Fencing & Containment
A secure, fully-fenced yard is mandatory before you consider bringing home one of these known-to-be escape artists. Some have been known to squeeze through holes or gaps that you are simply unable to believe they could fit through. Some can also climb, so check your fencing and gates for any footholds and check your yard for anything that may be used as a climbing apparatus to get up and over that fence and gain entry into the outside world. Some may also be inclined to attempt to dig underneath fencing or gates, so keeping a regular check of your fenceline for the beginnings of any tunnels to China is a good idea.
Exercise & Mental Stimulation
These dogs are high energy and incredibly intelligent. They were bred to work, so keeping them stimulated both mentally and physically is extremely important. Different dogs have different energy levels, but at the very least they require a daily vigorous walk and some games to keep their mind active. Obedience training is a great idea and is also a good outlet for their desire to achieve and gain their human's praise. They are independent, often stubborn and strong-willed, but they are also extremely smart and love to learn and please. Most are not good off-leash and will run like the wind if you give them the opportunity. For their safety and the safety of others, it is not recommended that they be let off-leash except in contained areas.
Northern, or spitz, breeds are pack animals and don't do well as an only-dog. Having said that, some do not get along with any breeds other than their own and some have been known to be same-sex aggressive. They are people-friendly and most are great with children, however it must be remembered that no dog should be left unsupervised with children, as accidents can happen simply due to the sheer size and power of these breeds. These dogs don't do well left along for extended periods - they are very social dogs and need to feel like part of the family unit, so it's important to allow them time inside with their family and to include them in family activities.
The only things these dogs are likely to guard are their food, toys or other resources. They will almost certainly treat any intruder as a potential playmate, so if a guard dog is what you are looking for, you will likely not find one in a northern breed.
Cats & Small Pets
Most of these dogs have a high prey drive, meaning they will chase smaller animals as though they are prey, including cats, rabbits, rodents and other small pets. This may not end well for the smaller animal. Some can live in harmony with cats, usually if the cat was there first and the dog was brought home as a puppy and raised with the cat. However, it's always recommended that you give your cat a safe place to retreat to that the dog cannot access and supervise interactions as much as possible. Even if your puppy grew up with your cat, sometimes instinctual behaviour can get the better of them.
Let Me Sing You The Song Of My People
These dogs have been known to howl, some happily 'singing' along to sirens in the distance. They can be very vocal and will happily 'talk' your ear off, as well as 'chat' to fellow pets and to anyone that comes visiting. Some of the breeds bark, others not so much. All have one thing in common - they love attention and will seek it out and make their presence known.
All northern breeds have a double coat - the bottom layer is dense and soft, while the outer layer, known as guard hair, is coarser and longer. Together, the two layers serve to insulate against cold and heat. Dogs with double coats tend to shed twice a year, commonly known as 'blowing their coat', however they still shed some fur throughout the year, moreso if you don't regularly and properly groom them. Frequent brushing - at least twice a week, but ideally daily - will remove dead hair and minimise loose shedding. Always brush your dog's coat prior to bathing. Matted hair and knots pull on your dog's skin and can be extremely painful. Whilst grooming, run your fingers through your dog's coat and over their skin to check for any lumps or sores, or items such as grass-seed and bindii stuck in their fur. If you live in an area where ticks are common, these daily checks can be paramount to keeping your dog healthy.
Shaving is never recommended, unless necessary for medical reasons. Cosmetic reasons for shaving these dogs, such as a desired decrease in shedding, are not acceptable. If a groomer or veterinarian advises you that your dog would be more comfortable in the warmer weather if they were shaved, they are WRONG. These dogs' coats insulate against heat as well as cold and removing the coat completely can actually interfere with the dog's ability to regulate body temperature. Shaving a double-coated breed can also lead to sunburn, alopecia (hair-loss) and various skin irritations and diseases. Please refer to this informative diagram which explains how air flow to the skin can be affected.
SHAMROQ exclusively use & recommend the ACTIVET range as the best possible brushes for double coated breeds. You'll love how easy it is to control undercoat shedding and matting with these brilliant professional tools. Groomer Select is the exclusive Australian supplier of Activet brushes and has offered all SHAMROQ supporters a 10% discount on orders. Visit their website by clicking HERE and enter code SHRQ18 at checkout.
We highly recommend the Duo Pro Brush Red/Silver for handling mats & heavy coats and the Duo Pro Brush Purple/Silver for removing undercoat and all-round coat care, but check out the entire range for those of you who have other breeds as well.