Northern breeds, also known as spitz dogs, are defined by their geographical background. They were all born of the north, suited to the harsh, cold climate of the Arctic or near-Arctic. Most of these dogs from northern climes have a decidedly similar appearance, with prick ears, a thick double coat, a sharp, foxlike face, and a tail that curls over the back.
Many of these dogs are multipurpose, serving as hunters, herders, and sled dogs as well as companions. The smaller spitz dogs of Scandinavia were generally used to herd and guard reindeer, while the larger dogs, such as the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, were primarily sled dogs. Many of the Asian spitz breeds, such as the Chow Chow, Chinese Shar-Pei and Akita, were originally guarding or fighting dogs.
Whatever their use, all the northern breeds have a tendency toward independence. Many northern breeds are aloof with people, rarely forming strong one-person relationships. Most have an innate desire to roam. Siberian Huskies, for example, are the quintessential escape artists. Owners have been known to resort to concrete and steel dog runs to keep them from escaping.
Some northern breeds have predatory instincts. They should be supervised with small animals and even babies, whose cries can sound like injured prey.
These dogs have energy to burn, so getting them involved in some sort of activity is suggested. Huskies and Malamutes do well with skijoring or sledding.
Because some are wary with strangers, these dogs should be socialized early and thoroughly. Northern breeds are independent, yet they affiliate strongly with other dogs—they are true pack animals and will be ready members of your pack as long as you establish the hierarchy early.
The northern breeds do very well with active families who are experienced with dogs. A northern breed would probably work well in your life if you hike, skijor or bike, live in a cool climate and have the time for training and exercise.
Here is a little more information on some not-as-well-known Northern Breed dogs:
Alaskan Klee Kai: The Alaskan Klee Kai is affectionate and loyal with its family but alert and wary with strangers. It is protective of its home and family, making an excellent watchdog. It requires socialization. This dog breed may not get along with children, and it has a strong prey drive. It is often described as catlike in its fastidiousness. The Alaskan Klee Kai has a high activity level and requires and experienced, firm owner. It can adapt to apartment life if provided enough exercise. It needs a fenced yard, exercise, grooming, training and socialization.
American Eskimo: The American Eskimo Dog is alert, energetic and intelligent. It is loyal, outgoing and eager to please with its friends and family but wary with strangers. This breed makes an excellent watchdog. It is clever and can be mischievous but gets along with both children and other animals. The American Eskimo Dog has a moderate activity level. This breed is adaptable and can do well in an apartment as long as it receives ample exercise. It needs attention, grooming, socialization and training.
Canadian Eskimo Dog: This is an intelligent and energetic dog that can be stubborn. It enjoys outdoor activities and a cool climate. It has a high activity level. The Canadian Eskimo Dog does best with an active owner in a suburban or rural home. This dog breed needs exercise, socialization and training.
Chinook: The Chinook is a loyal, hardworking and versatile dog. It is friendly and calm, reserved but not aggressive with strangers. Intelligent and alert, this dog breed is trainable but matures slowly. It gets along with children and other animals. The Chinook has a moderate activity level and does best with an active family or individual in a rural or suburban setting. It needs exercise, a fenced yard, grooming, indoor lifestyle, socialization and training.
Eurasier: The Eurasier is a calm, self confident dog. It is loyal and devoted to its family but wary with strangers. The Eurasier makes an excellent watchdog, as it is watchful and alert. It does not like to be left alone. This dog breed’s activity level is moderate. The Eurasier requires a dog-experienced, firm owner in a suburban or rural environment. It can’t be left alone for longer periods, needs daily exercise, firm training, grooming and socialization.
Finnish Spitz: The Finnish Spitz is a lively and friendly dog loyal to its family but somewhat cautious in new situations. Often described as cat-like, the Finnish Spitz is intelligent, independent and has a high activity level. This dog breed enjoys the outdoors and does best with an active owner in a suburban or rural home. It needs a fenced yard, socialization and training.
Kai: The Kai dog breed is a courageous hunter with a strong prey drive but is gentle and devoted with its family. It’s wary of strangers but not aggressive and gets along well with other dogs. It is known for its ability to climb trees. The Kai has a high activity level and requires an experienced active owner in the suburbs or country. This dog breed needs exercise, a fenced yard, socialization and training.
Karelian Bear Dog: This breed is often aggressive with other dogs and is not typically considered a suitable house pet. The Karelian Bear Dog has a high activity level and requires an experienced, active owner in a rural home. It needs a fenced yard, firm training, outdoor activities and socialization.
Norwegian Buhund: Lively, intelligent and agile, the Buhund is sometimes a noisy dog. It has a strong work drive and enjoys cool climates. The Buhund’s activity level is moderate to high and does best with an active family in the country or suburbs. It needs exercise, a job or activity and training.
Norwegian Elkhound: A loyal and friendly dog, the Norwegian Elkhound can be independent and stubborn. It is bold, courageous and alert – a good watchdog. This dog breeds gets along well with older children. The Elkhound does best with an active individual or family in the suburbs or country. It needs exercise and grooming.
Other Northern Breed dogs include: Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow Chow, East Siberian Laika, Finnish Lapphund, German Spitz, Greenland Dog, Hokkaido, Japanese Spitz, Jindo, Keeshond, Kishu, Lundehund, Norrbottenspetz, Russian-European Laika, Samoyed, Shiba, Shikoku, Siberian Husky, Swedish Elkhound, Swedish Lapphund, Volpino Italiano, West Siberian Laika.
Excerpt from The Original Dog Bible with permission from its publisher, BowTie Press, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase The Original Dog Bible here.