"We only have to take one step on the street, and it won't be long before we see a spitz-like dog, wherever it may be, from Petersburg down to Italy. There are only a few breeds that are so widespread and yet find just as few large-scale breeders." One of the great-grandfathers of German cynology, Richard Strebel, wrote this around 1903.
His observation from more than 100 years ago still applies today: Spitz, especially its oldest variety in Germany, the Wolfsspitz, has been largely spared from professional breeders and fashion breeding. The Spitz still looks the same as ever, natural and robust. Apparently, however, his appearance lacks the spectacular or heartfelt quality that fashion dogs create. In terms of character, this smart jack-of-all-trades also lacks the adaptability that suddenly turns a dog into a cuddly toy - he is and remains a rogue. By the way, Americans call our Wolfsspitz “Laughing Dutchman”. And in fact, his dark face with the pointed ears on his fox-like head always seems to grin a little mischievously.
The Wolfsspitz was widespread throughout Central Europe before and around 1900, with the Rhine being the main place of the breed. Already in the early 18th century, the Wolfspitz can be identified as a type of breed, including as the favorite dog of the English King George III. and George IV - long before many other dog breeds.
The French name "Chien Loup" (Loup = Wolf) seems to have been in use in France already in the middle of the 18th century for a Spitz-like dog - and the Wolfsspitz is still called "Spitz Loup" there today. Perhaps the gray color was the inspiration for the name, perhaps the name is also derived from the pointed, wolf-like ears and the wolf-like fur - at least that is how the Comte de Buffon described it.
He described a dog that was similar to shepherd dogs or sheepdogs, had distinct Spitz's attributes, and which he called a "wolf dog". According to Dr. Friedrich Ludwig Walter, the Wolfsspitz is listed as a subspecies of the "small Pomeranian" (not the English version of our Toy Spitz, but the Spitz that comes from Eastern-German region Pomerania), which was primarily found among carters. Stonehenge (London, 1859), on the other hand, knew not only the white Spitz, which was widespread at the time, but also a "Pomeranian Wolf-Dog", which - again another explanation of the name - protected the sheep from the wolves. Dr. Reichenbach in his 1936 book "Der Hund in seinen Haupt- und Nebenracen" (The Dog in its main and secondary Races), he sees the Wolfsspitz as a breeding variety in the Pyrenees, Ardennes, Hungary, Poland, etc. A nice proof of this is the male dog "Molly" (born around 1900), shown below on the left, who was called a Wolfsspitz at the time despite his coloring.
With all four authors, it is definitely clear how fluid the transitions between races were until the end of the 19th century. So you couldn't really differentiate for a long time between large Spitz and German Shepherds, which is not least what the name "Hütespitz" (Herding-Spitz) reminds us of. Beckmann (1895) wrote: "At the present time, the Spitz group includes a fairly large number of constant breeds, but also many transitional forms and varieties, which are partly reminiscent of sheepdogs and partly of wolf-like dogs and are difficult to separate from them." And Kynophilos Actaenon also sorts the Spitz and the shepherd dogs together into one breed in his 1781 book “Ausführliche Geschichte der Hunde" (Detailed History of Dogs):"Shepherd dog, Spitz or herding dog as the ancestor."
Overall, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Wolfsspitz was even closer to the German Shepherd Dog than the pure white Giant Spitz. The Wolfspitz was always bred separately from the other varieties and was considered more of the wolf dog category than of the Spitz in the narrower sense. White Spitzes were probably considered more noble because of their color, and therefore became a separate breed earlier than the original Wolfsspitz. Even with the beginning of breeding by dog clubs, the Wolfsspitz continued to be bred more or less separately from all other colors until the 20th century, although there has always been only one standard for all Spitz. He was almost never crossed with white, while frequent pairings with black Giant Spitzes mostly appeared between the two world wars. Therefore, today's Wolfsspitz is most closely related to the black Giant Spitz, because if you trace the ancestry of the black Giant Spitz back, you will inevitably come across Wolfsspitzes after a few generations. Conversely, there is still “black blood” in the Wolfsspitz, as they were still allowed to be bred with the black Giant Spitz until 1965.
Some authors even assume that the Wolfsspitz must be the actual ancestor of the German Spitz, due to its rustic coloring. However, this cannot really be clarified because the sources are too sparse.
A detailed discussion of the history of Spitz can be found in my articles "The History of the German Spitz up to the 19th Century" and "The history of the German Spitz from the 20th century".
With the advent of the breed standard for the German Spitz in 1899, promising breeding with the Wolfsspitz also began to develop, unfortunately the First World War put paid to many breeding efforts. After the war, for some time only one breeder was active in Germany: Mathäus Salomon from Bavarian city Schweinfurt with his Wolfsspitz kennel "Am Ziel". In the years after the war, almost every litter of Wolfspitz came from Salomon's kennel, so one can say that his kennel was the nucleus of the German Wolfsspitz population at the time.
Before World War I, most Wolfsspitz were of a variety of lighter weight, which I would call the "fox type", but due to the massive food shortages during the war many of them had to be killed and a new type of heavier dogs prevailed. However, some offspring of the lighter type found their way to England and were used in the breeding of Keeshonds there.
The heavier post-war Wolfspitz, on the other hand, was the dog of the teamster and the winegrower, the farmer and the gardener, and was at home on the banks of the Rhine. It was usually ash or slate gray and tended to have an apple head and a blunt snout. He had a tremendous coat of hair and much more undercoat than the more old-fashioned and lighter type. He was really and truly the giant among the German Spitzes; But even if we Germans love size, it shouldn't come at the expense of the general appearance. Therefore, after a few years, they came back to a middle type - a compromise type - by merging the existing breeds.
From the 1920s onwards, the demand for Wolfsspitzes increased again. Most of the kennels at that time can definitely be described as professional breeders, most of which had their own stud dogs and always several active breeding bitches.
The dog show industry was also experiencing rapid growth - until the Second World War put a stop to everything. Nevertheless, the breed increased. While only 68 Wolfsspitzes were registered in 1928, in 1944 there were already 791.
The enormous demand that the Wolfsspitzes experienced during the Second World War and shortly afterward - while numerous other breeds almost completely declined - is definitely a phenomenon. In 1948 an incredible number of 1,561 Wolfspitzes were recorded in the German studbook! Perhaps the Wolfsspitz had everything you need for bad times: he is an undemanding guard dog that does not require much care and is so modest that it can also get by on potatoes (which was emphasized at the time). As a down-to-earth German breed, the Wolfsspitz probably enjoyed a certain amount of support, especially since breeding at the time placed a lot of emphasis on serviceability and the Wolfsspitz was very popular in being trained as a protection dog. In addition, puppies were of course a kind of "living currency" at that time,
From 1949 onwards, the number of registrations at Wolfsspitz fell sharply. On the one hand, this was because the GDR stud book was founded, and many breeders were based in East Germany, and on the other hand, the introduction of the obligation to evaluate the parent animals ensured that many kennels disappeared as quickly as they came. The German Spitz Club wasn't all that sad about it, because enough dogs had been produced during the war years that bore little resemblance to a Wolfsspitz. This meant they could focus on the quality of the animals rather than the quantity.
After the war, a few old breeders were still active, who, together with the dogs from the hunting associations, formed the starting point for the Wolfsspitz breeding in the post-war period.
The Spitz friends also got together again in Eastern Germany after the war and founded the "Zuchtgemeinschaft für Deutsche Spitze" (Breeding Community for German Spitz) in 1951. The desired type was a rather smaller Wolfsspitz, even the male dogs were barely more than 49 cm tall. From 1959, the pedigree dog breeders belonged to the VKSK (Verband der Kleingärtner, Siedler und Kleintierzüchter/club of gardeners, settlers and small animal breeders). The regulations in the club were strict, so breeding suitability tests and offspring assessments were mandatory, and HD examinations were carried out as early as the 1960s. The excessive use of popular sires was characteristic of GDR breeding. Since the narrow breeding base required regular blood refreshments, Wolfsspitzes were repeatedly imported from West Germany.
After the German Spitz Club advertised the Wolfsspitz as a non-hunting dog in farmers' and hunting newspapers, the number of registrations in Western Germany climbed again from 1962 onwards. Since the end of the 1980s, around 200 puppies have been registered in Germany every year, which means that the popularity of the Wolfsspitz has remained fairly constant since the war.
After the Wall fell in 1989 from October 1, 1990, the club's stud book office of the German Spitz Club was solely responsible for new entries - a special moment that ended the forty-year separation of East and West Spitz. Unfortunately, most of the old GDR lines were soon lost, certainly due to the uncertain economic situation. Also, many of the GDR males were not used for breeding as much as it would have made sense, because the Spitzes of Eastern Germany were of surprisingly good quality.
"The Wolfsspitz is the giant among all German Spitzes and, despite its size, is still of the highest elegance. There are Wolfsspitzes that reach a weight of up to 30 kg. However, it should always be noted that the pursuit of size does not satisfy one's overall appearance and temperament It has been observed that Wolfsspitzes that are too large can easily become too long in the back and that their ears sometimes stand apart, which would definitely affect the overall impression. Such Spitzes also easily lose the peculiar, pointed temperament that Prussian King Frederick the Great characterized as "Toujours en vedette" (= always on guard). The correct Wolfsspitz should, in addition to the color, also be close in size of the Wolfe, so that a back height of at least 50 cm is considered normal size."
From 1937 Book "Der Deutsche Spitz in Wort und Bild" (The German Spitz in Words and Pictures)
The Wolfsspitz is our largest Spitz. He is the bigger German version of the Dutch Keeshond (that was bred out of Wolfspitzes) and was previously used to pull small carts due to his size.
Wolfspitzes must have looked quite different at the beginning of the studbook recording, both in size and type. Until this time, large Spitz and German Shepherd dogs could hardly be distinguished from each other and were cared for together by a “Verein zur Züchtung Deutscher Schäferhunde und Spitze” (Club for the Breeding of German Shepherd Dogs and Spitzes). That's why Beckmann wrote as late as 1895 from the “Group of the Spitzes” that there were many transitional forms and varieties, some of which were reminiscent of Shepherd Dogs and others of wolf dogs. It was probably not that easy to turn this still very original breed, which had just jumped off the coach seat, into a modern dog with a uniform type. As with so many other breeds, the Wolfsspitz also had various regional breeds. The three males pictured here from breeder Charles Kammerer (one of the founder of the "German Spitz Club") each represent a different Wolfsspitz type or regional breed:
The first standard, which still describes the Wolfsspitz very well today, was established in 1900 and is based on a standard that was twenty years older and was established in 1880 at a dog show in Berlin. In this standard, the term "Fuhrmannsspitz" (in other sources it is also referred to as "Karrenspitz", which means "wagon Spitz", the dog that sat on the coach and protected the goods) was used as a synonym for the Wolfsspitz, which gives a clear indication of its main field of activity.
The 1900 standard left plenty of room for discussion about the preferred type of Wolfsspitz. Surprisingly, this standard also provided for two different head types that did not exist before:
"Wolfsspitz - medium size, seen from above, the top of the head appears widest at the back and narrows in a wedge shape to the tip of the nose; viewed from the side, moderate forehead, top of head almost flat. "
"White and black Spitz - medium size; seen from above, the head formation shows some jowls, the snout area is not too long, always in relation to the top of the head (forehead length), the forehead heel is as strong as possible, the forehead is also strongly arched, everything on the top of the head is rounded and nothing square or flat."
In the time before the first breed standard, however, there was never any talk of a flat head with little stop; back then there were mostly Wolfsspitz with the rounder head type. There were heated discussions about this in the club in 1907, but ultimately the flatter Wolfsspitz-head emerged as the sole breeding goal. However, opinions on this were divided. Other sticking points included the position of the tail (lying on the back or hanging to the side like the Giant Spitz) and the pattern of the fur. Brown and yellow tones in the fur were viewed with great reluctance. By 1902 at the latest, other colors for the Wolfsspitz were finally over. So the word “gray” was deleted from the Wolfsspitz standard, there were no longer any gray Wolfsspitzes, but only “the Wolfsspitz” with clear distinction. This meant that all other colors for the Wolfsspitz were cancelled - such as brown ones. Eyes that were too light were just as disliked as yellow tones and were therefore criticized very, very often. Dark eyes were such a peculiarity at the time that they were explicitly highlighted in the judge's report.
After the Second World War, an assessment requirement for parent animals was introduced, which paved the way for more planned breeding and a more uniform type. Nevertheless, there were still very different types of Wolfsspitz for years. The pre-war Wolfsspitz was probably a lighter species and more “fox-like” in appearance. After the war, a heavier, larger type prevailed, with a thicker coat and more undercoat. But although the credo for the Wolfsspitz was "the bigger, the better", the size could not come at the expense of the overall impression.
From 1939 the veterinarian Dr. Miller, who was the editor of the German Spitz Club's newspaper "Der Deutsche Spitz", paved the way for the recognition and introduction of the Wolf Spitz as a service dog at the police and German Army.
As far as the character of the old Wolfsspitzes was concerned, people at that time wanted to see a particularly aggressive Wolfsspitz in the show ring. Dogs were praised as being “particularly aggressive” or downgraded because they were “not aggressive enough”. In 1969, the general studward Werner Jäger commented as follows:
"Even if we are criticized from abroad that our large Spitz and Wolfsspitz are too aggressive, I am absolutely against breeding with parents with weak temperaments. I prefer an aggressive Spitz to a kind and friendly 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."
Although there are also statements to the contrary, there must have been something in the “aggressiveness” of the old Wolfsspitz at the time. It is not without reason that Julius Wipfel "defused" the old German Wolfsspitz by creating the gentler and more sociable Eurasier by crossing the Chow Chow.
The changes made to the standard since 1900 mostly concerned the issue of size. The size of the Wolfsspitz was determined in 1900 as follows: "Male and female dogs, if possible 45 cm, any size above this is permitted; the larger, the better, but the overall appearance must not suffer from the size." Even back then, the type was more important than the size and until 1974, any size over 45 cm was permitted for the Wolfsspitz, as long as the general appearance was correct. It was not until 1975 that the passage in question was changed to "45 cm to 55 cm height at the withers (but a maximum of 60 cm)". The 1900 standard only underwent fundamental changes with the 1990 version - it was adapted and expanded to the FCI scheme - and with the 1994 standard, which included the Keeshond and therefore had to be significantly revised in several places.
According to the standard, the Wolfsspitz is only permitted in the color “Gray Cloudy”. In genetics, this color is also called "agouti": each hair is clearly divided into two zones, a light one at the base and a dark one at the tip. The lighter part is fawned or sand-colored; the darker portion - colored by Eumelanin - shows the varying expressions of this pigment, ranging from blue to brown to black. Theoretically, all conceivable combinations of these shades are possible, with Wolfsspitz gray being the most common variant. The cloudiness can also be different and extend very differently, which is why some animals appear almost black, others appear more light gray.
There were and are also other colors in Wolfsspitz, so-called “different colored” Wolfsspitzes. For example, in 1991, four Wolfsspitz puppies were born in the "Darkenwald Keeshonden" kennel in the USA, only one puppy was wolfgrey, the other puppies were orange and cream with reddish hair tips. Because of the light eyes and noses, I suspect that the puppies suffered from dilution, but - according to the breeder Suzette Lefebvre - they were never tested for it. If you take the thought further, then these puppies would certainly have been brown clouded without the brightening.
Wolfsspitzes of a different color is said to have existed in Germany shortly after the Second World War. Even before 1900, brown or brown-clouded Wolfsspitzes were mentioned in particular, which at that time were a variant of Wolfsspitz. Unfortunately, not a single old photo of such a Wolfsspitz can be found. Until 1957, these special colors were recognized by the German breed standard and also by the FCI, but remained a rarity. For example, of 111 Wolfsspitz puppies born in 1936, only three brownish-gray ones were recorded. One of these was "Stropp vom Lauerhaas" (WT August 14, 1932, stud book no. 12018), which author Alice Gatacre describes in "The Keeshond" (1938), page 110 as follows:"A beautiful, typical Spitz, but of a most unusual color. His outer hairs were bright orange, and his undercoat a pale cream. Most startling and most attractive." This beautiful animal, with its unusual color but typical in appearance, was three-quarters descended from Wolfsspitzes and one quarter from black Giant Spitzes. On his father's side he came from the then famous black champion "Tellas" and on his mother's side he is related to the gray Wolfsspitz bitch "Alma vom Dörfle", as well as to the imported animals "Cely von Jura" and "Alli von der Sternwarte".
How did the colored Wolfsspitzes come about? Gray parents sometimes give birth to black puppies. These are often castrated because of the incorrect color, but their gray littermates sometimes also carry the gene for black fur, as well as the recessive gene for brown, and can therefore also pass on their color genetics. In the right combination, these color genetics can then produce the rare brown or orange Wolfsspitzes.
The brown-clouded "Elk von der Schmidburg" (one of Kuno's ancestors), born in 1944, as well as other differently colored Wolfsspitzes were even entered into the selection group and used for breeding, although all color variants were by no means mixed up. From 1958 onwards the differently colored ones were (unfortunately) removed from the standard because from then on the focus was on pure color breeding. Nevertheless, there were occasional orange Wolfsspitz puppies in Holland and white Wolfsspitz puppies were born in South Africa in 1972, one of which came to the Netherlands, where it was bred as a white Giant Spitz. Colored puppies are still born sometimes (especially in American kennels), so it would certainly be possible to build up targeted lines of Wolfsspitzes in other colors if wanted.
The Wolfsspitz was suitable for all kinds of guarding tasks, and even as a herding dog, but he seems to have had two main fields of activity: on the one hand he was a "Schifferspitz" (barge dog) on the inland barges on the Rhine and in Holland and on the other hand he was notorious as a wagon's dog. While in southern Germany the black Spitz is said to have protected the coaches and wagons, in the "Bergisches Land" and on the Lower Rhine the Wolfsspitz was also present.
With the advent of the railway, the wagons and their four-legged companions disappeared more and more, but the barge-Spitzes continued to serve the river barges for decades. The Dutch Wolfsspitz breeder Stenfert Kroese remembers:
"When I was a girl, we lived near the water in Rotterdam. When we went to school, we had fun hopping and jumping up and down the planks that led to the Rhine barges, making great noise. We incited the Keeshonds on the ships to outbursts of anger, but generally speaking, we knew we were pretty safe, because a Keeshond would never, ever leave his boat unless it was with his master."
Of course, in the 19th century, the Wolfsspitz was mainly kept on farms, because this was where the carters got their dogs from. There are also reports that the Wolfsspitz was once even used as a herding dog:
"With astonishing certainty he finds lost cattle, rounds them up in the milking place, takes care of the attitude, drives them on the road. In doing so, he hits the cattle with his muzzle as much as possible without grabbing it." (G. Dangelleit 1972).
This description also suggests the Spitz's heel bite, essential for driving pigs and cattle. While the border collie, for example, manages to control the sheep accordingly by restraining them, pigs and cows are quite self-confident people who can also assess how big their canine counterpart is in comparison to them and therefore do not allow themselves to be bullied by them without contradicting themselves. Here, only the heel bite allows the dog to actually act on the cattle in order to drive it forward or steer it accordingly.
Even today, farmers are amazed to find that a proper Wolfsspitz can practically replace several dogs and that it can be used in a variety of ways without having to be taught everything individually. Therefore, in addition to his other activities, he is also a recognized four-legged alarm system, mouse catcher and nanny. Furthermore, Wolfsspitzes have also been used as protection dogs and guide dogs and, as the largest representative, were previously approved for police dog examination.
The Wolfsspitz is an all-rounder and is therefore very flexible in its areas of application. The main thing is that he's allowed to be there, then he'll really join in with any nonsense. Nevertheless, he is always on the alert should someone try to encroach on his master's property. He looks after the apartment and the house, as well as the car or bike, the caravan anyway or just the mistress on the leash. Wolfsspitzes are attached to their people and everything that belongs to these people. Therefore, as is typical for a German Spitz, a Wolfsspitz initially reacts suspiciously to strangers without being too aggressive on its own. With its impressive mane, raised tail and “hello-here-I-am” demeanor, the Wolfsspitz always makes a somewhat provocative impression - especially on other dogs.
In terms of character, the Wolfsspitz is a very strong and instinctively confident dog with strong nerves and a balanced nature. His temperament is always exactly adapted to the situation. The proud, self-confident and independent creature absolutely cannot stand any drill or stubborn coercion. However, the Wolfsspitz rewards patience, empathy and loving consistency in training with loyalty and protectiveness, because it learns and obeys differently than, for example, a German Shepherd. You have to make it clear to him what you want from him and explain it to him calmly. Wolfsspitzes are not easily intimidated by a sharp voice and are more likely to react with a “F*ck me!” Nevertheless, the Wolfsspitz is not generally stubborn, he just quickly gets bored with constant repetition, because he prefers to always learn something new. But of course there are also individuals here with a particularly strong tendency towards stubbornness.
The Wolfsspitz is very adaptable to different living conditions, so there is no "one" type of buyer that is most suitable. 100 or 200 years ago, he was at home not only on farms, but also on wagons and barges, and can therefore cope in a spatially restricted environment - as long as he is allowed to have a close bond with his family. Wolfsspitzes are very people-oriented, but without necessarily being intrusive. The Wolfsspitz only becomes nervous when he can no longer find his master or mistress, then you find him really distraught and desperately searching. He easily accepts other pets as part of the pack. Only mice and rats are exempt from this, because like all Pomeranians, Wolfsspitz is also an excellent destroyer of vermin.
Speaking of destroyers: the Wolfsspitz is also an excellent food destroyer, because a Wolfsspitz is actually always hungry. Unfortunately, many Wolfsspitzes are too fat due to their appetite and the good nature of their owners - often it's not just the fur that makes them look so round. Since excess weight affects the circulation, joints and internal organs, you are not doing your dog any favors if you respond to every begging.
The Wolfsspitz prefers to lie like a frog, with the hind legs either angled laterally or stretched straight back. Of course, this looks particularly cute on puppies.
His favorite place is in the open front door or on the terrace or balcony, where he can see everything well from an elevated place. Of course, he loves walks, but you don't have to run him tired or "work him out" like other breeds. The Wolfsspitz loves to spend time in the great outdoors. Since he ideally doesn't stray or hunt, you can easily let him run without a leash.
By the way, Wolfsspitzes have a surprisingly good sense for tricky situations and then outgrow themselves; an otherwise reserved dog can become a devil when push comes to shove. Such a good guard naturally also has the ability to react flexibly and appropriately to the respective situation.
Wolfspitzes also have a surprisingly powerful and deep voice. Anyone who only hears the barking of the Wolfsspitz suspects that there is a huge dog behind the front door, and is often surprised at how much smaller the four-legged alarm system is. You really can't ignore a Wolfsspitz sounding the alarm. He is born to guard and protect.
Incidentally, a Wolfsspitz is most lovable in its familiar surroundings; here it becomes a clown and shows its cheerful and cheeky nature. Because of the extraordinary expressiveness of his face, you have the feeling that he really understands every word. If he listens. And if he has time. And motivation...
Britta Schweikl "Der Wolfsspitz", Alice Gatacre "The Keeshond", "Brehms Tierleben", Strebel "Die deutschen Hunde", Hans Räber "Enzyklopädie der Rassehunde", Knaur/ Ruperti "Schöne Hunde", "Das Lexikon der Hundefreunde", www.darkenwaldkees.com, www.spitzliebhaberverein.de