The Alaskan Klee Kai is a relatively new breed of dog developed in the late 1970’s in Wasilla, Alaska by Linda S. Spurlin. This breed is designed to be the companion sized version of the much larger Alaskan Husky.
It was during the mid 1970’s, on a trip to Oklahoma with her husband to visit her in-laws that Mrs. Spurlin first came across the dog that would become her inspiration for the breed currently known as the Alaskan Klee Kai. Among the various farm dogs and other animals present on the property of her in-laws was a small grey and white, 17 pound female Alaskan Husky named ‘Curious’. When asked about the reason behind the dog’s name, her in-laws informed her that the name was given in consideration of her diminutive stature when compared to a normally sized Alaskan Husky; she was an anomaly, an oddity and a ‘Curiosity’. Intrigued by the little dog Mrs. Spurlin asked if she could keep it, her in-laws having plenty of other dogs to take care of were more than happy to oblige and let her have it.
After acquiring this unique little ball of fluff, Mrs. Spurlin began to notice that the inherent cuteness of this little creature and its uncanny resemblance to a full sized Alaskan Husky made it the star of the show everywhere she went. People seemed drawn to the little dog and would flock to her vehicle just to marvel and exclaim about the little Husky. Mrs. Spurlin even recounts an occasion where shortly after entering a busy restaurant she looked around and found it to be suddenly empty. Upon closer inspection she realized that all of the patrons had flocked to one area where they could view the little dog through the window. The ability of this little dog to draw people to it and its uniqueness made Mrs. Spurlin realize that she had to find a way to reproduce it.
Inquiring as to the lineage of this little dog, she learned that it was the result of an accidental breeding that had taken place at her brother-in-laws home in Fairbanks, Alaska between a small dog and an Alaskan Husky. They too at the time realized what a unique thing had been created and instituted a small scale breeding program to replicate it. ‘Curious’ the little dog currently in the possession of Mrs. Spurlin, had been a product of the initial accidental mating and had been given as a gift to her other in-laws in Oklahoma where she acquired her. Learning more about the initial pairing that led to the creation of Curious, Mrs. Spurlin began her own breeding program to create these little curiosities.
The primary difference between her breeding program and that of her brother-in-laws was that she was able to selectively breed only the best dogs while he, under pressure from his family, could not properly cull the litters. Owing to their large hearts and love of animals they would not allow him to take the necessary step of culling litters to remove dogs that were genetically defective in some way. As a result of this, his breeding program suffered while Mrs. Spurlins stricter adherence to good breeding practice served her quiet well in producing some very fine specimens.
The decision of her brother-in-law to abruptly end his Alaskan Klee Kai breeding program and sell his dogs to Mrs. Spurlin in the early 1980’s provided her with a significantly larger gene pool to work with. Along with his dogs he sold her the one piece of advice that his family would not allow him to follow “Breed the best, and cull the rest”. In telling the story Mrs. Spurlin in her own words she states:
“His words had been my silent belief all along, but now I followed them openly and religiously.... With my now larger gene pool I began to see results of this hard core approach quickly and this served as encouragement to be even stricter with my breeding program.”
In 1986, a close friend of Mrs. Spurlin; familiar with her Alaskan Klee Kai breeding program brought her mother who was visiting from Colorado, a Mrs. Eileen Gregory over to see the dogs and meet with her. Impressed with the uniqueness of the breed Mrs. Gregory asked if she could get some photographs of the dogs to take back with her when she returned to Colorado. After returning to Colorado, unable to forget about these little dogs, she began the task of convincing Mrs. Spurlin that the world was in need of these cute little dogs and that she was the right person to make that happen. Her requests to introduce the breed to the world were initially rebuffed by Mrs. Spurlin who put it this way:
“I firmly believed that the gene pool was too small, and that my breeding program was not ready for the rest of the world.”
In 1988, Mrs. Gregory’s steady pestering of paid off when Mrs. Spurlin sold the first of her Miniature Husky’s to her after taking into account the cost of feeding and providing veterinary care for her growing breeding stock of 30 dogs. After this initial sale Mrs. Spurlin found herself overwhelmed with letters and requests by other individuals also wanting one and by newspaper reports trying to get the breeds story. The public interest in this one little breed of dog was quite astounding and they hadn’t even named it yet. That being the first priority they began to research traditional Eskimo words until they found and agreed upon “Klee Kai”; the Eskimo words for ‘little dog’. They also chose to use “Alaska” in reference to its state of origin and came up with the name Klee Kai of Alaska, which was later changed to the Alaskan Klee Kai.
Keeping with her ideals and strict adherence to good breeding practice Mrs. Spurlin ensured that every puppy from every litter was carefully inspected for conformation, medical soundness and personality. The puppies were also weighed, measured, and re-evaluated regularly. All of this information was then charted for each and every dog that Mrs. Spurlin produced. As with any business, the business of keeping of records became a job in and of itself, a burden that Mrs. Gregory helped to alleviate by storing much of the information on her computer.
As demand for the Alaskan Klee Kai grew Mrs. Spurlin realized that even though her initial goal had been to produce a beloved little companion dog; some of her dogs would be purchased by individuals’ intent on showing them. This of course would require the formation of an official organization dedicated to the Alaskan Klee Kai and that this newly founded organization be acknowledged by a nationally recognized kennel club such as the AKC. So after carefully choosing a board of directors from amongst her closest and most trusted friends and associates Mrs. Spurlin with the help of Mrs. Gregory founded the Klee Kai of Alaska-Alaskan Chapter in 1988 and also contacted the AKC. The initial board of directors for the Klee Kai of Alaska-Alaskan Chapter consisted of the following individuals: Linda S. Spurlin, President-Wasilla, Alaska, Richard A. (Rick) Spurlin-Wasilla, Alaska, Stephen P. (Pat) Keisor/Kearney-Wasilla, Alaska, Sharon L. Sweeny, Vet. Tech. (Advisor) – Wasilla, Alaska, Cheryl L. (Chris) Scarborough/Shackelford-Wasilla, Alaska and Eileen Gregory, Secretary-Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Quoting the original documents of incorporation the purpose of the Klee Kai of Alaska-Alaskan Chapter was:
“To initiate the initial parent club, as suggested by nationally recognized kennel clubs, so as to promote and improve knowledge of a newly developed breed of dog hereafter known as the 'Klee Kai'. This initial organization will educate and set the standards by which future groups interested in forming similar dog clubs of this breed shall have as a set guide-line for which to base their club's activities."
Although the breed was not accepted by the AKC they did eventually, through the efforts of Mrs. Gregory, acquire full recognition by other kennel clubs such as the Federation of International Canines, the American Rare Breed Association and the United Kennel Club (UKC).
In 1994 the Rocky Mountain Pet Expo in Denver, Colorado invited the Klee Kai of Alaska-Alaskan Chapter to bring their dogs with them to attend the event. This venue provided the club the ability to introduce and educate the public about the Alaskan Klee Kai on a much larger scale. The result was so positive and the popularity of the Klee Kai was so great that the event organizers invited the club to attend again the following year.
As the popularity of the Klee Kai continued to grow, Mrs. Spurlin found herself under increasing pressure to deviate away from the sound breeding practices that had produced the type of quality animals that had taken this fledging breed so far so fast. The stress of Club politics also began to wear upon her and she found herself longing for the simple times of the past when she could simply enjoy these amazing little dogs. Upon reflecting back on these changing times Mrs. Spurlin stated:
“I firmly believed, and still do, that only the best should be allowed to breed, and my own sales contract reflected this with a strict spay/neuter clause. However, as the world of the Alaskan Klee Kai changed, I found I did not bend as easily. I longed for the days when my friends and I created the Breed Standards over pots and pots of coffee. What I really wanted was to see a wet nose pressed against an elderly cheek, instead of someone telling me that I was playing God if I did not allow their inferior dog to breed.”
In 1995, the politics and pressure associated with running a successful breed club finally became too much and Mrs. Spurlin came to the realization that in order to continue she would be forced to sacrifice her core beliefs. Choosing her integrity over compromise and after 18 years of hard work and dedication she left the club and gave up actively breeding the Alaskan Klee Kai. A decision that she describes in the following way:
“The time finally came when I re-evaluated my priorities and decided I would rather stop breeding the Alaskan Klee Kai than compromise my beliefs any more. In January of 1995 I flew with nine of my remaining Klee Kai to Mrs. Gregory's kennels in Colorado and left eighteen years of my efforts in her hands along with a few tears, much advice, and many blessings.… I am grateful to the people who carry on my dream as I intended it. By breeding only the best, the Alaskan Klee Kai can continue to become a breed to be proud of. A breed as genetically sound and free from defects as possible can only be accomplished through the dedication of responsible breeders who follow their conscience instead of their hearts or their wallets.”
The resignation of Mrs. Spurlin, began an era of great change for the Klee Kai as noted on the Alaskan Klee Kai Association of American website:
“In January 1995 Linda Spurlin retired as President of the Association and Registrar for the breed. […] Eileen Gregory, the Association Secretary and Linda's Representative in the Continental U.S. took over as Registrar. The AKK Registry and the Association Office was moved to Colorado. The Association was growing, the breed was growing, the paper work and expense to handle the Registry was growing, so finally dues needed to be charged. With this also came the right of the members to vote on breed affairs. The members voted to change the name of the breed from 'Klee Kai' to "Alaskan Klee Kai" which was felt to be more in keeping with other breeds who list their place of origin first in the breed name. The club name was then changed from 'Klee Kai of Alaska-Alaskan Chapter' to "Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America, Inc." herein referred to as AKKAOA or the Association.”
As previously mentioned the recognition of the Alaskan Klee Kai by the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) is primarily credited to the efforts of Eileen Gregory; who achieved this with the first application to the organization in August of 1995.
A first application success that was duplicated the following year in 1996 when the Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America gained full recognition for the Alaskan Klee Kai with another nationally recognized organization- the Federation of International Canines (FIC).
Going for the trifecta, the Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America then submitted an application to the United Kennel Club (UKC) for recognition of the Alaskan Klee Kai in mid-1996. After a review of the application by the UKC, the AKKAOA board of directors was informed that in order to achieve recognition the breed standards for the Alaskan Klee Kai would need to be re-written into a UKC acceptable format. After the revision was completed the new revised breed standards were sent to the Membership for approval and then to UKC for formal approval.
Upon reviewing the revised breed standards the UKC (America’s second largest registry) gave full recognition to the Alaskan Klee Kai breed and took over ownership and responsibility for the breed's growing Registry on January 1, 1997. Even though the UKC was now responsible for the registry, the Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America maintained the ability to approve or disapprove of the breeding stock. As stated by the AKKAOA:
“According to the contract with UKC, there was to be an initial period of 5 years in which AKKAOA would still be responsible for approving breeding stock and all AKK had to undergo and pass an adult examination to qualify as breeding quality. Only AKK that were born to parent dogs that had undergone examination and were found to be free of disqualifying faults would be registered with UKC. “
The recognition of the Alaskan Klee Kai by the UKC set about the new process of getting the AKKAOA recognized by the UKC as the breeds nationally recognized parent club. In 2001, after numerous rewrites, revisions and changes to the clubs policies and procedures the AKKAOA was granted UKC Provisional Club status. Two years later in July of 2003, the UKC approved the AKKAOA as a Fully Licensed Conformation Club. In April of 2005 the AKKAOA submitted their presentation packet to UKC to request that the Alaskan Klee Kai Association of America be recognized as the National Parent Club for the Alaskan Klee Kai dog breed. To date this process has not been completed and the Alaskan Klee Kai is listed as not having a National Parent Club.
As an emerging breed the Alaskan Klee Kai has come a long way in a short period of time. Today it can even be found in three distinct sizes; a toy, miniature and standard version. However, the Alaskan Klee Kai is still considered to be a relatively rare breed of dog with the Alaskan Klee Kai Pedigree Database reporting that there are only 1781 unique Alaskan Klei Kai listed within it.
Owing to design the Alaskan Klee Kai is considered to be the smaller version of the Alaskan Husky with a breed standard that is based upon the physical attributes of the Siberian Husky. Although their standard is based on the Siberian Husky, the many physical differences between the two such as snout length, larger ears and higher set of the tail make them easily distinguishable from the Siberian.
The modern day Alaskan Klee Kai comes in three distinct size classifications based upon the height of the dog. There is a toy size for any Alaskan Klee Kai under 13 inches, a miniature size for those dogs over 13 inches but under 15 inches high and a standard size for dogs over 15 inches but under 17 inches. Dogs over 17 inches are considered to have at the very least a Serious Fault and dogs over 17 ½ inches are considered to have an Eliminating Fault. An Eliminating Fault is a Fault that is serious enough that it will eliminate the possibility of a dog from obtaining any awards in any conformation event.
As per the current UKC Alaskan Klee Kai Breed Standards, all three size classifications should have wedge-shaped heads, stunningly masked faces with small pricked ears and a double coat. The over appearance of the Alaskan Klee Kai should reflect the breed’s Northern heritage.
The most distinctive characteristic of the Alaskan Klee Kai is the facial mask which must be clearly visible due to contrasting colors. The full face mask is the most desirable. The head of the Alaskan Klee Kai should be proportionate to the size of the body, clean, free of wrinkles, with a moderate stop. When viewing the head from the top or side, the skull and muzzle will taper toward the nose to form a broad-based wedge shape. With a muzzle that from stop to nose is equal to or slightly shorter than the length of the skull from occiput to stop. In viewing the muzzle from the side or above, it should taper gradually from where it joins the skull to the nose. Solid black noses are preferred, although a pink-streaked "snow nose" is acceptable. Liver colored noses are also acceptable in dogs whose coat colors are shades of red with white. When viewed in profile, the nose should lie on the same line as the top of the muzzle and extend just slightly beyond the lower jaw.
The lower jaw should be well defined and strong but not protruding with lips that are tightly closed and black, except that liver-colored lips are acceptable in dogs whose coat colors are shades of red with white. The teeth of the Alaskan Klee Kai should be evenly spaced, white, and meet in a scissors bite. The skull of the Alaskan Klee Kai is slightly rounded and somewhat broad while tapering gradually from its widest point to the eyes. The medium sized eyes may be any color or combination of colors. Almond-shaped eyes are the most desirable, followed in order of preference by oval and round. The eyes are set obliquely. Eye rims are black except that liver eye rims are acceptable in dogs whose coat colors are shades of red with white.
The prick ears are strongly erect and pointed upward, well-furred, and triangular in shape. The ears of the Alaskan Klee Kai should be relatively in proportion to the size of the head with slightly rounded tips. The leather of the ear should be thick from the base to the tip. The set of the ears should be so that the inner edge of each ear is above the inner half of the eye below it.
Shoulders are moderately laid back with the scapula and the upper arm forming an angle of about 110 degrees. The shoulder blade and the upper arm are roughly equal in length. When viewing the dog from the front, the forelegs are straight, parallel, and moderately spaced apart. The Alaskan Klee Kai is not a thick boned dog and is rather delicate in appearance with moderate to fine boned legs that are in proportion to the size of the dog. The pasterns are flexible and strong, moderately short, and slightly sloping. The elbows should not lie too near the body, nor should they fly outwards, but should set on a plane that is parallel to the body. Removal of the front dewclaws is acceptable. The oval shaped, well knuckled feet should be sized proportionality to the bone size of the individual dog, with pads that are thickly cushioned and well-furred between the toes and pads.
Slightly longer than it is tall, the entire length of the body from the point of shoulder to the point of buttocks should be slightly longer than the height of the body from the withers to the ground. The withers are just slightly higher than the croup. The chest of the Alaskan Klee Kai is moderately broad and let down to the elbows. When viewed from the side, the lowest point of the chest should lie immediately behind the forelegs. The fore chest should extend in a shallow oval shape in front of the forelegs but the sternum should not be excessively pointed. The medium length neck is arched and carried proudly erect when the dog is standing. When moving at a trot, the neck should extend so that the head is carried slightly forward.
The topline of the back is level from just behind the withers to the loin which is slightly arched. The croup is broad and very slightly sloping. The ribs are well sprung out from the spine, forming a strong back, then curving down and inward to form a body that would be nearly heart-shaped if viewed in cross-section. The loin is strong and short but narrower than the rib cage and with a slight tuck up. When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to each other and spaced moderately apart. The rear legs are moderately well angulated at the stifle and hock joints with rear pasterns that are well let down and perpendicular to the ground when viewing from any angle.
The tail should be well-furred and set on just below the level of the topline. The preferred carriage of the tail is in a loose curl which falls to the center of the back or drapes off to either side of the body. The tail may hang down when the dog is relaxed but should form a curl when the dog is alert or moving. A heavily plumed tail is acceptable in dogs with longer coats. Dark hairs at the tip of the tail are strongly preferred.
The double coat of the Alaskan Klee Kai should be of sufficient length to give a well-furred appearance but not so long as to obscure the overall outline of the dog. The neck is well-furnished with hair, which forms a protective ruff that blends into the apron. The tail is well-furred with longer hairs at the base and on the underside of the tail. Longer coated dogs are also allowed to have some feathering on the rear of the front legs and the rear of the hindquarters from the buttocks to the hock joint; underside of the body; and the ears. The undercoat is soft and dense and of sufficient length to support the outer coat. The guard hairs of the outer coat are straight, slightly coarse but never harsh. The absence of undercoat during the shedding season is normal.
All coat colors are acceptable provided that the facial mask is distinct and clearly visible. All markings should be symmetrical, and there should be a contrasting lighter color on the dog's throat, chest, breeches, feet, legs and underside.
The most desirable mask consists of a dark coloration on the skull that extends down the bridge of the muzzle and under the eyes, provided that the darker color under the eyes extends no more than halfway down the muzzle. This mask should also have light spots over the eyes; and a contrasting lighter color extending up the cheeks to a line between the outside corners of the eyes and the base of the ears, down the sides of the muzzle, under the jaw, and down the throat. The fur on the inside of the ears should also be of that same lighter contrasting color.
Any of the following markings are very desirable but it is not necessary that all be present: Light spots over the eyes; a light blaze centered in the middle of the skull and stop: a dark strip down the center of the muzzle which may be evenly divided by a narrow light-colored strip; dark coloration under the eyes; and dark coloration at the tip of the tail. With the exception of the blaze and the light spots above the eyes, the more of the lighter contrasting color present on the upper part of the face, the less desirable the mask, with the least acceptable mask being the Widows Peak [where the entire face is of a lighter color with just a small dark area capping the top of the head and a point dropping into the center of the upper forehead].
The Alaskan Klee Kai is a highly inquisitive, intelligent, agile and active breed of dog. Although the Alaskan Klee Kai physically resembles the Siberian Husky its personality does not. While the Siberian Husky is known to exhibit no fear or suspicion of strangers, and will greet guests cordially; the Klee Kai on the other hand tends to be somewhat reserved and cautious around strangers. They are also considered to be highly alert little dogs constantly scanning their known world for changes or things that are out of the ordinary. The benefit of their cautious disposition and alert nature is that they make excellent little watchdogs that are apt to readily sound the alarm when they feel something is amiss.
The Alaskan Klee Kai is also not a breed that enjoys nor will tolerate being teased, rough handled, mistreated, poked at, pinched, or bullied by children and may respond by nipping or biting at them, unlike the Siberian Husky which is considered to be good with children. If raised properly with children they tend to make a great dog for the whole family.
Known for being extremely loyal and loving to their family, the Alaskan Klee Kai loves to be a part of all family activities. This is not a dog known for doing well when left alone, and due to the close bond that it forms with its family may be prone to separation anxiety. The stress associated with this condition can manifest itself in the form of destructive or annoying behaviors such as digging, chewing, excessive barking and howling. Relative to their size the Alaskan Klee Kai can be loud, very loud. These are vocal little dogs that have a lot to say. As the owner of an Alaskan Klee Kai you will quickly become accustomed to the long, loud greetings you receive when you return home as the dog tries to tell you about all the things you missed while you were away. If your neighbors prefer a quiet neighborhood then they probably won’t like your Alaskan Klee Kai.
This breed is known to have a high prey drive. As such, special care should be taken in situations where the dog will be in close proximity to smaller animals such as rabbits, hamsters, cats and birds, as the Alaskan Klee Kai is likely to try to hunt and kill them. Dogs that have been properly socialization from a young age or raised with small animals seem to have less of a problem controlling this urge.
Although this breed has a high drive to please its owner, as an intelligent, independent thinker the Alaskan Klee Kai may be compliant some of the time, but not always obedient. It is recommended that owners of the Alaskan Klee Kai enroll the dog in obedience classes from a young age to help establish the owner pet bond, and provide the dog with a positive outlet for its intelligence and energy. Typically this breed will excel in structured obedience classes as well as other activities such as agility; in which the Alaskan Klee Kai almost seems to have been bred to participate in. If your Alaskan Klee Kai is of the energetic, high strung variety agility classes may be one great way to burn some of the energy in a positive manner.
This Alaskan Klee Kai is also known for being rather sensitive and a master of reading human body language and facial expressions. Therefore harsh correction is not necessary with this breed- just change your facial expression and body language in order to express your annoyance. The dog will quickly pick up on the unhappy face and get the message.
As an energetic breed of dog it is important that owners of this breed provide regular exercise and play. Simply turning the dog out into the yard and leaving it to its own devices is not sufficient. As an intelligent and curious breed it will quickly grow bored of this and may act destructively by digging or chewing or it may even try to escape. Walking, running or taking a daily jog with your Alaskan Klee Kai would generally fulfill its exercise requirements and would be something that they would enjoy as well. Fun games such as tug of rope and fetch or hide and seek with the owner would provide exercise and mental stimulation. As a smaller dog they can be adapted to apartment life provided the above mentioned exercise and mental stimulation requirements are met. A fenced yard is a must as its inquisitive nature can make it prone to wandering off. It is also not recommended that this dog be provided many off leash opportunities due to its prey drive, as the mere sight of a squirrel or other small animal may cause it to give chase.
All in all this is a very unique, rather rare and entertaining little breed of dog that would be best suited with a firm, yet forgiving and experienced dog owner living in a rural or suburban environment.
Although, the Alaskan Klee Kai, like the Siberian Husky, has a long thick double coat, it is relatively easy to care for. By nature they are an extremely clean breed of dog that does not like to get wet and may spend hours a day grooming itself. Like many northern breeds, the Alaskan Klee Kai does not have the typical “doggy odor” or “doggy breath”.
The Klee Kai, like the Siberian Husky will generally blow its coat twice a year. During this time large clumps of dead undercoat will be seen falling off the dog and covering everything it comes into contact with. The Klee Kai may also choose to rub up against things during this time such as fences, furniture and wall to drag out some the undercoat and expedite the process on its own. Regular brushing during this time will help to hasten the process and lessen the amount of hair being shed within the home.
Other than the semiannual blowing of the coat, the Klee Kai is a very self-sufficient breed. Owners should take the normal preventative measures, such as trimming of nails, and regular weekly brushing to remove dead hair and evenly distribute the natural oils of the coat. This is not a breed that requires regular bathing, as that would strip the coat of its essential oils and could lead to problems with matting.
When comparing the Alaskan Klee Kai to other breeds it has proven itself to be a remarkably healthy and resilient dog typically free of genetic defects. This may be due in part to the fact that breed numbers as a whole are still rather small and many congenital defects may have not yet been discovered.
When considering the purchase of an Alaskan Klee Kai, potential owners are advised to conduct research into the breeder to insure that mating pairs are being tested and screened for genetic health defects. Responsible breeders should have their dogs health tested for Cardiac, Patella, and Thyroid issues and registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Alaskan Klee Kai dogs that have passed both their OFA exams and a canine eye exam by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) are now also accepted for registration with Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
The currently known health conditions linked to the Alaskan Klee Kai are as follows: