A German Spitz has no hunting drive!

About the so-called "Wolfspitz Campaign" of the German State Hunting Associations



Wolfsspitz Giant Spitz German Spitz farm dog hunting drive poaching


The lack of hunting drive of the German Spitz is a hotly debated and extremely controversial topic among enthusiasts and breeders. Some people think that there has always been hunting Spitzes and that the much-praised non-poaching Spitz should be classified more in the realm of legends. Others, however, state that Spitzes have never been poached because great importance has always been placed on this trait in breeding, although of course one or two exceptions prove the rule. There are also sources in the books that say that the Spitz is a poacher, for example in Ludwig Beckmann's "Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes" (History and Description of the Breeds of Dogs):


"It should also be noted that the Spitz is not to be underestimated from a hunting perspective. Most of the mutts that hunt on their own in the fields and forests are Spitz or hybrids of these. [...]" What is the situation with his hunting instinct ?? Well, does the Spitz hunt - or does he not?


I now have sources that clearly show that the Spitz is not a hunter - cannot be a hunter - because the Wolfsspitz and the black Giant Spitz were once bred by various German state hunting associations themselves. So if the hunting associations breed the Spitz as a club, then that is proof enough for me that the properly bred and trained, purebred Spitz does not poach and has never poached. 


I would like to thank Britta Schweikl very much, who provided me with various sources on the topic from her own archives and thus helped me a lot to shed some light on this topic! 

The German Spitz - a farm dog of the highest quality

Wolfsspitz Hofhund

The old, big Spitz was always a first-class farm dog who rarely left the farm and had little interest in tracks and game. In addition, the Spitz is large enough to impress as a guard dog, although it is much more vigilant than most other breeds and should it be necessary, the Spitz will take action. This leads to all sayings like  "Dogs that bark don't bite" ad absurdum: the Spitz barks and bites when there is no other option. However, it must be emphasized here that the Spitz is not an aggressive dog. Anyone who used to go quietly on their way, past the dung heaps where the farm dog was always on the lookout, was left unmolested by the large Spitz. On the other hand, anyone who stopped or behaved conspicuously had to expect to be attacked. The old wagon Spitz also had to be an absolutely reliable companion, guarding the belongings on the wagon and not caring about the game that stood to the left and right of the path. For these guard dogs there could be no poaching or straying because their area was the wagon with its precious cargo. 


The German Spitz or Wolfspitz is a naturally very tough, sharp and attentive guard dog that is not easily impressed by anyone. He is a loyal companion who is resistant to flattery and is always somehow "toujour en vendette". He doesn't like to laze around because watching is his life's work. The Spitz is robust against all weather conditions and undemanding to keep. All of this has guaranteed the Spitz its place and its areas of responsibility among humans over the past centuries. It therefore made sense to bring him out of obscurity again and advise the peasantry to take care of him. 

A proper German Spitz does not hunt!

The suitability of the German Spitz as a guard and working dog has been undisputed for centuries, because the Spitz is as much of a guard as one could wish for, also because it is not prone to hunting and poaching. On the one hand, he has no interest in hunting itself. In addition, his entire body structure makes it difficult for him to hunt, because due to his square figure and the steeply angled fore and hindquarters, his ability to run over longer distances is less than that of other breeds. Due to its short back, it lacks flexibility in its loins, and the tail, which rests firmly on its back, cannot be used to control its body. Therefore, a Spitz who is tempted to hunt will quickly stop chasing because he simply cannot follow for long. Here it can be seen that the short back on which the value was always placed on the old standards, it was not just a purely visual gimmick, but rather completed the “Watchdog” package. The short back effectively prevents the Spitz from hunting and is therefore part of the Spitz for practical reasons. However, it is the short back that enables the Spitz to have the astonishing nimbleness and agility that enabled him to disappear between the vines at highest speed and using hooks, thus escaping defensive grape thieves.

By the way, driving away foxes as well as birds and martens is not a hunting drive, it is kind of “chasing them away”. The Spitz's tasks on a farm included protecting crops from being eaten by wild animals, as well as protecting domestic animals from predators and birds of prey, and also chasing away crows from the fields. This behavior is called "predatory drive". Therefore, it is in the Spitz's blood to drive away vermin from his territory. Predatory animals include all animal species that could be dangerous to farmed livestock or harvest, as well as animals that include rats (black rats), mice, birds of prey and corvids (carrion crows, magpies or jays) and foxes, but also introduced species such as raccoons or martens.

Excursus: The predatory drive

The acuity of predators in dogs is said to consist primarily of an outspoken hatred of all vermin. This hatred is the driving force behind the persistent pursuit of a robber and pushes the dog to get the predatory game in question under any circumstances. However, except rats and mice, once they have been killed, predatory animals are not eaten (from "Der Gebrauchshund, seine Erziehung und Dressur"/ "The working dog, its training and training" by Hegendorf)


The development of this predatory drive has an immense influence on the dog's temperament, which means that an extremely predatory driven dog is also an extremely spirited dog. The young dog, who promises to become a sharp dog later on, shows this tendency in his youth. He is bright, agile, cheeky and suspicious of strangers, and sometimes behaves quite violently towards stray cats, crows, etc. and barks at them or chases them. Even mice, rats and corvids are not safe from him even at an early age. The predatory drive is primarily intended to protect the offspring or young animals from vermin, as well as to protect domestic animals and crops from predation by wild animals.


What stands out here: the predatory drive almost characterizes the Spitz. Let's look at them again: "He is bright, agile, cheeky and suspicious of strangers, sometimes behaves quite violently towards stray cats, crows etc. and barks at them or chases them. Mice, rats and corvids are also in front of him from an early age, not safe."


Let's compare them with the breed standard: The German Spitz is always attentive, lively and exceptionally affectionate towards its owner. [...] Its natural distrust of strangers and lack of hunting instinct make it the ideal companion and family dog and watchdog for home and farm. [...]. As a result, the predatory drive seems to be THE Spitz's main character trait that made him as the Spitz, which shapes his nature and through which he was able to fulfill the tasks entrusted to him in the first place, which were:

  • Driving birds, foxes and other predators out of the vineyards
  • Driving crows out of the fields
  • Keep strange dogs and cats away from the yard
  • Distributing or, if necessary, hiring people from outside the farm (this also applies to carriages, barges, etc.) that need to be guarded.
  • Destroy rats and mice that eat the supplies
  • Guarding his master's territory

The predatory drive can in no way be attributed to the hunting drive, because hatred is not a driving force in hunting or poaching. In complete contrast, predator sharpness is highly characterized by aggression and leads to food competitors being driven away or even killed, but under no circumstances eaten. The only exception here are mice. 

Is the German Shepherd Dog a real farm dog?

The German Spitz had almost completely disappeared from farms due to the triumph of the German Shepherd Dog, which was only created at the turn of the century. The German Shepherd Dog was bred by Rittmeister von Stephanitz, who crossbred pure-blooded wolves into the old German Shepherd type.* The ancestral heritage of wolves was still evident for a long time because it led the GSD to increase poaching. The farmers initially took a liking to the large, elegant dogs, which also had great character traits. Unfortunately, they did not prevent their dogs from mixing with the old farm and herding dogs (often Spitz dogs), and so the blood of the old farm dog was gradually replaced by the new Shepherd dog blood. These German Shepherd hybrids completely lacked the good qualities of the farm dog. They were rarely loyal to their homes and farms, and poached as hell. The result was an ongoing dispute between the local hunters and foresters and the rural population. The animals in the surrounding areas were massively damaged or even killed by the dogs. Many of these dogs were chained, others were shot while poaching - a situation that pleased neither the people nor the dogs. The poaching dogs were also a danger to their families in that there were several cases in which the dogs became infected with rabies while hunting and brought this extraordinary danger with them to their home farm. 

*Statement from C.E. Gruenewald, who probably knew Captain von Stephanitz personally. And therefore knew how the German Shepherd Dogs came into being. He was head of the cynological group and vice president of the state hunting association. His claim can be found in the “Oberhessische Zeitung” dated December 2, 1965. Chief forester Horst Denner claimed the same thing in the magazine “Deutsche Jagdzeitung” from July 10, 1966.

The "Wolfsspitzaktion" (Wolfspitz campaign)

As early as the 1930s, the "Reichsjagdamt" (Reich Hunting Office) remembered the Wolfsspitz and recommended its reintroduction as a farm dog through the relevant hunting authorities. The Reichsjagdamt paid the hunting district offices very substantial subsidies in order to be able to purchase suitable stud dogs, and so it came about that the Wolfsspitz was bred in individual regional associations of the German Hunting Association. Whenever a poaching dog was killed, it was ensured that the owner of the dead dog got a Wolfspitz cheaply. 


Incidentally, there were already plans to set up a “Zentralstelle für Spitzzucht” (central office for Spitz breeding). Unfortunately, the war ruined these plans, but individual hunting groups nevertheless began systematically breeding Wolfspitz in the 1940s. The kennel names of the puppies registered at the time provide information about this, kennel names such as “vom Jagdkreis Rosenheim”, “vom Jagdgau Baden” etc. Old kennel names that end in “-hof” (-yard) also indicate that the breeding here was mainly carried out by farmers and hunting associations. 

Unfortunately, the German Wolfspitz, with its great characteristics, was forgotten by hunting associations after the war until the poaching of farm dogs reached such proportions that solutions began to be sought. In agreement with many hunters and foresters, some German state hunting associations finally came to the conclusion that the local farmers should give the good old German Spitz its traditional place as a farm dog. The Schleswig-Holstein hunting association also took action and in 1957 the idea of systematic Wolfspitz breeding was revived and the kennel “vom Wolmershof” was founded. Many hunting associations followed this example and preferred to give their puppies to farms near the forest. Although the farmers were initially skeptical about the Wolfsspitz, word of mouth soon began to spread, talking about him as “a legendary dog” who "did not hunt and did not have to be chained because he did not leave the farm and strangers and was very suspicious and vigilant of others, and was keen on rats and mice." This whispered propaganda ultimately led to the first pre-orders of Wolfsspitz puppies by the farmers. 


From October 1961, the Hessian State Hunting Association also started  its “Wolfsspitz Campaign”. A man was found in district forester Horst Denner from Waldeck (Hesse) who took care of the matter conscientiously. He was the one who got the mayor of a small, wooded community around the Edersee (a lake in Hesse) an excellent female Wolfspitz, namely "Bora vom Christelhof": "As soon as this lovely puppy arrived, new lovers were found among other farmers, especially since "Bora" demonstrated the characteristics of her breed in a particularly exemplary manner. For example, in the first months of her life, she did not leave the farm with her master, but accompanied him to the gate and then to take her place again in front of the old linden trees. Suspicious of strangers, she knew every guest who had ever slept in the house. She tirelessly kept the stables and barns free of any vermin, and so it was She is not only a dear but also a useful member of the family." 

Astor Hessen Wolfsspitz Giant Spitz hunting breed
Male Wolfsspitz "Astor Hessen" from the Hessian State Hunting Association's own kennel (Photo: H. Denner)

At a meeting of the Hessian hunting cynological working group, Denner's reports on the Wolfsspitzes were received with great interest, and it was subsequently decided to carry out an own "Wolfsspitz campaign" from now on. The purpose of this campaign was to replace poaching dogs in rural communities with the large Spitz. The Hesse State Hunting Association now also bred Wolfsspitzes themselves under the kennel name “Hessen”. Interested farmers could buy a puppy there for a contribution towards expenses of 50 DM (the normal puppy price at that time was 150 DM). Planning and monitoring of breeding remained in the hands of the state hunting association. It also held breeding shows himself in order to have the dogs licensed from the age of nine months. The association also took care of entering the puppies in the register of the German Spitz Club itself, as they had experienced that only purebred dogs offered the guarantee of having the desired farm loyalty and the lack of hunting drive. In order to be able to carry out breeding at all, the LJV had to become a member of the German Spitz Club and comply with its breeding regulations.


At the beginning, the State Hunting Association of Hesse deliberately decided not to go public or to the press with its campaign, as they rightly feared that there would then be such a great demand for Wolfsspitzes that they would not have been able to satisfy. This would probably have jeopardized the action, or at least not been beneficial to it. So they quietly worked towards setting up new breeding facilities in order to have enough young dogs at a later date. For a better overview and stricter monitoring, breeding center managers responsible for the individual breeding centers were appointed. These were either Wolfspitz owners from the countryside or hunters, who also had a great interest in breeding and the campaign, and who quickly took the lovable Wolfspitz into their hearts. The kennel managers also monitored the proper breeding of the puppies, as well as the keeping and care of the puppies, and also made sure that in the event of any missteps with foreign-bred male dogs, puppies from such relationships were killed. They were therefore important sponsors of the “Wolfsspitzaktion”. 

German Spitz Keeshond Pomeranian lack of hunting drive
The black Giant Spitz "Astor Hessen" bred by hunting association Hessen, next to him Wolfspitz male "Arco von der Stammheimer Höhe"

When planning the entire breeding process, a particular focus was placed on getting male and female dogs with fresh blood into the individual breeding facilities when purchasing the breeding animals, so that one day they would not find themselves at the end of all efforts due to a breeding base that was too narrow. This was not always easy, as the Spitz was no longer very common in the 1960s. The dogs were purchased at dog shows and from abroad, among other things. The Hessian State Hunting Association also contacted the chairman of the Austrian Spitz Club, Dr. Gottlieb, because the Austrian club was carrying out a kind of “Wolfsspitz campaign” at the same time. Among other things, the exchange of puppies between Austria and Germany was planned. 


At the dog show in Frankfurt/Main in 1963, 11 Wolfsspitzes from the “Edersee” kennel of the Hesse State Hunting Association were presented to the judges. The state hunting association even held its own annual breeding show, at which the offspring were judged. This is also where the pedigrees were handed out to the owners. All of this was unlikely to contribute to the improvement of the breed, as only Wolfspitzes that showed the desired characteristics in terms of domestic loyalty and alertness were considered for breeding. On May 26, 1963, a breeding show took place in Goddelsheim, at which 20 Wolfsspitzes and also Black Giant Spitzes appeared for getting the permission to breed with them, all of which (except for one) met the requirements.

The judges' reports from the evaluation tour from 1960 ("Der Deutsche Spitz" no. 27, p. 25 ff.)

As early as 1960, the Schleswig-Holstein State Hunting Association had organized a tour assessment, in which two men from the association toured the country over three days and assessed 24 Wolfsspitzes from their owners. This method had the inestimable advantage that one could observe the Spitzes in its familiar surroundings and get a better idea of their character, their lack of hunting drive and their vigilance than would have been impossible in the do show ring. The original judge reports can be found in the top three pictures. 

Black Giant Spitz Grosspitz Pomeranian Wolfsspitz Wolfspitz Keeshond lack hunting poaching drive
Black male Giant Spitz "Tipo (Hasso) Hessen"

In 1965 there were already 36 breeding centers with a total of 106 Wolfspitzes and black Giant Spitzes in 20 districts of the State Hunting Association of Hesse. The trust in the reputation of the “non-poaching Wolfspitzes” had also been placed in the German Giant Spitzes! In Austria, at the same time, white Giant Spitzes were sold to farmers by the Carinthian hunters. The hunters also subsidized the purchase of a white Giant Spitz (only this breed) with 300 Austrian Schillings. The Styrian hunting community was also interested in this breed, and a Mr. Pichler - at that time the largest hunting landsowner in Heiligenblut am Großglockner - bought a total of 20 white Giant Spitzes to give them to the farmers in his area. None of the animals were ever observed poaching or straying.


In 1968, the Hesse State Hunting Association visited international breeding shows for the first time, after only taking part in breeding shows at district level in recent years. So now they went public with their “Wolfsspitz campaign”. The black Giant Spitz "Lauritz Hessen" exhibited by the Hesse State Hunting Association was able to achieve V1 (first place) four times at four exhibitions and for the first time a group of black Giant Spitz was exhibited at the dog show in Wiesbaden, which also placed well. This group attracted great interest from visitors and exhibitors because a state hunting association was a breeder of a non-hunting dog breed. What a sensation! While this was initially strange and inexplicable to the audience, the campaign received great praise and recognition after explaining the reasons for their breeding program.  


In total, the Schleswig-Holstein State Hunting Association bred a total of 273 puppies between 1957 and 1972. The Hesse State Hunting Association was able to register a total of 209 puppies between 1964 and 1973, and 53 black Giant Spitz puppies were also bred there between 1965 and 1968. 


In 1974, the “Wolfsspitz Campaign” unfortunately reached too large a scale and subsequently became too expensive, meaning that the campaign was no longer viable for the associations. The breeding of the large Spitzes was gradually left to private individuals, and the State Hunting Associations were seen only as intermediaries. 

The Wolfspitz is being tested

In 1962/63, the Schleswig-Holstein State Hunting Association wanted to know exactly and placed eleven Wolf Spitz puppies on various farms in order to examine the animals' hunting behavior after certain periods of time. The final conclusion was:"The Wolfspitz has an excellent disposition to be raised as a farm and family loyal, non-hunting guard dog. But it is not that he is a 100% panacea that does not need to be taken care of.… The Wolfspitz owner must be interested in the dog! He must make the effort to maintain contact with him, must give him family connection. If you leave a Wolfspitz on his own, he will also tend to go for uncontrolled walks, respectively straying."


So you can't really guarantee that a Wolfspitz won't hunt, because there are always exceptions to the rule. Some German Spitz have a stronger hunting instinct than others, but normally the common Spitz has little interest in poaching, it only runs after fleeing animals at most for a short time and then turns around. However, a sense of success when rushing can motivate even the most harmless German Spitz so that he will try again - simply because he has acquired a taste for it. Likewise, incorrect training or incorrect company (for example from a hunting dog friend) can turn a Spitz into a poacher, because of course a Spitz can be taught how to hunt from other dogs. Therefore, you should make it clear to him in a puppy age.


Meine Ausgabe von "Der Deutsche Spitz in Wort und Bild" stammt passenderweise aus einer Jagdbibliothek, wie an dem Ex-Libris-Stempel ersichtlich.
Meine Ausgabe von "Der Deutsche Spitz in Wort und Bild" stammt passenderweise aus einer Jagdbibliothek, wie an dem Ex-Libris-Stempel ersichtlich.

Nowadays, the much-quoted “lack of hunting-drive” is unfortunately no longer a selection feature in current breeding. Because many Spitzes live in fenced-in properties and only know deer and poultry from the zoo, no one can really say how strong their instinct to hunt and prey is. It is not very unlikely that adult Spitz dogs have a tendency to hunt, as they noticeably like to retrieve, like to carry objects around with them and shake them off, or go on wild chases with other dogs. 


But despite the presence of these hunting Spitz specimens, the fact is that the real German Spitz - the actual Spitz - has never been a poacher. Not only because he lacked interest in hunting, but also because of his body, his short back, which made him a very bad hunter. These characteristics clearly show that it is the symbiosis of exterior and interior that makes the Spitz a Spitz. Therefore, one cannot simply classify characteristics as "less important" and subsequently no longer promote them in breeding (such as the short back) and think that this would have no consequences for the German Spitz as a breed in the holistic sense.


Likewise, the hunting associations would certainly not have adopted the Spitz for no reason or even bred him themselves - completely trusting in his reputation as a reliable farm dog - if the Wolfspitz or the black Giant Spitz had shown even the hint of a hunting drive back then. In the 1950s to 1970s, the Spitz was even advertised in the trade magazines “Der Deutsche Jäger” and “Wild und Hund” (hunter's magazines) as showing no interest in hunting. In a standard book for hunters ("Die Jägerprüfung"/ "The Hunter Examination"), the comments on paragraph 25 of the hunting law still answer the question  "Which breed of dog is recommended for the country as a guard dog?" with "The German Giant Spitz or the Wolfsspitz. They don't poach."


Therefore, the answer to whether the German Spitz is a hunter or not is quite simply “no”. The Spitz doesn't hunt!


"Der Deutsche Spitz" Nr. 4 (1953), Nr. 27 (1960), Nr. 28 (1961), Nr. 42 (1965), Nr. 47 (1967), Nr. 49 (1968), "Der Deutsche Spitz in Wort und Bild" (1937), "Dillzeitung" (26.07.1963), "Der Hessenbauer" (10.04.1965), "Deutsche Jagdzeitung" (10.07.1966), "Oberhessische Zeitung" (02.12.1965), "Tierfreund" (09.09.1965), "Amtliches Nachrichtenblatt des Deutschen Tierschutzbundes" (Dezember 1966), Ludwig Beckmann "Geschichte und Beschreibung der Rassen des Hundes" (1895) and various correspondence from the Hesse State Hunting Association


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