R.I.P. Giant Spitz!

About the disappearance of an ancient breed of dog

Deutscher Spitz Großspitz Wolfsspitz Aussterben Rote Liste Züchter Wesen

Many millennia ago, humans began to select dogs for functional characteristics. This changed his behavior permanently - and inevitably his appearance, because function always dictates form ("form follows function"). These dogs now developed skills that were ideal for hunting, driving livestock, pulling loads or guarding human property. The descendants of these highly specialized dogs, which are commonly called "land breeds" or "natural breeds" - because they emerged long before the first pedigree dogs were bred - are still alive today.


One of these land breeds originated in Germany a long time ago and was called the "Spitz", the "Spitzer" or the "Pommer". The overriding criterion of his breeding was always and exclusively his suitability as a working dog - and over the centuries a natural guard dog was created that could not have been more perfect.  


This Spitz was the dog of the common people and was always highly valued by them, because he was a truly rustic and undemanding fellow; reliable, clever, courageous and very self-confident, of compact stature, with an easy-care coat. Loyal and incorruptible, he guarded his owners' belongings; his great courage and severity made him a feared guard dog. Until recently. 


For several years now, this old guardian has become more and more unlike himself due to bad breeding. Breeding that, although essentially not badly thought out, is poorly done and leads to him degenerating more and more into a “show and lapdog”. If you hear or read old stories about the Spitz of bygone times, you quickly realize that many of today's Spitz have little in common in terms of behavior and appearance with the Spitz that our parents and grandparents valued so much.


But why do one actually want to change the Spitz? Why not let him be the way he always was? I think that it is precisely the love for the Spitz, the intention to save him from extinction, that leads many breeders to the opinion that only the adaptation of the breed to the prevailing zeitgeist can save the Spitz through modern times. I have read statements like this on breeders' websites that in today's society there is less and less space for primitive guard dogs, which often do not fit in modern times, especially in cities, due to their suspicious (=specialized) nature. It is therefore essential to adapt the breed to the modern world - also because the demand for Giant Spitzes has declined sharply.


If you ask breeders why they actually breed, the answer is usually something like this: 


"Of course, to improve the breed!". 

“How do you improve the breed?” 

“By improving health, temperament and physique!”


This is a well-intentioned conclusion - but a fallacy. Instead of trying to improve the dog breed, it would be more effective to PRESERVE it. What that means? To preserve something means to protect it from decay, from degeneration. It means carefully protecting old lines from extinction, protecting them and guarding them like a cultural treasure from a bygone era. However, the plan to save the German Spitz through modernity by adapting it to the current zeitgeist is based on feet of clay. Breeding responsibly means to preserve a breed - and not trying to change its character, size, color, etc. in a "fashionable" (profitable) way. Wasn't the German Spitz perfect for centuries - the way he is?


For a breeder, breeding should not only mean the exclusive quantitative expansion of the Spitz population, but primarily the preservation of typical characteristics of the breed. But not their gutting. Class instead of quantity. With good intentions, many ultimately fail to understand the following: If the German Spitz's typical nature is bred away as part of the so-called adaptation to today's times - to save him from extinction - then he will die out in the end! Either way. 


Of course, it is entirely true that the large Spitzes are not very popular. That they are threatened with extinction. Nevertheless, a well-intentioned softening of the German Spitz by changing its characteristics will be of no use, because what is currently growing in the puppy boxes no longer has anything to do with the German Spitz - not in appearance and not in behavior! Anyone who only focuses on the exterior, who only breeds for the most colorful coat colors possible, is gutting the Spitz and breeding it out of himself. Anyone who breeds hunting dogs should keep in mind that the appearance of the German Spitz is inextricably linked to its nature (form follows function). The Spitz's lack of hunting drive is largely due to the fact that it has an extremely short back and straight legs, which make it impossible for it to run long distances (see "The German Spitz" No. 27, page 28). This means he can't poach even if he wanted to. Unfortunately, this extremely important aspect is consistently ignored by all sides. The stupid thing is that once a hunting drive has been reintroduced into the Spitz' population, it is no longer easy to breed it out, just like a back that is too long. 


And what shouldn't be forgotten: We have a valid breed standard. German Spitzes that break away in order to poach no longer meet the standard and, strictly speaking, should be sorted out as unsuitable for breeding. The same applies to Spitz, who are overjoyed by strangers and whose owners never tire of emphasizing what real sweethearts their dogs are. These dogs do not meet what the standard requires, because this clearly speaks of a suspicious dog. At this point, really sophisticated rascals like to try rabulism (= quibble): "You first have to define what exactly mistrust is", for example. Um yeah, nice try, but mistrust is mistrust and when you see the trait, you recognize it. 

Excerpt from FCI Standard No. 97/12.11.2019/D - German Spitz:

"The German Spitz is always attentive, lively and extraordinarily attached to its owner. It is very teachable and easy to train. Its natural distrust of strangers and lack of hunting instinct make it the ideal companion and family dog and watch dog for home and farm. It is neither timid nor aggressive. Indifference to weather, robustness and longevity are its most outstanding attributes."

Another problem that arises when breeders breed according to their taste and not according to the breed standard concerns the inexperienced dog buyer: He reads the standard and assumes, that when he buys a dog of this breed, he will exactly get what the standard says. Unfortunately, generally binding statements about the character of the respective Spitz can no longer be made if the majority of breeders no longer adhere to the binding (!) breed standard. 


A dog breed is not a canteen in which everyone only serves what they like. One person would like to breed the wildest colors, the next person is not bothered by the hunting drive because he never walks his dogs off-leash anyway, another is only too happy to forego severity in his guard dogs because he finds this primitive characteristic no longer manageable. But a guard dog that ultimately doesn't go forward, but only barks and then throws itself on its back to let the burglar scratch its belly is not a guard dog at all. If you want to change breed-specific characteristics of the German Spitz (probably improve them for the worse) because you don't like some aspects of them that much or think they are no longer up to date or can't handle them, please look for a more suitable breed of dog! There are so, so many of them...


Every dog breed must also be in the public eye and be able to offer real value. Be it as a show dog, as a working dog, as a hunting dog, as a therapy dog, as a herding dog, as a service dog, as a lapdog or - like our large Spitz - as an incorruptible guard dog. The breed must be special to the public for them to want to own it. We should not only appreciate and preserve the unique and valuable qualities of our Spitzes, but also promote them - and not breed them away in the course of so-called "modernization". A dog breed whose traits are only marginal and vague is no longer tangible - it is forgotten.


I recently received a lot of comments on my blog article "A strange breed of dog?! " Here are a few examples of what breeds “non-Spitz people” think of when they see a Wolfspitz or a Giant Spitz:  

  • Giant Pomeranian
  • Husky
  • Snow dog
  • Russian Laika
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Chow-Chow
  • Fox
  • Wolf
  • Raccoon dog
  • ELO
  • Eurasier
  • Samoyed
  • Collie

Sad, but nonetheless true: no one knows the Giant Spitz anymore. Even modern "breeds" like the ELO are thought of by people beforehand. It shouldn't be like that, and we should all try to change that.


The Spitz as a guard dog may be uncomfortable for some, but that's exactly how a guard dog should be: uncomfortable, especially for shady characters. A breed with rough edges, not everyone's darling. Especially in today's world, when it is foreseeable that the future will become harder and more uncomfortable, I am very happy to have a dog in the large Spitz who is smart, dutiful and undemanding - and would give his life for that to protect mine. However, this is not possible without a certain level of severity and territorial instinct in the dog, which can, however, be regulated through training. Until recently, people here in Germany preferred very sharp Spitzes. As late as 1969, the then general studward in the German Spitz Club, Werner Jäger, said the following about the German Spitz: 

German Spitz Giant Wolfspitz Wolfsspitz extinction bad breeders

"Even if we are criticized from abroad that our Giant Spitz and Wolfspitz are too sharp, I am absolutely against breeding with parents with weak temperaments. I prefer a sharp Spitz to a soft type. Of course, a well-behaved Large Spitz is for judges and audience a feast for the eyes. But all too often I have had the experience that too much of a good thing has been done in terms of care and upbringing: little temperament, no firmness of character; and on the outside: loose, soft hair." 


The German Spitz was also found in FCI Group 2b (sheepdogs, guard dogs and protection dogs) for a long time, until some idiots came up with the idea of transferring him to FCI Group 9 (companion and toy dogs). The German Spitz - the born guardian par excellence - as a toy dog??? Outraged club members ultimately ensured that the Spitz was demoted back to its old category - only to end up back among the toy dogs. This went back and forth a few times between 1969 and 1979. Finally, at the instigation of the Swiss cynologist Dr. Hans Räber ("Enzyklopädie der Rassehunde"/ "Encyclopedia of Pedigree Dogs") founded the FCI section 5 "Spitz and primitive types", in which the German Spitz has been represented since 1990. 


By the way, the one-sided fixation of many breeders on coat color (the so-called "colorful breeding") is also without foundation: Even in earlier times (long before pure color breeding up from 1958), the different colors only represented a very small proportion of all colors, the largest part of the dogs was pure colored - precisely because the color of her fur wasn't a coincidence or looked so pretty, but because it was linked to certain areas of responsibility. 


How can one avoid this kind of fallacy? My suggestion is simply: research for yourself, read for yourself, think for yourself. Rely less on what others tell you or what you read in online forums. That would be a start. Because even long-time breeders or people who have owned 23 Spitz dogs may well have no idea at all about their dog breed. My grandma has bred toy poodles in a club for decades and can't even take a treat away from her tiny, tiny poodle bitch without having to arm herself with a pillow.



This article is not an attack, but a wake-up call. It is not directed AGAINST specific breeders, but is written FOR Giant Spitz and Wolfsspitz. FOR our oldest dog breed and FOR its preservation. Therefore, dear breeder: Please don't let a fashion or trend emerge and destroy the old Spitz type. Hold him tight and protect our German Spitz!


And if he hasn't died, then he'll still guard and protect tomorrow.

Giant Spitz German Wolfsspitz Wolfspitz extinction breeding bad

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