Japanese Spitz: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Japanese Spitz
The Japanese Spitz is a small, white companion breed.

Icealien / Getty Images 

The Japanese Spitz is a small, fluffy, white companion breed that was developed in Japan. “Spitz” breeds, also called Northern breeds, are a type of dog commonly found in cold and snowy regions. Like most spitz breeds, the Japanese Spitz has a thick double coat, a wedged-shaped head, upright triangular ears, and a long tail that curls up and over the back. 

The friendly and fun-loving Japanese Spitz is the consummate family dog. Cheerful, quiet and clean, they are ideal house dogs, which is a good thing because there is nothing they want more than to be inside with their families. The Japanese Spitz’s small size and moderate energy level makes it an ideal apartment dog. Most Japanese Spitz get along great with other dogs, cats and respectful children. 

Breed Overview

Group: Foundation Stock Service

Weight: 10 to 25 pounds

Height: 12 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder

Coat: A straight and stand-off outer coat paired with a short, soft, dense undercoat

Coat Color: Pure white

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Japanese Spitz

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz was developed in Japan in the 1920s and 1930s by crossbreeding other spitz-type dogs that were imported from various locations, including Australia, Canada, China, Siberia and the United States. After several decades crossbreeding the various spitz breeds, a small, fluffy, white spitz breed was recognized in 1948 and called the Japanese Spitz. Although records of the specific breeding program were kept, they were destroyed during World War II, so the exact details remain a mystery. The breeds thought to be used for the development of the Japanese Spitz include white German Spitz, Klein Wolfsspitz (also known as the Keeshond) and various miscellaneous white spitz-type breeds.  

In the United States, the Japanese Spitz is recognized by the United Kennel Club, where it is part of the Northern Breeds group. The Japanese Spitz is also part of the Foundation Stock Service in the American Kennel Club, which is the first step toward eventual full recognition. The breed is also recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club (Non-Sporting Dogs group), the Japan Kennel Club and the international kennel club Fédération Cynologique International.

Japanese Spitz Care

The Japanese Spitz’s thick, fluffy, luxurious white coat is surprisingly easy to care for. No trimming is required and Japanese Spitz tend to look and feel clean with only occasional baths as the hair naturally repels dirt. Twice a year, the Japanese Spitz experiences a seasonal heavy shed, losing much of its undercoat over the course of few weeks. Often called “blowing coat,” some extra brushing is needed during this time to cut down on how much hair ends up on your furniture and clothing. However, the rest of the year, the Japanese Spitz sheds less than you might think and requires only weekly brushing. Keep your Japanese Spitz's nails short by trimming them weekly or every other week. Inspect your Japanese Spitz’s ears weekly and clean with a pet ear cleaner when they look dirty.

Although Japanese Spitz have plenty of energy, they don’t need huge amounts of exercise. Japanese Spitz enjoy daily walks. Coupled these with some play sessions in the backyard and most Japanese Spitz will be happy. If you live in an apartment, it’s especially important to get your Japanese Spitz out of the house for walks and exploration. The Japanese Spitz's small size makes its very portable and they love to accompany their people on excursions outside the house.

The Japanese Spitz is very smart and this breed want to please, so they can be easy to train as long as you find the right motivation. Some Japanese Spitz might do anything for a tasty treat; others might be more motivated by their favorite toy. Keep training sessions short and sweet, always ending on a positive note. It’s important to start socializing your Japanese Spitz early in puppyhood to avoid excessive shyness and nervousness about new people, places and things. Although they are small, resist the urge to baby your Japanese Spitz and carry him everywhere—let him walk on his own four paws and experience the world up close and personal. This will allow him to develop the confidence needed to be a well-adjusted adult dog.

Japanese Spitz Puppy
 Icealien / Getty Images
Japanese Spitz
virgonira / Getty Images
Japanese Spitz
 Lyubov Demus / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Japanese Spitz is an extremely healthy breed with a long life span. Reputable breeders have their adult Japanese Spitz evaluated for luxating patellas to avoid passing on this issue, which is known to occasionally appear in the breed. 

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Japanese Spitz a high-quality dog food (ask your breeder or veterinarian for a recommendation) and be sure to portion out meals with a measuring cup or scale to avoid overfeeding. Free feeding (leaving food out all day), can lead to weight gain; feeding scheduled meals twice a day is healthier. Being overweight can exacerbate joint issues like luxating patellas, and lead to other health problems like diabetes. 

Pros

  • Good apartment dog

  • Clean, easy-care coat

  • Friendly with people and pets

Cons

  • May be wary of strangers

  • Some may be problem barkers

  • Doesn’t do well when left alone

Where to Adopt or Buy

The Japanese Spitz is a rare breed in North America. Some adults might find their way into rescue, but usually, people wanting to bring home a Japanese Spitz will be buying a puppy from a reputable breeder. The Japanese Spitz Club of the USA publishes a directory of breeders on its website. Be prepared to get on a waiting list, as there aren't many Japanese Spitz breeders in North America.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the Japanese Spitz, you might also like these breeds:

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.