American Eskimo Dogs
Breed Not Really Linked to Eskimos
Often mistaken for a miniature Samoyed, the American Eskimo dog is not really from Alaska, nor does it have any affiliation with Eskimos.
Known to be a loving and affectionate family dog, the breed has the unusual claim of being bred in three different sizes: standard, toy and miniature.
Whichever its stature, the American Eskimo dog is an easily trained dog originally bred to guard people and their property.
The American Eskimo dog is part of the Spitz family (Eskimo Spitz, American Spitz, German Spitz), which are characterized by their long, thick white fur, a curled tail and pointed ears and muzzle.
Originally bred in Germany, the exact origins of the breed are difficult to trace. Skeletal remains of the Spitz breed in the Arctic suggest the dog is at least 5,000 years old and may have mated with wolves since there appears to be no archaeological evidence showing a period of transition between the wolf and Spitz-like dogs.
The discovery of more Spitz remains in Switzerland believed to be 2,000 years old indicate the breed migrated to Europe. By the 1600s, the breed was ever present as a dedicated watch dog. Artwork from the mid-1700s depicts the Spitz breed as faithful companions to prominent families.
During the early 1900s, the breed made its way to America, where its name eventually changed from “German Spitz” to “American Spitz” during World War I, then officially as the “American Eskimo dog.” Widely used in circus performance acts, the American Eskimo dog quickly gained popularity in the United States, recognized by the American United Kennel Club in 1919.
Despite their following, the breed was not accepted in the American Kennel Club until 1995, once pedigree information could be tracked and recorded. While recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club as recently as 2006, the American Eskimo dog is not recognized internationally as a breed due to both its close affiliation with the German Spitz and the relatively loose breeding standards throughout the dog’s modern American history.
American Eskimo dogs are known for their intelligence and affectionate nature—particularly around children.
Playful and charming, the breed can spend a great deal of time being entertained by its youthful companions. That being said, this breed is also highly active which means its needs daily, routine exercise and training in order to maintain obedient behavior. Due to its high intelligence, the American Eskimo dog responds very well to training.
Without training, an American Eskimo dog can become aggressive and disobedient, which is why some experts recommend first-time pet owners who are not committed to this responsibility choose an alternate dog breed best suited to them.
American Eskimo dogs are fiercely loyal to their families; some can be wary of strangers and become very protective of their homes, vocalizing their objection and often not permitting visitors to enter the house without a sign of approval from their owners. Once the dog recognizes the visitor as someone “safe,” however, it will usually turn on the charm and seek friendship.
The standard American Eskimo dog is considered a medium-sized dog, weighing on average 18 to 35 pounds. The toy version weighs between 6 and 10 pounds, while the miniature version weighs 10 to 20 pounds.
The breed has a thick, plush white coat, sometimes marked with biscuit-colored or cream-colored markings. The fur around the American Eskimo dog’s neck is notably thicker—like a prominent mane—due to the combination of a soft undercoat and thick topcoat.
Experts recommend brushing your American Eskimo dog’s coat once or twice a week during colder seasons to maintain a healthy coat. Thought to be an average shedder, this will increase dramatically during warmer seasons when the dog is trying to thin out its coat to cope with higher temperatures. During this time, experts suggest brushing your dog’s coat daily to try to control shedding indoors.
While these medical conditions are generally uncommon they are known to occur in the breed. Your American Eskimo dog will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.
- Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joints that cause arthritis. Dogs with this condition usually are obviously lame. Signs may be noted as early as four months of age. Although considered a lifelong problem, most dogs can be helped with surgery.
- Patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
- Weight gain can be a problem with American Eskimo dogs, which tend to pack on the pounds if proper diet and daily exercise is not practiced.