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Breeder Buzzwords – The American Eskimo Dog

I always enjoyed visiting with my Uncle Ed and Aunt Margie when I when a kid. Their suburban Philadelphia home seemed to have everything necessary that a group of cousins could want to be entertained: a rec room with a hi-fi system; an in-ground swimming pool; and plenty of fireworks on the Fourth of July. But what I enjoyed most about holiday visits to their home was the warm and wonderful greeting I always received from their American Eskimo Dog, Babe.

Dressed all in white with black accents, Babe seemed a very stylish dog to me. Her alert and friendly disposition perfectly enhanced her appearance, and her voice always seemed to say, “Hey, it’s you again. I’m glad you’re back!”

The ancestors of the American Eskimo Dog emigrated from Europe with New World settlers. By the 19th century, German immigrants throughout the growing United States commonly kept small white Spitz-type dogs around the farm and in the home. The white Keeshond, white Pomeranian, white German Spitz and white Italian Spitz (Volpino Italiano) are widely considered the progenitors of the modern breed. The white Japanese Spitz may also have been added to the mix.

The Eskie, as its supporters often refer to the breed, eventually became a type of dog unto itself. It was given the name, American Spitz, and according to the American Eskimo Dog Club of America’s breed history, the breed became popular with traveling circuses by the late 1800s. “For the public, this breed has had much appeal because of its sparkling white coat and quickness. Circus trainers favored the breed for this reason and also because of the Eskie’s innate intelligence, trainability and unsurpassed agility.”

Circus dogs helped to ensure the breed’s popularity throughout North America.

In 1913, the United Kennel Club accepted registrations of the breed, and four years later its name was changed to American Eskimo. The new moniker was perhaps given as a kind of catchy stage name for the likable performer, although no connection exists with the people of the same name.

The Eskie did not gain American Kennel Club recognition until 1994, two years after its name was officially changed to American Eskimo Dog. Three sizes are recognized by height, Standard, Miniature and Toy, and all are judged by the same breed standard.

The American Eskimo Dog is an intelligent and versatile performer, quite capable of being taught myriad tricks. As with many Nordic breeds, the Eskie has a natural instinct to herd, although it has never been used for sled work as its appearance might suggest.

All three sizes have proven worthy of welcoming guests into any home, as indicated by 2011 registrations that place the breed 116th of the 173 recognized breeds.

The American Eskimo Dog is a versatile performer with a sparkling white coat and friendly nature. Photo © Mrsgotlib/Dreamstime.

Always White

Considering the breeds that went into its development, it should come as no surprise that the American Eskimo is a white-colored dog. According to the General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard, the breed is “always white, or white with biscuit cream.”

“Pure white is the preferred color,” as indicated by the standard’s section on color, however “white with biscuit cream is permissible.” The parent club’s illustrated guide describes the white as “sparkling” and a distinctive breed feature. “Many times the biscuit cream markings will be almost imperceptible when the Eskie is in full coat,” according to the guide.

An American Eskimo Dog in “full coat” will present a double coat typical of Northern breeds. The short, dense undercoat and longer, straight guard hairs are accented by black lips, nose pad and eye rims. The coat is thicker and longer around the neck and chest, and on the rump and hind legs down to the hock forming “characteristic breeches.” The lion-like “ruff” is more obvious in males, although both dogs and bitches display a “richly plumed” tail carried over the back.

Interestingly, the standard describes the American Eskimo Dog’s skin as “pink or gray” in color.

Trimming of the breed’s sparkling white coat, including the whiskers, is to be severely penalized, and any color other than white or biscuit cream is a disqualification according to the breed standard.

Size Does Not Matter

Measured from the height at the withers, Eskies are found in three separate size divisions, not varieties: Toy, 9 inches to and including 12 inches; Miniature, over 12 inches to and including 15 inches; and Standard, over 15 inches to and including 19 inches. “There is no preference for size within each division,” according to the standard.

The breed’s illustrated guide indicates that all three sizes are to be judged by the same standard, except for size. “Judges must remember to evaluate each Eskie presented to them against the written standard of perfection and not look upon the dogs as merely a version of some other breed.” Despite the American breed’s European roots, “the Standard is not a Samoyed, the Miniature is not a Keeshond, and the Toy is not a Pomeranian.”

The American Eskimo Dog is judged on the table, no matter its size. Strong and compactly made, the breed displays adequate bone and a proportion that approximates a length to height ratio of 1.1 to 1, as measured from “point of shoulder to point of buttocks” and height at the withers.

No size requirements exist specifically for dogs and bitches in the breed, however any Toy measuring under 9 inches, or Standard measuring over 19 inches, is to be disqualified from the conformation show ring.

The illustrated guide advises judges on the use of the wicket when measuring the Eskie in classes not divided by size. “Please be aware that when the American Eskimo Dog competes in undivided classes, only disqualifying measurements of under 9 inches or over 19 inches can be entertained. Measurements for size division eligibility are made within the specific size division class. Dogs not in accordance with the requirements for the class are measured out as ineligible, rather than being disqualified.”

Eager to Please

Although “slightly conservative” according to the standard’s section on temperament, the American Eskimo Dog is “intelligent, alert, and friendly,” no matter its size. In her breed column published in the June 1997 issue of the AKC Gazette, Barbara Beynon writes, “A common misconception among even serious fanciers is that the toy, miniature and standard Eskies have different temperaments and need different lifestyles.” According to Beynon, “The only difference between one size and another is size, and there’s no demonstrated link between size and temperament.”

The American Eskimo Dog is “never overly shy nor aggressive,” according to the standard. “At home it is an excellent watchdog, sounding a warning bark to announce the arrival of any stranger.” The breed’s natural protective nature is directed toward both family and home, although “it does not threaten to bite or attack people.” Shy or aggressive behavior in the show ring is to be severely penalized.

The expressive and eager to please Eskie has been a favorite among Americans for nearly a century. Both homesteader and circus clown alike have delighted in the breed’s good looks and innate intelligence, and each has ensured a brilliant future for one of the purebred dog world’s most sparkling performers.

Written by

Dan Sayers started “in dogs” through a chance encounter with a Springer Spaniel in 1980. A student of dogs ever since, he’s shown Spaniels and Hounds in the conformation ring and breeds Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix. A dog lover with a passion for the creative arts, Dan has worked as a freelance writer, photographer and illustrator for many years. His feature articles and columns have appeared in Dogs in Review, Dog World and the AKC Gazette, and his design work has appeared in dozens of publications in North America and abroad. An interest in all things “dog” brought Dan to Best In Show Daily, where he gets to work with the most dynamic group of fanciers every day. He lives in Merchantville, New Jersey, with his partner, Rudy Raya, Irish Water Spaniel, Kurre, and the memory of Oscar, a once-in-a-lifetime Sussex Spaniel.