The lovely alarm system

German Spitz as a burglar fright

A few years ago, the German Federal Criminal Police Office conducted a survey of incarcerated crooks as to what would most likely deter them from committing a burglary. More than 50 percent of those surveyed said they would never enter a house or apartment where a dog lives. The size of the dog didn't matter at all, because the burglar can't see the "barking" alarm system behind the door, but can only hear it. Even the neighbor's barking dog has the same effect on many crooks. However, it is not the fear of a dog bite that deters burglars. Rather, it is the attention that the barking dog attracts that deters them from burglarizing. According to police observations, not only common thieves, but also beggars and tricksters avoid a house with a dog.


Lots of good reasons to own a dog. However, even more productive than a "normal" dog would be the acquisition of a proper guard dog, whose breed has been selected for centuries to protect the master's property. What breed of dog am I thinking of?! 😉

The dog's first job: guard

"God first created man, and when he saw how weak he was, he gave him the dog."


This French proverb refers to the ancient companionship of man and dog. The first, i.e. the oldest activity of the dog, which he carried out in ancient times and immediately after he started following man, was the function of the guard at the campfire. Only the dog as protector and defender of livestock, houses and fruits made private property possible as an elementary basis for a more highly developed society. Man could only master this milestone in human development with the help of dogs.

guard dog Hanover middle ages
Historical frieze in Hanover shows a city guard in the Middle Ages with his dog, both watch over the entrance to the city [5]

Even in the oldest times, we have found the guard dog in Germany called "Howawarth" as the guardian of house and yard. The "Hofwart" (= yard guard) was assigned his place on the dunghill from early times, which is why he was called "Mistbella" (= dunghill barker) in Old High German or "Mistbello" in Middle High German, an expression that has been preserved for many centuries. [4] The German saying "the dog is brave on his dunghill" owes its origin to this custom. The Howawarth fulfilled his guard duty with such a profound effect that one only gets a clear idea of it when one learns that after the defeat of the Germanic Cimbri tribe, the Romans still had to endure heavy fights with the dogs that protected their houses. At least that's what Ernst Floeßel reports. [3] 


But it's not just the big dogs that have stood out as guardians. Already in ancient Rome there are reports of lapdogs that were trained to bark violently at approaching thieves, while they used to let the mistress's lovers in without barking, which is what this verse tells us:


"I attacked the thieves, 

I let the lovers in,

So could Mr. and Mrs

Be happy with me."


In the Middle Ages, Konrad von Megenberg (1309-1374) not only singled out the dog from the rest of the animals in his "Book of Nature", since the dog was the only one among all animals to know his own name and would even die for his master, but also mentioned the function of the guard dog quite prominently: dogs drove thieves out of the houses entrusted to them with great hatred. 

Church, cemetery, field: jobs for the guard dog

German Spitz Wolfspitz Keeshond yard guard dog history middle ages Luttrell-Psalter
A spitz-like farm dog attacks a wandering tinker

Only very sparse information can be found in German literature about the dog's service as a guard. However, the lack of sources does not mean that the faithful house and farm guard meant little to people or had little value for them. On the contrary: the value of the dog was absolutely priceless when one considers the amount of wealth that has been almost blindly entrusted to these dogs over the millennia. 


In the centuries of the Middle Ages, where huge riches often lay hidden in the isolated castles and fortresses, the loyal guards of these treasures were called the "castle's dogs", whose howls could be heard in the valley from the high-altitude castles and fortresses down.


In general, the guard dog was used primarily to protect crops and livestock against night theft, as well as to guard boats and carriages.


Night watchmen were given a guard dog to alert them to dangers and protect them from physical attacks. 


One service entrusted to the dogs with reverent care was that which they performed as cemetery guards. The dogs ensured that the resting places of the dead were adequately protected even during the night. Dogs as cemetery guards were primarily used in large cities, such as Dresden. 


Much less well known is the use of dogs as church guardsBerstenmeier [2] mentions that dogs were used to guard the cathedral in old Strasbourg. And yes: in the past, dogs were generally allowed to be taken to church, also during church services.

What do the Spitz and chopped off dog legs have to do with each other?

dog middle ages chain nobility wooden clap hunting dog German Spitz
A shepherd dog with a wooden clap

From the late Middle Ages onwards, the nobility wanted to establish a monopoly on dog ownership. This monopoly was intended to serve as a safeguard against poaching farm dogs, but above all to manifest the right to hunt as a privilege of the nobility. Various legal enactments were particularly aimed to restrict the freedom of movement of the farmer's dog: guard dogs had to be on a chain, herding dogs were "gebüngelt", which means that the farmer was obliged to give his farm dog a big wooden clap on the front of the collar to hang, which then hindered the dogs running that it became almost impossible for him to chase deer.  


The "Schweizer Bilderchronik" (Swiss Picture Chronicle) reports on a much more drastic approach by the government against the farm dogs: In 1489, the mayor of Zurich, Hans Waldmann, had all the farm dogs killed so as not to be hindered in his hunting pleasure. Incidentally, the text contains an explicit comment on the function of farm dogs: guarding duty over the house and herding duty over the herdElector Augustus of Saxony, who ruled from 1559 to 1586, also forced the chain or the wooden clap on farm dogs. However, since these regulations allegedly did not help against illegal poaching of dogs, under August's successor, Christian I, all dogs that were taken into the fields by the farmers had to have their front legs chopped off. However, since the farmers were dependent on their dogs - to protect their farms, their livestock and their harvests - the nobility's request could not be implemented economically in the long term.


Finally, one breed of dog, the Spitz, was bred so that he had no hunting instinct. Such a Spitz without hunting ambitions was finally granted to farmers by the nobility. 

The ideal guard dog: how is he, what does he look like?

black Spitz German Giant Spitz guard dog
The way he looks.....😲

Firstly, I have to clearly differentiate between real guard dogs and pseudo guard dogs. German Spitzes are real guard dogs, breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs are not. They are called "Shepherd Dogs" because they were the shepherd's dogs, but they were never selected for the task of guard dogs. A real guard dog's task is innate and deeply anchored in his genes. You can tell this from the fact that you don't need to teach a Spitz how to do his job, he can just do it like that.


A number of physical and character requirements are linked to the dog's function as a guard, in accordance with the credo that I often quote: "Form follows function". So what does he have to be like, the proper guard dog?


Columella already reports in his work on agriculture that the body of a guard dog must be strong and stocky, with a broad chest and a medium-long neck (because dogs with short necks are bad biters - and as a last resort, a guard dog should also be able to bite strongly).


Black dogs have always been preferred over all other colors because they appear more fearsome during the day and cannot be seen at night. Such an invisible dog can of course catch a burglar much more easily than a white dog that the crook can see coming from afar. Imagine the shock that goes through the thief's limbs when the black Spitz - shooting out of the darkness as fast as an arrow - attacks him.


For a good guard dog, it is not about athleticism and endurance, since he only carries out his duties in the immediate area, but rather about the fact that his entire physical appearance appears impressive to shady characters. In addition to having a lot of power when jumping, he also has the ability to gallop really fast in order to be able to get there as quickly as possible and to be able to attack strongly if necessary. 

Mick Dion Märchenwald
I wouldn't mess with him: Giant Spitz "Mick vom Märchenwald"

But let's let the books speak for us:


"Above all, he should be alert and also black in color, so that by day he may appear all the more terrible and hideous to the prowling lewds, and by night in the dark he may not be recognized or seen by anyone. He must have a bright and strong voice or a moderately terrible bark. His cry should not be too hideous. If he is too sweet and gentle, then thieves won't be afraid of him at night [...] unfriendly towards all strangers, especially at night, but all the more demure and more friendly towards the members of the household and the pets belonging to the house, which he should neither shy away from, bite nor attack, but rather let pass safely." [1]


As can be seen from the quote, the guard dog must be suspicious of strangers, but melts like butter in a pan in the presence of his family, which means that the good guard must have a strong willingness to bond with his family. So to speak, “hard on the outside, tender on the inside”.


The quote also makes it very clear that a guard dog neither must attack the local animals nor fear them, but must show great harmlessness towards them. 


A condition for the guard dog's deterrent effect that should not be underestimated is his voice: the barking itself simply has to be impressive! Whenever I visit friends in the village of Penkendorf in Poland, I am always amused by the neighbor's dog. This one is kept on a chain and - even though he's really not a small dog - his bark is so squeaky, funny and high that you simply can't take him seriously. Especially not as a guard!


By the way, size is never important for a guard dog; in fact, small dogs do just as good a job as the big ones. These dogs ran around freely at night, barking at the slightest noise, and when they thought they saw an uninvited visitor, even the smallest dog barked so piercingly and persistently that the intruder usually immediately ran away.  

And who is the best guard dog? The German Spitz of course!

German Spitz Giant Spitz chain dog guard dog
A black Giant Spitz as a guard dog - which, however, is absurdly kept on a chain

On the much-discussed question of which dog breed is particularly most suitable as a guard dog, Ernst Floeßel tells us the following anecdote:


The famous lawyer Odillon-Barrot once took on the task of defending a thief and succeeded in getting him acquitted. To show his gratitude, the thief visited the lawyer and wanted to offer him a fairly significant sum of money. However, the lawyer refused the money and asked the thief for advice.


“I have a house in the countryside,” he said. What is the best way to protect myself against thieves?”


“Sir, ” replied the thief, "keep a dog, but trust me, a small dog, not a big one. As for the big ones, we sometimes bribe them, but never the Spitzes. They bark so loud at the slightest noise that they scare us away.”


So if you are looking for an incorruptible guard dog, you should buy a German Spitz based on the opinion of this “expert”! 😎

"Spitz, you telltale!"

The German word "Spitzel" means "informer" in the crook's language of Rotwelsch and describes someone who has told something to the police, who has snitched. Maybe this is also where the breed's name comes from? Or the other way around? Is the "Spitzel" named after the "Spitz"? 🤷🏼

Spitz dog guard
A Spitz figurine in a typical guarding position

As an incorruptible guardian, the Spitz has always guarded house and yard. German Spitzes are "heimtreu", which means they do not leave the farm or property. Nevertheless, the German Spitz is a son of the nature and only when he has his freedom is he in his element, only then does his physical beauty and elegance come into its own. His extremely restless and lively temperament makes him unsuitable for kennels and chains, and he would have a really sad existence there. In addition, a caged or chained guard dog is useless because he cannot really effectively protect its family from danger.


German Spitzes are extremely property-conscious. They almost identify with their master's property, which they then see as their "territory" and defend it uncompromisingly.

Kuno Windhainersee German Spitz Wolfspitz Keeshond stray poach hunt
A German Spitz doesn't stray, even without a fence.

"The citizen who knows how to protect his castle will prove himself", German poet Ludwig Uhland once said.


It is precisely this character trait that the Spitz has, as he has a wealth of virtues that make a good family dog. By nature, he is a peaceful but mischievous bundle of energy who is lovingly devoted to his family pack. Robust and insensitive to the effects of the weather, he likes to be quick on his paws so that he doesn't miss any incident, which he comments on with the grumpy manner that is characteristic of his breed. He remains unfailingly loyal to his friends, and when it comes to his enemies, he instinctively recognizes them immediately.


He's actually a clever guy. He is suspicious and dismissive of strangers. However, not everyone is worthy of being the “object of his wrath.” But once he finally decides to fight, he shows unbridled grit and courage. 


What a great guy, right?! However, in order for the German Spitz to properly carry out his duties as an incorruptible guardian, you have to pay attention to some special features:


(1) A guard dog is only incorruptible when he is fed up. Therefore, there should be always enough food available to him so that he is completely satisfied - so that he doesn't even get the idea of being bribed by strangers or attacking the farm animals because of his growling stomach. And seriously: a dog that is entrusted with the great task of protecting all of his people's belongings should also be allowed to eat enough. Or to say it with old Hesiod:


"On sharp-toothed dogs cared for, do not spare the bread, 

So that no man who sleeps through the day steals your goods." [6]

German Spitz boat guardian
A Giant Spitz guards a boat

Incidentally, old literature indicates that large amounts of meat should be denied to both shepherd dogs and guard dogs, as this may cause the dogs to become greedy and has bad influence on the dog's impulse control. That may be the case, but it doesn't have to be. Either way, at no time in the past has a farm dog like the Spitz been constantly fed such quantities of meat as is currently the case. Here's a little insight into how dogs were fed in old times: "The vegetarian dog"Dogs are omnivores like us humans and should be fed like that, then they will be full and subsequently incorruptible. 


(2) The breed standard for the German Spitz states "The Spitz is naturally suspicious"You should support this character trait and not let everyone pet the young dog if you want to support Spitz's guardian qualities. For the time being, the young Spitz should only be raised in his closest environment; this and his family should be his kingdom and nothing else. Only in this way can his characteristic traits be preserved, only in this way will the Spitz remain what he has always been: a loyal, incorruptible and good guardian for whom there is only his family and their property. You should build on these characteristics and take advantage of them. These are the threads that later become chains.

The dog as the safest protection against burglary

Mittel Spitz guard dog burglar aus dem Norden Gringo
Click for translation! [7]

According to the observation of the Austrian cynologist Hellmuth Wachtel, dogs are still the best protectors of property and his people today when he reports: "A survey of the police chiefs of fifty cities in the Federal Republic of Germany has shown that, even in the age of technology and alarm systems a dog, regardless of whether it is small or large, represents the safest protection against burglars." Another advantage of the "dog alarm system" is that it is always on duty - it even works in the event of a power failure.


Therefore, unlike today, dog ownership was neither banned nor restricted in ancient Rome, the largest city in the world at the time. That's so right! Or to put it in the words of Cicero: "He who has a dog as a guard can sleep without worry."  Just replace the word “dog” with “Spitz”. 😜

cave canem dog guard dog

But be careful! In Germany, a dog must generally be kept in such a way that he cannot hurt others. This applies even to burglars or generally to everyone, even if they enter your property without authorization and with dubious intentions. If the dog bites, the intruder can even be awarded compensation for pain and suffering.


Therefore, if you keep a sharp German Spitz, you must ensure, according to current law, that there is a sufficiently high fence around the garden, for example, that all gates are locked and that a warning sign is attached to the garden fence. However, it is not advisable to put up a sign warning about the snappy dog, because then as a dog owner you are already admitting that your dog poses a certain risk. The signs are only intended to point out dogs running loose and prohibit entry to the property. But no matter what precautions you take, as a dog owner, you are generally liable for all damage caused by the dog. You don't have to understand.....


An alternative to the warning sign: Like the ancient Romans, you can simply have the floor in front of the entrance door tiled in the "cave canem" style. Maybe it looks a little more impressive than a lousy plastic sign. 

The Spitz in the house makes the alarm system unnecessary

German Spitz thief guard dog Rosenthal figurine porcelain
A Spitz bites in the butt of a grape thief

If the cynologist Ludwig Beckmann stated in his 1894 work "Rassen des Hundes" (The breeds of Dogs) that the Spitz surpasses all other domestic dogs in terms of alertness, that he is 24/7 suspiciously observing his territory and is always on guard, then the nature of this breed could not be more apt be referred to. The slightest suspicion causes the Spitz to become alarmed, and he knows how to clearly express his distrust with persistent, loud barking. Since this characteristic of the Spitz is usually not met with enthusiasm in our densely populated country, it is advisable to put a stop to the barking through training. And yes, that's not a problem. A German Spitz - whether big or small - doesn't have to be a yapper!


A proper Spitz knows how to vigorously protect his family's property, and he also has a surprisingly strong sense of hearing and courage. I read about a Wolfspitz who, sleeping in the hallway, started barking furiously at 2 a.m. and couldn't be calmed down. The next morning, it turned out that burglars two houses away had tried to steal through a broken window.


Our Spitzes don’t lack orientation skills, either. The owner of a Wolfspitz once had this experience when she wanted to get rid of her loyal dog. The animal was taken by train on a rainy day to his new master in a countryside about eight hours away. It was only after several days that the dog was let out of the kennel at eight in the morning in cloudy weather. He had never been in this area before. A few days later, he appeared again in the afternoon at his former home. Such orientation skills would have done credit to any police dog. 

tramp's or gypsy's sign guard dog German Spitz
A tramp's or gypsy's sign that warns of a dog in the house

There is an old saying that goes, "The prophet is worth nothing in his fatherland". And that’s exactly what happens to our German Spitz. Although he is our oldest domestic dog breed and a guard that could not be more suitable, people currently prefer to use breeds to guard house and yard that were not bred for this task, rather than remembering our Spitz. Dogs like Golden Retrievers (*rofl*), Greyhounds (huh?) or even hounds (HOUNDS!!!!) are recommended on large dog websites (for example as suitable breeds for guarding. Because they can all bark or what? I'm laughing my ass off! 😆


So remember: The German Spitz is our native watchdog breed that stands out through loyalty, attentiveness and incorruptibility. A gem among dogs. So if you want it to be a guard dog, then please get a German Spitz!

Funny stories about guarding German Spitzes 😜

The following stories describe true experiences that happened to Spitz friends with their dogs, and which vividly show how much German Spitzes identify with their family's belongings. These stories also provide excellent evidence of the versatility of these wonderful dog breed.

The most remarkable German Spitz I ever met was named Felix. Like all Spitzes, he had a strong sense of his master's property. Nothing came into the house that he didn't immediately register and include in his extremely precise inventory list. Nothing could be gotten out of the house without Felix protesting violently, loudly and persistently.


One day his master gave a pair of trousers to the gardener who had pruned the bushes and roses. The next morning, Felix was gone. It wasn't until late in the evening that he reappeared, growling, grumbling and completely exhausted. However, he couldn't stand on his own four paws - he was hanging on to the pants that still had the gardener in them. The man had been working a few blocks away. Suddenly a ball of white fur flew over the fence, pounced on the gardener, barking and baring its teeth, and bit into his pants.


They had tried friendly persuasion, threats and a few slaps. A bucket of cold water had been poured over Felix's head and a veal bone was held under his nose - Felix wanted the trousers and nothing else. Finally, the gardener had no choice but to go to Felix's master with the dog on his leg. He, in turn, had no choice but to go to the gardener's wife to get a pair of trousers from there, in which the gardener was then allowed to leave without being criticized, accompanied by happy, peaceful barking. Felix's vigilance, which you can certainly describe as excessive, is a characteristic feature of all Spitzes. However, if it is said that they are more attached to their master's property than to the master himself, then they are being slandered. But one thing can be said without reservation: the Spitz in the house saves the alarm system!

“An English friend of the breed once told an extremely amusing story: He had been given a three-year-old Spitz as a gift who had difficulty settling into his new surroundings; he was obviously mourning his old, deceased master. Day after day and week after week went by without the dog becoming happy and lively, even though every effort was made to care for him. He gradually began to eat a little better than at first, but for the time being there was no sign of vigilance, as one had rightly expected. One day, however, the spell was broken.


His new owner, who lived in a lonely country house, had asked the postman to take a package with him the next day and left it at the garden gate ready for collection. Even though the Spitz had not barked loudly, he had noticed that a stranger was removing something from the property, and he quickly followed the officer's trail. He raced silently alongside his bike, stopping at every stop until he reached the post office. When the messenger arrived here and wanted to lift the package from the bike, the dog's sharp teeth suddenly closed around his wrist and menacing growling noises could be heard. Further attempts also failed due to the animal's suddenly awakened activity, and there was nothing left but to have a second officer call the owner.


The Spitz was not impressed by friendly persuasion or threatening orders to hand over his master's supposedly stolen property. From that day on, he was his old self again, although it is noteworthy that he was one of the rarely barking dogs of his species, which - as the process described shows - does his job perfectly even without making a lot of noise."

“But in general, as a guardian, the Spitz is quickly known and feared in his surroundings. When a burglar was being questioned, he was once asked why he chose a particular house and not the magnificent villa next door for his thieving spree, when larger loot would certainly have been expected. “No,” was the answer, “there’s a Spitz who won’t even be calmed down by a sausage!”

“We also hear about a Miniature Spitz who was passionately attached to his master and his property. Although his shoulder height was less than 26 cm, he had the courage of a predator. Every evening he had to go to his bed on the first floor of the house where his owner's slaughterhouse was located. And one night in the lean post-war years it happened that a burglar was after the house's ham and sausages, but didn't count on little Spitz's constant alertness. The little guy bravely threw himself at the intruder in good old fashion and when he tried to kick him aside, his anger increased to such an extent that he bit into his pants and couldn't be shaken off. Unfortunately, the gangster managed to pull out his knife and the little dog would probably have been killed if the residents of the house hadn't rushed over, startled by the noise, and alerted the police, who picked up the uninvited visitor. The brave little dog had no fewer than seven stab wounds, which fortunately were not life-threatening.”

„A dog on a tenant farm had the task of guarding the farm's chickens - and which he courageously defended against foxes, weasels etc. Every evening, he carefully stuck his head into the hatch of the chicken coop and counted the heads of his loved ones to see if none were missing.

One day, the tenant sold three chickens to a strange merchant while the dog was absent. In the evening, as usual, the dog stuck his head into the hatch and, to his great annoyance, found the chicken group greatly reduced. Immediately the dog runs away from the village - as fast as a lightning - finds the merchant a mile away, knocks him over, grabs the basket with the three chickens from his cart, frees them and chases them back triumphantly.

The tenant, who was amazed to see the dog coming along with the flock of chickens, resolved not to sell any more chickens in the future without first informing his dog.”


I'll eat my hat if this dog wasn't a German Spitz!

[1] Franz Philipp Florinus: "Der kluge und rechtsverständige Hausvater. Ratschläge, Lehren und Betrachtungen des Franciscus Philippus Florinus" (The clever and legally savvy householder. Advice, teachings and reflections from Franciscus Philippus Florinus)

[2] Jörg Berstenmeier was a biblical writer from Ulm who worked between 1525 and 1545

[3] "Der Hund - Ein Mitarbeiter an den Werken der Menschen" (The Dog - A Collaborator in Man's Works), p. 259

[4] There is a constant problem here: the sources sometimes contradict each other considerably. Was “Mistbeller” now a synonym for the Spitz? Or was it more of a general term for guard dogs at that time? 

[5] Image source

[6] man sleeping through the day = thief

[7] "Der Deutsche Spitz" no. 136, p. 11


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