Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Sporting Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 3 inches to 1 foot, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 20 to 35 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
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.
- Finnish Spitz are lively, high-energy dogs and require lots of daily exercise.
- These dogs are called Bark Pointers for a good reason. They love to bark! Train them at an early age to stop barking on command, or hope that you have tolerant neighbors!
- Because Finnish Spitz are hunting dogs, they should never be turned out in unsecured areas. A fenced yard is a necessity.
- If left outside alone for too long, Finnish Spitz will bark at everything they see unless trained at an early age not to do so.
- Finnish Spitz take a long time to mature mentally, and can be rather silly and puppyish until they are three to four years old.
- Hunting dogs in general can be independent thinkers, which makes them appear to be stubborn at times. Finnish Spitz are no different. Learn the proper training methods and motivations, however, and you'll be pleased with your dog's intelligence and willingness to learn.
- Finnish Spitz generally are good with other pets in the household, but can be aggressive with dogs they don't know.
- This is a breed that tends to be aloof and suspicious of strangers. They aren't good guard dogs, but they will alert you by barking if someone approaches your home.
- Finnish Spitz love to eat, especially treats. Since they can be somewhat manipulative, they will try to get as many treats from you as possible and can become overweight. Try giving them a carrot or a low-fat treat instead.
- Never buy a Finnish Spitz from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
The origin of the Finnish Spitz is undocumented, but dogs of the same type have been used for game hunting of all kinds in Finland for hundreds of years.
It's believed that Spitz-type dogs were brought from central Russia by tribes of Finno-Ugrian people who migrated into Finland a couple of thousand years ago. They used the dogs primarily as all-purpose hunting dogs. Because they were so isolated, the Finnish Spitz breed developed with little influence from other breeds.
That changed when transportation and roadways improved. People started coming to the lands where the Finnish Spitz lived, bringing their own dogs and mating them with the Finnish Spitz. So much cross-breeding occurred that by 1880, the Finnish Spitz was close to extinction.
Then something wonderful happened. Two men from Helsinki, named Hugo Sandberg and Hugo Roos, were on a hunting trip in the northern forests and saw some Finnish Spitz hunting. They realized the significance of these dogs and made it their mission to save the breed.
Hugo Sandberg wrote an article for an 1890 edition of the Sporten magazine about the dogs he'd seen. His description was so complete and carefully worded that in 1892, when the Finnish Kennel Club recognized the breed, the first Breed Standard was based his article. Sandberg judged at the first Helsinki dog show in1891. The breed was given the name Finnish Spitz in 1897.
Hugo Roos played his part in preserving the breed by actively breeding Finnish Spitz for 30 years. He showed and judged longer than that. He is credited with gathering the foundation dogs and pioneering the breed until the 1920s.
In 1920, England's Sir Edward Chichester was so enchanted by the breed while on a hunting trip to Finland, he brought a brace of them back to England with him. Later, he imported an unrelated stud dog.
A few years later, Lady Kitty Ritson, of Tulchan Kennels, also saw the breed in Finland and fell in love with it. Along with several other fanciers, she organized the Finnish Spitz Club in England, which was first registered with the England's Kennel Club in 1934. She also imported many dogs and was the first to give them the affectionate nickname Finkie.
World War II was a difficult time for the breed, as it was for many others. After the war, the quality of the dogs being shown was very poor. Two dogs imported to England from Finland, Mountjay Peter, and Kiho Seivi, and one imported from Sweden, Friedstahills Saila, improved the breed dramatically in England.
In 1959, two pups were born while in quarantine in England. They were named Tophunter Tommi and Tophunter Turre. These two dogs appeared in almost every pedigree of England's top winning Finnish Spitz until the early 1970s.
In recent years, a bitch named Irheilu Penan Pipsa of Toveri has had the greatest influence on the breed in England. She appears in the pedigree of nearly every top-winning Finnish Spitz in England and is the all-time top brood bitch in the breed there.
Finnish Spitz were first imported to the U.S. from England in 1959 by Cullabine Rudolph. In the 1960s, Henry Davidson of Minnesota and Alex Hassel of Connecticut began breeding imported Finnish Spitz.
The Finnish Spitz Club of America was formed in 1975 and the American Breed Standard, based on the Finnish Standard, for the breed was developed in 1976. AKC allowed Finnish Spitz to be shown in the Miscellaneous Class in April 1984. In 1988, the breed was approved to be shown in the Non-Sporting Group. In 1993, the Finnish Spitz Club of America became a member of the American Kennel Club.
Today, the breed is well-established in Finland and Sweden, but it remains relatively uncommon in the U.S., ranking 147th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC. Nearly 2,000 Finnish Spitz are registered annually with the Finnish Kennel Club compared with a total of 637 between 1890 and 1930. The Finnish Spitz has been the national dog of Finland since 1979, and is even mentioned in Finnish patriotic songs.
Males are 17 1/2 to 20 inches tall and weigh 27 to 35 pounds. Females are 15 1/2 to 18 inches tall and weigh 22 to 30 pounds.
This Nordic breed is active and friendly. His alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, and he's protective of family members. He may be cautious toward strangers but should never be shy or aggressive.
He loves children and gets along with other animals, especially when he's been raised with them. On the down side, he's an independent thinker and can be a challenge to train. He may not be mentally and emotionally mature until he's three or four years old.
Like every dog, Finnish Spitz need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Finnish Spitz puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Finnish Spitz are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all Finnish Spitz will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
- Canine Hip Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Patellar luxation. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation occurs when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, but many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition. In severe cases, however, surgical repair may be necessary.
- Epilepsy. This seizure disorder can be managed with medication, but it cannot be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with proper management of this disease, which can be hereditary or of unknown cause.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Finnish Spitz, you should expect to see the results of annual blood and urine tests for kidney function and abnormalities associated with protein-losing nephropathy, protein-losing enteropathy, renal dysplasia, and Addison's disease and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that the eyes are normal.
Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.
Finnish Spitz have a lot of energy and high exercise needs. They aren't recommended for apartment dwellers or families who don't have the time and energy to give them a lot of exercise.
If left alone in the backyard, a Finnish Spitz will probably engage in his favorite activity — barking! His next favorite activity will be hunting for prey, which can include digging for mice and other burrowing animals or chasing squirrels and birds. This is a breed that requires a knowledgeable, active owner and understanding neighbors.
He prefers cooler climates and does well as an inside dog. When you take him for a walk in public places, such as parks, be sure to keep him on leash so he won't take off chasing something. Give your Finnish Spitz a couple of 30-minute walks daily to help him use up his energy
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 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.
Recommended daily amount: 1.75 to 2.5 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Finnish Spitz in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Coat Color And Grooming
Finnish Spitz have a double coat. The undercoat is short, soft, and dense, topped by harsh guard hairs that are one to two inches long. The hair on the head and legs is short. The tail and back of the hind legs has the longest and most dense hair. Males typically have more coat than females, especially at their shoulders.
The coat comes in shades of golden-red, ranging from pale honey to deep auburn. No matter what color, their coats should be clear and bright, not muddy. Because the undercoat is a paler color than the topcoat, the dog appears to "glow" when standing in the sun.
The coat is a solid color, with white markings on the tips of the toes and a quarter-size spot or narrow white strip, ideally no wider than a half-inch, on the chest. A Finnish Spitz may also have black hairs along the lip line and sparse, separate black hairs on the tail and back. Puppies often have a lot of black hairs, which decrease as they mature. The nose, lips, and rims of the eyes are always black.
With weekly brushing, Finnish Spitz stay exceptionally clean. Their coats aren't oily, so they typically don't have an odor. They shed heavily in the spring and fall, however, and will need additional brushing during that time to keep the hair from flying around.
Bathe only as needed. The Finnish Spitz is a wash-and-wear dog, meaning that no trimming should be done except under the pads of the feet.
Trim his nails once or twice a month, as needed. If you can hear the nail clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short nails keep the feet in good condition and won't scratch your legs when your Finnish Spitz jumps up to greet you.
Introduce your Finnish Spitz to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
Children And Other Pets
Finnish Spitz love children and will tolerate a lot, walking away when they've had too much. They're sturdy enough that they're not easily injured by toddlers whose motor skills aren't fully developed.
That said, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Finnish Spitz get along well with other dogs and cats, especially if they're raised with them, but they can be aggressive toward dogs they don't know. And pet birds might want to watch their back around them.
Finnish Spitz are sometimes acquired without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. If you're interested in adopting an adult Finnish Spitz who's already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Finnish Spitz.