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A Comprehensive Japanese Spitz Dog Breed Guide

Dog Breeds, Dogs

Last Updated - June 3, 2023

The Japanese Spitz is arguably one of the cutest dog breeds because of their long fluffy fur and small bodies filled with feisty energy. This fluffy white canine is an intelligent and loyal companion, often confused with the American Eskimo and Samoyed dog breeds. Whether you're a first-time pet owner or a seasoned pet owner, the Japanese Spitz is sure to steal your heart and bring joy to your home.

Thinking of adding one to your family? Read through the guide below to learn about their origin, personality, maintenance, and other characteristics to see if this breed is the right fit for you and your lifestyle.


Apartment Living

How easily a dog deals with living in an apartment. Despite the dog's size, you should also consider energy level, calmness, and friendliness.

Being Alone

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to panic and separation anxiety when left alone. When left alone, they can become very destructive, bark, whine, chew and cause mayhem. These breeds do best in a home with a family member around during the day, can go to work with their owner, or recommend attending doggy day care if the owner is not home during the day.

Sensitivity Level

Low sensitivity dogs are easygoing, tolerant, and resilient. They can handle a noisy and chaotic household, a loud or assertive owner, and tolerate an inconsistent or variable routine.

Tolerate Cold Climate

Short coat and little to no coat breeds are vulnerable to cold climates. These breeds will have a low cold tolerance and need to live inside in a cool climate and should have a jacket or sweater on for chilly walks.

Tolerate Warm Climate

Breeds with a thick and double coat are vulnerable to overheating. Breeds with a short nose and flat face are also vulnerable as they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If these breeds of dog live in a warm and humid environment, you will need to be extra cautious about taking them outdoor in the heat.


Cat Friendly

Friendliness towards cats and humans is very different. Some breeds are gentle and accept cats readily as part of the family. Some breeds will chase, fight, or rough play with a cat and cause severe injury. However, no matter the breed, proper socialization, and training can improve the situation.

Dog Friendly

Friendliness towards other dogs. Some dogs may try to dominate other dogs and attack and fight, while others would rather play. However, no matter the breed, proper socialization, and training can improve the situation.

Family Friendly

How affectionate a breed is likely to be with family members or other people he knows well. Some breeds are independent, some breeds can be aloof with everyone but their owner, while others treat everyone they know like it's their best friend.
Breed, however, isn't the only factor affecting affection levels. Proper socialization and training can improve the situation.

Kid Friendly

Kid-friendly dogs should be gentle with children, be more tolerant of screaming and running children as well as other children's behavior.

Openness To Strangers

How welcoming a breed is likely to be towards strangers. Some dogs will greet a stranger with wagging tails, while others are shy, reserved, cautious, or aggressive. However, no matter the breed, proper socialization, and training can improve the situation. 

Health And Grooming

Coat Grooming Frequency

Amount of bathing, brushing, trimming, and professional grooming needs. Consider how much time, patience, and budget you have for this type of care when looking at the grooming effort needed. All breeds require regular nail trimming.

Drooling Level

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm or wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine. But if you are a neat freak, dogs that are drool prone may not be the right choice for you.

General Health

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems. However, this doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases, and it just means that they're at an increased risk.
If you're adopting or rescuing a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
If you are purchasing from a breeder, be sure to do your research. Purchase from a reputable breeder and ask for the parent's health records to understand what potential health issue your pup may have.

Shedding Level

Amount and frequency of dog hair shedding.

If you are getting a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. 


Easy To Train

Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt, an action, and a reward (such as treats, appraise, or toys). Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.


Dogs bred for jobs requiring decision-making, intelligence, and concentration, need to exercise their brains. Such as, dogs bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they can become destructive and exhibit behaviors such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

Potential To Mouthiness

Common in most breeds during the puppy stage. Mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need the training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy squeaky toys, as well as a good chew on a toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Prey Drive

Dogs who were bred to hunt have an inborn desire to chase--and sometimes kill. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, or rabbits, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small animals. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase. But you'll probably have difficulty getting their attention when birds fly by.

Bark Or Howl Tendencies

Some breeds are more vocal than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. While some breeds will bark at every passing bird, some may use other sounds to express themselves.

Physical And Mental Needs

Energy Level

The amount of physical and mental stimulation a breed needs. High-energy breeds are ready to go and eager for their next adventure. Low-energy breeds are like couch potatoes - they're happy to lay around and sleep.

Exercise Needs

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.

Mental Stimulation

How much mental stimulation a breed needs to stay happy and healthy. Purpose-bred dogs can have jobs that require decision-making, problem-solving, concentration, or other qualities. Without the brain exercise they need, they can be destructive and have unwanted behavior issues.


A dog's inclination to be protective of his family members, home, yard, or even car.

Watchdog Ability

A breed's tendency to alert you that strangers are around. These breeds are more likely to react to any potential threat, whether it's the mailman or a squirrel outside the window.


Spitz breeds, also known as Northern breeds, were originally bred in cold and snowy regions. The Japanese Spitz dogs came about in the 1920s after crossbreeding a number of other different spitz dogs from other locations, such as Australia, Canada, China, Siberia, and the United States. It all began with white German Spitz dogs.

This breed was officially recognized as the Japanese Spitz in 1948 with its distinct size, color, and fur features. Today, the Japanese Spitz breed is recognized by major kennel clubs like the Japanese Kennel Club and United Kennel Club, except the American Kennel Club because it is similar to the white Pomeranian, American Eskimo Dog, and Samoyed. Japan Kennel Club recognized this breed after World War II when the breed standards were finalized.

How to differentiate Japanese Spitz dogs And Others

While the Japanese Spitz, White Pomeranian, American Eskimo Dog, and Samoyed may look similar due to their fluffy white coats, some key differences exist between these breeds.

The Japanese Spitz is a small to medium-sized breed that typically weighs 11-20 pounds and stands 12-15 inches tall at the shoulder. They are known for their outgoing personality and are often described as playful, intelligent, and loyal.

The White Pomeranian, on the other hand, is a small toy breed that is descended from the larger Spitz-type dogs of the Arctic. They are known for their feisty and affectionate personality and are often described as lively, intelligent, and independent. They typically weigh between 3-7 pounds and stand 6-7 inches tall at the shoulder.

The American Eskimo Dog is a medium-sized breed that typically weighs between 20-35 pounds and stands 15-20 inches tall at the shoulder. This breed was originally developed in Germany and is known for its playful and affectionate personality.

The Samoyed is a large breed that was originally developed in Siberia for herding and pulling sleds. They typically weigh between 50-60 pounds and stand 19-23 inches tall at the shoulder. They are known for their gentle, intelligent, and independent personalities.


The Japanese Spitz is referred to as "small" in size in comparison to other dog breeds, but it is not as small as "toy" or "micro" bred dogs. At an adult weight of 10-25 pounds, these dogs usually grow to about 12-15" in height. Unlike other animals, the male and female Japanese Spitz typically grow to about the same size and are usually indistinguishable by size alone.


This playful dog is extremely energetic. Some of the most commonly used adjectives used to describe this breed include affectionate, friendly, playful, intelligent, and loyal. While they are very playful and energetic, Japanese Spitz prefers to be the center of attention for petting, snuggling, or just hanging out beside you. Japanese Spitz make a great family companion with their approachable personality and are rarely timid or aggressive. 

Japanese Spitz breeds are very social dogs, and most of the breeds get along well with other dogs, pets, and children.

Woman taking a selfie with Japanese Spitz

Image Source: Unsplash


This playful and loving pup does great with families, especially those with young kids. Because they are so affectionate and loyal, they become attached to their owners and families and love to play with kids and people of all ages. Japanese Spitz is a great size and has a super friendly personality, a perfect kid-friendly match for a full house.

Because they are so loyal, these dogs often can suffer from separation anxiety, and this causes them to react negatively when left alone for long amounts of time. They also are susceptible to barking at strangers or perceived threats to them or their families.

Diet/ Nutritional needs 

The Japanese Spitz is a small breed but is extremely active. So what is the best diet and nutrition to meet their needs? Portioning meals is important to make sure that their blood sugar and energy levels stay consistent throughout the day. If you have a puppy, feeding three small meals a day is recommended, about 8 hours apart. Once the puppy ages to around 6-12 months, it is appropriate to decrease the portioned meals to twice daily while still feeding the same amount overall. Depending on their size, these dogs should eat about ¾ cup to 1 ½ cups of well-balanced, nutritional dog food daily. Consult your veterinarian for additional specific food recommendations.

Activity/ Exercise needs

Even though this is a rather small-sized dog, because of its energetic personality, they need plenty of exercise and stimulation. They need plenty of room to run or to go on long walks throughout the day to get their energy out. This dog's recommended activity is at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Ideally, these dogs will have a large space to run freely outside, such as a backyard or enclosed park. Additional activities for these dogs can include mental stimulation, such as puzzles and toys that allow them to use up more energy when inside the home. 

Appearance/ Colors

The Japanese Spitz is often confused with other breeds, such as the Samoyed and American Eskimo, because of its long-haired, double-coat of bright white fur. Other distinctive features, besides its size, include a curled tail, a pointed snout, dark eyes, triangular pointed ears, and an athletic body.

Grooming needs

These non-hypoallergenic dogs have excessive fur due to their thick double coat. They shed a small amount throughout the year but will have larger sheds twice a year, losing most of the undercoat for a couple of weeks. Regular brushing is recommended, at least once weekly on a normal basis, plus more if needed during the time of their shed. Additional grooming needs include bathing as needed, as well as regular nail trims and teeth brushing for appropriate overall hygiene. 


Because this dog is moderately active, it should have a large space to run around, such as an enclosed backyard, and plenty of room to play inside.

Though they have lots of energy, because they are small, the Japanese Spitz also can adapt easily to apartment living if necessary. These dogs can do well in smaller living quarters as long as they get plenty of physical and mental stimulation and have room to run and play inside and outside.

Additionally, because they tend to bark, it is important to consider whether or not apartment living is ideal for you and your neighbors.

Japanese Spitz in the grass

Image Source: Unsplash


As energetic as these dogs are, they are not easily distracted and very trainable. Because of their loyalty and love for their owners, in addition to their intelligence level, they are extremely eager to please and make an active effort to learn what you are trying to teach them.

It is important, however, to find what motivates your dog, whether it's a treat or their favorite toy, to help facilitate the training process. The earlier you train your dog, the better, as it makes the process easier and will increase their confidence and loyalty to you.

If you have Japanese Spitz puppies, starting them on early socialization and enrolling them in training school is important. Adult Japanese Spitz should also start training or enroll in training school if needed.

Life expectancy 

The Japanese Spitz has a predicted lifespan similar to other small canine breeds. Typically expected to live about 12 to 14 years, these dogs can live a long and happy life with you and your family.

Potential Health Issues

Japanese Spitz is generally a healthy breed with few genetic problems. With appropriate hygiene, diet, exercise, and love, your Japanese Spitz will live not only happily, but also healthily.

As with any dog, Japanese Spitz owners should bring their dog to their regular veterinarian for annual exams to ensure their health and prevent potential illnesses. Like all dog breeds, Japanese Spitz is prone to health issues, specifically patellar luxation, arthritis, and cancer.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a common problem in small dog breeds, and it is a disorder where the kneecaps come dislocated, causing limping, lameness, stiffness, and pain in the hind legs. Depending on the severity of this disorder, it may be able to be treated with surgery by your regular veterinarian.


Arthritis is actually common in many dogs. Like humans, their joints may become inflamed as the dog ages, causing stiffness, discomfort, and/or pain. Though there is no way to treat the damaged cartilage in the joints, your veterinarian may be able to recommend an NSAID, pain medication, or supplement to help ease discomfort.


Unfortunately, dogs are susceptible to cancer, and some breed more than others. With regular visits to the veterinarian, it is possible to catch cancer before it causes too much damage to the body. There are also veterinary Oncologists throughout the country who provide specialty care as needed. 

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About the Author

Doctor of veterinary medicine with extensive experience in animal welfare with a strong interest in feline medicine and plans to pursue ABVP-Feline specialty board certification. A key member of many local veterinary associations and avid reader of animal related science journals and studies.

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