Breed treatment photo of white Japanese spitz

Japanese Spitz

Japanese spitz dogs are playful, smart, and comedic companions who are steadfastly loyal and almost always smiling. Learn more about what to expect from this rare breed, known as the cloud dog.
By Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
June 17, 2021
Japanese Spitz
Breed Group
Dog Size
Other Traits
Temperament

Japanese Spitz

height
  • 12-16 inches
weight
  • 15-30 pounds
life span
  • 12-14 years
breed size
  • small (0-25 lbs.)
good with
  • children
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • families
  • cats
temperament
  • friendly
  • playful
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • normal
exercise needs
  • medium
energy level
  • active
barking level
  • when necessary
drool amount
  • low
breed group
  • none
coat length/texture
  • medium
colors
  • white
other traits
  • easy to train
  • apartment-friendly
  • good for first-time pet owners
  • strong loyalty tendencies
  • tendency to chew
  • cold weather tolerant

With their pristine white coats, Japanese spitz dogs are truly a rare breed. Though loved in their native Japan (and worldwide!), you likely won't find a Japanese spitz at your local animal shelter-litter sizes for these pretty pups are very small, ranging from one to just six puppies.

Playful and friendly from an early age, Japanese spitz are highly adaptable and thrive in almost any living situation, from small apartments to vast acreage. These happy dogs walk with a pep in their step, equally excited for playtime and cuddly naps. 

Appearance

Japanese spitz might look like direct descendants of the Samoyed, but, according to the Japanese Spitz Club of USA, they were reportedly bred from the German spitz. They look a lot like their fellow spitz dogs, especially the American Eskimo Dog and the Pomeranian. Standing a little over a foot tall, Japanese spitz are small dogs with a stocky build (weighing anywhere between 15-30 pounds), but they are still light and nimble on their feet. 

Portrait of Japanese Spitz outdoors
With their white coat and foxy faces, Japanese spitz dogs are handsome pups. But those pristine coats don't mean they're persnickety about their looks; they love to play and go on adventures!
| Credit: Alina Boldina / Adobe Stock

With striking almond eyes lined in black, they hold their heads high and proud, triangle ears perked at attention and mane-like fur flowing around their foxy faces. The Japanese spitz is exclusively white, with a heavy double coat of fur and a fluffy tail curving over his back like a plume. 

All that floof includes a short, fleecy undercoat and long, stand-off outer coat. But despite the plentiful fur, Japanese spitz dogs don't love romping around in the snow-instead, they prefer staying warm inside on their favorite human's lap.

Temperament

Japanese spitz dogs always seem to wear a smile, and their happy personalities match their cute expression. Loving and devoted in nature, the Japanese spitz is an attention-seeker and silly member of the family. Because of this, they don't tolerate being ignored and typically turn to undesirable behaviors-they're known to chew the occasional shoe-and experience anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. 

"Because they are prone to anxiety, the Japanese spitz should be cared for with this trait in mind and given positive experiences in a crate or when alone," says Heather Venkat, DVM, companion animal veterinarian at VIP Puppies.

Small Japanese Spitz runs through leaves
Close up profile of Japanese Spitz
Left: As with all breeds, Japanese spitz puppies benefit from early socialization and training classes. Make sure to enroll him in puppy kindergarten! | Credit: len44ik / Adobe Stock
Right: Highly intelligent and eager to please his people, the Japanese spitz is quick to pick up cues and tricks. | Credit: Annie D / Adobe Stock

This breed is very intelligent and alert, making them highly trainable. Thanks to their attention to detail and eagerness to please, they thrive on structured activities and positive reinforcement. Those same smarts can also cause some mischief: If left to their own devices, Japanese spitz may teach themselves a few tricks you won't like. This can be prevented with consistent training exercises.

"These little dogs are friendly and adorable, and they love attention so they are great for families with children," Venkat says. "They can be a little reserved with strangers, but usually warm up quickly with good socialization." 

The Japanese spitz is also known for his loyal nature and bold bark, which may come as a surprise from such a small package. Strangers startling him could trigger this bark, but he's easily quelled with reassurance from the pack. Introduce him to new visitors comfortably and his loving nature will shine.

Close up of Japanese Spitz panting with tongue
Credit: tenrec / Adobe Stock

Living Needs

As long as he gets a good run in and can stretch his legs, the Japanese spitz is highly adaptable and game for just about anything. Whether his home is a city apartment or if he's living the farm life, he isn't fussy about space.

"Japanese spitz dogs have a lot of energy and are easy to train," Venkat says. "They can do well in small spaces just as well as they can be impressive agility competitors."

Dedicated companions that they are, the Japanese spitz requires plenty of attention and exercise. Let them run free across your large property or play at the dog park with their fellow friendly canines. 

Adult Japanese Spitz bounds down hiking trail
Though he has little legs, the Japanese spitz needs to keep active. About 45 minutes of fetch, running, or walkies each day will keep his tail wagging.
| Credit: joonasp / Shutterstock

Though these pups can be anxious when left alone, they're happy and bouncy when by their family's side. If you're going on a weekend camping trip, a day hike, or just running errands, take your Japanese spitz with you-his small size makes him the perfect travel buddy!

Loyal and affectionate, Japanese spitz are ideal companion pups. Their playful but gentle spirit makes them great comrades for children and seniors, as they crave quality time with their favorite humans above all. They live well with other furry siblings, too, including cats.

Care

All that pristine, snow white fur may seem like a target for dirt, but appearances can be deceiving-the Japanese spitz coat has a texture commonly compared to non-stick Teflon, and mud either slides right off or can be easily brushed out once dry.  

Beneath his fluffy outer layer is a thick, dry undercoat that requires brushing at least once or twice each week to prevent knots and matting. Pin brushes are one of the best dog brushes for the job because they reach the undercoat to remove dead hairs, saving you from shedding cleanup later. 

Fluffy white Japanese Spitz stands near bay window
Small and sturdy, the adaptable Japanese spitz can live well in any environment. As long as he gets enough exercise, he'll thrive as an apartment dweller!
| Credit: golubka57 / Adobe Stock

Speaking of shedding, your Japanese spitz will "blow" his coat for about 2-3 weeks twice every year, which is when he sheds his entire undercoat. During this time you'll want to brush him daily, but weekly brushing sessions will do for the rest of the year. However, stick to bathing only once per season (unless he gets into a serious mess!) to protect his sensitive skin, keeping natural oils intact and preventing any dryness or itching. 

As active and sociable dogs, the Japanese spitz needs moderate exercise on a regular basis. At least 45 minutes of interactive play, like fetch, plus daily walks will keep him happy. Japanese spitz particularly love agility, running off leash at the dog park, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. Afterwards, he'll be more than happy to snuggle up with you on the couch.

Your Japanese spitz dog's diet should be formulated for a small breed with average exercise and energy needs. In general, this breed is not known for being picky eaters and love to munch on dog-friendly fruits and vegetables as treats. Always consult your veterinarian about what and how much to feed your dog, as his dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood, and again during his golden years. 

Japanese Spitz is carried by woman outside
Credit: beeboys / Adobe Stock

Health

In general, the Japanese spitz is a healthy dog who can live a happy, long life ranging from 12-14 years. They are ailed by very few of the genetic conditions affecting other purebreds and are considered one of the healthiest dog breeds, says Georgina Ushi, DVM, medical director at Pet Urgent Care at Wesley Chapel.

However, they are predisposed to patella luxation, which means their kneecaps can become dislocated or move from normal positioning and even cause osteoarthritis.

Japanese spitz dogs may also experience runny eyes, which can be cleaned and wiped away gently with warm water and a cloth or cotton ball. Their skin can also become dry and itchy if bathed too frequently, so be sure to wash this spitz only when necessary. And while training with treats can be an effective method for teaching them tricks, too much can make these small pups obese.

History

The Japanese spitz made their dog show debut about a century ago, in 1921 Tokyo. It's believed the first Japanese spitz dogs were bred from the white German spitz, which was brought to Japan via northeastern China sometime around 1920, according to the breed club. The German spitz is thought to be one of the most ancient dog breeds, tracing back to the 1450s, when they served as watchdogs.

Japanese spitz stands majestically out in snow
Japanese spitz dogs, as with all spitz breeds, have a thick double coat to protect them from cold weather. But on chilly days these little pups prefer to stay indoors by the fire-and their humans.
| Credit: Lichtflut / Shutterstock

Because records were destroyed during World War II, the full history of the Japanese spitz breed is unknown. However, it is believed that various spitz breeds were imported from all over the world, including the Canadian Keeshond, and crossbred to produce more sought-after traits for the emerging Japanese breed throughout the 1930s. 

By 1948, the Japanese Kennel Club established a breed standard for the Japanese spitz. From there, the breed became extremely popular in Japan by the early 1950s and was even exported to Sweden during this time. In 1977, the Japanese spitz became recognized by the United Kingdom's Kennel Club, having already made its way across the globe, including India, Australia, and-of course-the United States.

The breed has been prominent in the U.S. since the 1980s and accepted to numerous clubs, including the International Canine Federation. Today, the Japanese spitz is recognized via the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service.

Fun Facts

  • Japanese spitz puppies are so rare that each one can cost upwards of $2,500 from reputable breeders.
  • These perky pups are born with ears that flop at the tip until they are old enough to hold their ears at attention.
  • Actress and dancer Jenna Dawson (and former husband, Channing Tatum) bring their 13-year-old Japanese spitz dog, Meeka, to the groomer for blueberry facials every six weeks. Meeka can also reportedly do pirouettes like a Swan Lake ballerina.