Breed Profile: Finnish Lapphund

Years ago, Finnish lapphund dogs herded reindeer. Now they have moved on to herding sheep and being adorable companion pets with teddy bear faces.

Beautiful Finnish lapphund puppy. By: ainokainen
Beautiful Finnish lapphund puppy. By: ainokainen

Breed

Finnish lapphund

Group

Herding

Physical Description

This medium-sized, muscular dog breed was bred to live and work outside. The thick double coat can withstand harsh temperatures and comes in colors of black, brown, tan, and other colors and combinations. The lapphund’s sweet facial expression resembles that of a teddy bear, and the adorable breed is a popular family pet in Scandinavia.

The toes are spread out to act as a snowshoe, and there is fur on the feet and between the paw pads. The ears are medium-sized and triangular in shapes, and the eyes are oval.

The high set tail is fluffy and carried either over the back or to the side. Weight can vary between 30 and 55 pounds, and the average height range is between 16 and 21 inches. The average life expectancy is 15 to 17 years.

Origin

Semi-nomadic people called the Sami lived in Lapland, a northern area of Finland, Sweden and Russia. The Sami became less mobile over several hundred years and started keeping reindeer herds. Some dogs had evolved from hunting and guarding to create a herding dog, and these were used to control the herds.

The creation of snowmobiles lessened the need for herding dogs, but the lapphunds were still used to herd sheep — and still do today.

The breed was starting to diminish because of less herding work, but in Finland in 1940 there began a movement to preserve the breed. Several dogs were collected from the Sami to start a breeding program. The Finnish Kennel Club recognized a breed standard in 1945 of the dogs classified as Lapponian Shepherd Dogs; the standard included long and short coats.

The long-haired dogs later received their own breed standard in 1967 and began to be known as the Finnish lapphund. The breed soared in popularity as a companion pet in Finland. The American Kennel Club added the breed in 2011.

Purpose

The lapphund originally herded reindeer and later sheep. Today it is a companion pet and sheep herder. Other activities include conformation, obedience, agility, therapy, and search and rescue.

Temperament

Because reindeer were not afraid of dogs, the lapphund controlled the herd but knew when to retreat to avoid injury. When working, the breed is noisy, active and alert. These dogs are reflexively startled, although they do recover quickly. They are brave and dedicated to their work, but they are also friendly with people.

Lapphunds bark to control a herd, and they will bark during play and at other times. They are not aggressive but will bark to alert you to the presence of strangers. If barking becomes problematic, it is most likely because of boredom.

Climbing and digging are minimal but can increase if a dog is bored or left alone for a long time. Lapphunds like being with their “pack” and can become destructive and disobedient if isolated. This is not a breed of dog that can be left in a yard or alone for long periods of time.

Children and lapphunds can be great friends with proper manners. The breed gets along well with other dogs with thorough socialization, and cats are usually welcome without much of a fuss. Smaller animals will probably be chased.

As with most herding breeds, lapphunds are intelligent, quick-thinking dogs accustomed to working independently. They can be trained and learn quickly but may also be stubborn at times.

They can also be quite entertaining, as seen in this video of the Finnish lapphund named Banshee — who is playing, talking and barking:

Exercise Needs

Lapphunds need daily exercise and are not ideal for apartments unless you’re regularly active outdoors. Yards must be fenced to prevent the dog from running after small animals, an act that may endanger them near roads or by getting lost. Daily walks and playtime are enough to satisfy the lapphund’s needs and allow energy to be expelled.

Grooming Requirements

The double coat sheds heavily once or twice per year. Regular brushing will help maintain the coat and remove dead fur. The coat should never be shaved because it provides insulation from heat and cold.

The breed is used to cold weather but can suffer in high heat and humidity. There is not much of a “doggy” odor with the breed; bathing should be done as necessary but not too often so the skin does not become irritated. The nails need regular trimming, and trimming may be needed between the paw pads. The ears should be cleaned regularly, and don’t forget to brush the teeth.

Common Health Problems

This breed is regarded as extremely healthy with few genetic disorders or health problems other than those that would plague any breed of dog. There are two conditions that have been seen more commonly in the finnish lapphund:

Is the Finnish Lapphund the Right Dog for You?

This dog breed is active, alert, and good with kids, other dogs and cats. They will chase small animals, so lapphunds shouldn’t be left alone with them. Daily exercise is needed, and apartment life is not recommended unless the owner can commit to the exercise needs of the breed. This breed is prone to barking during play and to alert you to approaching strangers, so don’t expect it to be a quiet dog.

Lapphunds have a pack mentality, so they should not be left alone for an extended time. The double coat helps insulate the breed from harsh temperatures, but extra care should be exercised in high heat and humidity.

The double coat is thick but manageable with regular brushing. The breed is extremely healthy with a long life expectancy, so a Finnish lapphund could be your next animal companion for years to come.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

Shelters and rescues often have purebred dogs, so try a search here first. If you can’t find a lapphund and decide to contact a breeder, make sure the breeder is responsible and does not exhibit any puppy mill red flags.

Because of this breed’s susceptibility to eye problems and hip dysplasia, definitely ask to see the medical clearances or tests performed on either the dog you are adopting or the parents of the dog.

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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