Information about the Finnish Lapphund
The Finnish Lapphund is a hardy, easy going, medium-size breed of Spitz type. Traditionally it has been used for herding reindeer. Although it is one of the most popular dog breeds in its native country, Finland, it is not very numerous outside of the Nordic countries.
The Finnish Lapphund is a medium sized, strongly built dog. It is slightly longer than it is high at the withers. It has a profuse coat with pricked, highly mobile ears. It usually has long hair, and a bit of a long snout.
The breed standard is 46 to 52 centimetres (18 to 20 in) at the withers for a male, and a slightly smaller 41 to 47 centimetres (16 to 19 in) for a female. However, some variation is allowed, since the breed standard states that the type is more important than the size.
A typical male of 49 cm height normally weighs 17 to 19 kilograms (37 to 42 lb), but the breed has a weight range of 15-24 kg 15 to 24 kilograms (33 to 53 lb), depending on size of the dog.
Predominantly black Finnish Lapphund female with spectacle markings around the eyes
The Lapphund has a profuse double coat, with a short, fluffy undercoat and a longer, coarse topcoat. The coat makes the dog waterproof as well as resistant to extreme cold. In Finland, only two dog breeds are legally allowed to be kenneled outdoors in winter: the Finnish Lapphund and the Lapponian herder.
The profuse hair around the head and neck gives the distinct impression of a mane. Although the coat is profuse, it requires only a modest amount of maintenance.
The wide variety of colours and markings in Finnish Lapphunds. A wide variety of colours are found in the breed. Any colour is allowed in the breed standard, although a single colour should predominate. Almost any colour can be found: white, black, red, brown, sable and wolf-sable are frequently seen. One of the most common colour combination’s is black and tan: a predominantly black dog with tan legs and face.
Many Finnish Lapphunds have very distinctive facial markings. One of the unusual facial markings is “spectacles”, where a ring of lighter coloured hair around the eyes gives the impression that the dog is wearing spectacles. The spectacles of the Finnish Lapphund, while reminiscent of their cousins, the Keeshond, are larger and more pronounced.
Like other spitz types, the tail is carried curving over the back. The Finnish Lapphund has a tail covered with profuse and long hair. The tail may hang whilst the dog stands.
Differences in breed standard between countries
The Finnish Lapphund is a recognized breed in Finland, Europe, Great Britain, Australia and the USA. The breed standards are mostly identical, with a few minor exceptions: in the English standard, the acceptance of tipped ears is omitted.
The Finnish Lapphund is a very intelligent and active breed. Finnish Lapphunds take well to training due to their intelligence. Some owners and fanciers claim that “Lappies” even have the ability to think through actions first. Although small in number worldwide, a noticeable number of Finnish Lapphunds have excelled in activities such as obedience trials, agility, herding trials, and pet therapy.
The breed is friendly and alert, and makes a good watch dog, due to its tendency to bark at unfamiliar things. The breed was originally used to herd reindeer by droving, and barking helped it to be distinguished from wolves. Even when not herding, the Finnish Lapphund tends to bark with a purpose, and more rare cases of problem barking can normally be controlled by training.
The breed makes the ideal outdoor companion. It is active, cold-proof, and water-proof, and will gladly accompany people on walking or running trips. It is one of two breeds permitted to live outdoors in Finland.
Lappies are ideal choice for a family with small children. This is a very friendly breed and it normally avoids and flees from threatening situations. The breed is very curious, however, so some watching after them is necessary.
Finnish Lapphunds enjoying the snow.
In Finland, at least two dogs have won national championships for obedience (Obedience Champion Hiidenparran Tielkka and Fin and Nordic Obedience Ch Kettuharjun Elle, both owned and trained by Rauno Nisula).
Finnish Lapphunds are also suitable for agility. In the UK, Elbereth Taika has been awarded an agility warrant, and has represented England at the 2005 Kennel Club Nations cup, where she achieved a second place.
The breed adapts well to family life, including being responsive to children. Finnish Lapphunds have a gentle nature with children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.
The Finnish Lapphund can compete in dog agility trials, carting, mushing, obedience, Rally obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Lapphunds exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
The Finnish Lapphund is a naturally healthy breed, and typically lives 12-14 years, although dogs of 16-17 years are not uncommon in Finland.
Known medical issues include Generalised progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA), hereditary cataracts.
GPRA is a progressive eye disease that can cause permanent blindness in dogs. In the Finnish Lapphund, this tends to be late onset, but can typically appear between the ages of 1 and 8 years. GPRA is a genetic illness, and is transmitted via an autosomal recessive gene. A reliable genetic test for the prcd-form of GRPA has been developed by OptiGen, and breeders are increasingly testing breeding animals before deciding on suitable mating pairs. The Finnish Lapphund club of Great Britain adopted an ethical policy in 2006 that matings will only be allowed if the progeny can not be affected by GPRA. In 2001, 2.5% dogs of Finnish dogs were affected by PRA.
Some Lapphunds are affected by cataracts, with 3.4% of Finnish dogs affected. Cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, and the mode of inheritance is not yet well understood. Since the incidence in Finland is relatively high, the disease is considered to be hereditary. In the UK and USA the number of affected dogs is very small.
The ethical standard in most countries require the stud dogs to be hip-scored, but the incidence of hip dysplasia is low.
The breed has its origins as a reindeer herder of the Sami people. The Sami are an indigenous people residing in areas now divided between Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Traditionally, reindeer herding has been very important for the Sami people, and they are still involved in herding today. The Sami have used herding dogs for centuries, and these dogs were typically long in body, somewhat rectangular in shape, with long hair and a straight tail that would curl up over the back when the dog was moving. Finnish Lapphunds are the most similar to the long haired dogs developed by the Sami people in order to assist them with herding, often favored as winter herders for the reindeer.
Norwegians and Swedes were among the first to consider standardizing the dogs of Lapland prior to World War II. In the post war years, the dogs of Lapland were at serious risk due to distemper outbreak. Swedish Lapphund breeders today believe that their breed, and other Lapphund breeds, were in serious danger of extinction. A standard for the related Swedish Lapphund was adopted in 1944 in FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), and the Finnish Lapphund standard soon followed.
In Finland, the first breed standards were set in 1945 by the Finnish Kennel Club, who called the breed the Lappish Herder, also known as Kukonharjunlainen. It is believed that these dogs were the result of a cross between the Karelian Bear Dog and the reindeer dogs, and had short hair. In the 1950s the Finnish Kennel Association (the second major kennel association in Finland) created the first breed standard for the Lapponian herder. Acceptable colours for this breed were black, bear-brown and white.
Finnish Lapphunds routinely participate in conformation events.
In the 1960s, the various Finnish kennel associations were unified, and in 1966 the breeds were reassessed. This resulted in the formal definition of two breeds: the Lapponian herder with a shorter coat was defined in 1966, and the longer coated Finnish Lapphund was defined in 1967.
At about the same time, technology enabled changes in the lifestyle of the Sami herders. Previously, the longer-haired dogs were generally preferred for herding, but with the advent of snowmobiles, the preference started to change in favour of the shorter haired Lapponian herder. However, popularity did not die for the longer-haired breed, which was ranked the sixth most popular companion animal in Finland, ahead of the Finnish Spitz (ranked ten), and the Karelian Bear Dog (ranked 17).
The first American litter was born in 1988. In 1994, the breed was recognised by the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second largest kennel club in America, in the Northern Group. The breed was accepted into the AKC Miscellaneous Group on July 1, 2009 with hopes of full breed recognition in 2011. The Finnish Lapphund Club of America (FLCA) is the parent organization in the United States.
The breed was first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1989, and is represented by the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain. It was introduced to Australia and Canada in 1995, and is accepted by the New Zealand Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club. In Canada, its parent club is the Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada.