5 Things to Know About Finnish Lapphunds

Years ago, Finnish Lapphunds herded reindeer. Now they herd sheep and are adorable companion pets who get along great with other dogs and kids.

finnish lapphund breed profile
Finnish Lapphunds were bred to herd reindeer in Lapland, a northern area of Finland, Sweden and Russia. Photo: iStock.com/Bigandt_Photography

1. Key Characteristics of Finnish Lapphunds

  • AKC Group: Herding
  • Height: 18–21 inches (male); 16–19 inches (female)
  • Weight: 33–53 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12–15 years

This medium-sized, muscular dog breed was bred to live and work outside.

The Finnish Lapphund’s thick double coat can withstand harsh temperatures and comes in colors of black, brown and tan, as well as other colors and combinations.

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

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The high-set tail is fluffy and carried either over the back or to the side.

2. Where Finnish Lapphunds Came From

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 become herding dogs.

The innovation of snowmobiles lessened the need for herding dogs, but the Lapphunds were still used to herd sheep — and perform that job even today.

In 1940, a movement started in Finland to preserve the diminishing breed, whose numbers had fallen. Several dogs were collected from the Sami to start a breeding program.

The Finnish Kennel Club recognized a breed standard in 1945 in which the dogs were classified as Lapponian Shepherds. The standard included long and short coats.

The long-haired dogs later received their own breed standard in 1967. They then became known as the Finnish Lapphund.

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The American Kennel Club (AKC) added the breed in 2011 after the dogs’ popularity soared in Finland.

Finnish Lapphunds are friendly and lovable, making them great family pets. Photo: iStock.com/GlobalP

3. How Friendly Are Finnish Lapphunds?

The Finnish Lapphund’s sweet facial expression resembles that of a teddy bear, and the adorable breed is a popular family pet in Scandinavia.

Because reindeer were not afraid of dogs, the Finnish Lapphunds controlled the herds but knew when to retreat to avoid injury. When working, the breed is noisy, active and alert. These dogs are reflexively startled, though they recover quickly.

They are brave and dedicated to their work, but they are also friendly with people.

Finnish Lapphunds bark a fair amount. They’re not aggressive but will bark to let you know strangers are near. If barking becomes problematic with these dogs, it’s most likely because the dogs are bored.

Lapphunds like being with their pack and can become destructive and disobedient if isolated. These dogs should not be left in a yard or alone for a long time.

The breed gets along well with children and other dogs with good socialization, and cats are usually welcome without much of a fuss.

Fair warning: Finnish Lapphunds will probably chase your smaller animals, so it’s best to keep them separated.

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.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

MEDIUM: Lapphunds need daily exercise and are not ideal for apartments unless you’re regularly active outdoors. A fenced-in yard will prevent your Finnish Lapphund from running after small animals.

Daily walks and playtime are enough to satisfy a Finnish Lapphund’s needs for expelling energy.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: The double coat sheds heavily once or twice per year. Brushing your Finnish Lapphund regularly will help maintain the coat and remove dead fur.

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Never shave the coat — it provides much-needed insulation from both heat and cold. The breed is accustomed to cold weather but can suffer in high heat and humidity.

  • Bathe your Finnish Lapphund as necessary.
  • Trim the nails regularly, and you may need to cut out some of the fur between the paw pads.
  • Clean the ears and brush the dog’s teeth regularly.

Health Problems

LOW: The Finnish Lapphund is regarded as extremely healthy with few genetic disorders or health problems other than those plaguing any breed of dog.

That being said, 2 conditions are seen more commonly in the Finnish Lapphund:

Finnish Lapphunds can be quite entertaining, as seen in this video of the adorable Banshee:

5. How to Adopt a Finnish Lapphund

Shelters and rescues often have purebred dogs, so try a search here first.

If you can’t find a Finnish Lapphund and you decide to contact a breeder, make sure they’re responsible and do not exhibit any puppy mill red flags.

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

Additional Resources

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