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 litter born in 2001. Since then the breed has increased at a significant rate, with there now being approximately 2000 Finnish Lapphunds in the country.
'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. They do not handle harsh corrections. 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, flyball, nosework 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. They also have a reputation for enjoying an adventure, so watch for open gates!
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 just generally show their excitement at life. 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.
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 known hereditary diseases.
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' at approximately 18 months of age. 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. The current average score for Finnish Lapphuds in Australia is 10.5. As a breeder, I am committed to only breeding from dogs with a score of 20 or less.
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. 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' one disease gene.
Carrier - They have one disease gene and one normal gene. They will not develop PRA, but will pass on one disease gene to (in theory) 50% of their progeny. They can be safely bred with dogs who are normal/clear, but cannot be bred with other 'carriers'.
At Risk - Both genes carry the disease. It is highly likely they will develop PRA later in life. They pass on one disease gene to 100% of their progeny.
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).
POMPES DISEASE (GSD-II)
Pompe's disease is a recently discovered disease, 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 that results in a gradual loss of mobility and paralysis. We test for this in the exact same way as we do PRA, with dogs being Clear or Carrier or At Risk.
Just like with human babies, you could easily spend a fortune on your new ‘fur’ baby. Pet shops are designed to make us part with our cash and convince us we need things we have never even heard of.
Here are the essentials:
Food & Water Bowls
If your puppy will be both an outside and an inside dog, you will need water bowls in both places. I use large ceramic bowls inside (as they are difficult to tip over) and stainless steel buckets outside.
For food a ceramic or stainless steel bowl is best. They last and are easy to clean. However, if you feel your puppy eats too fast, you might want to consider a ‘Fun Feeder Mat’ or a ‘Slow Feeder’ bowl.
Collar & Lead
The reality is you will need a small set now and then a larger set later.
Your puppy will need a sturdy collar with space for an ID tag and your council registration tag.
The best type of collars are cotton web or leather. Avoid nylon as it will burn your hand and potentially your puppy’s neck. I use rolled leather collars as their ‘stay on’ collars (with their tags attached) and then Black Dog collars and leads for walking and training.
For regular care of your Lappie’s coat, you will need a pin brush, comb, and slicker brush and a gentle shampoo.
A small slicker brush will be what you use all over when your puppy is young and has that fluffy puppy coat. Later on, you will use it for behind their ears and legs, especially the ‘hocks’. Mark II Small Slicker Brush (CC) or Blue Slicker Brush Soft (PP).
A pin brush is what you will use for most of your grooming. This will get any dry dirt out and keep the coat looking nice. The Original Series Oblong Pin brush (CC) or Plush Pin Brush Regular (PP) will do the trick. Sometimes a brushing spray can also help glide the brush (and make your puppy smell nice). Just Divine Brushing Spray (CC) or OMG Ready to Use (PP).
A stainless steel comb will be necessary for dealing with tangles and getting out dead undercoat when they are shedding. I recommend the Buttercomb 71/2” All Fine (CC). Save your hands and splurge on the clip on handle.
You shouldn’t need to wash your Lappie very often unless they roll in something smelling. If they get muddy, just wait until it dries and then brush it out. You will be surprised by how much will have already fallen out. The coat is designed to protect them from the harsh elements (cold and heat), over washing will actually strip the coat of its natural, essential oils. This will lead to the coat not working as it should, your dog feeling the weather more AND needing more bathing because they smell. Never, ever clip or shave a Lappies' coat.
Any gentle dog shampoo will do. CC and PP both have a range of suitable shampoos. You do not need to condition.
Visit our Youtube Channel for tutorials on how to groom your Finnish Lapphund.
Lappies like to stick their proverbial middle finger to whatever bedding you buy (this is not one of their more endearing qualities). So my advice is don’t spend too much here. They generally prefer the floor! They are not fans of soft, fluffy bedding. If you decide to use a crate, just a flat crate mat or vet bedding will suffice.
If your lappie spends time outside, don’t waste your money on a kennel. Simply place a trampoline bed undercover somewhere. I use the steel frame, hessian sack ones. The sacks are cheap to replace when they get chewed (and they will) and the frames are sturdy.
Again, like with human children, there is an infinite world of possibilities here. Knock yourself out! Spend as little or as much as you like, but here are some ideas to help guide you:
Toys to play with together: these include balls, other throw toys, tug ropes, etc. Only bring these toys out when you are playing together and then put them away again.
Toys to keep your puppy occupied: these include Kong brand treat toys and can be great ‘home alone’ toys.
Toys to chew: these include ropes and rubber toys. Have these on high rotation and use them to also distract attention from the things in your home you don’t want to be chewed (including yourself!).
Soft toys: every Lappie loves a ‘teddy’. Your puppy will come with one, but you might want some others as well. Just make sure they don’t have any easily swallowed bits.