Japanese Spitz and German Spitz – Which One is Which?


Japanese Spitz is a medium-sized Spitz. German Spitz comes in 5 sizes, but German Spitz Mittel is medium-sized just like the Japanese Spitz is.

Japanese Spitz is always white whereas a German Spitz can come in a variety of colors. In fact, the color can make it very easy to distinguish which one is which, but not always, because German Spitz can be white, too. If that’s the case, then it gets difficult to know which breed of a dog it is. Two white dogs – one a Japanese Spitz while the other a German Spitz Mittel – can be really similar-looking and for a non-expert, it can be very hard to know which is which.

But what are the differences between the two breeds? Which one should you choose for your lifestyle? How different are their characteristics? Let’s find out.

Comparing the looks of a Japanese and a German Spitz

The size of the German Spitz Mittel and the Japanese Spitz is exactly the same, so this is not a factor that you can use to distinguish the two. The height as well as the weight is usually pretty similar. The one difference that I would say right up front is that German Spitz is usually stronger and more robust looking. Not always, but in some cases, it is noticeable.

Notice how we are talking about the third biggest German Spitz here, the German Spitz Mittel. This is the dog that is very similar to the Japanese Spitz. If we are talking about the Pomeranian or the German Spitz Klein, then it will be very easy to notice that the Japanese Spitz is bigger. If, however, we’re talking about the bigger German Spitzes, the Gross Spitz, or the Keeshond, then it is obvious that the Japanese Spitz is remarkably smaller.

German Spitz Mittel should ideally be square-shaped. They are not all built like this (mine isn’t!) but ideally they should be. The Japanese Spitz should not quite be a square. The body height/length ratio on a German Spitz Mittel should be 1:1 while on a Japanese Spitz it should be 10:11.

Both of these dogs have a beautiful looking double coat, a tail curled up over their backs, and small pointed ears.

Comparing the characters of a Japanese and a German Spitz

So, we’ve established that the two dog breeds are very similar when it comes to their looks, but what about their characters? That is, after all, the most important aspect when you are considering which of these breeds you should choose for yourself.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you a definite answer because these dogs have fairly similar characteristics, too.

In general, I would say that a Japanese Spitz can be more stubborn while a German Spitz likes to please its owners. They are both fairly easy to train, but this is what makes a German Spitz even easier. Maybe this is why I would probably choose a German Spitz if I was a total newbie and this was my first time getting a dog.

Then again, a Japanese Spitz is calmer and doesn’t react to everything as easily as a German Spitz does. A Japanese Spitz does not bark as much as a German Spitz does, which makes the Japanese Spitz an easier dog to live with in a city where there are lots of neighbors nearby. Sure, you can teach a German Spitz not to bark in an excessive way, but it takes time and effort, and a bit of knowledge as well.

Why is Japanese and German Spitz so similar?

It all comes down to their history. The Japanese Spitz has been bred from the German Spitz dogs, so obviously they look and feel very similar, then.

The German Spitz is one of the most ancient dog breeds in Europe. It’s been said that these dogs have lived with humans already thousands of years ago. If you want to know more about the history of the German Spitz you might want to take a look at this article I’ve written: Where Do German Spitzes Come From?Opens in a new tab.

While the German Spitz is ancient, the Japanese Spitz is not. The full history is unknown but apparently the first Japanese Spitzes have been shown in Tokyo in 1921. Before this, some white German Spitz dogs were imported in Japan and they were probably crossbred with a few other Spitz-type dogs in order to develop a Japanese version of the Spitz. The standard for the Japanese breed was established in 1948. (SourceOpens in a new tab.)

Even though it’s been about a hundred years since the first steps of the Japanese Spitz breed were taken – which in dog years is a long time – the hundred years past cannot erase the long history that these dogs have shared. They still have similar looks and characteristics.

It is always a good idea to know a little about the history of the dog breed that you are considering. Even though both the German and the Japanese Spitz are more like companion dogs these days, it should never be forgotten that German Spitzes were once used as alerting guard dogs in some German provinces. Their tendency to bark can still be seen in the dogs that live in our days. They haven’t forgotten their origins. This is especially true with the German Spitz. The Japanese dog is a little quieter than the European counterpart.

Should you choose a Japanese or a German Spitz?

Both of these dogs are active, so these dogs are not suitable for anyone wanting to spend all of their time on the couch. They need both mental and physical activities. They can go hiking, they can handle cold weather well, and they enjoy many dog sports, like agility and rally obedience.

I may be biased because I’m a German Spitz lover, but if I was looking to find my first dog and I had these two as my options, I would go with the German version. I think the German Spitz is slightly easier to train.

You might want to consider your personality, too. While you can find lots of different personalities among the puppies of the same breed, the Japanese and the German Spitz in general have slight differences in their personalities. The Japanese Spitz is calmer, so if you are a calm person, you might want to go with the Japanese Spitz to match better with your lifestyle.

I am calm, though, and I have chosen the German Spitz. I get my share of reactivity and explosiveness from my German Spitz and I kind of like it that there’s a bit of action in my life. My German Spitz Mittel reacts strongly to certain things. For example, if he hears a siren or a doorbell or just somebody outside, he immediately barks or begins to howl. You can read more about this tendency in my article Do German Spitzes Howl? Then What?Opens in a new tab.

This reactivity is a characteristic that needs a bit of training, obviously, but not all German Spitzes are quite like mine. There are individuals that are easier.

If you live in an apartment and you do not have much experience with dog training, then again your choice might be the Japanese Spitz because it does not bark quite as much as the German Spitz does.

The personality and the character of the dog are more important than the looks, but naturally, we all have preferences with how we want our dogs to look like, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With the Japanese Spitz, all you get is white, which is a beautiful color on a dog. But, if you want more variety, then you should consider the German Spitz that comes in so many different colors and shades.

White can be a difficult color on a dog because you can see dirt on it more easily, but luckily these Spitzes are fairly easy to groom and to take care of. They are rather good at repelling dirt!

Whichever you choose, it is certain that you will be getting an amazing dog. Spitzes, in general, are great, my favorite types of dogs, but these medium-sized Spitzes especially so. They are neither too big nor too small. You can be active with them and do all sorts of things. They can surely handle whatever you throw at them. They will be your best friends, just as you will be theirs. They will love you with all their heart, and their hearts are big.  

If you are still unfamiliar with the German Spitz, and you wonder what exactly these dogs look like, go ahead and take a look at this article that I wrote: What Does a German Spitz Look Like?Opens in a new tab.

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