Large German Spitz in the big city? Yes!

This is how the German Spitz becomes environmentally neutral and road-safe in the big city

Giant Spitz Grosspitz Wolfspitz Keeshond city town training

A large Spitz in the country in a house with a garden? Of course, that's just right, it makes everyone's heart sing. However, if a city dweller wants to get a Giant Spitz or a Wolfspitz, his plans will be met with skepticism by his fellow people. The city with its blocks everywhere, the crowds of people and the massive traffic? And a large Spitz there? The German Spitz is a farm dog! That can't be appropriate for the breed!


It can! Life in the big city does indeed offer a Spitz a lot of exciting variety, and you can keep him there in a breed-appropriate manner. Consistent training and choosing the right breed of dog are important, because not every breed is suitable for city and apartment living. Our Spitz can be kept in the city without any problems, because he was and is an "all-rounder" that could be found on farms as well as on small barges and carriages. And also in the cities, where he was used as a companion to night watchmen, for example.  


Life in the countryside is not automatically better, because a large garden does not necessarily make a happy dog. And while many dogs in the countryside spend almost all their time on the property, an apartment dog has to be taken for walks - unless he learns to use the restroom.

A dog's life? How to find the perfect breed for the big city

Kuno Spitz dog big city apartment breed

So how do you find the city-friendly dog that suits you and that feels comfortable with you? What some people have in mind as an ideal, they will search in vain: This is the family-friendly, easy-care dog for the 4th floor, preferably off the shelf and with easy-to-understand operating instructions. But a dog is not an electronic device from Walmart, at best he is a friend for life. You don't pick one like this like a Christmas present. And you don't give it to children decorated with a bow, like a doll or teddy bear.


There are a lot of things to consider before your new housemate moves in. In the big city the dog generally needs more care than in the country, even just for going potty, so the whole family should work together.


And which breed should it be, which one is suitable for the big city? In general, whether a dog feels comfortable with us depends less on where we live and more on our lifestyle and our attention. At first glance, a Great Dane in a one-room apartment on Nollendorfplatz in the middle of Berlin certainly seems as out of place as Hulk Hogan in a Smart, but her owner takes her to the Grunewald park for several hours every day. This Great Dane is certainly happier than the fellow dog at Grandma Kasuppke's in a one-horse town, who only roams back and forth behind the garden fence during the day.


Of course, there are neglected dogs who experience nothing except a few short walks, but then their owner is the problem and not the city! A sled dog does not belong in the apartment of a busy single, because here he is only used as a prestige object. A poodle, for example, has the advantage that he doesn't shed all over the apartment, but regular trips to the dog salon cost a lot of money. You certainly have fewer problems with a small to medium-sized dog in a densely populated city than with a St. Bernard, and that starts when you're riding the bus.


How do you actually spend your free time? Do you like jogging or biking extensively? Then a Westie is probably not the right breed for you, but rather an Irish Setter. If, on the other hand, you don't like fresh air, it shouldn't necessarily be a breed that needs to move a lot. So it's worth studying the different dog breeds before making a decision.

Large Spitz in a small apartment?

Large dog German Spitz city
Kuno helps in the post office

Many people think that big dogs cannot flourish in the city because they assume that a dog absolutely needs a garden and lots of walks. I can only agree with the part about the walks - but life in the city doesn't contradict that. The size of the apartment, on the other hand, is really negligible because it is a place of rest for the dog - he sleeps here, eats and relaxes. In the end, the big Spitz doesn't care whether he takes his nap in a villa or in a 50 m² apartment.


In this respect, it is astonishing that there are still Spitz breeders who only sell their puppies to people who have a house and a garden - which is particularly interesting considering what is considered a "house with a garden" these days. Many of those "gardens" are usually so tiny that a pair of nail scissors would be sufficient for the little bit of grass instead of a lawnmower. 


The German Spitz wants to be with his family all the time and everywhere, then he is happy. So if he is used to the big city and can accompany his owner almost everywhere, he will enjoy this much more than spending half the day alone in the garden.

Consistent training is the key

Birk Giant Spitz Grosspitz shopping city dog
The best shopping companion in the world and I stroll

Life in a big city is associated with a number of imponderables when it comes to keeping a dog. What may be considered a small quirk in the sparsely populated countryside is unacceptable in the hustle and bustle of a big city - and can be life-threatening. A small escape towards the street or a bite of garbage on the sidewalk can have immediate, serious consequences. That is why consistent, detailed training is all the more important for the city Spitz. 


What should the city-Spitz learn? In addition to all the basic commands, he must above all learn to behave in an environmentally neutral manner. The Spitz must not be interested in strangers - whether big or small. They are not greeted, spoken to or even given treats! For me personally, this behavior is very relevant because I sometimes tie my dogs up in front of the supermarket to do a quick bit of shopping. And I don't want my dogs to get stolen or attack anyone who walks past them. So I haven't taken away the breed-typical sharpness and distrust from my dogs, but I have trained them to be as environmentally neutral as possible.


Since German Spitz dogs are reactive, I recommend that you prevent them from reacting to movement stimuli from the very beginning, so that the dog does not chase joggers, cyclists, or even running children, cats or birds. Because any mindless running after them can lead to the dog running into the street - and that rarely ends well. Preventing the dog from reacting to movement stimuli begins as a puppy: no ball games, no Frisbees and so on!


Teach your city Spitz all the important commands from the beginning, make sure that he doesn't eat anything outside and, above all, make him street-safe - all according to the motto  "his obedience is his freedom".  Then even the city dog won't have to be on a leash day after day, but can enjoy a nice and, above all, breed-appropriate life. 

The main factor for the relaxed city dog ​​is his resilience

Kuno Windhainersee Wolfspitz Keeshond city stress training shopping
Kuno and Birki with our flower saleswoman: "May red roses rain down on you..." 🎵

However, the dog's nerves are far more important than his training. A sensitive dog that is very sensitive to noise cannot cope with the hustle and bustle of the big city. 


In addition to their much more sensitive hearing and their sensational sense of smell, dogs also have a completely different field of vision than we humans. The further their eyes are to the side of their head, the larger the area they can see with their eyesight. This means they notice much more of what is moving to the side than we do. 


Depending on the constitution of their nerves, dogs perceive all these movement stimuli and noises with varying degrees of intensity. However, they are usually able to block out unimportant things and focus on the important stimuli (such as their owner's voice). Sensitive dogs cannot do this, which is why they are constantly exposed to a flood of all kinds of stimuli. This makes them unsuitable for life in the big city. Running free is completely out of the question for such dogs, because their sensitivity and the resulting nervousness mean that their reactions are unpredictable. The probability that such dogs will get run over is high.


The constitution of the nerves itself is innate and has nothing to do with upbringing or socialization. At just 9 weeks old, my Kuno was calmly doing potty on the grass verge of the main road with his hair blowing in the wind, while various trucks thundered past him just 50 cm away. He didn't care at all.


Anyway, a proper Spitz is just a cool guy with nerves of steel. Nothing can upset him. The only disadvantage to his nerves is the obligatory Teflon coating, which simply bounces off any vague commands from his owner. 😉


An easily startled dog, on the other hand, cannot travel on public transport without fear, nor can he learn to sit quietly in a restaurant or to wait in front of a shop; he will always (!) react to all (!) external stimuli. So do yourself a favor and make sure that your city Spitz is naturally confident and relaxed when you buy him. This is not only better for the Spitz, but also for you!

Don't eat from the ground

Birk German Spitz large shopping training food diet
"Hocus pocus get rid of that stupid pane of glass!"

I'll come right out and say this: don't try to get your Spitz to swap food lying around on the street with you! Any dog with half a brain will immediately start bringing you all kinds of rubbish so that you can swap this for the cheese cubes and sausages in your bag. With a clever Spitz, swapping is a really terrible idea. 


Basically, you should not teach your dog to look for food outside the house - especially in the city, where there is rubbish on every corner.


If the Spitz eats from the ground outside, I would first establish an effective stop signal. Another issue is the dog's diet: if the dog is fed a balanced and varied diet, he will search outside much less for food. 


The transfer of mood from the owner to the dog should not be underestimated either: If I, as the owner, am constantly nervous that the Spitz might eat something outside, my nervousness will be transferred to the dog - and he will definitely look for something, find it and devour it in a split second. So relax! As a youngster, Kuno ate all the tissues he found on the streets. This only stopped when I mentally put the matter to rest and thought to myself, "Well then just eat tissues, then you'll need less food at home, and I'll save money." From that moment on, the guy hasn't looked at a single tissue again. 😉 

On the leash/ Spitz training in general

German Spitz training leash city agression
If the tablecloth smiles, the schnitzel tastes much better 😊

People, cyclists, children, honking cars and then lots of dogs: a city dog like this needs good nerves - and a good training. Unfortunately, in reality you see all too often dogs that hang in their harnesses with the inscription "daddy's baby", freaking out as soon as they see another dog, while their "pawrents" calmly continues to write messages on their smartphone. 


What irritates me is the fact that hardly any dog owner intervenes to correct such "dog freaks out on leash" situations. Simply because they are fed up with the dog making such a fuss on the leash. So how is the dog supposed to know that its behavior is undesirable?


I think it's particularly important, especially with German Spitz, that people see how wrong all their prejudices are. Unfortunately, it's mostly Pomeranians that fuel all this talk because their owners don't train them. The contemptuous looks people give to such unruly dogs always make amuse me - because they show their owners the embarrassment of their collective inability to train a dog! 😂 So please train your Spitz properly and presentably, in the interests of all Spitzes all over the world!


So just tell your Spitz what you want from him - and what you don't want. Tap him to get him out of his tunnel. And if he behaves like a bull in a china shop, correct him. Tell him in a way that makes it clear to him that you are not happy with his behavior.


Applied to the topic of walking on a leash, this means that you first have to take yourself seriously. You are not a sack of flour at the other end of the leash, you are somebody. Make this simple fact clear to your dog too!


Overall, I think that dog training should be more intuitive and done from the gut, and not as mathematical and scientific as it is now. And for this intuitive type of training, you don't need any tools like treats, clickers, harnesses or food dummies, just yourself, your voice and your common sense. And a collar and a leash. It's not rocket science.

Curb training - how to make your Spitz safe on the streets of the city

Normally, curb training always involves the dog learning to automatically sit on the road and wait for permission to cross. However, this type of road safety training never appealed to me because it is purely dressage. So I came up with a way that seemed more suitable to me.


I have developed curb training with my dogs by using avoidance behavior. The Spitz does not perform trained tricks (like "sit" on the street), but learns that streets are really, really dangerous and that he should never, ever, under any circumstances be walked on by himself. The advantage of this method is that the dog is forced to pay attention to streets on its own. This requires a lot more concentration than if the dog only listens to my command with half an ear.

I have therefore structured the curb training on two tracks: Firstly, the dogs should learn to recognize the roads. But since this doesn't always work 100%, I have also established a command that signals to them that there is a road ahead and that they have to stop immediately.

Curb training: the procedure

Curb training in pictures: First the human learns to stop at all roads, then the dog is practiced, initially on a leash, later without. Those who think for themselves are praised, those who leave their brains at home risk being told off. At the end of the whole thing, the reward is freedom.

(1.)  Man learns to stop at all roads:

The hardest thing for me was learning to stop at every curb; it takes time to internalize this, and you always find yourself crossing the street without thinking. Only when you have mastered this can you start training your dog. Not before!


(2.) Now the dog joins in - still on a leash:

Since I have structured the training in two stages, I stop with the Spitz on the leash and say "street".  If the dog still wants to go onto the street and pulls on the leash, for example, I slow him down by blocking him and then pushing him back completely onto the curb - preferably backwards. Then we only continue with a release signal like "okay" or "over" or even "potato salad". Doesn't matter.


(3.) We practice off-leash in the neighborhood:

As soon as this works and the dog stops at all the well-known streets, I practice the whole thing without a leash. If the dog does step onto the street, I push him back onto the sidewalk in a very physical way and really make a mess of him. It's important to really work on avoidance here. I know that this is unpopular these days, because you want to be nice to your dog all the time. The problem is that curb training that's too soft and too friendly can end up with the dog being run over!


Here, too, the release signal is always used, while the command "road" is only used when one has the impression that the dog does not see that there is a road ahead. 


(4.) We practice in unknown areas:

Only when you can do it flawlessly in your immediate environment can you practice in unfamiliar terrain. You have to get to know all kinds of streets in order to generalize - because not all streets are the same. High curbs, low curbs, lowered curbs, no curbs at all, exits - the dog has to learn to know and understand all of these different kinds of curbs. But it doesn't take years of training to internalize this. The dogs normally learn very quickly where streets or busy exits are where they have to stop. In addition, not only visual features play a role, but also smells. The smell of tire wear on the street is a very clear demarcation feature for the dog from the sidewalk.


To be on the safe side, I have structured curb training in two stages, so that the dog can still be stopped with the warning "road" even if he is daydreaming. This way he can learn where the roads are both by thinking for himself and by the command. Just keep at it, and you will soon have a Spitz that can and is allowed to run around in town without a leash.

curb trainng dog city town German Spitz streets cars off leash
Kuno and Birk are waiting to be allowed to enter the street

The way I handle the release signal is that my dogs have two options: Either the two are already standing on the street, then I give them the release signal from behind.


Option two is that both dogs wait on the street and are not allowed to enter until I do. The dogs are then next to or behind me.


I know that curb training is usually structured in such a way that the dogs always have to wait at the curb until they are given permission. Personally, I never understood the point of this, so I structured the training according to my own needs. But of course, anyone can handle it in a way he prefers.  


Curb training is a very important element in keeping a city dog in a species-appropriate manner, because hanging on a leash 24/7 is definitely not species-appropriate. Curb training is not a sure-fire success. You should always pay attention to your dog. So put your cell phone away when you go for a walk!


Of course, you can keep a large Spitz in the city. Anyone who says otherwise is just talking rubbish! 😋 What is important for a city dog is his resilience, a city dog just has to be cool. For example, an Irish Setter is much more suitable for the city than a sensitive Sheltie, even though the Setter is a hunting dog. Because he is bred to be gun-resistant, he is not bothered by loud noises and can also run free, as there is no game in the city. It is often completely different to what you think. And that is also the case when keeping a large Spitz in the city.

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