The American Eskimo Dog undoubtedly descended from several European spitz breeds, including the white Keeshond from Holland, the white German Spitz, the white Pomeranian from Germany and the Volpino Italiano, or white Italian Spitz. During the middle part of the 19th century, small, white Nordic-type dogs were common in American communities of German immigrants. Collectively, these dogs became referred to as the American Spitz. This spunky breed gained extreme popularity for use as trick dogs in traveling circuses across the United States. Supposedly, an American Eskimo named Stout’s Pal Pierre walked on a tightrope in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. The public loved seeing their sparkling white coats and quickness, while trainers prized them for these attributes along with their inherent intelligence, agility and trainability.
Although the reason is not clear, the American Spitz was renamed the American Eskimo in 1917. This modern title mistakenly suggests that these are miniature versions of larger sled-pulling dogs developed in the far northern parts of this continent. The change from “Spitz” to “Eskimo” may be explained by the political climate in the United States during World War I. “Spitz” is a German work that means “sharp point” and was used to describe northern dogs with pointed muzzles, erect ears, curled tails and double coats, and it has been suggested that the name change was an attempt to distance the breed in America from its German origins.
The national parent club for the breed, the American Eskimo Dog Club of America (AEDCA), was formed in 1985 and opened its studbook in 1986. The AEDCA transferred its studbook to the American Kennel Club in 1993, with more than 1,750 Eskies registered as foundation stock. The American Eskimo Dog became part of the AKC’s Non-Sporting Group and fully recognized in 1995. Eskies are competitive in obedience, agility, rally and the conformation show ring. They are used as narcotics detection dogs and even guard dogs. While popular in the United States, this breed is little-known in other countries.
The average life span of the American Eskimo Dog is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns can include diabetes; epilepsy; hip dysplasia; juvenile cataracts; Legg-Calve-Perthes disease; patellar luxation; and progressive retinal atrophy.