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The pure white American Eskimo Dog, also known as the “Eskie” and Eskimo Spitz, is a Spitz breed that originated in Germany and was originally called the “German Spitz”. Although diminutive in size, the Eskie is a bold, strong and agile dog who moves with a well-balanced and smooth gait. Selective breeding has resulted in three different sizes: Toy (22–30 cm), Miniature (30–38 cm) and Standard (38–48 cm).
With a fluffy white coat, erect, triangular ears, and black nose, eye rims and lips, the American Eskimo Dog looks very much like a small Samoyed. His dark to medium brown eyes are not fully round, but slightly oval. He has a compact and muscular body and a smiling face with an alert and intelligent expression. His plumed tail is carried loosely over his back.
The Eskie’s most distinctive feature is undoubtedly his dense double coat, which is white or biscuit cream. It stands off the body, is water resistant, and insulates against the cold. The undercoat is short and dense, with longer guard hairs growing through it to form the straight outer coat. For extra warmth, it is thicker and longer around the neck and chest – giving male Eskies an impressive lion-like ruff – as well as over the rump and hind legs, while his small and densely coated ears are also protected from the cold.
Although Eskies shed almost constantly, the coat is fairly easy to keep clean. A thorough brushing two to three times a week will remove most dead hairs before they can be shed and help to prevent matting. The oil on an Eskie’s fur prevents dirt from adhering, so a good brushing is usually enough to remove it; bathing is only required occasionally.
Intelligent and curious, active and energetic, the Eskie requires lots of exercise and mental challenges. A vigorous daily workout, a securely fenced yard and a variety of toys will help provide physical and mental stimulation to keep him out of trouble during his youth. However, once he passes middle age, he often become more sedate.
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American Eskimo Dogs are social animals who insist on being part of family life. They are friendly, loving, playful and eager-to-please, making them excellent companions and all-rounders. They have a strong bond with their humans and enjoy working closely with them. Despite their love of cold weather and the outdoors, Eskies are indoor dogs who forms strong bonds with their people and are happiest interacting with them; even off-lead, they usually choose to stay within sight of their humans.
The Eskie can be wary or mistrustful of strangers, sounding a warning bark at their arrival but usually welcoming them after an introduction. He is defensive of his home and family, but not aggressive. He is usually well-behaved and obedient and is child-friendly; however, he should be supervised around other pets and small children.
This breed is intelligent, alert, determined, resourceful and independent. They enjoy having a job to do, and they learn new tasks quickly and will attempt to accomplish any task asked of them. A highly trainable breed, Eskies learn new commands quickly, sometimes even by just watching other dogs. For these reasons, combined with their desire to please, they were often trained for performing dog acts in the days of the travelling circus.
The Eskie is one of the most versatile breeds, excelling in herding, agility, tracking, obedience, service and therapy work. However, he can become bored and destructive if left without a task to do or something to occupy him. He should live inside and shouldn’t just be left out in the yard by himself all day. He needs consistent exercise and training to avoid negative behaviours such as separation anxiety, excessive barking, aggressiveness and over-guarding.
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The American Eskimo Dog originated in Germany and is a member of the “Spitz” family of breeds, with the same ancestors as many of the Nordic breeds of today, including the white German Spitz, the white Keeshond, the white Pomeranian, and the Volpino Italiano (white Italian Spitz). Spitz breeds were found throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, and there are ancient artefacts that depict breeds of dogs with the characteristic tail curled over the dog’s back dating back to 4,000 BC.
Originally bred in Germany as a multipurpose working dog on the farm, the German Spitz was an intelligent, thinking dog who was an essential part of the farmer’s life, not only keeping away predators but knowing the difference between its own livestock and trespassing livestock. When waves of German immigrants settled in the American Midwest in the 1800s, they brought their beloved Spitz with them to use in the same way as they had previously done in the old country; as all-around farm dogs.
By the latter years of the 19th century, although never bred to be a circus dog, show business was beckoning. The Spitz’s historical association with the circus began back in Germany. Gypsies were noted to have Spitz traveling with them, and the dogs would readily warn of an approaching stranger, as well as the local law enforcement. Since the breed was attractive, easily trained and intelligent, the gypsies often trained the dogs to do tricks, which the local townspeople would come and watch, for a small charge. Some of the circuses in Europe then began to use the Spitz in their acts.
Well into the 20th century, traveling circuses, vaudeville troupes, and Wild West shows crisscrossed America, also used German Spitz—thanks to the breed’s intelligence, trainability, agility, and showy looks—as the stars of their performing-dog acts. As the knowledge of the traveling dog with its repertoire of tricks grew, so did its popularity; often, spectators would buy young pups from the circus.
The United Kennel Club (UKC) registered the breed in 1913. Only the white variety was registered. A fire in the early days of UKC destroyed many of the records; therefore, the first recorded registration of the breed isn’t until 1922, when there were seven dogs registered under the breed name of “Spitz”. Prior to this, the breed was registered in various countries under a number of different names, depending on the country of registration and how the dog was being used, including German Spitz, Fox Dog, Wolf-Dog, and Wolfspitz.
By 1924, there was growing anti-German sentiment in the United States. Many of the German dog breeds were subjected to the same negative feelings and as a result, UKC changed the name of the breed to “American Spitz”. In 1925, the breed name was changed again to “American Eskimo Spitz”. This name was adopted from the name of Spitz breeding kennel in Ohio called “American Eskimo Kennels”. In 1926, the “Spitz” was completely taken off the name; however, the breed was still referred to for many years as “Spitz” or “Eskimo Spitz”.
The American Eskimo Dog Club of America was formed in 1985, and after transferring their registered dogs to the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1993, the AKC officially recognized the American Eskimo Dog breed in 1995. They did not separate the breed into separate varieties or sizes. Eskies are shown in the AKC Non-Sporting group and UKC Nordic group.
American Kennel Club: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/american-eskimo-dog/
American Eskimo Dog Club: https://aedca.org/home.php