The American Eskimo
The American Eskimo, or the Eskie, is a Nordic type breed of small to medium size. According to the AKC breed standard, the Eskie comes in 3 sizes Toy (9"-12"), Miniature (12"-15") and Standard (15"-19"). Acceptable colors are white or white with biscuit cream. (Biscuit cream is another word for tan or light brown.)
In general, the Eskie is a lively, athletic breed. They love to romp and play and many of the Standards or larger Minis can easily leap over 4 foot fences. The breed is very intelligent and easily learns new tasks. Unlike what you might have heard about Nordic breeds in general, the Eskie truly enjoys working with his master and genuinely loves to please him or her.
The American Eskimo breed was originally developed to be a watchdog or a general purpose farm dog. There are two theories regarding the purpose of the breed here in the United States. I tend to agree with the theory that the breed was developed to be a general purpose farm dog. I see many behaviors or traits in the Eskie that have caused me to believe that the Eskie was probably used as a farm dog. Many of the Eskies that I have encountered have some degree of herding instinct, many have high prey drive, many attempt to eliminate vermin (mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, etc.) and most will also act as a watchdog. All of these traits are prized in a general purpose farm dog. There is a theory that states that the American Eskimo was used as a circus dog. While it is true that the intelligence of the breed readily lends itself to easily mastering tricks (or just about any other task you set before it), there is little evidence to support the belief that the breed was used extensively in circuses. Over the years, there have been a few Eskies used in circuses or some other types of performing acts, but not so many that one could say that the circus is what popularized the breed.
Before You Buy
Hopefully, you have done some investigation into the breed and know something about the American Eskimo. However, many books will only tell you the good things about the breed. I feel you need to know both the good and the bad.
Shedding - The American Eskimo is a double coated breed that sheds periodically. Typically, books about the breed will tell you that the breed sheds once a year for males and twice a year for females. I like to tell people that it will probably be more often than that. Typically, I have found that Eskies often shed seasonally. In my own dogs, I have noticed that they tend to shed in December or January, sometimes in June or July if the summer is particularly hot and then again sometimes in October. When the Eskie sheds, it typically loses most, if not all, of its undercoat. During this time, you must regularly comb or brush the dog. If you do not, one of two things will happen. Either the dog's hair will become extremely matted or you will end up with hair all over your house. After you have removed all of the loose hair that you can with a comb or brush, bathing with warm (NOT hot) water can help to loosen any additional hair that is ready to come out. Blow drying with a blow dryer approved for use on dogs will also help to remove loose hair. Fortunately, unlike some of the short-coated breeds, which tend to shed throughout the entire year, this only happens between 1 and 3 times per year. Ideally, when an Eskie is shedding, it should be brushed or combed every day. When the dog is not shedding, you can get away with brushing or combing as infrequently as once a week. However, I would recommend that if you acquire a puppy, that you get a puppy used to being groomed by combing or brushing every day. Whenever you comb or brush your dog, you should always mist the coat with water or a grooming spray. Brushing a dry coat can break the hairs and cause damage to the coat. (If the air is particularly dry as it is in the wintertime, brushing dry hair can also cause a build-up of static electricity, which will lead to either you or your dog being shocked.)
Other Grooming Most Eskies require weekly nail trimming and foot grooming. Their nails tend to grow rather quickly and if they are not trimmed on a weekly basis, the nails can become too long and interfere with the dog's movement. (Having nails that are too long causes a dog to rock back on its heels instead of walking on the toes. This can put a lot of strain on the dog's legs and may eventually lead to problems.) At the same time that the nails are being trimmed, the hair on the feet should be trimmed as well. The hair on the bottoms of the feet, between the foot pads, needs to be trimmed off even with the pads. This will give the dog better traction when walking and will help prevent build-up of snow, ice or mud on the bottoms of the dog's feet. The hair on top of the dog's feet also needs to be trimmed. You will want to trim both the vertical length and the "horizontal" length. To trim the vertical length, brush the hair on the foot upward from the toes toward the leg. Trim the hair off even with the top of the foot. To trim the "horizontal" length, brush the hair on the foot flat and trim the hair even with the outside edge of the foot. The hair on the back of the dog's back legs (hocks) should be trimmed as well. To trim this hair, use a comb and comb the hair straight out from the back of the leg. Quite often, you will see that the hair doesn't grow evenly and it will be of varying lengths. So, you will want to trim this with a pair of straight shears so that is all the same length. For best results, use straight shears or an electric trimmer to trim the hair on the bottom of the foot and use thinning shears to trim the hair on the top of the foot. Nail trimming can be done with a nail trimmer designed for dogs. If you would like to avoid having sharp nails on your dog, you can smooth the nails with a nail grinder or nail file. If you are really ambitious and don't mind doing your dog's nails every day or every other day, you can trim the nails with just the grinder. However, if you use this method, remember to only trim a little at a time. Grinders can get very hot if used for too long and that can become very uncomfortable for your dog.
Required Grooming Tools To properly groom your Eskie, you will need a dog comb, a wire pin brush, a slicker brush, a shedding comb, straight shears and/or an electric trimmer/clipper, a nail clipper and/or nail grinder, thinning shears and a spray bottle. You will also need a blow dryer. The ones designed for dogs work best, but you can get away with a human blow dryer if it has an adjustable heat setting.
Barking Most Eskies will bark to let you know that there is someone at the door or somewhere on whatever they feel to be your property. This is generally a good thing. There are also some Eskies that just love to hear the sound of their own voice. This may not be a good thing if you live in an apartment complex and the walls aren't thick enough to prevent sounds from traveling through them. Some dogs bark when they are lonely, some dogs bark when they hear even the slightest sound. Don't despair, though, even these dogs can be trained to control their barking. It will take a bit of effort on your part, but it can be done.
Chewing Contrary to what you might think based on their relatively small size (in comparison to other breeds, that is), Eskies are aggressive chewers. They can and will chew on ANYTHING if they are not properly educated about what is acceptable to chew. You must provide an Eskie with several things that he is allowed to chew. Since they are aggressive chewers, I do not recommend using rawhide as a chew toy for them. They devour rawhide much too quickly and this can lead to stomach or intestinal problems. Also, occasionally, a dog will try to swallow too large of a piece and it will get lodged in the dog's throat and cause the dog to choke.
Digging Eskies LOVE to dig. If you plan to have a beautifully manicured flower or vegetable garden, you will need to teach your dog where it is acceptable to dig and where it is not. A friend who has another breed of dog that is known for digging created a sandbox in her yard for her dogs. The dogs have been taught that they can dig in the sandbox, but not in the rest of the yard.
Eskies and Children Typically, the Eskie is a well mannered dog that loves human companionship. However, they are also a relatively small breed of dog. Since they are small, children must be taught to respect the dog and not to tease or torment it. Allowing children to tease a dog can teach the dog that children are not to be trusted. If a child corners a dog and teases it, the dog's only means of escape will likely be biting the child. This is NOT the dog's fault, so you as a responsible dog owner and parent must teach both the dog and the child to co-exist peacefully. Children must learn how to properly pick a dog up and they must learn that they should NEVER drop a dog. Dropping a small dog or puppy can result in serious injury or even death. Eskies are a very loving breed and will lavish affection on anyone who treats them well.
Temperament - In general, the modern Eskie is a loving, friendly family companion with a pleasant disposition. However, upon occasion, some breedings produce dogs that are not very pleasant. These dogs can range from being slightly willful to being overly aggressive toward other dogs or even people. Make sure you do your homework and speak with the breeder about the temperament of his/her dogs. Reputable breeders should be breeding for sound, pleasant temperaments. The one thing to remember about even the most pleasant Eskies, though, is that they tend to be reserved around strangers by their very nature due to their watchdog heritage. Care must be taken when you bring a puppy or dog into your home to make sure that the dog knows the rules of your house when people come to visit. Most Eskies will just tend to be cautious around strangers that come to your house. However, there are a few that take their job of watching over you and your property very seriously. If dogs like this are not educated properly, they might actually end up biting someone.
Health The Eskie has at least two health problems that are known to occur in the breed. One is PRA or Progressive Retinal Atrophy and another is hip dysplasia. PRA is a hereditary degenerative eye disease which eventually leads to blindness. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary disease of the hip joints which may be so slight as to cause very little problems for the dog or so severe as to limit the dog's mobility. There are a few other problems that have occurred occasionally in the breed. Some of these problems include autoimmune problems or vaccine reactions, immune mediated hemolytic anemia, thyroid problems, epilepsy, cateracts (sometimes juvenile), diabetes and PPMs (persistent pupillary membranes).
Crate Training/Housebreaking I highly recommend that all Eskies are crate trained. It helps tremendously with housebreaking your dog. I also recommend that all Eskies ride in a crate when traveling in a car. The crate will protect them in case you should ever be in an accident. There are numerous stories of dogs that were riding in sturdy, airline approved crates that survived serious accidents and just as many stories of dogs that were riding free in the car and did not survive. I won't go into the how-to of crate training here. There are many books on the subject available from places such as Dogwise ( www.dogwise.com )
Other Information Eskies need to get exercise. Ideally, you should have a fenced yard. Invisible fences can work, but because other dogs can come into a yard which has an invisible fence and because your dog can escape from a yard with an invisible fence, I hesitate to recommend them. I do NOT recommend that an Eskie ever be tied outside. Tying a dog can lead to aggressive tendencies, which is definitely not desirable. Eskies need lots of socialization from the time they are young puppies up to and including the time they are adults. I recommend taking a dog to training classes at least once per week from the time you bring the dog home until the dog is at least one year of age. After that, I would still recommend attending periodic training classes. Dogs go through "fear periods" during their life, even as adults, so it is important to work with them to help them deal with their fears so they don't become a problem. Eskies tend to be a very sensitive breed, so positive training methods tend to work best for them. Make sure you find a trainer who uses reward, not punishment based training. If you need help finding a trainer in your area, you can contact the AKC (American Kennel Club) to find out if they have any clubs in your area or you can go to the Clean Run website ( www.cleanrun.com ) and do a search for agility training schools. Even though this website lists agility training schools, many of the training facilities they list also offer other types of training. If you cannot find anything or need additional help, let me know and I can probably help you find something.
This is just a bit of general information and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of everything you need to know about an Eskie before you buy. Please feel free to ask any other questions you might have. I want you to have the dog that is right for you and the only way that I can ensure that that happens is if you voice any concerns you might have or ask any questions you might have. Good luck in your search for your dog!
Copyright 2005 Jenifer Brimmer
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