How to Train an American Eskimo Dog

The American Eskimo Dog combines striking good looks with a quick and clever mind in a total brains-and-beauty package. Neither shy nor aggressive, Eskies are always alert and friendly, though a bit conservative when making new friends. The American Eskimo Dog comes in three sizes’standard, miniature, and toy’standing as tall as 19 inches at the shoulder or as short as 9 inches.

Distinctive traits include a dense, sparkling white coat with a lion-like ruff around the chest and shoulders; a smiling face, with black nose, lips, and eye-rims that convey a keen, intelligent expression; and a plumed tail carried over the back. Some Eskies have markings with the delicious color name ‘biscuit cream.’ They move with a bold and agile gait.

Eskies are social animals and can develop problem behaviors when neglected or undertrained’they insist on being part of family life. Among the most trainable of breeds, the clever, kid-friendly Eskie practically invented the phrase ‘eager to please.’


The name American Eskimo Dog is a misnomer: Eskimos had nothing to do with the founding of the breed. 

The successive waves of German immigrants that reached American shores beginning in the early 1800s had a profound impact on the development of the Midwest. German farmers who sought opportunity in America brought their Old World ways to such states as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio’ and the German influence can still be felt in the upper Midwest to this day. Lutheranism, the brewing industry, and the region’s mania for German-style foods are cultural touchstones these immigrants transplanted to their corner of the New World. Another was a Nordic breed called the German Spitz, used as all-around farm dogs. These little white dogs were ancestors of the modern Eskie. By the latter years of the 19th century, it was becoming difficult to keep these beautiful, highly trainable dogs down on the farm. Show business was beckoning. 

Back when traveling circuses, vaudeville troupes, and Wild West shows crisscrossed pre-electronic America, German Spitz’ thanks to their intelligence, agility, and showy looks became mainstays of trained-dog acts. (This held true well into the 20th century. Perhaps America’s most famous performing dog of the 1930s was Pierre, an Eskie tightrope walker with the Barnum & Bailey Circus.)

Upon America’s entry into World War I in 1917, the country was gripped by a prejudice against all things Teutonic. The breed’s German name was changed to ‘American Eskimo’ Dog, after the name used by a Spitz breeding kennel in Ohio. Though the breed has a long and fascinating U.S. history, it was not until 1995 that the AKC registered its first American Eskimo Dog.

The little white wonder dogs who performed various chores around Midwestern farms, and later charmed audiences under the circus big top, are today sought out by pet owners looking for versatile, fun-loving companions.


A responsible breeder will test his or her breeding stock for health issues such as hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. As with all breeds, an Eskie’s ears should be checked weekly to remove debris and avoid a buildup of wax, and the dog’s teeth should be brushed regularly.


The American Eskimo Dog’s fluffy, white double coat ‘ a short, dense undercoat below the longer outer coat ‘ is surprisingly easy to keep clean. However, Eskies shed almost constantly. A thorough brushing two or three times a week will remove dead hairs before they can be shed, as well as help to prevent matting. The oil on an Eskie’s fur prevents dirt from adhering, so a good brushing is usually enough to remove it. It is OK to bathe  an Eskie occasionally, but doing so more than once every few months can make his skin dry and irritated. As with all breeds, the Eskie’s nails should be trimmed regularly.


An active dog with lots of energy, the Eskie is also quick and curious, requiring lots of exercise and mental challenges. An Eskie who is left alone or who doesn’t get enough exercise can quickly become destructive. A securely fenced yard and an assortment of toys will help provide good exercise and stimulation to keep an Eskie out of trouble. He shouldn’t just be left out in the yard by himself all day, however. Despite his warm coat, the Eskie is an indoor dog, and he forms strong bonds with his people and is happiest interacting with them. Once they pass middle age, Eskies often become more sedate.


As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Fortunately, the American Eskimo Dog is among the most trainable of all breeds. Back when traveling circuses, vaudeville troupes, and Wild West shows crisscrossed the map, Eskies were mainstays of trained-dog acts. They are highly intelligent and eager to please. They learn new commands quickly ‘ sometimes just by watching other dogs. An Eskie craves companionship and interaction with his owners and will tend to develop problem behaviors if left alone too often for long periods of time.


The American Eskimo Dog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


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