Finnish Lapphunds, characterized by their soft coat, Spitz-like face, and coated tail curving over the back, are loyal, affectionate Nordic dogs. Their physique and health are built for hard work and to withstand the frigid temperatures of the Arctic Circle.
Standing about 20 inches at the shoulder, Lappies are powerful, agile dogs capable of effortless movement. They are easy to train, require moderate grooming but can be vocal at times. Initially bred to herd reindeers in Lapland, these cheerful dogs are skillful and energetic. Let us dive into what matters most about this century-old breed.
Origins of Lappies can be traced back to the Scandinavian regions of Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Norway. It is an old dog breed, whose ancestry goes back to hundreds of years. It belongs to the same group as Swedish Elkhound and Norwegian Elkhound. These dogs are hybrids of male dogs and female wolves. They were bred to guard makeshift shelters and to hunt reindeers, beavers, and foxes.
The use of Lapphunds has evolved through civilizations. Initially, the semi-nomadic Sami people, living in northernmost Scandinavia, bred Lapphunds for hunting. Later on, domestication of reindeers made it necessary to train Lappies for herding. Years of training led to the development of a breed of loyal, trainable, and submissive dogs.
With the arrival of snowmobiles in the mid-20th century, the use of Lappies as herding dogs decreased dramatically. A decline in their population prompted the Finnish Kennel Club (FKC) to launch protection programs in the 1930s. It was not until 1945 when FKC recognized this herding breed as a distinct canine breed. It was then named the Lapponian Shepherd Dog.
FKC identified two types of this breed: the long-haired and short-haired. In 1967, these two types were separated. The long-haired Lapponian became Finnish Lapphund while the short-haired breed became Lapponian Herder. Two decades later, the breed made its way to UK, Australia and US markets. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed as a member of the herding group in 2011. Today, Finnish Lapphunds are bred for herding (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.), and for sporting activities. Also, pet lovers consider these dogs as loyal companions and family pets.
Lappies have a wide range of coat colors ranging from black, domino, wolf-sable, Irish spotting to sable. Their coats can be with or without a tan and white markings. The tan ranges from lightest cream to deep caramel. The outer coat is long and coarse while the undercoat is soft and dense. Males have a bigger coat around the ruff. The coat is shorter on the head and forelegs but thicker on the rear.
According to FKC, these breeds are classified as Spitz – dogs sharing physical similarities with wolves. With a broad face, a light coat encircles their brown oval-shaped eyes. The eyes color typically harmonizes with the coat’s color. With strong jaws, long snout and pointed ears, Lappies have a well-outlined head and skull. Its well-furred triangular ears are always erect. Sometimes, when acting submissively, one ear is tipped while the other is pricked.
You can mistake Lappies as large dogs because of their thick coat. They are medium-sized dogs. Females weigh between 33 and 44 pounds (15-20 kg) while male counterparts weigh between 42 and 53 pounds (19-24 kg). Females are conspicuously smaller with males.
Finnish Lapphunds are easily recognizable as compact, strong and sturdy dogs. Their broad heads are marked by a soft, smiling and humble expression. Like most Spitz-type canine breeds, they have long and brushy tail curling over its straight back. Hind legs appear angled and strong. The forelegs are straight and seemingly short as compared to the rest of the body.
Lapphunds are intelligent and always eager to please their owners. With an outstanding ability to learn, these dogs are non-aggressive and easy to train. As an owner, you should consider training your Lapphund at a younger age. They relate well with family members, other dogs, and children. The Finns treasure this breed because they form lovely family companions.
They are naturally drawn to humans. As such, they are submissive, gentle and love to stay around people. In most cases, Lappies can recognize human feelings and behaviors.
This Lapporian breed is playful and cheerful. You can place your bets on them during fly-ball competitions. With their tolerance, they get along well with kids and other pets. Most of the time, unless they are sick, Finnish Lapphunds are happy and affectionate. Its laid back temperament makes him an excellent therapy dog.
Given the opportunity to explore, he will take it. He is curious and could use every chance to stray around. Make sure your Lappie stays in a well-fenced yard. When taking him for a walk, do not forget the leash.
Lappies have a strong pack mentality. They are calm and prefer observing and reporting to handling issues on their own. Such characteristics make them vocal. You can train your Finnish Lapphund to bark only when necessary. Nonetheless, because of their herding instincts, Lapphunds make good watchdogs.
Grooming and Care
Lapphunds have double-layered smooth and wavy profuse coat. It is not prone to knotting and tangling. Brushing once a week is enough to straighten up the coat. During the shedding season, regular grooming is mandatory. You need a slicker brush or a palm pin and a wide-toothed comb for thorough brushing. Scissors work well if you want to trim the coat.
Lappies have long and curly nails that should be trimmed biweekly. You can use toenail clippers to accomplish this.
Puppies have fine texture to their coats. That means they require daily grooming. As they age, the soft texture changes to a more coarse and straight texture, making it easy to brush. Depending on the weather conditions, you can bath your Lappie once a month. Remember to use natural shampoos such as lavender and tea tree.
Moderate daily exercises are sufficient to keep your Lapporian healthy. Since they are built for the outdoor environment, these dogs do well with brisk walks. Occasionally, involve your Lapphund in sporting activities such as dog sleighing, canicross, tracking or fly-balls.
Being one of the healthiest canine breeds, Finnish Lapphunds enjoy a life span of between 12 to14 years. However, like other dogs, they are subject to hereditary conditions such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Pompe’s disease and hip/elbow dysplasia.
PRA is a group of retinal conditions affecting dogs. Classifications of these eye disorders are based on the type of pathology and the onset of the disease. For Lapphunds, PRA begins from the age of five to eight.
The first tell-tale sign that your dog is suffering from a PRA condition is night blindness. When he starts to bump into objects at night, it is time you consider calling a veterinarian. Other signs include hyperreflectivity at the back of the eye and dilated pupils. PRA causes a gradual decline in vision and eventual blindness.
As a cautionary measure, ensure you ask your breeder or vet to perform an OptiGen prcd-PRA test on your dog. This is a DNA test that shows gene mutations that can increase the susceptibility of your dog to PRA. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PRA.
Interaction of genetic and environmental factors can cause hip/elbow dysplasia. This is malformation of hip joints which gradually deteriorates development of the ball and socket areas of the hip. It is a skeletal condition common in most dog breeds.
Unlike PRA, hip/elbow dysplasia begins at an early age. Early onsets occur when your Lappie is four months old. Later onsets of this disease are rare but can happen when Lappies suffer from arthritic conditions. Causes for elbow dysplasia can be nutritional, developmental or genetic. Excessive intake of nutrients that promote rapid growth can increase Lapphund’s vulnerability to elbow dysplasia.
Pompe’s disease is a metabolic condition that affects young Lapphunds. Affected dogs often regurgitate food and are prone to aspiration pneumonia. Most dogs with this condition do not live to see their third birthdays.
The occurrence of PRA, Pompe’s disease, or hip/elbow dysplasia in Finnish Lapphunds is rare, but it occasionally happens. Since these are mostly genetic conditions, ensure that you liaise with certified breeders. Professional breeders and veterinary ophthalmologists perform CERF examinations to avoid breeding dogs that have a high predisposition to hereditary diseases. Also, remember to inoculate your puppy and immunize adult dogs every year.
Diet and Nutrition
Finnish Lapphunds are active dogs, requiring a lot of energy for growth and play. Puppies need a diet rich in high-quality proteins. For Lappies weighing an average of 40 pounds, daily calorie intake should be about 1100. Not that calorie intake varies based on activity levels. Growing puppies consume more calories than adult dogs. Old dogs need fewer calories.
Lappies do not have special food requirements. You should watch the weight of your puppies since obesity can cause health problems like elbow dysplasia. General puppy food will suit your young Lappies. Adult dog food approved by AAFCO is excellent for a mature Lapphund.
Limit table food since it can cause obesity, mineral/vitamin deficiencies, and bone/teeth issues. Maintain high hygiene by cleaning the dog’s bowls after each meal. Also, give fresh water to your Lappie every day.
Finnish Lapphunds are easy to train. Their intelligent nature and calmness, coupled with submission make them easy to follow commands. You need to socialize him with other pets and family members at an early age for better results.
Owners need to train Lappies when and when not to bark as they can be noisy, when neglected or lonely. Training sessions should be short and varied. With proper training, these dogs can be the most adorable canine companions.
While Finnish Lapphunds are not suited for apartment living, they are wonderful companions. They get along well with everyone and love to play. With proper food, exercise, and healthcare, Lappies can enjoy a healthy life. If you desire to have Finnish Lapphund in your home, connect with professional breeders and veterinarians. Ensure CERF and OptiGen tests show that your puppy is free from hereditary health conditions.