The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 1  November 1999

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled

Table of Contents

Editorial:  Looking to the Year 2000
Report: The North Baffin Quest
Project: Impress Your Dog
Behavioral Notebook: Tiri's Magic Carpet
ISD News from Norway
Feeding Tips
In My Humble Opinion: Cause and Effect
Janice Howls: The Spitz Group
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Jim Ryder
Hudson's Bay Adventure
Book Review: Running North


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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch Website and its publications  are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

  Carpenter dog, Yellowknife, ,NWT, 1999, © Hamilton photo

The Spitz Group
by Janice Dougherty

Whether you're an enthusiastic novice, filled with questions or a hard core cynologist who counts their dog interests in decades (and orders dog food by the ton), it is always entertaining and thought provoking to access as many and varied sources of perspectives on dogs as possible. The "World Encyclopedia of Dogs", published in 1971, wrote:  "Spitz form a remarkably tidy and constant family, with a rather broad skull having a sharp pointed muzzle, small and sharp pointed ears carried erect and enjoying extreme mobility.  The coat is generally one with stand-off hair of medium length, more often forming a frill around the neck; and a generous brush to the tail, which is carried curled over the back.  This group has a marked independence of character, and is normally confined to the Arctic belt and near latitudes, where it is widely used for sledge hauling, pack carrying, herding and hunting - altogether a very versatile group." In fact, if one reviews remarks on the temperament and character as well as functional behaviors of these "spitz" breeds, the same words repeat over and over: intelligent, alert, active, bold, relentless, assertive, energetic, somewhat dog aggressive.  Of course the standard advice for potential owners is for firm, consistent interaction with the owner as the undisputed alpha - not the type of breed for those who don't believe in discipline. 

This was most recently echoed in a cover piece in Dog World magazine which profiled the Norwegian Elkhound. The spitz courage is probably a by-product or residue of the fact that a significant number of them were/are used to hunt bear and other large game, like moose. Hunting such species is not the gentlemanly flush, point and retrieve of what we commonly associate with "hunting dogs". Some later adapted to predominantly  farm/livestock/herding duties, have had the hunting instincts  diminished significantly.  In breeds that hunt, haul and herd, individuals  frequently crop up that are often too rough on livestock, as discussed in  "The Story of the Karelian Bear Dog", published in 1998.  Even the  diminutive Pomeranian is described as "full of themselves". A book on Poms  warns that without proper training they may well become yappy and snappy. 

Although the spitz represent direct descendants of Northern pariah types of  4-7000 years recognizable type, the equally ancient, Southern pariah types  are described with a different character.  While also possessing the typical primitive wedge head, prick ears and curled tail, with strong instinctive drives that are not easily overridden and a quick, intelligent,  independent mind set, the Southern types are frequently described as shy,  flightly and timid - polar opposites in both habitat and habit. You may see  where Konrad Lorenz made his error in assuming there was a jackal at the root of these breeds. He was a man who lived with Chow mixes. One of the minor peculiarities of Northern spitz breeds is a shortened,  stumpy tail that occasionally crops up. I believe it may be a common  variant of the genetic package of curled tails, but don't quote me. Some  breed standards want it, some tolerate it, some acknowledge but discourage  it.  If anyone has observed a short/stump tail naturally occurring in an  ISD, please share!  [Karelian Bear Dogs, Mudis (Hungarian), Schipperkes,  Siberian Huskies, Swedish Vallhunds and the gone but not forgotten Tahltan Bear Dog have this trait]. 

To digress for a moment:  in the April 1999 issue of "Veterinary Technician" magazine was a practically and honestly written breed profile of the Miniature Pinscher (no, it's NOT a spitz!). This 10 - 12.5 inch toy terrier was once bred to hunt and kill rats. They are described as active,  independent, somewhat difficult to housebreak.  "An active dog for an active owner", writes the breeder and AKC judge who was interviewed for the article, who further cautioned against having a Min Pin in a home with very young children. "First of all - and this is true of all Toy dogs - young kids don't understand that the Min Pin puppies can be a bit aggressive and if a toddler tries to grab a Min Pin puppy, he or she will probably be rewarded with very sharp teeth!" The article goes on to say that "if another animal initiates or displays aggressive behavior, Min Pins will occasionally react aggressively."  Sounds like our little Pom! In fact, there is a theory that the terriers are an ancient off-shoot of the spitz (Richard Fiennes in "The Natural History of the Dog"). But no matter. 

Genevieve Montcombroux and Ken MacRury have published such definitive research and documentation on the Inuit Dogs that any interested party may have his curiosity satisfied.  Added to by both their considerable personal experience regarding the breed's character and appropriate management techniques, the picture is clear - the ISD is clearly representative of the primal Northern spitz that accompanied man since before formal civilization began.  Yet there are some people who would promote this breed to the same population of pet and show dog owners whom the AKC judge thought to warn against the Min Pin! [As an aside, you are reminded that the AKC last year decided to downplay any statements of aggression and inappropriateness of certain breeds for children when it recalled a new edition of its "Complete Dog Book".] 

Question:  are these tough breeds, spitz or not, affectionate, charming,  social, entertaining, wonderful, awe inspiring and dare I say HANDSOME companions for the right person ? ABSOLUTELY!...but these fabulous characteristics do not preclude their TOTAL  inappropriateness for some people. In fact, if a person is so enamoured of the spitz look and the spitz character, but truly needs a more civilized touch - well, there are some of the spitz brethren who are ALREADY perfectly suited to a more civilized taste:  those who have already been selected to be companions,  alarm dogs, partners of the home and hearth! Seek and ye shall find! But I must state again that any effort to defang, declaw, disembowel and lobotomize the less civilized members of the clan is nothing short of betrayal of all of them.

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