Norrbottenspets: Dog Breed Profile

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

Three Norrbottenspets on leashes outside

Klorinth / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

There’s a good chance you’ve never met a Norrbottenspets, but there are plenty of reasons to love one. These small-to-medium dogs (also referred to as Nobs) are best described as alert, agile, and affectionate. Their scarcity is no surprise, since they were once considered extinct.

In modern times, the Norrbottenspets is well-established but not well-known. A spitz-type breed originating in Scandinavia, they once played an integral role in hunting and daily farm life. Today, they most often fill the role of a companion dog, though they retain their energy and enthusiasm for whatever activities—hiking, agility, and more—that may come their way. 

Breed Overview

Group: Miscellaneous

Height: 16.5 to 18 inches

Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

Coat: Short double coat

Coat Color: White with patches of red or yellow

Life Expectancy: 14 to 17 years

Characteristics of the Norrbottenspets

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

History of the Norrbottenspets

The Norrbottenspets heritage points back thousands of years to some of the most northern parts of mainland Europe, the Cape May region. There, early settlers relied upon hunting for food and furs. Spitz type dogs with their double layer fur, alert nature, and hunting ability were a natural at assisting their human companions to catch small game or pursue larger game on a hunt.

It’s believed that the Norrbottenspets shares origins with other laika-type spitz dogs, like the Finnish spitz. However, this breed was more the result of everyday breeding rather than purposeful pedigree, so their origination isn’t well-documented.

In 1910, the Swedish Kennel Club drafted a breed standard and added these dogs to their registry—giving them official breed recognition. But the world scene was about to change and it wouldn’t bode well for the Norrbottenspets. In the wake of two World Wars, the population of Norrbottenspets took a drastic downturn. In fact, the Swedish Kennel Club declared the breed extinct in 1948.

But it turns out that the Norrbottenspets was alive and well; albeit in small numbers. True-to-type examples of the breed were found in remote villages and by 1966, sufficient numbers of the breed were confirmed to re-establish its identity and enter the Norrbottenspets into the FCI registry.

This prompted a new awareness of Nobs, and efforts were made to locate and document other members of this breed existing in Finland. Doing so helped to broaden the gene pool and ensure the breed’s survival.

Today, the largest numbers of these dogs exist in Sweden and Finland. But even there, the numbers are small by comparison to other more popular dog breeds. The Norrbottenspets has also been exported to other countries, including the United States.

While very rare here in the United States, the breed was added to the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service in 2007. This doesn’t confirm that Nobs will one day gain full AKC recognition, but it is the first step towards attaining that goal. 

Norrbottenspets Care

The Norrbottenspets has earned its keep for years by being a useful, well-mannered companion to humans. Hunters relied upon these dogs being active and adaptable enough to pursue birds and small game, but also tenacious enough to confront even large game like a moose or bear. As a result, Nobs are known for being independent and self-assured. At the same time, they have a personable disposition and respond readily to commands.

As with any dog, it’s important to begin the basics of training right from the start. Consistent training methods and positive reinforcement will help the Norrbottenspets to understand its role in the pack and what is expected of him.

Though it has a hunting heritage, the affectionate and friendly nature of this breed has made it a popular choice as a companion dog. They enjoy the company of people and generally do well with children, as long as they’re well-socialized and not handled roughly.

They generally will do fine with other canine companions, but caution should be used when introducing them with smaller animals, like cats, rabbits, and other pocket pets. The prey drive instinctive to this breed may lead to a game of chase or worse.

Of course these active dogs will need an outlet. A solid walk or two each day will help to provide the physical exercise needed to keep a Nob healthy. They’re muscular but small in stature, so they don’t generally need hours upon hours of exercise. Indoor games, like fetch and puzzle toys, will also help to occupy a Nob. Keep in mind their intelligence level and don’t neglect exercise for the mind. Learning new tricks or getting involved in canine sports can be a great way to challenge the Norrbottenspets.

To properly maintain the coat of a Nob, weekly brushing is in order. The double coat has a hard, coarse texture while the undercoat is finer and dense. Like some other Spitz-type breeds, the Norrbottenspets tends to keep relatively clean, but a very occasional bath will help to keep him looking (and smelling) his best. You should also regularly clean the ears, brush the teeth, and trim the nails. 

Young Norrbottenspets standing outside
Norrbottenspets with orange patches. Klorinth / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Young Norrbottenspets sitting outside off leash
Young Norrbottenspets with white coat and typical orange markings.  Yhelfman / iStock / Getty Images
Close-up of head of a Norrbottenspets
Norrbottenspots with a typical colored mask covering the sides of the head and the ears.  Paul Bellah / EyeEm / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Little is documented regarding the health of the Norrbottenspets, but with such a small population, breeding is tightly controlled. As a result, the breed isn’t known to be plagued with many health problems or concerns. 

The National Breed Club recommends the following health evaluations for the Norrbottenspets:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation

Diet and Nutrition

Feed the Norrbottenspets a quality dog food, appropriate for the dog’s stage of life. Having a small frame, these dogs shouldn’t be overfed or they can become obese quickly. Use good judgment regarding how many treats to give, and don’t be talked into overfeeding by a persistent beggar. 

Pros
  • Compact but agile enough for many activities

  • Very few specific breed-related health problems

  • Independent but affectionate and friendly

Cons
  • Very rare; may be hard to find a breeder

  • Double coat that does shed regularly

  • High prey drive towards small animals

Where to Adopt or Buy a Norrbottenspets

Finding a Norrbottenspets breeder may be a tough task. For a dog that was on the brink of extinction, the numbers are still limited. However, there are some Nobs breeders here in the United States.

Locating this breed at a shelter or rescue may be even more of a longshot. Since they’re so rare, anyone who has gone through the process of finding one isn’t likely to give him or her up quickly. However, it’s always a best practice to start by looking into any rescue groups that might exist in your area or even nationally.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The Norrbottenspets is a unique and rare dog, and there’s much more to learn about this Scandinavian breed. Search out owners and breed ambassadors through the National Breed Club or at dog shows and exhibitions in your area. If you find that a Nob is the right breed for you, you’ll have a big search ahead of you—but many rewards along the way. 

Here are some other spitz breeds to check out: