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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Finnish Spitz, nicknamed the Finkie for his native name of Finsk Spetz, is a medium-size dog. Like other spitz, or Nordic breeds, he has a thick, protective coat that stands out for its golden-red color, prick ears, a fox-like expression, and a tail that curls jauntily over his back.
This is one dog who can truly lay claim to the title King of the Barkers. The Finnish Spitz, the national dog of Finland, was developed to be a barking hunting dog. That is, he trails game, and when he finds it, he barks until the hunter arrives to bag it. One Finnish Spitz each year is chosen for his hunting prowess to be King of the Barkers.
The Finnish Spitz barks. That’s the first thing you should know about him. He was developed to bark and that’s what he does. He uses many different sounds to communicate, and “talking” to you will be an important part of his life. Get this dog only if you are willing to teach him when it’s okay to bark and when it’s not. On the plus side, he’s an excellent watchdog and will always let you know if someone is approaching the house or something out of the ordinary is going on.
This is an active dog that needs daily exercise that will challenge him physically and mentally and prevent him from becoming destructive or noisy in an attempt to entertain himself. Plan to exercise him for 20 to 30 minutes at least once a day. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, flyball, obedience and rally, and is a sturdy and tireless playmate for kids.
This intelligent and highly trainable dog responds well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards, but he is an independent thinker. Don’t expect unquestioning obedience from him and you won’t be disappointed. Keep training sessions short and fun so he doesn’t get bored.
If the presence of Finnish Spitz dust puppies would make you crazy, reconsider your decision to get this breed. He’s not difficult to groom, but he does shed a fair amount of hair. 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. In addition, trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth, and keep the ears clean to prevent infections.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Finnish Spitz needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Finnish Spitz who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Spitz-type dogs have existed for several thousand years and developed in different ways depending on their environment and the needs of the people who kept them. The Finnish Spitz is the national dog of Finland where he was developed to hunt game birds, squirrel and even large game such as elk and bear.
In the 19th century, as mass transportation became more available and convenient, the Finns began crossing the Finkie with other breeds, so much so that by 1880 few examples remained of the original, unadulterated dog. Two hunters from Helsinki realized what was about to be lost and launched a successful effort to revive the breed, culminating in the breed’s recognition by the Finnish Kennel Club in 1892.
The Finnish Spitz was first imported to the United States in 1959. The Finnish Spitz Club of America was founded in 1975, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1988, adding it to the Non-Sporting Group. The Finnish Spitz ranks 158th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Finnish Spitz is a wonderful family dog. He is lively and good-natured, and fond of children. If they play too rough or pull his fur, he’s likely to just walk away. While he is affectionate with his family, he can be aloof with people he doesn’t know. He is a good watchdog and will alert you to anything amiss but is usually never shy or aggressive.
Don’t argue in front of the Finkie. He doesn’t like dissension within the family and will be unhappy in an environment with lots of shouting or unkind words.
The Finnish Spitz was bred to bark — and that’s just what he will do. While a lot of barking may be appropriate while hunting in the countryside, it may not endear you to your suburban neighbors. A “quiet” command should be part of his training to minimize barking.
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 with a reputable, experienced Finnish Spitz breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, 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. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.
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.
That said, the Finnish Spitz is a pretty healthy breed. Health problems that may be seen include diabetes, hypothyroidism, cataracts, an autoimmune skin condition called pemphigus foliaceous, and epilepsy.
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.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Finnish Spitz at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
This handsome redhead has a double coat of a soft, dense undercoat covered by long, straight, harshly textured guard hairs. The Finnish Spitz is a naturally clean dog, but he does need some grooming. He should be brushed with a slicker brush at least once a week to minimize shed hair around your house, and bathed every three to four months.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once a month. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner. Begin grooming the Finnish Spitz when he is very young so he learns to accept the handling and fuss of grooming patiently.
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 most interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
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.
Look for more information about the Finnish Spitz and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Finnish Spitz Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the FSCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
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. 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 Spitz 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 Spitz 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 Spitz 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 Spitzes 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 Spitz. 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 Spitzes love all Finnish Spitzes. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Finnish Spitz Club of America can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Finnish Spitz 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 Spitz 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 Spitz, 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 Spitz 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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