Photo of Japanese Spitz puppy

Training is a breeze, as this breed is naturally intelligent, obedient and eager to please – just make sure you are consistent. They will quickly pick up house training, so you shouldn’t spend too much time with a mop in hand, that’s not to say there won’t be a few accidents!

Health

Health wise, the Japanese Spitz is fairly robust with hardly any known genetic-based problems, they typically have a lifespan of between 10-16 years. The main health concern of this breed is luxating patellas, which is when the kneecap becomes displaced from its normal position.

Long-term, this can cause pain and lameness and over time can lead to osteoarthritis. This is due to the abnormal wear and tear of the kneecap cartilage and can cause damage to the surrounding bony structures. Dogs affected by luxating patellas are also vulnerable to developing secondary problems, due to the abnormal stress this condition can place on other structures in the knee joint. For example, it can place extra pressure on the cruciate ligaments that stabilize the knee joint, making them vulnerable to tearing or rupturing.

Runny eyes can also be a problem for this breed and are believed to be linked to those affected having tear ducts that are too small. This can lead to the overflow of tears down their face. Long-term, if their face is not regularly cleaned, this can lead to tear-staining and skin sores, which can become vulnerable to secondary infection.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Japanese Spitz is a lively, playful and energetic dog and needs a moderate amount of exercise daily. They adore going for walks outdoors and it’s important that they are given the opportunity to run-free off lead when safe to do so. They also love catching balls and Frisbees and taking part in agility.

Grooming

The thick double coat of a Japanese Spitz may seem like a daunting prospect with respect to grooming. However, their coat is surprisingly easy to maintain. Due to its texture, dirt tends not to stick and can be easily brushed off. To prevent their coat becoming matted they will need to be brushed regularly, around 2-3 times per week.

This breed does molt and giving them a brush for 5-10 minutes daily can help to remove any dead coat during this period. The ideal grooming tool for this breed is a pin brush or slicker, as this will reach down to through their outer coat to their fine undercoat. To help make sure that you are brushing both coat layers, part the fur and brush from root to tip.

They naturally have a slightly drier coat compared to other breeds and over-bathing should be avoided, as this can strip away vital oils needed for their coat and skin health. Also, because their coat isn’t prone to retaining dirt and they don’t suffer from ‘Eau-de-dog’, they rarely need bathing and a few times a year will suffice.

Famous Japanese Spitzes

Although this enigmatic breed is yet to make it onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this hasn’t stopped a Japanese Spitz called Lykke captivating the hearts of over 46.6 thousand loyal Instagram followers! Celebrity A-lister, Channing Tatum, and his wife, Jenna Dewan, are also proud owners of Meeka, a 9-year old Japanese Spitz, who regularly attends at a doggy spa for her favourite treat - a ‘blueberry facial’ - and is often photographed and features in YouTube videos with the famous couple.

Cross-Breeds

The Japanese Spitz is not commonly used to create crossbreeds. However, potential crosses can include breeds like the Schnauzer, Husky, Poodle, and German Spitz.

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