This page will tell you everything you need to know about the Finnish Lapphund breed, including characteristics of the breed, history of the breed and health information. If you are interested in showing and/or breeding Finnish Lapphunds, you can access the Australian National Kennel Council Breed Standard here.
Characteristics of the Breed
'Lappies', as they are affectionately known, are a very friendly breed. Fond of people and often very 'full on', they are also very soft and gentle. They are naturally very submissive to humans, so a lot of care needs to be taken to find that balance between teaching boundaries and not crushing their spirit. For this reason, it is very important to develop a strong relationship with your Finnish Lapphund. They thrive on this. They are cooperative, intelligent, curious and very quick learners. But they are also a spitz breed, so have moments of being strong-willed and independent.
They are highly successful in a range of dog performance sports, including obedience, Rally O, agility, herding, tracking and lure coursing. Finnish Lapphunds thrive on activities that include both mental and physical exercise, so any of these sports are great for them. They are a breed that does not cope well with corrections and will typically 'tune out' if this happens. So a gentle approach, with plenty of positive reinforcement, is best.
The hunting instinct is still strong in many Finnish Lapphunds. As such, their noses and eyes can lead them into trouble. I have spent many an hour chasing my guys around the paddocks while they chase wallabies and rabbits.
Their gentle nature means they are wonderful with children and make a lovely addition to the family. They are not a breed that can be left outside and forgotten or only given attention when you feel like. They need to be an active member of the family, included in all of their family's activities. Most Finnish Lapphunds get on well with other dogs. However, appropriate socialisation as a puppy is vital, to ensure they learn their 'doggie manners'.
Finnish Lapphunds do bark. They are a spitz breed and they use their voices to work the reindeer (or sheep!). Whilst the amount they bark varies between individual dogs, it is important they are taught from a young age to limit their barking. Do not reward barking with attention. Generally speaking, they will not bark for the sake of it (unless they are bored) but will bark 'at' things, such as visitors arriving, the presence of wildlife, etc. My advice, if you live in a populated area, is to not allow you Finnish Lapphund access to a street view, where they can bark at everything that goes past. They will also bark when playing or aroused by activity. I allow my dogs to bark at these times.
History of the Breed
The Finnish Lapphund is an Arctic spitz herding breed, developed by the Sami people of Lapland (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia) to work and care for their reindeer herds. Despite being used by the Sami people for centuries, the breed as we now know it was not developed until after World War II, when the Finnish Kennel Association moved to create separate breed standards for the Lapinporokoira (Lapponian Herder) and Suomenlapinkoira (Finnish Lapphund).
The first Finnish Lapphunds arrived in Australia in 1995, with the first successful breeding in 2001. Since then the breed has increased at a significant rate, with there now being approximately 1200 Finnish Lapphunds in the country.
There are only a few genetic health conditions that affect Finnish Lapphunds. In Australia, breeders should hip/elbow score and eye test their breeding stock. Breeders should also DNA test for prcd-PRA.
HIP & ELBOW DYSPLASIA
Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint and there should be a nice, neat and snug fit of the joint. When this fit is loose, wear and tear through the dog's life can result in problems.
In Australia, breeders have their breeding stock 'hip scored' in the 12 months prior to breeding. This score is achieved by having the dog's hips X-rayed and the joint measured against nine criteria. Each criterion is given a score from 0-6 (0-5 for one criterion), the lower the score the better. The score for each criterion is then added up to give a score for that hip and the same for the other hip. These two numbers can then be added together for a total score. 0 is perfect, 53 is the worst. As a breeder, I am committed to only breeding from dogs with a score of 20 or less. In Finland the score is expressed as a letter from A to E. Generally, breeders will only breed from dogs with a score of A, B or C.
There is little evidence of elbow dysplasia in Finnish Lapphunds, however, elbow scoring is often routinely done with hip scores. Just as with hip scores, the lower the better. Most Finnish Lapphunds in Australia have a score of 0, with the worst being 2 (6 is the worst score possible).
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY (PRA)
This is a disease where the retinal tissue of the eye gradually dies over time, leading to blindness. There are various forms of PRA but the one that occurs in Finnish Lapphunds is the Progressive Cone Rod Degeneration type (prcd-PRA). The degeneration usually occurs after about 5 years of age.
PRA is inherited through a single recessive gene. This means the gene must be inherited from both parents.This makes it easy to control, as long as we know which dogs carry the gene. This is easily checked through DNA testing. There are three possible statuses for each dog tested:
Normal/Clear - They have no disease genes (two normal genes). They will not develop PRA and cannot pass it on to their progeny. They can be bred with dogs that 'carry' a disease gene.
Carrier - They have one disease gene and one normal gene. They will not develop PRA, but will pass on the disease gene to 50% of their progeny. They can be safely bred with dogs who are normal/clear, but cannot be bred with other 'carriers'.
Affected - Both genes carry the disease. It is highly likely they will develop PRA later in life and can only pass on disease genes.
There a many forms of eye conditions, with just as many causes. We are still not completely sure which ones are hereditary, as a breeder, I am committed to not breeding from any stock that does not pass their Australian Canine Eye Scheme (ACES) Eye Examination Certificate. As such, breeding stock undergo an eye examination within 12 months of being bred from, testing for: Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA), Retinal Pigment Epithelial Dystrophy (RPED), Hereditary cataract (HC) and Primary Lens Luxation (PLL).
Cataracts in Finnish Lapphunds usually appear after the age of 1 year and are thought not to be progressive.
POMPES DISEASE (GSD-II)
Pompe's disease is a recently discovered diseased, which manifests itself in weakness, exercise intolerance, poor growth and recurrent vomiting. Symptoms usually appear by 7 months of age and prognosis is very poor. The condition is very rare and there are no known carriers in Australia.
CANINE DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY
This is a very late onset condition which results in a gradual pain-free loss of mobility and paralysis. There are no known cases of this in Finnish Lapphunds, however, the gene has been identified in some dogs, so it may just be that cases have not been identified. As such, it is something Australian breeders are beginning to keep a close eye on.