The Pomeranian is a miniature Spitz developed in the traditionally German region of Pomeranian, an area currently divided between Germany and Poland. This breed was made famous by a Queen Victoria, who promoted the small-sized Pomeranians which are so popular today. Renowned for their beauty, the Pomeranian has long been one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. The Pomeranian is also known as the Zwergspitz, the Deutsche Spitz, the Toy Spitz, the Miniature Spitz, the Dwarf Spitz, the Loulou, the Pom, and the Pompom. Many breeders have created very small Pomeranians, often with names such as Tea Cup, Tiny Toy, and Miniature. However, none of these varieties are recognized by any major kennel club.
A member of the ancient Spitz type, the Pomeranian was created in an era well before records were kept of dog breeding and quite possibly before the invention writing. As a result, much of its ancestry is and shall remain a mystery. However, it is generally believed that the Pomeranian is descended from larger Spitz breeds, and was bred down in size in the region of Pomerania. The term Spitz type as it is commonly used defines a type of dog that is characterized by thick, long and more often than not white fur; pointed ears and muzzles and a tail that generally curls over the dogs back. The Pomeranian is one of the smallest members of the Spitz (plural: Spitzen) family; a family that includes dozens of breeds native to Northern Europe, the Arctic, and East Asia. Other Spitzen include the Keeshond, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Chow Chow, the Akita, and the Alaskan Malamute. The Schipperke is often incorrectly cited as a member of this family as well. Quite possibly the oldest type of dog, Spitz breeds have been used for a number of purposes over the centuries to include hunting, sled pulling, personal and property protection, companionship, and herding.
The Spitz is family is one of the oldest of all groups of dog breeds. Most experts believe that these dogs have been around for at least 6,000 to 7,000 years, and possibly much longer. At one time, it was believed that Spitzen were domesticated directly from the wolves of the tundra and taiga of Northern Europe and Asia. However, recent archaeological and genetic evidence has suggested that all domestic dogs were descended from the wolves of India, China, or the Middle East, and then spread across the world. Once the first dogs arrived in the region which is now Scandinavia, they were bred either intentionally or unintentionally with the larger, more aggressive, and thicker-coated wolves of Northern Europe. The first known evidence for Spitz-type dogs in Europe comes from archaeological digs in Norway. Digs dated to between 4,000 and 5,000 B.C.E. included dogs which are remarkably similar to the modern Norwegian Elkhound. These crosses continued over the millennia, resulting in dogs with considerably thicker coats and more wolf-like appearances. These dogs were well-adapted to the frigid cold of Scandinavia and the northern regions of the Holy Roman Empire, and were quite popular there by the end of the Middle Ages.
Pomerania was traditionally one of the most northerly regions of Germany, bordering the Baltic Sea. Pomerania’s borders shifted throughout the centuries but were generally from Stralsund in the west to Danzig (now Gdansk) in the east. Pomerania is closer to Sweden than it is to most of Germany, and has long maintained close ties to the Nordic Countries. Since World War II, Pomerania has been split between Germany and Poland. Spitz-type dogs have long been among the most popular dogs in Pomerania. In fact, when Johann Friedrich Gmelin was classifying dogs in his “Systema Naturae” in 1788, he named the entire Spitz family the ‘Canis pomeranus’. Although it is unclear exactly when, at some point Pomeranian breeders began to favor smaller and smaller Spitzen and by the mid 1700’s the Pomeranian had been reduced to a medium-sized breed. It is thought that the Pomeranian nobility and upper classes were instrumental in this process. There has been a great deal of speculation as to which breeds went into the creation of the Pomeranian. The Keeshond and the German Spitz are the most commonly suggested breeds and are in fact by far the most likely. It is quite likely that the Volpino Italiano, a small Spitz breed native to Italy, was used as well. The first mentions of the Pomeranian as a distinct type also date from this time. A Pomeranian named ‘Pomer’ appears in James Boswell’s “Boswell on the Grand Tour: Germany and Switzerland”, published in 1764. A Pomeranian which had been crossed with a wolf was mentioned in Thomas Pennant’s “A Tour in Scotland”, published in 1769.
Such early Pomeranians were considerably larger than the modern breed, and weighed from between 30 and 50 pounds. This began to change when the British Royal Family popularized the breed. In 1767, Queen Charlotte imported a pair of Pomeranians to England, which were later painted by Sir Thomas Gainsborough. Although substantially larger than today’s dogs, Queen Charlotte’s Pomeranians were remarkably similar in appearance in all other aspects. Queen Charlotte’s granddaughter, Queen Victoria, also became a fancier of the breed. Queen Victoria is almost universally credited with the shrinking is size of the modern Pomeranian, as well as with popularizing the breed. Queen Victoria founded a large and influential breeding kennel which worked to reduce the breed’s size. Throughout her life, Victoria would continue to import small Pomeranians from all across Europe, attempting to get as many different colors as possible. One of Victoria’s favorite dogs was a very small red dog named ‘Windsor’s Marco’. The Queen had imported Marco from Florence, Italy in 1888. Windsor’s Marco was first exhibited in 1891 and caused a great stir. The 12 pound dog popularized the smallest Pomeranians, as well as the red color and by the end of Queen Victoria’s life, the average size of the Pomeranian had decreased by at least 50%. Other famous breed fanciers from this period included Josephine Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon I of France and King George IV of England, Marie Antoinette of France, the famed composer Mozart, and Emile Zola.
Likely inspired by Windsor’s Marco, English fanciers formed the first Pomeranian breed club in 1891. This club created the first written standard for the Pomeranian that same year. It is unclear exactly when the first Pomeranian came to the United States, but it was likely sometime during the 1880’s. The Pomeranian was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1888 although at that time it was a member of the Miscellaneous Class. The first known appearance of the Pomeranian at an AKC show was made in 1892. The first Pomeranians were registered with the AKC in 1898, and the breed was rightfully placed in the Toy Group in 1900. The breed continued to grow in popularity in the United States and England throughout the early 1900’s.
In 1911, the recently formed American Pomeranian Club (APC) held its first specialty show. In 1912, two Pomeranians survived the sinking of the Titanic. Lady, as well as her owner Mrs. Margaret Hays, survived in lifeboat number 6, while Elizabeth Barret Rothschild brought her dog in lifeboat number 7. The only other dog to survive the tragedy was a Newfoundland named ‘Rigel’, who was able to survive by swimming in the frigid waters. In 1914, the United Kennel Club (UKC) formally recognized the Pomeranian. The beautifully coated Pomeranian quickly became a favorite in American dog shows, first winning the Toy Group in Westminster in 1926. During the 20th Century, the Pomeranian became one of the most popular dog breeds in American circuses because they are both highly trainable and visually appealing.
The Pomeranian continued to increase in popularity in American throughout the 20th Century. In 1988, Great Elms Prince Charming II became the first Pomeranian to win Best In Show at Westminster. The breed peaked in popularity in much of the world, including Australia and the United Kingdom in the 1980’s. While Pomeranians have declined in popularity in recent years in much of the world, the same has not happened in the United States. The Pomeranian has become firmly entrenched as one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. For most of the past 20 years, the Pomeranian has ranked from between 5 and 15 in terms of AKC registrations, a status which the breed is considered likely to hold for the foreseeable future. All breeds go through popularity cycles, and the exact ranking varies from year to year. However, the Pomeranian has likely reached a point where it will remain near the top for the foreseeable future.
The popularity of the Pomeranian breed has come at a cost. Because this breed is both incredibly popular and very small and manageable, it is one of the most popular breeds among commercial dog breeders. The sole aim of such breeders is to create dogs for profit, and most breed with little to no regard for health, temperament, or conformation. This has led to a number of Pomeranians with unpredictable temperaments and poor health. Such dogs have damaged the reputation and overall quality of the breed. It is highly advisable that anyone considering acquiring a Pomeranian should carefully select a quality breeder or rescue organization. Other breeders have worked to develop extra tiny Pomeranians, some of which weigh less than 2 pounds during adulthood. Many such breeders advertise their dogs as a unique variety of Pomeranian, usually calling them Tea Cup, Tiny Toy, Miniature, or similar terms. However, no major kennel club recognizes any of these varieties of Pomeranian. Rather such dogs are actually just very small Pomeranians.
In recent years, so-called, “Designer dogs,” have become fashionable in the United States. These dogs are in fact nothing more than crosses between two different breeds of purebred dogs. The vast majority of these hybrid dogs will only last for one generation. However, it is generally believed that some will eventually breed true and become unique breeds. The Pomeranian is regularly used in the creation of “designer dogs,” but is not nearly as popular for this purpose as breeds such as the Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Chihuahua, and Shih Tzu. Among the most popular Pomeranian mixes include the Pomapoo (Pomeranian/Poodle), the Yoranian (Pomeranian/ Yorkshire Terrier), and the Pomimo (Pomeranian/ American Eskimo).
The Pomeranian is one of the most popular and recognizable dog breeds in the United States, although it is not nearly as popular in most of the rest of the world. In 2010, the Pomeranian ranked 15th out of 167 breeds in terms of AKC registrations. The AKC and UKC both treat the Pomeranian as a distinct breed. However, the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) treats the Pomeranian as a variety of German Spitz, and not as a breed in its own right. Interestingly, the FCI also treats the Keeshond as a variety of German Spitz. The Pomeranian was developed as a companion dog, and that is the purpose to which the breed is most suited. Although a number of Pomeranians still work in circuses, and many have experienced success in agility and obedience competitions, the vast majority of Pomeranians alive today are either companion animals or show dogs.
The Pomeranian is a typical Spitz in appearance, although it is considerably smaller in size than most members of the family. These dogs are well-known for their beautiful, thick coats. The Pomeranian is perhaps the most fox-like in appearance of any breed. As one would expect of a toy breed, the Pomeranian is very small. AKC and UKC standards call for a dog which weighs between 3 and 7 pounds, with ideal dogs being in the middle of the range. Some breeders have created almost absurdly small Pomeranians, some of which weigh less than 2 pounds when adults. It is also not uncommon for Pomeranians to weigh significantly more, often as much as 11 pounds. Although breed standards do not specify a desired height, most Pomeranians are between 5 and 11 inches tall at the shoulder. Similarly to most Spitzen, the Pomeranian is a very squarely built dog. Breed standards call for the ideal Pomeranian to be have a body which is exactly as long as it is tall at the shoulder. Most of the Pomeranian’s body is completely obscured by hair. Underneath that hair is a well-ribbed and rounded body, with a straight back. The tail of the Pomeranian is of medium length, and is generally held flat over the dog’s back.
The face of the Pomeranian is very similar to that of other Spitzen. The head of a Pomeranian is proportionate to its body size, and is wedge-shaped when viewed from above. The Pomeranian’s head is rounded, but not domed. The Pomeranian’s muzzle is fairly short and narrow, but is definitely not pushed in and should be wide enough to hold a full complement of healthy teeth. The eyes of the Pomeranian are medium-sized and dark in color. The Pomeranian’s eyes give it a mischievous, fox-like expression. The Pomeranian has small, pointed ears, which are held upright furthering the fox-like appearance. The Pomeranian is not born with upright ears, rather they become erect as the dog ages.
The defining feature of the Pomeranian is the breed’s thick coat. The Pomeranian is a double-coated dog. The breed’s undercoat is soft, dense, and short. The harsh, glistening outer coat is long and straight. The undercoat holds the outer coat off of the body, giving the appearance that the hair sticks straight out. The Pomeranian’s hair is considerably shorter on the face, front of the legs, and feet, although it is still quite thick. Everywhere else, it is very long and abundant. The hair around the face forms a distinct frill, known as a ruff. When in show condition, the Pomeranian cannot have any trimming, other than mild trimming on the feet, face, and around the anus. Many owners of pet Pomeranians choose to have their dogs trimmed, often into a lion cut, for ease of care and hot temperatures. Pomeranians come in a variety of colors, many of which are equally acceptable in the show ring. Acceptable Pomeranian colors include any solid color, any solid color with darker or lighter markings of the same color, any solid color with sable or brindle markings, parti-color, and black and tan.
It is difficult to make many generalizations about the temperament of the Pomeranian. Commercial breeders have paid little to no attention to the temperament of the Pomeranians that they have bred and as a result they created a large number of Pomeranians with unstable or unpredictable temperaments. Many of these dogs are fearful, timid, or even aggressive, none of which are traits of well-bred Pomeranians. However, carefully bred Pomeranians do have temperaments that are as predictable as those of any other breed.
The Pomeranian is a companion dog through and through, and loves to be with its owners. The Pomeranian is often very affectionate with those whom it knows very well. This breed is also intensely loyal. However, this breed tends to be considerably more independent than most toy breeds, and is very rarely clingy. While some Pomeranians suffer from separation anxiety, this breed probably handles separation from its owners better than most toys. Pomeranians are generally friendly and polite with strangers, although they will almost always bark repeatedly at their approach. Pomeranians are quite capable of making new friends, but this process can take a little bit of time. Your average Pomeranian will not often run up to a new person excitedly. Many Pomeranians are nervous or sometimes aggressive with strangers, but that is probably more a result of poor training than breed propensities. Some Pomeranians tend towards being one-person dogs, but most are equally affectionate with all members of their family.
Pomeranians generally do not do well with children under the age of 10. This breed does not necessarily dislike children, but they are quite small and easily injured by them. Pomeranians can be easily startled by the jerky movements of young children, and are almost completely intolerant of any sort of rough play. Additionally, most Pomeranians like to have a certain amount of personal space which most children do not understand. Finally, Pomeranians are known for being somewhat nippy, and are more than willing to bite if they feel like they need to defend themselves. Pomeranians do tend to do very well with older children, who understand proper manners around dogs. Pomeranians do not make good guard dogs, because of their small size. However, this breed is perhaps one of the best watchdogs, as they are incredibly alert and eager to sound the alarm. Pomeranians do tend to be somewhat dominant, and may not be the best choice for a first time dog owner.
Pomeranians tend to do well with other household pets. Pomeranians which have been properly socialized tend to have few problems with other dogs, and most very much enjoy canine company. Pomeranians are among the “doggiest” dogs of all the toys and often play surprisingly rough with similarly sized breeds. Some Pomeranians will suffer from jealousy issues if they are unaccustomed to sharing the love of their people, but most enjoy having a doggy friend so much that they will adapt fairly quickly. Some Pomeranians can be quite bossy, occasionally causing household disturbances. Pomeranians which have not been properly socialized may show some aggression towards strange dogs, although this is mainly bluster without any real substance. The biggest problem which Pomeranians will get into with other dogs is when a larger dog takes an aggressive display seriously and feels the need to respond in kind. Although the Pomeranian is surprisingly tough, this breed is not likely to fare well in a physical confrontation with a larger. Pomeranians should probably only be housed with similarly sized breeds, to prevent injury.
Despite their fox-like appearance, Pomeranians tend to have comparatively low prey drives. Most Pomeranians will rarely bother animals with which they have been socialized. In particular, Pomeranians tend to leave cats alone after they become familiar with them. Actually, the smallest Pomeranians (those under 3 pounds) are probably at risk from cats who could easily mistake them for a prey animal. It is probably wise to keep the smallest Pomeranians and very young Pomeranian puppies away from cats entirely. Do not assume that even the best trained Pomeranian will not enjoy chasing birds or occasionally hunting a small animal such as a lizard or a cockroach. This is still a breed with a number of canine instincts, and most Pomeranians love to chase a squirrel or two.
Much more so than most similar breeds, Pomeranians are a very trainable. These dogs are quite intelligent, and capable of learning a number of complex tricks. This is why they have been popular as circus performers. If you are willing to take the time and effort to train a Pomeranian, you will end up with a dog that is capable of much more than almost any other toy breed. However, the Pomeranian is far from the easiest breed to train. Many Pomeranians are stubborn and hard-minded. Such dogs will take a great deal of extra time and effort to train, but the results are probably worth it. Pomeranians do very well in obedience and agility competitions, although the high end of Pomeranian training is likely significantly less than a breed such as a Poodle or a Border Collie. It is imperative that Pomeranian owners make it quite clear at all times that they are the boss. Pomeranians will not follow the commands of those that they feel are inferior to themselves in status. For similar reasons, most Pomeranians will only obey those that they know very well, and in some cases only the commands of one or two people.
Housebreaking a Pomeranian can be extremely challenging. These dogs have small bladders which take extra time to develop. A Pomeranian is simply not capable of holding it in for very long. These dogs are so small that they are easily able to relieve themselves behind a sofa, underneath a bed, or in a similarly hidden spot. This leads to a lack of correction, which in turn leads to greater difficulties and more relapses. Some Pomeranians, especially males, regularly mark their territories, which is an instinct which owners will have to correct. Expect extra months of crate training and frequent relapses when attempting to housebreak a Pomeranian.
This is a very lively little dog, and most are full of energy. Pomeranians have one of the highest exercise requirements of all toys. This breed needs a long daily walk at the very least, but would definitely prefer to have time to run around in a secure area. Because their coats offer them a great deal of protection from the elements, Pomeranians actually enjoy cool or cold weather, which is very unlike most other toys. Pomeranians also love to play with their owners, other dogs, and by themselves, and will take care of many of their exercise needs in this manner. While the Pomeranian is no couch potato and will demand more exercise than most similarly sized breeds, this is not a dog that needs or wants hours of vigorous exercise, and Pomeranian owners will certainly not have to run themselves ragged to meet their dogs needs. Lack of exercise is probably one of the single biggest causes of Pomeranian behavioral issues. Pomeranians who are unexercised are likely to become bored, and develop aggression, barking, and destructiveness issues. Pomeranians which are exercised are generally much happier and more well-balanced. Don’t expect that a Pomeranian will ever be a calm and relaxed dog however, as most are always alert and energetic. Most Pomeranians enjoy having a job, and love to run through an agility course or learn a new trick. However this breed does not need to have a purpose in the way that some other dogs do, and most will be fine without one.
All Pomeranian owners need to be aware that this breed is known for being very vocal. Pomeranians bark, and most bark very frequently. Pomeranians must be trained from a very young age to control their barking. Training and exercise can greatly reduce the barking that will come out of a Pomeranian. However, all Pomeranians will bark much more than almost any other breed. Pomeranians typically do not bark just once, but rather make a rapid succession of distinct barks. The bark of the Pomeranian is incredibly high-pitched and shrill. This breed would likely be considered the ultimate, “yappy dog.” If you do not enjoy the sound of a Pomeranian’s bark, you should almost certainly consider another breed, as you will hear it a great deal. Although generally well-suited to urban life, a Pomeranian’s barking must be controlled or this breed can result in noise complaints.
As is the case with all toy breeds, the Pomeranian is highly susceptible to a group of behavioral disorders collectively known as Small Dog Syndrome. Small Dog Syndrome is caused by owners who treat their small dogs differently than they would a large dog. Almost everyone has seen a dog suffering from Small Dog Syndrome, these are the tiny dogs pulling at the ends of their leashes, attempting to attack anyone and anything that walks by. It may seem cute, funny, or non-threatening when a two pound Pomeranian puppy growls or tries to bite, but the result of not correcting this behavior certainly is not. Owners must remember to always walk the fine line between providing a small dog with the extra protection that they require but still treating it like a dog.
As one should expect from looking at the breed’s coat, the Pomeranian requires a great deal of grooming. This dog needs to be thoroughly brushed almost every single day. These dogs need to have all potential mats and tangles brushed out as early as possible. Owners must carefully check a Pomeranian’s skin on a frequent basis, as the long, thick coat makes it difficult to see injuries, skin irritations, and external parasites such as fleas and ticks. Pomeranians require several hours of hair care every week to stay in show condition. Although Pomeranians do not require professional grooming, many owners choose to take their dogs in to the groomers. Pomeranians with haircuts are generally easier to groom and sometimes more heat tolerant, but they may not be as protected from the elements. Cutting the dog’s fur so that it looks like a lion is probably the most popular choice, but many owners also select a puppy cut. Pomeranians take much longer to bathe and dry than most similarly sized dogs. It can be quite challenging to thoroughly clean these coats, and a blow dryer is almost certainly required to dry them.
Unlike most toy breeds, Pomeranians are very heavy shedders. Many Pomeranians shed constantly. This breed will cover your furniture, carpets, and clothes in dog hair. A Pomeranian sheds heavily all year long, but almost all Pomeranians shed their undercoat once or twice a year. During this time, a Pomeranian sheds so much that many leave a pile of hair wherever they sit down. The Pomeranian is probably the heaviest shedder of all toy breeds, and sheds many times as much hair as a number of breeds that are several times this dog’s size. If you or a family member either suffer from allergies or hate the thought of cleaning up dog hair, you should almost certainly consider a different breed.
Pomeranians are known to have dental issues. Owners must be aware of these issues and take the time and effort to prevent them. Pomeranians need to have their teeth brushed on a regular basis, preferably daily.
As is the case with temperament, it is difficult to make many definitive statements on Pomeranian health. Irresponsible breeders have created dogs with very poor health, but these are not representative of the breed as a whole. Additionally, such breeders are unlikely to keep health records or participate in breed health surveys. The large population of the Pomeranian makes it difficult to determine the frequency of certain conditions, as 1000 Pomeranians with a condition could be a much smaller percentage of total dogs than 10 dogs of a rarer breed with the same condition. However, well-bred Pomeranians which are properly cared for and fed are generally healthy dogs. This breed is very similar to the wolf in most aspects other than size, and does not suffer a number of problems as a result. This breed is also considerably hardier than most other toys. A well-bred and well-cared for Pomeranian has a life expectancy of between 12 and 16 years, and most suffer from relatively few health problems until old age.
Pomeranians are most susceptible to a number of hair and coat related difficulties. These dogs suffer from matting and tangles when ungroomed, which can be extremely painful. Hair loss is not uncommon in Pomeranians, who are known to suffer from alopecia and numerous bald spots as they age. Pomeranians are also susceptible to a condition known as “black skin disease.” “Black skin disease” is a combination of hair loss and darkening of the skin. This disease is frequently mistaken for a number of other diseases such as Cushing’s Disease, and can lead to massive hair loss. This condition usually appears around puberty.
Pomeranians are known to have dental issues, and often suffer from extreme plaque buildup and early tooth loss. Most of these issues are partially preventable with good dental care. Owners should brush a Pomeranian’s teeth daily, but even this can only do so much to combat genetics.
Merle coated Pomeranians are subject to a number of unique health difficulties. This is why they have been disqualified from most international kennel clubs. Such dogs are frequently deaf, and have a number of eye problems including increased interocular pressure, ametrophia, microphthalmia, and colobomas. Merle dogs which have two merle parents very frequently suffer from skeletal, developmental, cardiac, and reproductive deformities and issues.
A full list of health problems which Pomeranians are known to be susceptible to would have to include: