American Eskimo dogs have been emblems of patriotism in the midst of a world war, accomplished circus performers, and of course, beloved family pets. This is a spirited little breed that continues to be a favorite of dog lovers worldwide to this day.
15 – 20 inches
10 – 40 pounds
12 – 15 years
Active families, those looking for an amicable guard dog
Intelligent, alert, protective, reserved
These animals have a fierce intelligence and fiery disposition that belies their small size, making them surprisingly good guard dogs. They’re deeply protective of their family, while remaining a bit reserved around newcomers.
While the American Eskimo is far from a new breed, there are many people who know very little about these dogs. If your knowledge isn’t up to snuff, this guide will fill you in on everything that you need to know about these incredible pups.
American Eskimo Characteristics
American Eskimo Puppies
Many people operate under the assumption that a smaller dog will be less work than their more sizable counterparts. After all, how much trouble could a 25-pound pup be?
If you bring home an American Eskimo, you’ll soon find out just how wrong that assumption can be. That’s not to say that these dogs aren’t well-behaved — far from it, in fact.
But they are full of intelligence and energy, and if not properly harnessed, those traits can quickly cause a dog to become a handful. They need plenty of exercise and training, and if you’re not willing or able to supply both, you could have quite the terror on your hands.
Most people who end up adopting an American Eskimo puppy are absolutely thrilled with their decision, but the ones who regret it — or worse, the ones who ultimately give up the dog — do so because they didn’t realize what they were getting into ahead of time.
We’re hoping that this brief warning will keep that from happening to you, if you’re thinking about adding one of these dogs to your home. As long as you know what you’re getting yourself into, bringing home an American Eskimo could be one of the best decisions that you ever make.
Temperament & Intelligence of the American Eskimo
American Eskimos are incredibly smart animals, and they can be taught to do just about anything. They love to learn and training them can be a breeze.
However, if these dogs are not properly trained and socialized, their intelligence can also work against you, as they can set their formidable intellect to work figuring out new ways to escape your yard or destroy everything that you hold dear.
Socialization is especially important, as American Eskimos are reserved and wary around new people even at their best. This can manifest as aggression if they’re not taught proper manners as often as possible.
Once they warm up to you, though, you’ll have a playful, goofy dog on your hands. They love to run around and play games, and they’re a bottomless pit for affection. They can be incredibly needy, in fact.
If you’re hoping for a dog that can double as a guard dog and family pet, it’s hard to beat the American Eskimo. That doesn’t mean you can skimp on the training and socialization, though.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
This will all come down to how well-socialized the dog is. If you put in the time and effort to introduce them to new people and situations, they should fit right in with your existing brood.
If not, though, you may have a bit of a wild card dog on your hands. That can be all the more nerve-wracking with an American Eskimo, as they tend to be withdrawn and unpredictable when not completely comfortable in a given situation.
They tend to be protective of their families, though. While this can be reassuring, it may also force you to be on your guard when you have company over, especially if that company is made up of little kids who love to roughhouse with your children.
Regardless, you should never leave your kids unattended with one of these dogs (or any other dog, for that matter). Even the most well-trained and even-keeled dog can snap if pushed too far, and if there’s one thing that children are good at, it’s pushing things past their breaking point.
If you’re worried about keeping your family safe from threats outside the home, though, these dogs can be an excellent choice. They’re fearless and capable of sounding the alarm when they sense trouble.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
In general, American Eskimos tolerate other dogs well. They enjoy having another energetic playmate around, and they can get along with pups of just about any size.
Their protective instincts might kick in around their families, though, so it’s best to introduce them in a neutral environment, where they won’t feel the need to protect their territory.
There’s one potential issue that commonly occurs with Eskimo dogs and other dogs, however. They’re a jealous breed, so if they see you lavishing love and attention on another pooch, they may not be happy about the situation.
If you’re bringing home a puppy to a house that already has an American Eskimo, you should make a concentrated effort to give your Eskimo dog just as much attention (if not more) as the new pup gets, at least for the first few weeks.
Eskimo dogs are usually tolerant of other animals as well, but it helps if they were raised with them. Thus, it’s usually a better idea to bring an Eskimo puppy into a house that already has cats or other pets rather than the other way around.
Things to Know When Owning an American Eskimo
By and large, owning an American Eskimo is like owning any other breed. But there are still a few things that you should know about these dogs if you want to have the best possible experience.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
American Eskimo dogs tend to eat a bit more than other dogs their size, but they also tend to be more energetic and active. If your dog isn’t spending much time burning off calories, you should dial back their intake accordingly. In general, you should be careful not to overfeed them. Obesity is a huge problem for these dogs, and it can shorten their lifespan significantly, while also making them more prone to a variety of diseases. You should practice strict portion control with their meals and be careful not to be too free with the snacks and scraps.
It’s important to make sure that the food you do give them is up to snuff. Read the labels on any food you’re considering, and make sure it uses high-quality fruits and veggies and real meat instead of animal by-products.
Ideally, your pooch will eat a high-protein diet with a large amount of fiber, as this will keep them full and provide their muscles with all the energy that they need. Carb-heavy foods will burn off quickly — except from around their waistline.
You may also want to find a food that’s high in glucosamine or omega fatty acids or failing that, invest in supplements. These can help reduce the risk of conditions like hip dysplasia, while also providing a variety of health benefits.
Exercise isn’t so much a question of “if” as it is “how much.” These are active dogs, and they will need to run around as much as possible. You should expect to spend at least an hour a day trying to burn off their excess energy.
If you don’t provide them with all the exercise that they need, they’ll find other ways to burn off that energy — and you won’t like many of them. Many behavioral issues can be solved simply by providing more physical and mental stimulation.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a house with a big yard, although it certainly helps. You can accomplish much with a long walk or time at the park, and toy and miniature Eskimos can be taxed by vigorous play sessions at your apartment.
Don’t neglect the mental stimulation either. These are super-smart dogs, and they need their brains to be challenged as much as their legs. Marathon training sessions and puzzle toys are great ways to tucker out their intellect.
The fact that they’re both athletic and intelligent makes them a natural for things like agility competitions, so you may want to think about getting them involved.
Their intelligence and natural eagerness to please make them easy to train, as they’ll soak up any instruction that you can give them. You should start training them from the first day that you bring them home, and continue to do so throughout their lives.
Being so smart also means they get bored easily, though. You can’t just put them through the same paces every time, or else their focus will start to wander and the sessions will lose their effectiveness. Try to mix things up so they’re constantly challenged and stimulated.
They respond best to positive reinforcement, and if you use punishment or other punitive measures, they may simply learn not to trust you. A kind word and a scratch behind the ears is all you need to keep them motivated, so don’t feel like you have to keep dumping treats down their throat to get them to behave.
If possible, try to incorporate your entire family into the training process, as these dogs have a tendency to glom onto the person giving the instruction. This could cause them to become possessive of that person, which will create a whole new issue for you to address in your sessions.
One of the most distinctive things about the American Eskimo is their beautiful, immaculate white coat. Here’s a secret, though: Like white pants or a white shirt, that coat doesn’t stay immaculate for long, at least not without a great deal of hard work and foresight.
You’ll need to groom these dogs frequently. That means brushing every day and bathing them frequently. They can get baths as often as twice a week, and they should never go longer than 6 weeks without a dip in the tub.
They’re prone to tear staining around their eyes, so you should wipe their eyes frequently to prevent that from happening.
Besides that, they also need their nails trimmed every few weeks and their teeth brushed daily.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Despite their relatively diminutive stature, American Eskimos are sturdy dogs. They’re a hardy breed that stays healthy for the most part (as long as they’re cared for properly, of course).
That’s not to say that they don’t have their fair share of issues. If you’re thinking about adopting one of these wonderful dogs, you should be aware that they may be predisposed to the following conditions.
Male vs Female
You won’t find many differences between the two sexes, although males are a bit bigger on average. That difference pales in comparison to the difference between standard, toy, and miniature Eskimo dogs, though.
In general, these dogs are fairly similar regardless of sex, and either male or female Eskimo dogs can make a wonderful addition to your pack.
3 Little-Known Facts About the American Eskimo
1. They Have a History as Accomplished Circus Animals
Several traveling circuses in the early 20th century used American Eskimos in their acts. The Cooper Brothers’ Railroad Circus is believed to be the first to utilize their talents in 1917, and Barnum & Bailey famously had an American Eskimo that was capable of walking a tightrope.
Their motives weren’t purely to entertain, however. These circuses also sold puppies after the show, hoping to cash in on members of the public who had just been mesmerized by these dogs’ skills.
We can only imagine how many of those impulsively purchased American Eskimo puppies were later mistreated or abandoned when it was discovered that these dogs aren’t inherently capable of performing circus tricks.
Then again, it’s believed that many of today’s American Eskimos can thank those circus dogs for their existence, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
2. They Come in Three Sizes
The three sizes are toy, miniature, and standard, and these are accurate descriptions of the dogs. At just 40 pounds, standard Eskimos aren’t big dogs — except when you compare them to toy and miniature Eskimos, who tip the scales at 10 and 20 pounds, respectively.
Beyond the size disparity, there isn’t much difference between the three types of dogs, so you should get the full American Eskimo experience (for better or worse) regardless of which size you bring home.
3. Their Name Is a Result of American Patriotism
American Eskimo dogs are descended from German Spitz dogs, and that’s what they were originally called when they made their debut on American shores.
However, after WWI, describing anything as “German” was a sure way to torpedo their popularity stateside (this situation wouldn’t exactly improve in the decades that followed). Devotees of the German Spitz then changed their name to the American Spitz, and over time, that transitioned to the American Eskimo (and the Miniature American Eskimo).
If you want a dog that’s smart, loving, loyal, and just the right amount of mischievous, the American Eskimo is worthy of your consideration. These dogs have big personalities and they’ll quickly steal your heart.
Be prepared to spend a ton of your free time exercising and grooming them, though, because while they have low-maintenance personalities, their bodies require a great deal of upkeep (hey, it takes hard work to look this good).
Featured Image Credit: Scarlett Images, Shutterstock