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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The Lappie, as he’s nicknamed, is a medium-size Spitz breed who’s active and noisy, agile and alert, all characteristics related to his heritage as a herder of reindeer. He's a great watch dog, but not a guard dog. He’s calm, friendly, and submissive with people, verging on aloof. The Lappie's double coat comes in any color or combination and sheds heavily.
The Finnish Lapphund comes from the far north and is intolerant of heat. Keep him indoors on hot or humid days.
The Finnish Lapphund was originally developed by a semi-nomadic people, the Sami, to help them herd their reindeer. These days the dogs are popular companions in their home country of Finland and are beginning to make a name for themselves in North America. The Lappie has a thick double coat in any color, prick ears, a wedge-shaped head, and a waving tail that curls over his back as he moves.
Smart, friendly, and alert, the Finnish Lapphund is an excellent family companion and watchdog. He is active and intelligent, requiring daily exercise that will challenge him physically and mentally and prevent him from becoming destructive or noisy in an attempt to entertain himself.
If the presence of Finnish Lapphund dust puppies would make you crazy, reconsider your decision to get this breed. He’s not difficult to groom, but he does shed a lot of hair.
A people-loving dog like the Finnish Lapphund needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Lapphund who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
The Finnish Lapphund was kept by the Sami, a semi-nomadic people inhabiting the far reaches of the Arctic north, Lapland, which comprises the northern regions of Finland, Sweden and part of Russia. The Lapphund’s job was to help to herd reindeer, but when snowmobiles came along his job went away.
In the 1940s, interest in preserving the breed led to the writing of a breed standard, which was accepted by the Finnish Kennel Club in 1945, and establishment of a breeding program. At first, the dogs were called Lapponian Shepherd Dogs and included a shorthaired variety and a longhaired variety, both of which might be born in the same litter. In 1967, the two types were declared separate breeds, with the longhaired dogs becoming known as the Finnish Lapphund. The dogs are popular pets in Finland.
Finnish immigrants probably brought Lapphunds with them when they came to the United States, but it wasn’t until 1987 that interest began in achieving American Kennel Club recognition for the dogs. The Lapphund will became a member of the AKC’s Herding Group on June 30, 2011.
Reindeer are big and tough, and they know that their hooves are deadly weapons against wolves and dogs. Thus, the Lapphund, needed to be crafty, quick, and noisy to control the reindeer under his care. A strong startle reflex allowed him to pivot out of the way in the event that a reindeer suddenly turned on him and rapidly regain his composure and control of the herd. The Lapphunds of today still share those traits, being smart, brave, and agile with a tendency to bark a lot.
While he might be comfortable giving a piece of his mind to Dancer and Prancer and Donder and Vixen, the Lapphund is calm, friendly and submissive toward people. He may be aloof toward people he doesn’t know but should never be shy or aggressive. If you don’t want him to annoy the neighbors with his noisy voice, you’ll need to teach him when it’s okay to bark and when it’s not.
Plan to exercise him for 20 to 30 minutes at least once a day, more if possible. He’ll enjoy a long walk or run, a hike, or a vigorous game of fetch or flying disc and then happily settle down onto the couch with you to watch TV. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, flyball, obedience, and rally, and is a sturdy and tireless playmate for kids. His friendly nature makes him an excellent therapy dog.
If the Lapphund is brought up with cats or other dogs, he will get along just fine with them. When he meets other dogs on the street, he is not typically aggressive toward them.
Thanks to his herding heritage, the Lapphund is always alert and is a good watchdog. He’s not protective, though, and is not suited to be a guard dog.
Lappies respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards, but they are independent thinkers. Don’t expect unquestioning obedience from them and you won’t be disappointed. Keep training sessions short and fun so they don’t get bored.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Lapphund, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
A health problem that may occur in this breed is progressive retinal atrophy. The Finnish Lapphund Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. For a Finnish Lapphund to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA evaluations for hips, an Optigen DNA-based test for progressive retinal atrophy with results registered with OFA, and a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA clearances for elbows and patellas (knees).
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Report any serious disease to your dog’s breeder. If breeders don’t know that a health problem has cropped up in their line, they can’t take steps to eradicate it.
Like all spitz breeds, the Lapphund has a thick, profuse coat that sheds seasonally and requires regular brushing to keep flying fur under control. Brush his double coat weekly to keep it clean and remove dead hair. During spring and fall shedding seasons, daily brushing will help to keep excess hair under control.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Check them weekly for redness or a bad odor that might indicate infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a mild cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
It is important to begin grooming the Lappie when he is very young. An early introduction teaches him that grooming is a normal part of his life and to patiently accept the handling and fuss of the grooming process.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
For more information about the breed and to start your search for a good breeder, visit the website of the Finnish Lapphund Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the FLCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Finnish Lapphund puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Finnish Lapphund might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Finnish Lapphund in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Finnish Lapphunds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Finnish Lapphund. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Finnish Lapphunds love all Finnish Lapphunds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Finnish Lapphund Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Finnish Lapphund rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Finnish Lapphund home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Finnish Lapphund, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Finnish Lapphund to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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