The national dog of Finland since 1979. The Finnish Spitz is a well-established small Spitz-type dog originally bred for hunting all types of game, from small animals such as rodents to as large elks and bears. The Finnish Spitz is a “bark pointer”, meaning it will bark towards the game to signal its location. It employs the same technique in today’s hunt, signalling the hunter to the exact location of game birds perched in trees. The first breed standard was written as early as 1812, and a fine characteristic of this breed is the wedge-shaped head, its compact body, a stand-off outer coat plus a tail that is tightly curled over its back. This square-built dog has the same height to length ratio. It typically stands between 43-50cms in height with an average weight of 14-16kgs. Females are slightly smaller with an average height of 39-45cms while males carry more coat than females. When viewed on a profile, the combination of the eyes, ears, and the tail denotes agility and liveliness. A true hunting dog, eager to do its original purpose courageously but with tempered caution, loyalty, and cleverness.
The history of the Finnish Spitz (also called Suomen-pystyykorva in Finland, meaning “Finnish prick-eared dog”) dates back several thousand years ago when Spitz-type dogs that inhabited Central Russia were selectively bred to produce an agile hunting dog. These dogs were bred by the Finno-Ugrian woodsmen that inhabit the far northern regions to cater to their specific needs, particularly for hunting game to be consumed as food, and the outstanding hunting ability of the Finnish Spitz made it a highly desired breed. However, the advancement of technology and the improvement of transportation exposed the breed to a lot of people and other breed of dogs. This brought the purebred Finnish Spitz almost to the brink of extinction because it was being mated with other breeds of dog. Thanks to the efforts of two Finnish foresters by the name of Hugo Sandberg (who practically wrote the first breed standard) and Hugo Roos who carefully selected a line of purebred Finnish Spitz and devised a 30-year selective breeding program, the modern Finnish Spitz was saved from utter extinction. All modern Finish Spitz that we know today are descendents of this original foundation stock. Today, although rarely seen in cities and towns, the breed thrives among the villages and isolated hamlets and farms of its native land.
This breed is described as energetic, friendly, independent, and intelligent. It is also a lively and playful breed. Although it is classified as a hound dog in the UK, the Finnish Spitz is actually a gun dog that combines the specific qualities of a setter, pointer, and a retriever. It is generally used to hunt a game bird called capercaillie and when it finds one, it barks continuously to point the hunter to the tree where the bird is settled. This “bark hunting” characteristics makes the Finnish Spitz very vocal and is not an ideal companion to have especially for homes with neighbours close by. It will bark at anything suspicious and out of the ordinary which can be annoying to other people. This barking instinct is a major part of its hunting activity and is a habit that is hard to break. It has a wide range of barking abilities, from short, sharp barks to a machine gun of barks that almost sound like a yodel. In fact, there is a competition in Scandinavia called “King of the Barkers” to find which dog can bark the most in a given time.
The Finnish Spitz is a highly independent breed but very much attached to his family because of its protective instinct. It is typically aloof with strangers and will often bark at unknown visitors which makes it a good watchdog.
This breed is intelligent, independent, and strong-willed. Gentle but consistent training is the best method suitable for the Finnish Spitz. It responds well with a soft voice and gentle touch coupled with positive reinforcement methods. It is exceptionally intelligent and can learn commands very quickly but also gets bored just as quick especially if it is required to do the same thing over and over again. It is a highly inquisitive dog and training him to be a lap dog can be quite challenging.
The Finnish Spitz is remarkably a clean breed and can often be seen washing itself using his water bowl until he is clean enough that his coat shines. The coat isn’t oily so it doesn’t have that typical doggy odour. It uniquely requires little grooming except during shedding periods (in the spring and fall) where it requires daily brushing. A routine weekly brushing is all that is needed to keep the coat healthy and shiny. When brushing, pay close attention to the trouser, ruff and tail where matts and tangles usually form. Do not allow the coat to remain wet for long periods of time. Use a good hair dryer after rubbing the coat with a dry towel to make sure that he is fully dry.
It is a generally healthy breed with a median lifespan of 11 years and 2 months. Like any other dogs, there are a few health predispositions that are known to affect the Finnish Spitz. Among them are:
Exercise requirement is on the moderate side. Two long walks per day are sufficient to channel its unused energy, especially if it is to be kept as a pet. This breed is fairly inactive indoors and will be quite content snoozing in its own side of the house. It is not a kennel dog but will thrive on a combination of balance outdoor activities and indoor playtime with the family.
The Finnish Spitz is a lively, playful, and friendly breed that loves children in general and is suitable for domestic life. It thrives on people interaction and is always ready to play with children. However, like any other breeds, dogs and young children should always be supervised when playing together. It gets along well with other dogs and cats, especially if it is raised with them from puppyhood. However, it can be aggressive with other dogs it is not familiar with, as well as with pet canaries, so it is best not to let the Finnish Spitz alone with birds.