Dog Health & More
Finnish Spitz were originally were bred to hunt a variety of small and large game, and then bark when they found something. Today they're considered "talkative" companions who will keep you apprised of just about everything going on in your surroundings.
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The Finnish Spitz has the distinction of being the national dog of Finland, where this ancient hunting breed is still used to hunt a wide variety of game.
In Finland, he's known as the Suomenpystykorva (pronounced SWOH-men-pi-stih-KOR-vuh), which means Finnish Pricked Ear Dog, and he can't compete there for a show title until he has proved himself in hunting trials. He's also been called the Finnish Barking Bird Dog because of his unique hunting habits, and in England, he's known as Finsk spets.
In 1891, the name was officially changed to Finnish Spitz, and the nickname Finkie became popular after the dog's arrival in England in the 1920s.
Finnish Spitz dogs have a square build and a fox-like look. They are "bark pointers," meaning they indicate where the game is by barking to attract the hunter's attention. They've mostly been used to hunt small game, such as squirrels and grouse, but they've also hunted moose, elk, and even bear.
These are rather small hunting dogs, being about 17 1/2 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder. Their necks are shorter than some of the other Spitz breeds because Finnish Spitz look up to point their game. The head is wedge-shaped and resembles that of a fox.
Finnish Spitz have a lively, light gait, and are as intelligent as they are animated. They make good companions for active families. Friendly, they get along well with children. They're good watchdogs and protect their families, but they rarely show aggression unless it's warranted.
In America, Finnish Spitz are primarily companion dogs. In their native Finland, however, they're still used for hunting, mostly for a large game bird called a capercaille and for black grouse.
The way Finnish Spitz hunt is unique. He runs ahead of the hunter until he finds a bird. Then he follows the bird until it settles in a tree, and attracts the bird's attention by running back and forth under the tree, wagging his tail. It's thought that the bird is lulled into a sense of security by the dog's movements, at which point the Finnish Spitz begins to bark, softly at first and gradually getting louder.
The bird generally doesn't notice the hunter approaching because of the noise and action of the dog. If the bird flies off before the hunter reaches it, the Finnish Spitz stops barking and follows it until it lands, then starts barking again. This is the reason these dogs are called "Bark Pointers."
Elkhound and similar Spitz breeds hunt in a similar fashion. In Scandinavia, barking competitions are held for the King of the Barkers. Finnish Spitz have been recorded as barking 160 times per minute in competitions.
By now, you've probably guessed that barking is an important part of the Finnish Spitz makeup. They like to bark. If yours is primarily a companion and you have close neighbors, you'll need to train your dog to stop barking on command, or hope that your neighbors are very tolerant.
Training these independent, strong-willed dogs can be a challenge. They are best trained with a soft voice and touch. Their intelligence makes them become easily bored with repetitive training, so keep your training sessions short. Professional trainers say that Finnish Spitz can be manipulative and too smart for their owners, so you need to be persistent and firm. If you stick with it, however, you'll be greatly rewarded by your dog's intelligence and aptitude for sports such as obedience, agility, and rally.
Also, keep in mind that Finnish Spitz are slow to mature. It generally takes about four years for them to become mentally mature. In the years building up to that, your Finnish Spitz will need time to decide whether or not he's going to accept you as the leader of the pack. At times, he'll be silly and rebellious; other times he'll be self-contained and contemplative. A Finnish Spitz doesn't tolerate being bullied, but with consistency, fairness, and patience, you'll gain his respect and obedience.
Finnish Spitz want to be members of the family and are naturally protective. They are sensitive dogs and don't do well in homes where there's a lot of tension. But give them a loving atmosphere and include them in everything you do and they'll become a loyal, lively, and fun-loving friend.