LOOKING AT the saucy, alert little face of a Pomeranian, it is difficult to believe that these 4-pound dogs are members of the spitz family, descendants of the large and powerful sled and herding dogs of the north.
Over the years, careful breedings reduced the size of the dog to 6 or 7 pounds. Today the ideal weight for a Pom is 4 pounds.
At the Watts' Pomeranian Kennel of Maryland in Brandywine, 25 tiny purebred Poms are being raised in a manner a human could envy.
Owner and breeder Dolores Watts is nationally known for the quality of her champions and for the care and affection with which they are raised. Her carefully designed kennels offer large runs and whelping rooms, a big beautiful office and outside fenced spaces. The kennel adjoins the home and was built by her husband, David, who has been a custom home builder in Prince George's County for 32 years.
Because the kennels are a part of the house, Dolores says, ''There are always three or four Poms running in and out of the kennels into the kitchen. One is generally sleeping with us, and Muffey, age 10, is always about,'' she says.
The family has owned Poms since 1972 when they purchased one for their daughter, Laura, who wanted a smaller dog than the Saint Bernards they were raising. Dolores says that with the Saints, the children always had a soft furry rug to lie on in the evenings. But, when she purchased a Pom from Edna Girardot, a top breeder in Florida, for Laura, she fell in love with the breed.
"Only one Pom has gone Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York, and I want to match that with one of my dogs. Actually, the co-owner of that best in show dog is Skip Piazza of Avondale, Pa., who is a great friend of mine and I have several breedings from his Pom's line," says Dolores.
''I'm not heavily into showing my dogs . . . I'm more interested in perfect litters, and each one gets better. I research pedigrees to find the right breedings, and I look for perfect features or I don't breed.
''And I don't advertise my dogs. I get referrals from all-breed kennel clubs and from people who know my dogs. I just sent a champion male named Watts' Scotia Little Paddywac and a female, Watts' Little Star, to Poland to a veterinarian there who raises Poms. I never send a dog to anyone without knowing a great deal about that person,'' she says.
Dolores has held several offices in the American Pomeranian Club and has just ended two years as its president. She was a pioneering member of the Pomeranian Club of Greater Baltimore.
Her breed, according to one breed history, came from Pomerania, Germany. In 18th century England, fashionable ladies were often painted by Gainsborough with their Poms. By 1870, the Kennel Club of England accepted the breed, and it 1892 it was shown in the United States. The breed was soon recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Dolores describes her tiny charges as ''not being very large but extremely intelligent, sturdy and curious little spirits who are excellent pets, watch dogs and sociable companions.''
The only drawback with a Pom is the need to comb its short, soft and thick undercoat and harsher outercoat often, preferably daily. But they are such small dogs that combing doesn't take too long.
Pomeranians can be any solid color, with or without lighter or darker shadings. The Wattses Poms are orange and orange sable or golden with a darker sable.
Dolores Watts, 55 and a native Washingtonian, has lived in Maryland since 1940. 'I never thought I'd look back at my life while knee deep in Pomeranians and loving every minute of it,'' she says.