Notwithstanding its name, the American Eskimo Dog is in no way associated American Eskimos or even Alaska for that matter. The breed was neither developed from, nor is it related to any Eskimo dog breeds or other Inuit type dogs. Instead the American Eskimo Dog, a member of the Spitz family of Nordic dog breeds is an imported 19th century product hailing from Northern European descent. Skeletal remains and archaeological studies suggest that the Spitz type is one of the oldest breeds of dogs still in existence, tracing their lineage back through centuries of canine evolution.
The American Eskimo was developed from members of the Spitz type family of dogs, which in turn had been developed from early Nordic breeds only a few steps removed from the wolf. Around 4000 B.C. it is believed that these early Nordic breeds migrated southward with nomadic hunter gathers from the colder northern regions in search of more food resources and milder climates. The original Spitz type would go on to develop into many differing breeds throughout the world, including: the Samoyed, the Akita, the Keeshond, the Pomeranian, the Chow Chow, the German Spitz (from which the American Eskimo Dog would directly descend), and other Arctic dog breeds. What characterized the Spitz type is their physical resemblance to wolves, mainly their prick-ears, a pointed nose, thick double coat, and a curled tail that is often carried hung over the dog’s back.
The American Eskimo Dog’s specific story of genesis begins with Spitz breeds that were being developed around the lakes of Switzerland roughly 700 years ago. The American Eskimo Dog is thought to be a blend of several Spitz breeds living in the area at the time of its development. The American Eskimo Dog’s ancestry is therefore, said to include Spitz types like the white Keeshond from Holland, the white German Spitz, the white Pomeranian from Germany, and the Volpino Italiano (white Italian Spitz).
The American Eskimo Dog is therefore, a truly ancient breed in heredity. However, being more recently of German descent, existing documentation does exist to indicate that although the breed takes its name from the American continent, the American Eskimo Dog was not present there until sometime during the 19th century, when they crossed the Atlantic for the first time with Germans immigrating to America. The breed was popular among the immigrants, and was said to be a common site in German communities at this time. Over time small, white, Nordic-type dogs began to collectively become known as the “American Spitz”. This was a “type-breed”, meaning that there were no formal requirements that the dog need meet for breed, type, or class; but simply if the dog in question met the physical requirements, it was considered a member of the type-breed.
As time passed, the American Spitz would become known as the “American Eskimo”. The reason for this name change is unclear; however it may have been a reflection of the political climate in America during WWI. Spitz is a German word, and it has been suggested that the change in name for the American Eskimo Dog was an attempt to distance the American breed from its German heritage. Being known as the American Eskimo Dog often causes confusion as to the breed’s origins. They are mistakenly thought to be smaller versions of the large sled-pulling dog breeds developed in the Northern parts of the American continent. The American Eskimo Dog is however, not related to the Canadian or Northern Greenland Eskimo Dogs, nor is the breed a down-sized Samoyed. It is an American line of dog originating in Germany and should not be mistaken for anything else. It is its own breed, with its own unique heritage and development, despite its misleading name.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the American Eskimo Dog became an extremely popular breed when they could commonly be found in use as “trick” dogs in American circuses. In 1917, the Cooper Brother’s Railroad Circus included several American Eskimo Dogs in their show. Through the 1920’s and into 1950’s, the American Eskimo dog was an important part of the circus. Their performances included dancing to music, performing with clowns, wire walking, and weaving in and out of wagon wheels. An American Eskimo Dog called Stout Pal Pierre became famous for walking a tightrope in the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1930’s.
At the time, there were no formal breeding programs in place for the American Eskimo Dog; therefore, propagation of the breed depended largely on sales of puppies by circus performers following their shows. The breeding and selling of American Eskimo puppies was a way for the circus owners to make a profit, their dogs were the main lines of American Eskimo Dogs in existence at that time, and because of this, many of today’s American Eskimo Dogs can trace their lineage back to these talented little circus performers of the mid-1900’s.
The United Kennel Club (UKC) first recognized the American Eskimo Dog in 1913. At this time, there were no breed clubs and no official standards for the American Eskimo Dog breed, dogs were registered on an individual basis according to how well their appearance fit the description of the dog breed group to which they were being registered. In 1970, the National American Eskimo Dog Association (NAEDA) was founded. It became the UKC parent club to the breed. After the founding of the NAEDA, single dog registrations stopped and breeders began to divide the American Eskimo Dog into a standard size and a miniature size.
Not only did the American Eskimo Dog have a successful career as a circus performer, but it went on to do well in the dog show arena. In 1978, the first UKC Grand Show Championship for the breed was won by an American Eskimo Dog called PR Richardson’s Keta Shelton. Then in 1981, another American Eskimo Dog, called PR Tank Iglu Sweet Love won both the UKC Grand Show Championship, and the UKC top prize for obedience. In 1985, the American Eskimo Dog Club of America (AEDCA) was formed by breed fanciers wishing to register their dogs with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AEDCA began their breed studbook for the American Eskimo Dog in 1986.
Following the AKC’s requirements for breed recognition, in 1993 the AEDCA collected pedigree information for more than 1700 dogs and then transferred their studbook to the AKC. Those 1700 foundation stock dogs would form the basis for the breed that is now recognized by the AKC as the official American Eskimo Dog breed. The American Eskimo Dog gained full recognition from the AKC in 1995, and was placed in the Non-Sporting Group.
The American Eskimo Dog is currently ranked 114th out of 167 dog breeds on the AKC’s 2010 most popular dog breeds list. The breed’s popularity is however, limited geographically, and while well-liked in America, the American Eskimo Dog breed is little known in other countries, and is only recognized as a distinct and unique breed by America, the United Kingdom, and Canada. In many countries the American Eskimo is still known as the German Spitz; however they are certainly not the same. The two breeds have developed quite differently since the American Eskimo Dog was relocated to America; however because of their similar lineage, it is not uncommon for some inter-breeding between the two types to still occur. Since neither of the American kennel clubs are affiliated with the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), owners who want to participate in international dog shows must register their American Eskimo Dogs as a member of the German Spitz breed.
Of the typical Spitz type appearance, the American Eskimo Dog is small to medium in size, square and compact, but solidly built. The American Eskimo Dog exudes beauty and strength. There are three sizes within the American Eskimo Dog breed; Toy, Miniature, and Standard. Toy dogs of the American Eskimo Dog breed measure 9 to 12 inches at the withers. Miniature American Eskimo Dogs are between 12 and 15 inches at the withers, with the Standard American Eskimo Dog being any member of the breed over 15 inches, but not to exceed 19 inches at the withers. Weights for the American Eskimo Dog will vary depending on size group.
Regardless of whether an American Eskimo Dog is a Toy, Miniature, or Standard version, the general breed appearance will be the same for all. The head of the American Eskimo Dog should be proportionate, with a skull that is crowned but slightly wide between the ears and of a gently wedged shape, and possessing a well-defined stop. The eager eyes are faintly oval in shape and dark, being of a dark brown to medium brown color with dark rims but white lashes. An alert and clever expression should be present. The American Eskimo Dog’s broad muzzle should be in proportion to the head and lead into a dark nose. The tight dark lips cover strong teeth that display a scissors or pincers bite. The ears should be pricked (erect), triangular in shape and set well apart; high on the head and blending softly into the dog’s skull.
The American Eskimo Dog carries its head proudly on a medium length neck that is strong and graceful, arching smoothly into softly muscled but strong shoulders and a level topline. Front legs are straight to the pasterns, at which point the legs are slightly bent. The back is strong and muscular, with a chest that is deep and wide, and a belly that tucks up slightly after the point of the ribs. The loin is powerful and leads into well developed thighs and straight hind legs. The feet are oval in shape with dark pads and white nails. The toes are well arched and compact. When in motion, the tail of the American Eskimo Dog curls over the back and is set reasonably high; it may hang down leisurely when the dog is at rest.
The American Eskimo Dog, being of the Spitz type, possesses a dense double coat. The undercoat is thick and soft, with the outer-coat consisting of longer hairs called guard hairs that are harsher than the hair making up the undercoat. The hair should be straight and display neither a curl nor a wave to it. The neck is covered with a thicker coat called a ruff. Hair on the face and muzzle should be short and smooth; ears should have shorter hair covering them, with a tuft of longer hair covering the base and protecting the opening of the ear. The back of the legs should be well feathered, and the tail should be thickly covered in long hair. Pure white is the preferred color for the American Eskimo Dog, however a white dog with biscuit cream coloring in its coat is allowed.
Bred to guard people and property, the American Eskimo Dog is, as a breed, a territorial and keen watchdog. They are however, not considered to be aggressive dogs. The watchdog instinct in the American Eskimo Dog does make him a natural barker though. The breed can be trained to obey a stop bark command, but rarely can the desire to bark be trained out of them. Thus, the American Eskimo Dog is not a watchdog that attacks, but a dog that observes and then vocalizes its observations or concerns. The American Eskimo Dog will often bark at strangers coming near to their owner or their perceived territory. As watchdogs, the American Eskimo Dog excels; taking his watchdog duties seriously. It is the inherent nature of the American Eskimo Dog to guard its territory, and therefore, the breed will require no further training to create these habits and behaviors in the dog.
Being that the breed is a natural barker, it should be understood that the American Eskimo Dog enjoys barking and can get carried away with it if not taught to stop or limit its vocalization. The American Eskimo Dog’s bark is high-pitched and frequent. With as much as the breed loves to bark, this can become a bother to close neighbors or housemates of the American Eskimo if the dog if the dog is not trained to control its inclination to bark constantly. The American Eskimo Dog is smart, and with early training, the breed can be easily taught when it is appropriate to bark and when it is not. The breed is also known to suffer from separation anxiety, therefore bark training will be essential in the American Eskimo Dog’s early development so as to prevent it from becoming a nuisance behavior when the dog is lonely. It is recommended that an American Eskimo Dog puppy be left on its own for very short periods of time early in its training so that the dog understands you will be coming back and it has not been abandoned.
Due to the American Eskimo Dog’s high level of intelligence and its strong desire to please, the breed is quite easy to train. The American Eskimo Dog often earns top scores in obedience trials. The American Eskimo Dog is however, a clever little breed, which can lend itself to their becoming bored easily, or even displaying manipulative behavior. The American Eskimo Dog, thinking it can outsmart its owner, will test them to see what kind of naughty behavior it can get away with; and having gotten away with poor behavior before, the American Eskimo Dog will continue to try and act in this way. The American Eskimo Dog, being a moderately small breed, also suffers from “small-dog syndrome”. The dog will think, despite its petite frame, that it is tough; once it discovers its owner is a pushover, the American Eskimo Dog will believe and act like it is in charge.
The American Eskimo Dog understands pack mentality, and therefore responds best to a firm and consistent pack leader. Because they are small and cute, humans often let tiny dogs get away with things bigger dogs would not; therefore, the little breeds have a surprising way of becoming pack leaders in spite of their size. If positive, firm, and consistent leadership is not established with the American Eskimo Dog, the breed will think it rules the home. This false sense of control may lead to the American Eskimo Dog acting mischievously; engaging in nuisance, or even destructive behaviors. Training sessions for the American Eskimo Dog should be started early in the dog’s development; they should include plenty of positive reinforcement, as well as being short, frequent, and varied in order to keep the interest of the American Eskimo Dog. Once properly socialized, with basic obedience training completed, the American Eskimo Dog should be enrolled in advanced training courses in order to maintain his mental stimulation.
As previously mentioned, training for the American Eskimo Dog should begin early in the dog’s life, as should proper socialization. Exposing the puppy to new people, places, things, and experiences will help the young dog understand its place in the world. This type of training will assist the dog in its development into a well-adjusted adult. Generally wary of strangers, a properly socialized American Eskimo Dog will become friendly and playful with new friends once introduced to them. Socialization will also create in the American Eskimo Dog breed the knowledge as to who is safe and who is truly a stranger entering your property; this is where their barking instinct will be best displayed once taught to use it appropriately. Overall, the American Eskimo Dog is a friendly breed and will do well with other pets and animals, especially ones that are its size or bigger. Being that the breed does display the small-dog syndrome, it will often try to dominate animals and pets of smaller stature than itself. Proper training will prevent these displays of dominance in the American Eskimo Dog.
Being that the American Eskimo Dog is a small breed, it can thrive in an apartment or a large home. The dog does enjoy a yard in which to run however. The breed possesses tons of energy and their owner should be fully committed to an active lifestyle. The American Eskimo Dog requires a lot of exercise and playtime in order to maintain its health and happiness. When the American Eskimo Dog does not receive enough exercise or entertainment, the breed has a tendency to become destructive, bored, and depressed. An intelligent and creative breed, the American Eskimo Dog, when not adequately amused, will find creative and often destructive ways of entertaining itself. The breed is known to be good at problem solving, often coming up with undesirable things to keep itself busy with. In addition to nuisance barking, the American Eskimo Dog is an avid chewer, and a destroyer of anything and everything.
Ideally, the American Eskimo Dog should be walked twice a day, more when possible, and should be given plenty of time to run and play outdoors. They love to play games and rough house; and because of their limitless energy, the breed makes an excellent hiking or jogging partner as well. The American Eskimo Dog thrives on its relationship with its family, and human contact is important to the breed. Because of this, any exercise and activity the dog is involved in should include family members. The American Eskimo Dog will not do well if often left alone. The American Eskimo Dog should not generally be left alone for any long period of time. The breed bonds closely to its family, and will want to be involved in any and all family activities.
The American Eskimo Dog is patient with children, and is generally well behaved around them. The breed is fun and playful and will be happy to run and play in the yard all day with children. The breed is high energy however, and can be rambunctious. The American Eskimo Dog has been known to knock children over, or trip them while playing, and once the child is down the dog will often climb on top of them. This can frighten a child, especially a young one who doesn’t understand that the dog is just playing, therefore, when playing with children; the American Eskimo Dog should always be supervised in order to prevent play from becoming too rough.
Overall, the American Eskimo Dog is intelligent and loyal; a fast learner that is easy to train, with a fun-loving and happy attitude. With proper leadership, training, and socialization, the American Eskimo Dog does well with single owners as well as families with children and other pets; and in most living situations, be it a large house with a yard or a small apartment. The American Eskimo Dog is great for a seasoned dog owner or a first timer, as the breed is affectionate, alert, easily trained, playful, and not overly dominant or aggressive.
The American Eskimo Dog, being of the Spitz type, sports a thick double coat. The coat will shed all year long, but will blow itself out, which is a heavy shed, twice a year. Despite this shedding, the coat of the American Eskimo Dog is generally easy to maintain. It is recommended that the coat be brushed twice a week to prevent mats and tangles from forming, as well as to limit the amount of hair that will be deposited throughout your home.
Brushing the coat will also help the dog stay clean as the oils in its coat act as a natural repellent to dirt and debris. These oils that are naturally occurring in the coat of the American Eskimo Dog are important and in order to prevent stripping the coat of these oils, the American Eskimo Dog should only be bathed twice a year, or as needed. It is important when bathing an American Eskimo Dog to make certain the coat is completely rinsed of all shampoo; any residual soap can cause irritation on the skin which can lead to more serious problems later on. Also, never bathe a dog if the coat has not been completely brushed out as tangles will only get worse once wet and will become impossible to remove without clipping. A small amount of hair conditioner can be added to water in a spray bottle and misted onto the coat to assist in brushing out matted areas.
American Eskimo Dogs do not require any trimming or stripping of the coat, however, for those owners who do choose to shave their dog, it is important to keep in mind that the breed has sensitive skin and requires care to prevent the dog from being sunburned. The nails of the American Eskimo Dog should be clipped roughly every five weeks. The nails should not touch the floor when the dog is standing. Proper care of a dog’s toenails is important to prevent pain and injury to the toes and feet. Only clean the American Eskimo Dogs ears if they appear dirty. If the ears look healthy, it is best to leave them alone so as not to dry them out and cause injury or discomfort. Eyes and nose should be checked for infection or debris regularly.
A generally healthy breed, the American Eskimo Dog has a long life expectancy, with members of the breed living an average of 12 to 15 years. The American Eskimo Dog is prone to becoming overweight, therefore proper nutrition and regular exercise is important to maintain the health and well-being of the breed. Dental problems are also common among American Eskimo Dog and proper care of the teeth and mouth should be a priority.
Being a purebred dog, the American Eskimo does display some identifiable health concerns specific to their breed. The following are health concerns seen in the American Eskimo Dog breed, but each individual dog may display its own set of health issues and therefore a specific member of the breed may, or may not display these conditions or others not mentioned here: