Breed Profile: Swedish Lapphund

The Swedish Lapphund used to herd reindeer and is the oldest of the dog breeds native to Sweden. Today they are companion pets who love children.

By: Patrick Strandberg
Swedish Lapphunds used to herd reindeer. By: Patrick Strandberg

Breed

Swedish Lapphund, a.k.a. Lappie

Group

Foundation Stock Service, Herding

Physical Description

Swedish Lapphunds, or Lappies, are medium-sized herding and guarding dogs from Sweden. The breed is also the national dog of Sweden and native to the country.

The body is rectangular with a dark nose, round, large brown eyes, and triangular ears that are small and set far apart. The tail is high set and carried over the back during movement. The toes are oval with fur between the pads. The weather-resistant double coat is thick, and the undercoat is thick and frizzy.

These dogs usually have longer hair on the neck, legs and tail. Coat colors include black, liver, or black and liver. There may be white patches on the chest, feet and tail. The dogs are between 16 and 20 inches tall and weigh 33–53 pounds. Their life expectancy is around 13 years.

Origin

Lappies are the oldest of the dogs native to Sweden, descended from spitz breeds thousands of years ago. They were hunting and guarding companions for the Sami people of Lappland. When the Sami reduced their hunting and starting keeping reindeer, the Lappie evolved to add herding to its list of instincts and abilities.

The breed was recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1903, and the first to be registered was named Halli. The Federation Clinologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the breed in 1944. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2007 when it was added to its Foundation Stock Service.

Because the breed is present in small numbers in the United States, it may take some time before the Swedish Lapphund is moved from the Foundation Stock Service to the herding group designation.

Purpose

Lappies were originally reindeer herders, flock guard dogs and hunting dogs in Lappland. Today they are companion pets who participate in dog shows, obedience, agility, herding, tracking and guarding.

Temperament

Alert, lively and versatile, Lappies are willing to work and happiest when they have a job to do. They are trainable but are also intelligent, independent thinkers, so they can be stubborn. Training should include positive reinforcement since they respond better to it than other training methods.

Lappies prefer to be with people, so they are not suitable for living outdoors. They love being with children and can get along well with cats when they are raised together. They are usually protective of the home and wary of strangers.

Exercise Needs

This active breed needs daily exercise and regular, consistent training. They are happiest with a job to do and enjoy spending time outdoors, although they are not suitable to be outdoor-only dogs. Because of their thick, double coats, they do not like heat and should remain in cold climates or indoors during hot or humid weather.

Lappies can live in apartments if the owners are active and can commit to taking the dog for daily walks and play.

This video shows the versatility of the Swedish Lapphund:

Grooming Requirements

The thick, double coat should be brushed often, daily if possible. They shed seasonally and can blow their coats twice year, and during this period shedding will be heavier.

Regular maintenance is required, as it is with any dog breed. Trimming the nails, cleaning the ears and brushing the teeth will help keep a dog in better health.

Common Health Problems

There are few health concerns for the Swedish Lapphund. Here are some you should know about:

Lappies can't tolerate heat. By: darkangels
Lappies can’t tolerate heat. By: darkangels

Is the Swedish Lapphund the Right Dog for You?

Swedish Lapphunds are medium-sized, active dogs. They enjoy being around people, are affectionate and love children. these traits make them ideal for families. They need to live in cold climates or be kept inside during hot weather.

The breed can live with cats if they were raised with them, but it will depend on the temperament of each individual dog. Grooming requirements are not abundant, but because of the double coat they do need to be brushed regularly, ideally every day and during periods of heavy shedding.

Lappies can be protective of the home and wary of strangers, so thorough socialization is recommended. They have few health problems, most of which can be checked when testing the dog or the dog’s parents through hip and eye screenings.

This rare breed is coveted by people in Sweden and gaining popularity in other countries. If you are looking for a playful and affectionate dog fond of children, consider the Swedish Lapphund for your next pet.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Swedish Lapphunds are still considered a rare breed and are recorded in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, and the breed will remain listed there until more of the dogs are present and registered in the United States.

Because of their limited availability, finding a Swedish Lapphund will be difficult. If you contact a breeder, meet the dog’s parents first and look for signs that might indicate the breeder is not taking proper care of the dogs.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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