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Japanese Spitz

Nicole Cosgrove

June 10, 2021
The Japanese Spitz is a small breed of dog from Japan and is a Spitz type bred to be a companion. There are many different types of Spitz dogs, the Pomeranian is a popular one, but the Japanese is a bit large than them. It is a fairly new breed, dating just to the 1920s and 1930s but its attractive looks and great temperament are making them quite popular, at home and abroad. Also with a life span of 10 to 16 years it is one of the longer living companions which adds to its appeal.
The Japanese Spitz at a Glance
Name Japanese Spitz
Other names Nihon Supittsu
Nicknames None
Origin Japan
Average size Small
Average weight 11 to 20 pounds
Average height 12 to 15 inches
Life span 10 to 16 years
Coat type Long, fluffy, dense and silky
Hypoallergenic No
Color White
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good
Tolerance to cold Good to very good
Shedding Average apart from heavy seasonal shedding – will be some hair to clean up around the home, and large clumps during seasonal times
Drooling Moderate – not especially prone
Obesity Above average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Average – brush twice a week usually, daily during seasonal sheds
Barking Occasional to frequent – training may be needed to stop it on command
Exercise needs Fairly active – can adapt to how active its owner wants to be but does need some regular exercise!
Trainability Moderately easy especially if you have experience
Friendliness Very good to excellent
Good first dog Very good
Good family pet Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good to very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Good to very good as long as it gets enough time outside
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues include eye problems, patellar luxation and ear infections
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for license, basic training, toys, miscellaneous items and grooming
Average annual expenses $970 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Japanese Spitz Breed Rescue – The Kennel Club, Rescue Me! Spitz Rescue, Rescue – Imag Kennels, also check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Japanese Spitz’s Beginnings

The origins of the Japanese Spitz are somewhat debated. The usual theory is that it was bred and developed by breeders in the 1920s who crossbred several other Spitz dogs such as white German Spitz that came from the north east of China over to Japan and appeared in the early 1920s dog shows. The popularity of these white dogs led to the importing of other Spitz dogs from around the world and breeders wanting to cross them and improve upon them. Another more controversial idea is that they were bred down to a smaller breed from the Siberian Samoyed.

After the second world war a breed standard was written and accepted by the kennel club in Japan. It was shown in the 1948 Tokyo dog show and it became a popular breed there in the 1950s. At this point it was exported to other countries in Europe such as Sweden and England, and then from there to North America, India, New Zealand and beyond.

New Lease on Life

While the dog has become more popular in other countries though it dropped in numbers in its homeland. And while it has been recognized by various kennel clubs and other major and minor clubs around the world, the AKC has not due to it being too similar in appearance to the American Spitz developed there, the American Eskimo dog and the Pomeranian.

The Dog You See Today

The Japanese Spitz is a small dog weighing 11 to 20 pounds and stands 12 to 15 inches tall. It looks a lot like other common Spitz breeds like the American Eskimo Dog, the Samoyed and the white Pomeranian. It has a squared body shape with a deep chest and it holds its long furry tail curled over its back. Its coat is double, white, thick and dense. The fur is shorter on the ears, fronts of the legs and muzzle and longer in the ruff around its neck and feathering on the back of the legs and on the feet, which have black nails and pads..

The face of this breed is wedge shaped with a muzzle that is pointed and tapers a littler and a black nose and lips. Its ears are small, pricked and triangular in shape and it has oval shaped eyes that are large, rimmed black and a little slanted.

The Inner Japanese Spitz


This is an intelligent, active and bright breed that makes a great companion and family dog. It is bold, affectionate, loyal and quite devoted to its owners. It is also a good watchdog being alert and will bark to let you know if someone is approaching or a stranger is breaking in. It needs lots of attention and companionship, it does not like being left alone for long periods and needs to be included in all family activities. It can suffer from separation anxiety. When well bred and raised it tends to be obedient but it does have a playful side that can get it into mischief. Owners with a sense of humor are a good match!

This is definitely a small dog with a big personality, it has a lot of spirit and will be a bright and happy member of the family. It can bark a lot so training it to stop on command is a good idea. As long as you are clear as the boss it will listen. It is a proud and confident dog and if spoiled can become difficult when it thinks it is the boss. It is quite good with strangers as long as there is a proper introduction it should become friendly quite quickly. It does tend to bond more closely with one person over the rest of the family so will lean towards that person more often but it is affectionate still to everyone else.

Living with a Japanese Spitz

What will training look like?

When owners are consistent, firm and confident this is a fairly easy dog to train, but may be a little trickier for new owners. It is important to make it clear you are the pack leader at all times, it is quite possible to be in control and a strong leader without having to scold or punish. Keep training positive, motivate and encourage it, use treats and reward it when it does well. As well as at least basic obedience training it also benefits from socialization from an early age. Start things slowly and then build up different people, places, situations, sounds and animals that they are introduced to so they learn acceptable responses. Training and socialization are not just about getting it to do what you want or building its confidence, it is also a great way to give it mental stimulation so it does not get bored.

How active is the Japanese Spitz?

The Japanese can adapt to how active its owners are but it is a fairly lively dog and does need some kind of activity each day outside to stay happy and healthy. As mentioned it also needs enough mental stimulation too. While it can go out in the cold it prefers to be inside with the family where it is warm! It is suited to apartment living based on size as long as it gets out everyday but its barking will need to be controlled. It is agile, it loves to play games with you and it should have at least one long walk and then a shorter one each day. It also needs time off leash where it can run and explore somewhere safe.

Caring for the Japanese Spitz

Grooming needs

At a glance a person might think this dog is going to be high maintenance because of its fluffy coat but in fact it is surprisingly low to moderate in terms of grooming needs. Despite having a white coat dirt does not hold on to it and it is a clean dog, not having that doggy smell that some have. It does still need regular brushing, at least twice a week to keep the thick coat looking good and that will also help with loose hair. Use a pin brush so it reaches through the thick coat to the under coat too and also use a spray conditioner before brushing. Brushing it dry can damage the hair. It does shed a moderate amount so expect some hair around the home. Because it does have a dryer coat than some dogs it should not be bathed too often and a gentle canine shampoo must be used. It will not need professional trimming but the hair in between the paw pads will need it now and then.

Its nails should be clipped when they get too long but be careful not to cut too far in as there are blood vessels and nerves in the lower section. Cutting there will hurt the dog and cause bleeding. Its ears should be checked for infection weekly, look for redness, irritation, bad odor, discharge and if they are clear you can give them a clean. Use a damp cloth or dog cleanser for ears and wipe the parts you can reach. Do not push anything into the ear, it can hurt the dog and cause damage. There are also its teeth to keep clean, brush two to three times a week using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste.

Feeding Time

The Japanese Spitz will need to eat about ¾ to 1¼ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. Things like age, size, health, activity level and rate of metabolism are going to affect the exact amount. Always make sure it has access to water that is changed when possible to keep it fresh.

How is the Japanese Spitz with children and other animals?

This is a dog bred to be a companion and a family dog. It is excellent with children, older people and everyone in between. It is loving and playful with kids with good socialization, and especially if raised with them. Make sure children are taught how to play and touch in an acceptable manner and to make it clear they are the boss of the dog so it does not try to boss them around. It can also do very well with other pets with socialization and if raised with them will accept them as part of the family. It can also get on well with other dogs but sometimes will try to dominate even breeds that are a lot larger than it is, so supervision is needed until that is dealt with.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Japanese Spitz will live for 10 to 16 years and is fairly healthy but some issues to watch for include patellar luxation, eye problems, ear infections and skin problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports in North America of attacks against people that have done bodily harm over the last 35 years there is no specific mention of the Japanese Spitz. This is not just because of its size, small does not mean a dog cannot be aggressive, but it is not as common in those parts and it should not be a people aggressive breed. With good breeding, socialization, training, exercise, stimulation and companionship you can lessen the chances of your dog being drawn into anything unwanted.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Japanese Spitz puppy will cost about $800 from a decent and trustworthy breeder and more than that again if you are buying from a top breeder and wanting a show quality dog. Take care to do your homework when you are looking for the right person to buy from. There are certainly things to avoid, puppy mill breeders, backyard breeders, even pet stores for example. If you are looking to rescue or adopt do check out your local shelters and rescues. So many dogs hoping for a new home and new best friend for fees of just $50 to $400.

There are also other costs to consider, for example once you have found the right dog you will need to get some items for it. A crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and such will cost about $130. When it is home it needs a trip to a vet for blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, shots, physical exam, spaying or neutering and these will cost another $260.

Then the annual costs of pet ownership are another factor. For basic health care like shots, tick and flea prevention, vet check ups and pet insurance expect a cost of around $435 a year. For a good quality dog food and dog treats about $75 a year. Then miscellaneous costs like license, toys, basic training and miscellaneous items could be another $460 a year. This gives an annual estimated cost of $970.


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The Japanese Spitz is really a fantastic companion for almost any kind of owner as long as you can get out and give it daily walks and play. Not only is it gorgeous to look at, it is loving, playful, full of personality and loyalty. It can get along with anyone from young to seniors just make sure you do not over bathe it as it is prone to skin problems, and be prepared for it trying to be a bit bossy!

Featured Image Credit: Lisjatina, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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