About Finnish Lapphunds
Group: Working Dog (Group 5) in Australia
Size (ideal): Male - 49cm, Female - 44cm
Weight: 13 – 23kgs
Life Expectancy : 12 – 15 years (some have lived past 17)
Grooming: 1 session per week (40mins)
2 sessions (20-40mins) or more whilst shedding
Bathing: Only as required. Not known for ‘doggy' odour
Alert/Watch Dog: Yes
Guard Dog: No.
Family Dog: Yes, they must be part of the family, and don’t tolerate being left outside, forgotten.
Kids: Yes, when introduced properly.
Dogs: Yes, when introduced properly
Cats: Yes, when introduced properly
- They like to bark while working and playing.
- During hot days they may dig a shallow nest in the earth to lay in.
- This breed is known to reflexively startle. This is a self-preservation instinct from their history, herding reindeer, and perfectly normal. They should recover quickly.
- They are also known for being overtly submissive to people. Neither of these behaviours should be misunderstood as an indication of a fearful, shy or anxious dog.
Medium size Spitz Breed. Think the look of a Pomeranian, German Spitz, Keeshond, Samoyed but the size of a Border Collie, approximately knee-height (at the shoulder) or ‘coffee table size’ as they’re often described. They come in a multitude of colours and patterns.
This medium-sized, muscular dog was bred to live and work in a hostile environment. The thick double coat can withstand harsh (cold) temperatures and comes in colors of black or brown (with or without tan markings), cream, sable, wolf sable and domino pattern. The Lapphund’s sweet facial expression has been likened to that of a teddy bear, and the adorable breed is a popular family pet in the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden and Norway.
This dog can develop a heavy coat in Europe, but in Australia, due to the less extreme cold, the coat tends to be less. The coat should stand off the body and doesn't drape or hang. Even in full coat, the coat is not as dense as a Siberian Husky, Malamute or Akita, though it is longer. The ears are medium-sized, triangular in shape and covered in fur, protecting them from the cold. The eyes are oval and ideally dark brown, though other shades of brown are seen. The high set tail is fluffy and carried over the back when moving or alert and can hang down when relaxed.
Semi-nomadic people called the Sami lived in Lapland, a northern area of Finland, Sweden and Russia. The Sami became less mobile over several hundred years and started keeping reindeer herds. Some dogs had evolved from hunting and guarding to create a herding dog, and these were used to control the herds. The creation of snowmobiles lessened the need for herding dogs and breed numbers started to decline. But in Finland, in 1940, there began a movement to preserve the breed. Several dogs were collected from the Sami to start a breeding program. The Finnish Kennel Club recognized a breed standard in 1945 of the dogs classified as Lapponian shepherd dogs; the standard included long and short coats. The long-haired dogs later received their own breed standard in 1967 and began to be known as the Finnish Lapphund (the shorter coat dogs became the founders of the Lapponian Herder). Breed poularity soared in Finland and internationally. The American Kennel Club officially added the breed in 2011 and also in 2011, the UK Kennel Club offered the first Challenge Certificates for Finnish Lapphunds showing in the UK, allowing them to finally have US and UK Champions after decades of work in both countries.
The Finnish Lapphund first arrived in Australia in 1995 and the first litter was born in 2001.
The Lapphund originally herded reindeer and was a working companion to the Sami people. Today it is mostly a companion pet but some still herd. Other activities include conformation, obedience, agility, flyball, therapy work, tracking and search and rescue.
Because reindeer were not afraid of dogs, the Lapphund controlled the herd but knew when to retreat to avoid injury. When working, the breed is noisy, active and alert. These dogs will instinctively and reflexively startle (which a new owner can mistake for fear), although they do recover quickly. They are brave and dedicated to their work, but they are also friendly with people.
Lapphunds bark to control a herd, and they will bark during play and at other times. They are not aggressive towards people, but will bark to alert you to the presence of strangers. If barking becomes problematic, it is most likely because of boredom.
Climbing and digging are minimal but can increase if a dog is bored or left alone for a long time. Lapphunds like being with their “pack” and can become destructive and disobedient if isolated. This is not a breed of dog that can be left in a yard or alone for long periods of time.
Children and Lapphunds can be great friends with proper manners. The breed gets along well with other dogs with thorough socialization, and cats are usually welcome without much of a fuss. Smaller animals will probably be chased.
As with most herding breeds, Lapphunds are intelligent, quick-thinking dogs accustomed to working independently. Whilst they are a working dog, they are described as not as ‘up’ or ‘full on’ as a Border Collie and they have an ‘off’ switch when nothings happening. They are also not as ‘eager to please’ as a Border Collie but also not quite as stubborn and independent as a Siberian Husky. With the right motivation and praise, a Finnish Lapphund will usually learn tricks and commands fairly quickly. Most Finnish Lapphunds are food driven or motivated by toys and praise.
Lapphunds need daily exercise (physical and mental) and are not ideal for apartments unless you’re regularly active outdoors. Yards must be fenced to prevent the dog from running after small animals, as they may become lost or injured. Daily walks and playtime are enough to satisfy the lapphund’s needs and allow energy to be expelled. Most Lapphunds do not play 'fetch' and they don't usually play 'tug' though both can be taught.
It can't be stressed enough that daily mental exercise is a must. A mentally tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy. A physically tired puppy can still find an outlet for destructive boredom, usually in the form of chewing something inappropriate.
During the cooler months, Finnish Lapphunds are up for daily exercise and owners will notice a change in activity levels as the cooler months approach. During Australian Summers they need shade and access to cool water during the hottest part of the day. They will often ‘nest’ by digging into the cool earth (usually under a shrub or tree) creating a shallow bed to sleep out the day, coming alive when the temperatures cool off in the evening.
Care should be taken when exercising a thick coated breed on a hot day. Finnish Lapphunds may suffer from heat stroke if forced to exercise during hot weather. Some like to paddle in a wading pool or chew on ice blocks. Frozen chicken or bones are a big hit for breakfast or dinner.
Regular short brushing sessions will help maintain the coat and remove dead fur.
When they shed their undercoat it often won’t drop all over your floor and instead gets caught up in the longer guard (top) coat and will require brushing to remove it. The coat shouldn't be shaved because it provides insulation from heat and cold.
The breed is used to cold weather but can suffer in high heat and humidity. They will shed their coat seasonally. More frequent brushing during this time will help you keep on top of it and help them feel much better, and make them better able to handle the weather.
There is not much of a “doggy” odor with the breed; bathing should be done as necessary but not too often as it strips the natural oils and can contribute to them developing more of an odour. The nails need regular trimming, and pads of the feet checked as the fur can trap grass seeds or burrs. The ears should be checked and cleaned regularly, and don’t forget to brush the teeth.
All of these little health checks should be started young. You’ll be grateful you put in the time early to teach your puppy to have his mouth/feet/ears handled if you ever need to visit a vet to look at these sensitive areas.
This breed is regarded as extremely healthy with few genetic disorders or health problems other than those that affect any breed of dog, like elbow and hip dysplasia. There are two conditions that have been seen in the finnish lapphund:
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA; affects the eyes)
- Pompe’s Disease (the same as in humans - causes premature death)
The good news is there are tests available for PRA and Pompe’s so these conditions can be managed. Both are of recessive inheritance (meaning both parents must carry a copy of the mutated gene to pass onto an offspring to have an affected dog) so there is little excuse to see an Affected Finnish Lapphund.
This dog breed is active, alert, and good with kids, other dogs and cats. They will chase small animals, so lapphunds shouldn’t be left alone with them. Daily exercise is needed, and apartment life is not recommended unless the owner can commit to the exercise needs of the breed. This breed is prone to barking during play and to alert you to approaching strangers, so don’t expect it to be a quiet dog.
Lapphunds have a pack mentality, so they should not be left alone for an extended time. The double coat helps insulate the breed from harsh temperatures, but extra care should be exercised in high heat and humidity. The double coat is thick but manageable with regular brushing. The breed is extremely healthy with a long life expectancy, so a Finnish lapphund could be your next animal companion for years to come.
Is a Finnish Lapphund the right breed for me?
Sure, they may look cute and fluffy, but are you prepared to include a Lappie in your life?
Firstly, the Finnish Lapphund comes from the Spitz family of dogs. These dogs were bred to work in extreme and harsh conditions and to think independently in order to survive. If you simply want something cute and fluffy that doesn't require a lot of thought, training or attention, then the Lappie is not for you.
Whilst they do make fantastic companions, underneath all that fluff, they are a working breed. Trainability and work ethic varies but generally if you keep it fun, you will keep your Lappies interest. They are known to 'think through' an intended course of action prior to completing it and are also known to become bored of repetitive exercises where they fail to see an outcome.
A gentle approach to training is recommended as they do not respond well to harsh rebukes or corrections. However you do have to be willing to implement some house rules or you will have chaos. Sure, the Finnish Lapphund is not as stubborn as some other Spitz Breeds (ie a Siberian Husky), but they are still a willful enough breed that if you're a pushover then you may just find yourself a doormat to your Lappie. Fortunately, however, if you're willing to put in the effort early, you will have a loyal and loving friend for life.
This doesnt mean you have to take your Lappie to classes every day of the week, but you will have to teach them whats acceptable in your house from the day they arrive. And be consistent about it.Your Lappie will love to learn and to be with you. Working together as a team is where Lappies thrive. Some examples: basic obedience, learning a new trick, a walk around the block with your puppy nicely by your side and engaged, through to a complex Dancing with Dogs routine or racing as part of a flyball team.
Find an outlet for you and your Lappie to bond and to show them successes and learning. They will love you for it. Remember, a bored puppy will find its own amusement. This is the same in any breed. The key is you.
Research and ask as many questions as you can. Make sure the Finnish Lapphund is the right breed for you.
Finnish Lapphunds in Australia and Internationally
Lappie popularity is growing with more than 1400 (Jan'19) across all the states and territories of Australia. There are quite a number of Lappies representing us proudly in all arenas of dog sports such as: Obedience, Rally-O, Agility, Flyball, Dancing with Dogs, Tracking, Herding, Lure Coursing; a handful of Australian Supreme and Grand Champion Conformation Show Dogs and even a few qualified Delta Therapy Dogs. There are many more 'in-training' and we expect the ranks will continue to swell. Of course, there are also plenty of well-loved family pets keeping laps and hearts warm of an evening, perfectly content to be curled up with their family.
There are two breed clubs in Australia: The Finnish Lapphund Club of Victoria and The Finnish Lapphund Club of NSW . Each club is responsible for hosting events in their state, including an annual Championship dog show. These are the perfect opportunity for the public to see and learn more about Finnish Lapphunds in Australia. Check their websites for regular updates on opportunities to meet and greet the dogs in your area.
Internationally, the Lappie community is quite close knit, with regular photos and breed updates globally through club websites and many, many Facebook groups and pages dedicated to the gorgeous Lapphunds (regularly the groups encompass Swedish and Finnish Lapphunds as well as the Lapponian Herder).