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Breeder Buzzwords – The Pomeranian

Breeders of purebred dogs speak a language all their own. Wherever they gather, at dog shows, seminars or in chat rooms, words and phrases are used that have very narrow definitions. Their usage makes it difficult for a novice to fully participate in the conversation, and all but impossible for the general public to follow along.

Much of the breeder’s language is derived from domesticated livestock or veterinary science. Veterans who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their own family of purebreds use agricultural and medical terms with confidence. When noted breed authorities get together, the dialog that results can effortlessly span the broadest topics, although the words spoken will often have the narrowest of definitions.

Those words are quite often derived from the breed standards. As guide for both breeder and judge, the standard describes those characteristics of make, shape and behavior that define a breed, distinguishing it from all the rest. Distinctions between breeds can be subtle, so standards use very specific words to illustrate singular traits. These buzzwords become part of every breeder’s dog show dialect, guiding both conversations with peers and decisions made in the whelping box.

The Pomeranian is an extrovert in miniature. Photo by Dan Sayers

A long outer coat, dense waterproof undercoat, small pointed ears, pointed muzzle, and tail carried over the back characterize the family of dogs believed to be among the world’s oldest.

Spitz-type dogs, originating in the Arctic, have existed throughout Europe since at least the Stone Age. Nomadic tribes developed the dogs for various purposes, including hunting, herding and pulling sleds. Across the northern plains of present-day Poland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Denmark, various spitz dogs were developed over time in an astonishing array of sizes and colors. The smallest and most colorful of these was originally developed in the lowland area known as Pomerania.

Called the Zwergspitz (Dwarf Spitz) on the continent, the Pomeranian has been bred specifically as a lap dog. Its appealing head and expression, glamorous coat and diminutive size have made it a fashionable favorite of royals from the Baltics to Buckingham Palace. Bred down from the German Spitz to its present-day size, the Pom became a favorite of English-speaking dog fanciers when Queen Victoria became a patroness.

Today’s Pomeranians are small, indeed, and exceedingly popular in the United States. At four to six pounds, they are small enough to fit anywhere and go wherever their master or mistress takes them. The breed’s stylish double coat, with its ruffed neck and plumed tail, creates the perfect jacket that commands attention wherever this compact busybody makes an appearance.

Buoyant in Deportment

It’s no secret that dogs bred down for their diminutive size are generally unaware of their shortcomings. In fact, small dogs seem all the more eager to prove they are every bit as mighty as their ancestors. The Pomeranian, an archetypal “little guy”, is a spitz through and through. Like its larger cousins, the breed is imposing, if only at floor level. According to the AKC breed standard, individuals should appear “alert in character” and “buoyant in deportment.” This Toy comes with batteries! With its intelligent expression and inquisitive nature, the Pomeranian simply cannot be ignored. It uses every advantage it has to command attention.

“The Pomeranian is an extrovert,” according to the Temperament section of the standard. The breed exhibits “great intelligence and a vivacious spirit” that makes it “a great companion dog as well as a competitive show dog.” Active and alert, the Pomeranian is a tiny tyrant, “cocky, commanding and animated” in action, according to the standard, with a soundness expected of a dog 10 times as big.

Clever as a Fox

The head shape of the Pomeranian is typical of the spitz breeds. According to the breed standard, it is “broad at the back, tapering to the nose to form a wedge.” The Pom’s muzzle is “rather short, straight, free of lippiness, neither coarse nor snipey,” and the stop is “well-pronounced.” The ears are “mounted high and carried erect,” and its eyes are “dark, bright, medium-sized, and almond-shaped.” The size, shape and placement of these features combine to create an expression that “may be referred to as fox-like,” according to the Expression section of the standard. This reference to that sly, wild canid is not merely a physical one; the standard makes it clear that the expression denotes the Toy dog’s “alert and intelligent nature.” Not only is the little Pomeranian a clever and intelligent companion, it looks the part too.

Colorful Plumage

The Pomeranian is one colorful little fox! Though originally registered in a wide variety of specific colors and patterns, today, “All colors, patterns, and variations there-of are allowed and must be judged on an equal basis,” according to the current AKC breed standard.

Red, orange, cream, sable, black, brown, blue, black and tan, white, wolf sable, parti-color and brindle are some of the many accepted colors of this little Nordic Toy.

The Open class may be divided by color. Separate classes may be offered for “Open Red, Orange, Cream, and Sable; Open Black, Brown, and Blue; Open Any Other Color, Pattern, or Variation.” Although merle is an acceptable color pattern, the Pomeranian’s eyes must always be dark in color, and any “light blue, blue-marbled or blue-flecked” eyes are a disqualification, according to the breed standard.

The double coat of the Pom, consisting of a short, dense undercoat and a long outer coat that “stands off from the body,” forms several distinctive features over the breed’s tiny frame. A luxurious ruff around the neck frames the foxy head as it drapes “over the shoulders and chest.” A heavily coated skirt accentuates the hind legs to the hock joint, exaggerating the animated self-assurance with which the little dog goes about its daily business.

The Pom’s tail, set high and lying “flat and straight on the back,” is “profusely covered with long, harsh spreading straight hair forming a plume,” according to the standard. In any color, the breed’s tail is carried proudly, denoting the self-confident nature of this colorful and companionable miniature spitz.

Hunting, herding and sled pulling are tasks that today’s Pomeranian is unlikely to perform. However, its intelligent nature, along with a compact body and commanding presence, are all this active little dog needs to think that it still can.

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.
  • inuaknls
    Sheila April 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Nice article but a couple of things to add:
    The Pom should be 3 – 7 lbs with preferred show weight at 4 – 6 lbs

    I believe that your paragraph, titled “Clever As a Fox” is misleading to those uninitiated with the Breed. The nature, of a Pom, should never be compared to a fox’s slyness. There is nothing sly about Poms. The only reference, in the Standard to the fox is when describing alertness. In no other way should a Pom be compared to a fox, as your article states several times.

    You are incorrect regarding the instincts that this little dog has.

    In a majority of Poms, the herding instinct is alive and well. These dogs were ‘healers’ and, to this day, attempt to ‘drive’ other animals or people.

    In fact Poms do achieve herding titles. Due to their small size they are given ducks to herd. Yes, it is adorable to watch this little dog do what its ancestors did for hundreds of years.

    The sledding instinct is in place, as well. People make or have made weight pull and sledding harnesses and these guys pull small carts. They get as excited, when they see their harness, to pull as your Alaskan Huskies do for the Iditarod.

    So do not let their diminutive size fool you, these guys are all dog.

    Sheila :)

    • Dan Sayers
      Dan Sayers April 29, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      Hi Sheila!

      Thank you for writing and thanks for setting the record straight.

      A bit of poetic license on my part created the misleading subhead. My first choice was “Foxy Lady,” but I didn’t want to leave the boys out!

      The Pom’s instinct for herding and sledding that you’ve mentioned is fascinating. I’d like to learn more and we’d be happy to publish an article – with photos – on the subject.

      Just one question: Where do you find Pom-sized harnesses?


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