American Eskimo dog breed belongs to the non-sporting group, and was officially recognized by AKC in 1994. They are neither American in origin nor has any direct connection with Eskimos except for their developmental association with certain Nordic breed of dogs. Originally called German spitz because they were commonly found with German immigrants, their name was changed to American Spitz during the World War I. They had actually originated in Germany from larger breeds of dogs there. They are often considered spitz because of their spitz-like characteristics and their spitz ancestors, but they are not true spitz when you look at some other features of this dog such as its pure white coat.
Endearingly called Eskie, American Eskimo dogs make excellent family pets because of their loving, playful nature and their protective nature. They are especially favored by families with babies and young children. They come in different sizes to suit different environments too.
These dogs were first brought into the United States by European immigrants in the beginning of the 20th century. Other spitz breeds such as Pomeranian, Volpino Italiano and Keeshond were their ancestors. They were often used as guard dogs to protect both property and people even though they were not known for aggression. They were highly territorial, and had the habit of being vocal around strangers. They also barked incessantly and when they encountered unusual circumstances. This made them useful as a watch dog that would alert people of danger rather than take on trespassers on their own.
Their change of name from German Spitz to American Spitz happened during World War I, but it is not clear why they started being known as American Eskimo Dog after the war. In the post-war years they enjoyed some popularity as circus dogs. Both Cooper Brothers, and Barnum and Bailey Circus had famous Eskies as performers, which made this breed particularly popular with the public. However they were accepted by the American Kennel Club as a unique breed only at the end of the 20th century.
The American Eskimo Dog breed is characterized by its white fluffy coat, small spitz ears and feathery tail. The all-white coat developed as a typical breed characteristic mainly because of the preference of American dog lovers. They come in three different sizes, the standard one being 15-20 inches tall and weighing up to 25 pounds. Dogs measuring 12-15 inches in height with 10-17 pounds in weight come under the miniature category. Still smaller type is considered a toy breed.
These affectionate and playful dogs are gentle and caring with children. Highly intelligent, they focus their attention on everything around them, and report any unusual occurrence or suspicious activity with their insistent barking. They will not back down until they bring in their human family to investigate. This makes them excellent caretakers of babies and toddlers. Highly territorial, they can scare away potential intruders with vocal aggravation rather than physical aggression.
These dogs are very obedient as long as they are trained to be a member of the pack rather than its leader. They need the firm handling of a confident master to avoid negative characteristics from showing. Lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation may make them neurotic and hyperactive.
Grooming and exercise
In spite of their long, fluffy, white coat, they are not very difficult to groom. If you brush down their double coat thoroughly at least twice a week, that should be enough to keep it in good form. Many Eskies have tear tracks at the corners of their eyes that have to be cleaned frequently.
American Eskimo dogs are active animals that require plenty of activity to make their days interesting and worthwhile. The larger the dog, the more activity and exercise they need. Standard sized dogs are not often satisfied by just one walk a day. In addition to multiple walks they may need a vigorous workout too. Walking in circles and hyperactivity are indications of insufficient exercise and stimulation. However, miniature Eskies and the toy breed may manage to get all the exercise they need by running around in the house alone.
Eskies particularly like to play outside when the temperature dips. That could be the reason for the Eskimo tag in their name. They are not suitable for warm regions. Even though they love the outdoors, they are primarily house dogs, preferring the company of their human pack at all times.
Common health issues of American Eskimo Dog breed
Dogs of this breed may live up to 16 years. They have a strong constitution, and are rarely troubled by serious ailments during their relatively long life.
Progressive retinal atrophy and coronary heart disease are two conditions occasionally encountered in them. They may be prone to patellar luxation (knee cap dislocation) and hip dysplasia. Diabetes is found to occur occasionally. Regular testing of the eye, hip and knee should keep them free of serious problems.