Compact, muscular, thick-coated Finnish Lapphunds originated as outdoor working dogs for nomadic Scandinavian reindeer herders and developed into devoted, good-natured, active family pets. Commonly known as Lappies, the dogs excel in agility and obedience competitions.
Finnish Lapphunds bond with children, other dogs and even cats to make steady, devoted family pets, according to the Finnish Lapphund Club of America website. Their social nature and steady, friendly temperament have made them valued therapy dogs.
Lappies will bark to announce visitors but generally are not protective dogs, usually calm and submissive around people. They require regular exercise and early socialization to develop well-mannered behavior.
Medium-sized Finnish Lapphunds grow a thick double coat in a variety of colors and markings ranging from solid cream to black with tan edging or a white chest patch. The eyes and muzzle often are outlined in a color different from the body. Small pointed ears stand erect and a long-haired tail curls up over the back.
The American Kennel Club breed standard describes male Finnish Lapphunds as about 20 inches tall at the shoulder and females about 18 inches tall. The dog's body should be slightly longer than it is tall.
The AKC website describes the Finnish Lapphund as "intelligent, alert, agile, friendly and eager to learn." In spite of the dog's strength, the dog should convey "a certain softness, particularly in expression. Males are recognizably masculine and females feminine."
Lapphunds shed seasonally but require only some regular brushing to maintain their coat, according to the Finnish Lapphund Club of America website.
With their thick coat and Nordic origins, Finish Lapphunds easily overheat and efforts to keep the dogs cool are required in warm climates.
Finnish Lapphunds live an average of 12 to 15 years and generally have few health problems. The breed is at risk of hip dysplasia and hereditary eye problems that can lead to blindness, including cataract.
The semi-nomadic Sami culture in the northern Lapland regions of Finland, Sweden and western Russia developed hardy compact dogs to protect and herd reindeer. While their historic work has been replaced with snowmobiles in Scandinavia, Lapphunds retain a strong herding instinct, often demonstrated in sheep-herding competitions in the United States, according to the
Finnish Lapphund Club of America.
Finnish interest in saving the breed developed in the 1940s and a breeding program using original Sami dogs began. The Finnish Kennel Club in 1945 recognized a breed standard for what was then called the Lapponian Shepherd Dog. In 1967, the longer-coated style became its own breed called the Finnish Lapphund.
The breed remains one of the most popular pets in Finland with more than 1,000 purebred puppies registered with the kennel club each year.
Finnish Lapphunds came to the United States with Scandinavian immigrants, but the breed was not recognized with a breeding program until 1987. The American Kennel Club recognized a breed standard in July 2009. The dogs compete in the AKC "miscellaneous class" for sanctioned obedience, agility, herding and tracking events.
With their athletic, friendly nature, Finnish Lapphunds make good pets for families with children, people who are active outdoors and cool-climate ranchers and farmers, according to Dogster.com. The breed's herding instinct and need to run make it a poor choice for apartment living.
By Jan Day
Finnish Lapphund Club of America: About Lappies
American Kennel Club: Finnish Lapphund Breed Standards
Dogster.com: Finnish Lapphund Characteristics
Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada: Detailed History of the Finnish Lapphund
About the Author
Jan Day's career as a writer and editor started in 1978 in Tennessee and continued through her work with major news organizations, including "The Denver Post" and Bloomberg News. She now focuses on travel, fitness, wine and food writing. She holds a Master of Arts in journalism from Pennsylvania State University.