13 Spunky Spitz Dog Breeds With Curly Tails and Perky Ears That Are Hard To Resist
You might know spitz dog breeds by their bright eyes, perky ears, and extra (so extra!) floofy tails. Along with their dashing physical attributes, spitz dogs seem to also share a strong sense of independence—which doesn't seem to interfere with their dedicated love for a special human or two (much!)
What Is a Spitz Dog?
Although some spitz dog breeds are loosely related, they're actually not all the same. Lisa Peterson is the breeder content creator at Embark. She tells Daily Paws there are 25 purebred spitz dogs, each hailing from several regions around the world.
"Typically, these breeds developed above a certain latitude, approximately the 45th parallel North, where cold climates prevail and dogs adapt to their environments," she says. "This is why most spitz breeds have a profuse double coat, thick padded feet, and thick furry ears." The term spitz comes from an Old High German word spizzi, referring to the shape of a dog's ears and muzzle.
Peterson says like most purebred dogs, spitz breeds were designed to help humans. "Breeds tend to develop in small geographic areas, and can have slight differences in size, color, and appearance based on their location and job." In the northern climates, she adds, there were many jobs for spitz breeds, including:
RELATED: Humans Brought Dogs Along During Migration to New World More Than 15,000 Years Ago, Study Suggests
Also, many of these talented breeds came from common ancestors in their regions, but developed over the years into the distinct spitz dogs we know today. But if you're curious about their origins, Peterson says their breed ancestry can be identified by their DNA.
We've highlighted some of the top spitz breeds to give you the lowdown on which one (or two!) might become your next favorite canine companion.
Types of American Spitz Dogs
These spunky pups worked hard to get where they are today!
See those adorable erect ears? Breed professionals call them 'prick' ears, and they're common among spitz dogs like Alaskan malamutes. Companions of the ancient Mahlemiut Inuit tribe, mals, as they're often called, shared the heavy loads of their migratory quests across the Kotzebue Sound in northwest Alaska—and distracted polar bears! So naturally, they're used to daily vigorous activities and tasks that keep their sharp minds on point. Start socializing a mal puppy right away and he'll be a terrific—albeit sassy!—member of your pack.
American Eskimo Dog
A fun fact: American Eskimo dogs, also known as Eskies, are actually descendants of lively German spitz dogs (also on this list). Although they sport a snow-white coat, Eskies aren't sled dogs, and have nothing to do with the Indigenous group of people of Alaska, Eastern Siberia, and Northern Canada. According to their breed club, these easily-trainable, intelligent dynamos became American circus stars in the early 1900s, dazzling audiences with their feats. If you've always wanted to teach a dog agility skills, an Eskie might be for you.
Other American spitz breeds:
Asian Spitz Breeds of Every Size and Shape
Many dogs on this list are the stuff of legend—literally.
There are six Indigenous dogs of Japan considered to have significant cultural importance, and the Akita is one of those. His ancestry dates back more than 500 years. Viewed as a symbol of happiness, health, and long life in his native country, the Akita became popular in the U.S. after World War II. Large and in charge, he's a staunch but loving guardian of his people, which means he might snuff at strangers. An Akita also has a strong prey drive, so always take him on long but leashed walks so you both can relieve stress.
The chow spitz dog, also known as a Chinese chow chow, doesn't seem to resemble other pooches on this list, but she totally belongs! As one of the world's oldest breeds, she comes by her regal bearing naturally, as her ancestors were companions of emperors. Best suited to adults, she might not be the snuggliest—um, 50-70 pounds is a lot of lapdog!—but a chow is attentive to her humans, quiet, and reserved. She settles into apartment living quite well, as she doesn't need a lot of exercise, but start positive reinforcement training early.
Desire a hiking buddy? A Jindo will fill that role well. This athletic spitz hails from South Korea's Jindo Island, and is considered a national monument. However, no one is quite sure how he got there! He could have traveled with sailors on Chinese trade ships or been left behind after Mongol invasions. Still relatively unknown in the U.S., Jindos are incredibly charming, super fond of learning new tricks, and committed to people who have considerable patience to help him transition to family life, especially as a rescue.
Another noble indigenous Japanese breed honored by the Nihon Ken Hozokai is the Shiba inu. This national treasure, now the country's No. 1 companion dog, has been around since 300 B.C. Experienced dog owners love their independence and truly goofy personality. Make no mistake: Shibas will wander off in an instant, so if you're not leading them on outings in a comfy harness, make sure they have a fenced play area—these clever and curious doggos are exceptionally skilled at 'keep away'!
Also known as 'cloud dog' (it's easy to imagine why), the origin of a Japanese spitz is somewhat of a mystery, as many records were destroyed in World War II. It's possible he's a crossbreed of many other canines in the spitz line. Like all double-coated breeds, this darling is going to 'blow coat' at least twice a year, shedding like a gorgeous white fur hurricane. But frequent grooming is a minor tradeoff to have such a spirited, happy, and bright pooch who loves dog parks, playtime, and his closest humans.
Other Asian spitz breeds:
Different European Spitz Dogs
These pups are influencers of other dogs the world over.
If the Keeshond seems familiar, it's because she's an ancient canine cousin of the chow chow, Alaskan malamute, Akita, and Pomeranian. Once guardians on 17th century Dutch sailing vessels, they all but disappeared after political upheaval in the Netherlands. In the 20th century, some dedicated breeders rescued numerous Keeshonden, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized these purebreds in 1930. With a fluff game totally on point, these affectionate family dogs thrive on puzzle games and daily activities. The more people time, the better!
Jerry Klein, DVM, is the chief veterinary officer of the AKC. He says there are five types of German spitz dogs: wolfspitz (Keeshond), grossepitz (giant), mittel (medium), klein (miniature), and toy. This explains why you'll find them in various sizes and eight snazzy coat colors! This pup's history is 6,000 years old and they're well-known in Europe. Spritely and adaptive, a German spitz is also quite smart, mastering socialization skills and training cues right away. But she despises boredom and thus, might become mischievous, so engage her with toys and games often.
"The Pomeranian is actually the toy version of the German spitz," Klein says. Ah-HA! That's why it's so hard to tell these adorable rascals apart in pictures of spitz dogs! His tips? The German's muzzle is longer and they have curved tails, whereas a Pom's tail lies flat to the body and heavily plumed. Poms are also much more popular in the U.S. Full of cuddles and kisses, they're witty, boisterous lil' doggies who are especially pleasing as therapy animals.
Other European spitz breeds:
- Volpino Italiano
Interesting Nordic Spitz Breeds
Although you don't need to live in a snowy climate to enjoy these pups, it helps!
With that sleek red coat, the Finnish spitz is one handsome fella! He holds the honor as Finland's national dog, the Suomen-pystyykorva, or 'Finnish prick-eared dog.' And while most of us would prefer to moderate our perky pups' barks, some of these sparky pups actually participate in competitions for most barks-per-minute—while hunting, that is. Whew! This faithful spitz dog breed doesn't like to be left home alone, so to meet the daily high exercise needs of such an active pup, research doggie daycares where he can enjoy rambunctious canine company.
For pet parents with active outdoor lifestyles, few dogs can compare to the Norwegian elkhound. Their history with Vikings warriors is legendary, as these powerful medium-sized dogs assisted on hunts for deer, bears, and moose—elk in Norway are technically moose, and 'elg' means elk in Norwegian, hence the name. Also known as elkies, they're whip-smart and need a purpose, so positive reinforcement training and activities such as nose work engages both body and mind. Oh, and kids adore elkies, and the feeling is completely mutual!
One of the most famous Russian dog breeds is the Siberian husky. Alert, active, and highly entertaining (TikTok probably wouldn't exist without them!), their ancestors can be traced to heritage dogs from the Chukchi, indigenous people native to far northeastern Siberia. Famed sled dogs, huskies are also the perfect skijoring teammate or running buddy—just hang on tight! Their devotion to their pack—people, cats, other dogs—has no limit. Just make sure your energetic husky is well socialized and exercised, and he'll leave your couch intact.
Other Nordic spitz breeds:
- Finnish Lapphund
- Greenland dog
- Icelandic sheepdog
- Karelian Bear dog
- Norwegian Buhund
- Norwegian lundehund
- Swedish Vallhund