Finnish Lapphund: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

finnish lapphund

 

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A “weatherproof” breed, the Finnish Lapphund is a tough and sturdy dog hailing from north of the Arctic Circle. Though traditionally used for herding reindeer, the Finnish Laphund is a compassionate, friendly breed that makes a devoted and loving family companion.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Weight: 33 to 53 pounds

Height: 16 to 21 inches

Coat: Thick double-coat

Coat Colors: Black, golden, brown, cream, wolfsable, white

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

finnish lapphund near a lake
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Characteristics of the Finnish Lapphund

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Finnish Lapphund

Known for their luxurious coat and curled tail, the medium-sized Finnish Lapphund (also known as the "Lappie") combines the look of a northern dog with the temperament of a herding dog. Easily recognizable as Nordic dogs, this muscular, substantial breed is both quick and agile, easily transitioning from a trot to a full gallop within mere seconds.

Historically also known as Lapinkoira, this breed has always made a popular choice for a pet in their homeland; Lapland is a region north of the Arctic Circle that includes sections of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and northwestern Russia. These dogs are named for the Sami (or Lapp) people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years.

In ancient times, the Sami people developed this heavy-coated spitz-type dog, which was then called either the “Lapps dog” or Lapphund, to be used for help in hunting reindeer in the barren tundra. It’s believed that the Sami people shifted from hunting and gathering to a full-blown nomad lifestyle a few centuries ago, when they became reindeer herders and started moving larger herds in search of land to pasture. Reindeer herding remained the hallmark of Sami society until recent years, though Lapland is still home to many reindeer, and it’s possible to spot the Finnish Lapphund as well as its related breed, the Swedish Lapphund, moving herds.

The Finnish Lapphund breed evolved along with the Sami people, and they, too, shifted from hunting reindeer to herding them. The dogs still retained their duties as hunters, guarders, and, of course, close companions—like other Arctic breeds, they would huddle together to provide their humans with warmth on blisteringly cold nights.

Although reindeer have become known as friendly characters who pull Santa’s sleigh every Christmas, in reality, these animals are incredibly difficult to control—they tend to be stubborn and irritable, and their antlers can be very dangerous. That’s why today’s Lapphund had to evolve into such an intelligent, quick, and courageous breed. The dogs were first imported for breeding—and brought to the attention of show people—in 1987. The Finnish Laphund is the AKC’s 173rd breed.

Finnish Lapphund Care

The Finnish Lapphund’s thick double coat (an outer coat over a dense undercoat) will require brushing every week—or even daily during their shedding season—in order to remove dirt and loose hair. These dogs have a straight and smooth (sometimes wavy) outer coat and a soft, thick undercoat accompanied by fringes or feathering on the back of their legs, underbelly, and tail. Males will tend to have a fuller coat than females. Fortunately, they don’t require more than an occasional bath. As with all dogs, their nails should be trimmed regularly, teeth brushed often, and ears checked regularly for signs of infection.

Though Lappies are generally friendly and often naturally submissive dogs, they are suspicious of strangers and make excellent watchdogs. They are gentle, affectionate dogs and make great pets for families with children (although children must be taught to be kind and gentle to the dog). Owners of a Finnish Lapphund must understand that this breed strongly craves companionship, and will not be able to tolerate being left alone for long periods of time—so they may not make ideal pets for those who spend most of their days working outside of the home.

Finnish Lapphunds tend to be more relaxed, easy-going dogs, and thus only have moderate exercise needs. One longer walk every day is usually sufficient, and this breed will also thrive on a daily play session with their owner or another dog. A fenced-in yard is imperative because their "herding" instincts will kick in and Lappies are likely to chase anything that moves, including small animals like squirrels and other wildlife. Because it’s a herding breed, Lappies excel in herding trials, as well as other canine sports and competitions, including obedience, tracking, and agility.

Potential Finnish Lapphund owners should know that this is a dog that does tend to shed and they also bark more than most, as they are an alert herding breed that will want to let their owners know when they see or hear anything suspicious. As such, socialization and puppy training classes are strongly recommended. Like other herding breeds, the Finnish Lapphund is a sharp, fast learner, but they also tend to have independent, strong-willed personalities. They are wonderful "all-around" dogs thanks to being exceptionally intelligent and eager to please their humans. The breed is also a pack dog, which is why Lappies will always want to be with their families—they may become destructive or develop other undesirable behaviors if they feel neglected.

Among the distinctive traits of a Finnish Lapphund is a strong startle reflex, which is a result of this breed having to constantly avoid the antlers of reindeer.

Common Health Problems

Finnish Lapphunds are generally healthy dogs, but they have been associated with certain conditions, including elbow and hip dysplasia and several eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy, which causes vision loss.

Diet and Nutrition

The Finnish Lapphund should perform well with a high-quality commercially or home-prepared (under veterinary supervision) dog food. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Because they are not an overly active breed, treats should be given in moderation and their diet should be controlled in order to avoid weight gain or obesity-related issues.

Pros
  • Relaxed and easy-going

  • Family and kid friendly

Cons
  • Doesn't tolerate being alone for long periods of time

  • Not suitable for apartments

Where to Adopt or Buy a Finnish Lapphund

Be sure to check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for Finnish Lapphund dogs that are in need of a forever home. National rescue organizations such as the Finnish Lapphund Club of America can also provide online resources to help you find your new best friend.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do your homework when choosing a dog breed. Talk to other Finnish Lapphund owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more about this particular breed and their care. There's a variety of dog breeds, and with a little research, you can be sure you'll find the right dog to bring home.

If you’re interested in learning more about similar dogs, consider these other breeds: