The Papillon is generally accepted as the Butterfly dog with its fringed ears spreading like glorious butterfly wings, but it is the Pomeranian that is the true Butterfly dog, truly metamorphic in its stages of development before reaching the beauty of adulthood.
At 8 weeks of age almost every Pomeranian is adorable, with its Teddy bear look, and forward facing eyes, we are drawn to them like stuffed toys. However over the next few weeks and months and even years, that adorable puppy will change out of all recognition before reaching the end of its development.
In the true and correct development of the Pomeranian, they reach 12-14 weeks and will start to go up on leg, that plush baby coat will start to look rather felted and matted ,and spikey guard hair will start to poke through giving them a rather Hedgehog look. The foreface will start to grow and the hair on the forehead will take on a somewhat money appearance giving rise to the saying “monkey mask, or the “ monkeys”. The tail is like a little shaving brush at best with some only having a few sparse hairs. The tail may develop a tight curl as the puppy changes its teeth, but most straighten up later. Many puppies start to go long and gangly, and for those people who have bought their first puppy , they begin to wonder what on earth they have purchased..!
As the weeks go on the puppy undercoat will start to come out with bathing and grooming and in some cases the puppy may look more like a smooth Chihuahua and little resemblance to the breed at all. It is at this stage that some will sell the puppy, convinced that it is of no use for showing, but it is at this stage that the conformation the dog can be seen without any coat to mask it. The movement and structure is out there for all to see and gives a true idea of what you have.
When I started showing, in 1978 it was the norm to show puppies at 6 months of age with very little coat and none looked out of place , as every puppy looked the same at that age. As the weeks went by the coat started to come in little by little, the head coat filling in, and we start to see something like the breed emerging. At this stage we set the trim into the coat and it grew into the desired round shape as time went on, and the ends were regularly tipped to keep it neat.
Over the weeks and months the Pom puppy developed slowly, the coat gains length and a moderate amount of undercoat is present, not inches of thick wool, but enough to support the outer guard hairs. (Thick woolly undercoat prevents the guard hairs from getting through and in some cases the dog never develops a proper coat, and combined with a Chow-like appearance seems to be a factor in Pomeranians that have a pre-disposition to serious skin problems) .
Coats were shown full and tails were up to the head, as a coated breed we embraced a full coat and tail, not hacking it off, but trimming for neatness, heavy trimming was penalised, and dogs were shown for many years, some only coming into their best at 4 or 5 years old.
Now sadly we have something very different creeping in. Puppies that look like adults at 6 months, puppies that look like adults at 6 WEEKS. Like everything in the modern world, we are applying the “ I want it and I want it now” concept to this breed and we are losing everything that made it the Pomeranian. I don’t think we can live in the past, feeding and other factors mean that dogs grow and mature quicker to some degree, but with Black Skin disease and other severe problems ravaging the breed world- wide perhaps it is time we looked back to the roots of the breed.
Only breeding from slower maturing dogs that go through proper growth and coat development and regular seasonal or age appropriate shedding process, can we breed healthy Pomeranians. Show your raw puppies and be proud that you have nothing to hide. And judges, please, accept the 6 month old puppy for what it is and don’t be looking for a mini adult. The age classes are designed by The Kennel Club in the UK to show young not yet mature dogs. Please don’t go for the quick fix, go for the slower route, wait for them to break out of the chrysalis to reveal the beautiful Butterfly in all its glory.