Finnish Lapphund

Finnish Lapphund dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

When it comes to our canine pals, the Finnish Lapphund has been charming people all over the world for decades. Known for being easy going and hardworking, this fine, medium-sized breed became popular for herding reindeer and up until now, it has retained its strong herding instincts. Nonetheless, what makes this dog breed stand out is its ability to show loyalty, care and affection to its human companions. With a personality that’s tender, loving and sweet, this unique breed can mesmerize you in a million ways.

Though this dog breed is not numerous outside Nordic countries, this Spitz type canine has dazzled people all over the world with its sheer mentality and dedication to its owner. It is also an affectionate, alert and intelligent dog capable of guarding its human companions with all its will and might. But while this dog breed can protect you and your home, it is also cheerful and friendly. It is gentle not only to adults, but to children as well, making it one of the most ideal dog breeds for every family. Plus, if you are an outgoing person, you can count on this breed to keep up with your need for an active lifestyle.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityBelow Average
Health IssuesAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Working/Herding Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
(Males: 18 – 20 inches; Females: 16 to 19 inches)
Weight: 17 to 19 kilograms (37 to 42 lb)
Life Span: 12 to 15 years on an average

The Finnish Lapphunds or “Lappies”, as other people call them, take training very easily due to their high intelligence levels. Some of them can even think ahead and act on a particular task first even before a command is given by their human companions. This breed is also popular in obedience trials, herding, pet therapy and agility trials.

In addition to that, the breed is also a watch dog by nature since it was first known for herding reindeers. Due to its high level of alertness, it has a tendency to bark at unfamiliar objects or people. In the earlier years, barking was essential so reindeers could distinguish them from wolves. Eventually, barking became a Lappie’s tool for herding reindeers.

Up to now, this dog breed is known for its high barking tendencies, so people who live in an apartment should take early training into strict consideration. By training Lappies, they can learn to control their barking tendency, and in turn, build a harmonious relationship with members of the household.

As an outdoor companion, these dogs are perfect for activities that tend to test a person’s physical endurance. Running, walking or even hiking trips are a walk in the park for these little critters. This dog breed is also water and weather-proof, making it suitable for wet activities. They are also an ideal choice for families with small children as it adapts well to family life. They are very responsive to kids and are gentle in nature. However, although Lappies may look like the friendliest dogs on earth, supervision is still required whenever there is pet-child interaction as unwanted accidents can happen anytime.

If you are looking for a companion that works hard, yet embodies a gentle and friendly nature, the Finnish Lapphund is the best choice for you. This loyal and fun-loving pet companion can bring sheer joy and happiness into your household as it is extremely warm and affectionate in nature.

Main Highlights
  • The Finnish Lapphund is a hardworking intelligent breed, perfect for outdoor activities.
  • The Finnish Lapphund is friendly and gentle by nature, so it can be left with children as long as the interaction is under adult supervision.
  • They are highly responsive to commands.
  • This dog breed can be easily trained.
Breed History

The Finnish Lapphund is under a group called d1 by some researchers and is local to the country of Scandinavia. They are a result of a hybridization of a female wolf and male dog, which is said to occur after domestication. The northern Scandinavian subclade d2, however, originated some 480 – 3000 years ago and is found in almost all Sami breeds. Though the maternal genetic wolf sequence contributed has not been matched across Eurasia, it’s still considered phylogenetically rooted to the Altai dog that lived 33,000 years ago.

The breed originated from the Sami people who were known to herd reindeers and are now residing in areas divided between Finland, Norway Russia and Sweden. Up to this day, the Sami people are still herding reindeer and using dogs as partners. These dogs had long bodies and are rectangular in shape with long hair and straight tails and would curl up whenever it moved. Today, the Finnish Lapphunds are considered to be related to these dogs because of their herding traits.

The dog breed was also considered to be standardized by Norwegians and Swedes before the Second World War but had a problem with a Distemper outbreak after World War II. Today, Swedish breeders believe that their Swedish Lapphunds are closely close to extinction that’s why they have standardized the Lapphund in 1944 which paved the way for the standardization of the Finnish Lapphund.

In Finland though, the breed standards were set in 1945 by the Finnish Kennel Club which called the breed the Lappish Herder, which was popularly known as Kukonharjunlainen amongst the locals. Believed to be a cross between reindeer dogs and the Karelian Bear dog, this breed had short hair and in the 1950’s, the Finnish Kennel Association created the first standard for the Lapponian herder, which were the black, bear-brown and white colors.

In the 60’s the Finnish Kennel associations unified and reassessed the breeds and concluded two formal definitions of the line: the Lapponian herder, which had a shorter coat and the longer coated Finnish Lapphund. Throughout time, technology took over and changed the favor of the Lapponian herder, making it popular for herding again though the demand for the long haired Finnish Lapphund did not go down, ranking sixth in the most popular animal companion in Finland. In America, the breed was first born in 1988 and was recognized by the American Kennel Club on July 2009, hoping that the breed will receive full recognition in 2011.

In the United Kingdom, it was first introduced in 1989 and was represented by the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain and was introduced in 1995 to Canada and Australia then accepted by the New Zealand and Canadian Kennel Club.


Male Lapphunds measure about 18 to 20 inches while females are smaller as they measure at only about 16 to 19 inches. An average Finnish Lapphund weighs 37 to 42 pounds.

Personality and Character
  • The Finish Lapphund is a very energetic dog breed that is great for outdoor activities such as running, hiking and walking. It never gets tired easily nor is it consumed by the weather and dryness of its surroundings. It tends to bark a lot at unfamiliar objects or people and has a curious nature but can be controlled with proper training.
  • Very active and needs a lot of exercise. Constant walking trips will be helpful to maintain the dog’s health.
  • Though gentle and friendly to children, some supervision is still recommended due to its very playful and curious nature. Tends to run away when provoked or scared.
Health and Potential Problems

When getting a Finnish Lapphund, it is best to know what types of health problems the dog breed may face so you can be ready to cope with its vulnerabilities in the long run. Remember that this breed is highly active and it requires a lot of exercise, so it is always best that you allot time for it to engage into physical activities.

  • Generalized Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Though this breed is naturally healthy, it is also prone to a number of medical issues that include Generalized Progressive Retinal Atrophy. It can cause permanent blindness in dogs, with signs and symptoms appearing later in life. Medically speaking, it is transmitted through a defective genome. This is primarily why breeders tend to test them before deciding on which mate to pair with. Last 2001, 2.5% of Finnish dog breeds were affected by this disease.
  • Cataracts: Also some Lapphunds are prone to cataracts as well. In fact, 3.4% of dogs in Finland were recorded to undergo this medical condition. Cataracts can be caused by different factors. The worst part is, the mode of its inheritance is not yet understood. Because of its high incidence rate in Finland, cataracts in dogs are now recognized as hereditary.
  • Hip Dysplasia: The Finnish Lapphund seems to have low incidence rate when it comes to hip dysplasia. However, some dogs are still vulnerable to this disease, especially since arthritis can be a contributing factor to hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, it becomes more vulnerable to suffering from this disease, so owners must be more cautious.
Care Features

The Finnish Lapphund is a breed that needs to be carefully cared for, especially since it has particular physical requirements. A lot of exercise is needed for health maintenance because it is classified as a working or herding dog. Thus, it is extremely agile in nature. Running, walking, hiking or other outdoor activities are recommended. To keep this dog breed in good shape, it is recommended for owners to allocate enough time for exercise on a daily basis.

Furthermore, Lappies are considered to be highly intelligent animals and will respond attentively to commands when properly trained. Although some owners may encounter barking problems, it can be controlled by offering the dog constant and loving attention. Most of the time, it barks at unfamiliar things since it is alert and cautious in nature. When it comes to child interaction, only minimal or some supervision is needed.

Owners must also consider the space where they put their Lappies since the most common diseases that this breed encounters are cataracts and Retinal atrophies. Spacious places are recommended with proper ventilation and cool temperature since they have double coats. A Cold ice bath in a small tub will also help in cooling their warm thick coats as well as giving them regular baths every day especially if they reside in tropical areas with humid climates.

Feeding Schedule

Just like any other dog breed, Lappies must be fed regularly. They must be provided with properly formulated food 2 times a day. It is best that you consult your vet for the best formula for your dog in order to prevent malnutrition and unwanted growth retardation. A combination of dry food and prominent dog food formula is recommended. Also, it is best that you consult your dog’s diet, especially if it takes a part in competitions.

Ideally, weight should be maintained in order to prevent malnutrition. For optimum health, check your dog by running your hands through its sides and feeling its ribs. If the ribs stick out prominently, this is a sign that your Lappie isn’t getting the nutrition it needs.

Coat, Color and Grooming

In comparison to other breeds, the Lappie has a paler coat. It also comes in black, pale brown and beige. Sometimes though, a certain shade of grey, which is also known as eumelanin and sininen or blue, can show up depending on color genetics. The rarest color is lilac, which can be found in Lappies that are coated in brown and blue. Pale Yellow and cream are the most common coats for a regular Lappie.

Furthermore, Lappies also have white spots in their coats which appear occasionally. These colors are concentrated mainly on the chest, and sometimes, on one or two toes. On some occasions, it covers the whole body, with certain patches seen on the head and near the end of the tail.

Lastly, the most common or traditional pattern is the saddle pattern which involves tan points that keep getting bigger and bigger as the pup keeps growing older. It is hard to differentiate saddle patterned dogs from tan points when they are young and can be erroneous when registering, that’s why standard Finnish Lapphund breeders refer to this pattern as unwanted. Up until now, it cannot be determined whether this pattern is genetic or just another version of the tan points.

The Lappie’s coats can be thick, and it sheds seasonally. Therefore, this dog breed requires a lot of attention in order to control flying fur. Brushing weekly will keep the coat intact and remove any unwanted shedding. In addition to that, daily brushing is recommended during the summer and spring seasons. Trimming the nails every 2 weeks and keeping the ears clean will lessen bacterial growth and prevent any infection from brewing up. It is also essential for owners to regularly inspect their dog’s ears. If there are evident signs of infection, they must call their veterinarian right away.

Hence, as an owner, always check for redness and bad odor weekly as these may indicate infection. Wipe dirt out with moistened cotton balls and a mild cleanser that is highly recommended by your vet.

In addition to that, don’t forget to brush the teeth of your dog regularly to prevent cavities and tartar build up. Brushing the teeth once a week is enough, but if you are keen on grooming, you can also brush you pet companion’s teeth once a day or every two days.

Lastly, grooming Lappies while they are still young will result in the early acceptance of grooming. As good habits are formulated, the dog becomes more used to the grooming experience, making it easier for owners to properly take care of their dog.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Finnish Lapphund is extremely friendly to children, other dogs and pets. It is playful, alert and gives utmost consideration to please its owners. It is also curious in nature, which gives it the tendency to bark at unfamiliar things. It is a good watch dog and it can be left with toddlers. Nevertheless, some supervision is still recommended to ensure that nothing accidentally goes out of hand.

The Finnish Lapphunds are like a box of chocolates as they are full of surprises and they make the best impressions around people. They play like little children, making them perfect companions of younger and older kids. It is highly approved for small children who love to cuddle with bigger animals.

In terms of pet compatibility, early socialization is crucial for this dog breed to get used to interacting with other animals.

If you really want a breed that complements your adventurous nature, the Finnish Lapphund is an ideal pet companion for you. Although it takes a lot of work to properly take care of a dog, you can expect that these furry critters will give you the joy and respect that you deserve. Just feed them regularly with love, care and devotion and they will pay you back with happiness, loyalty and unconditional love.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.