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Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Sweden’s national dog is multitalented: Over the centuries, he has worked as a hunting dog, guard dog, and reindeer herder. This is a rare breed that is little known outside of Sweden, as only about 1,200 of the dogs exist. But the few people who have discovered him know that the Lapphund is a great companion.
The Lapphund comes from the far north and is intolerant of heat. Keep him indoors on hot or humid days.
The Swedish Lapphund was originally developed by the nomadic Sami people of Lappland to help them herd their reindeer. He is the oldest of Sweden’s nine native breeds and is the national dog. His history as a herding and flock guarding dog make him curious and intrepid, a true dog of the north.
The medium-size Lapphund wears a thick double coat in brown, black, or black and brown (with or without white markings) and has prick ears, a wedge-shaped head, and a waving tail that curls over his back as he moves. He's not difficult to groom, but he does shed a lot of hair, so if the presence of dust puppies would make you crazy, reconsider your decision to get this breed.
A people-loving dog like the Swedish Lapphund needs to live in the house. A Lapphund who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship will be quite unhappy.
The Lappie, as he’s nicknamed, is a spitz breed, one of the oldest types of dogs in existence. He originated as a hunting partner and guard dog for the nomadic Sami people of Lappland, which comprises northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and northwestern Russia. When the Sami began to live a more settled lifestyle, keeping herds of reindeer, the Lappie developed herding skills.
The Swedish Kennel Club recognized the Lapphund as a distinct breed in 1903. The first dog the club registered was named Halli. The breed is now considered Sweden’s national dog.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognized the Lappi in 1944, and the United Kennel Club in 2006. Swedish Lapphunds are recorded in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, the first step toward eventual recognition.
The Swedish Lapphund is lively, loving, and alert, making him an excellent family companion and watchdog. He may be aloof toward people he doesn’t know. And like most herding breeds and Spitz dogs, he barks a lot. If you don’t want him to annoy the neighbors, you’ll need to teach him when it’s okay to bark.
The Lapphund is active and intelligent, so he requires 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. Overall health permitting, he’ll enjoy going for a long walk, run or hike, or playing a vigorous game of fetch or flying disc. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, flyball, herding, obedience, and rally, and is a sturdy and tireless playmate for kids. If the Lapphund is brought up with cats, he should get along just fine with them.
Swedish Lapphunds respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards, but they are independent thinkers, so don’t expect unquestioning obedience from them. Keep training sessions short and fun so they don’t get bored.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a headstrong adult 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 Swedish Lapphund, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Avoid 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.
Although the Swedish Lapphund is thought to be a relatively healthy breed, diabetes mellitus and progressive retinal atrophy are a few of the medical conditions that have been identified in the breed. Perhaps because they are so rare, popularity and overbreeding have yet to take a major toll on their health, but it’s a good idea to ask breeders about the incidence of hip dysplasia and eye problems, since those are common in many different breeds.
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 Lapphund 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.
The Lappie has a thick double coat that forms a ruff around the neck and is longer on the back of the legs and the tail. Brush the coat weekly to keep it clean and remove dead hair. During spring and fall shedding seasons, daily brushing will help keep excess hair under control.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that could indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian. Start grooming your Lappie at an early age so he learns to accept it willingly.
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 a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all of the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She should be more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who tell you only good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means.
This breed is little seen outside of Sweden and does not have a U.S. breed club. He is registered by the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service but is not yet recognized by that registry. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2006. Either organization may be able to put you in touch with someone who can help you find a breeder.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and will come 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.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only 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 Swedish 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 and come from parents with health clearances, 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 Swedish 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.
The Lapphund is extremely rare in the United States, and it is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group. If you have your heart set on one, a breeder is your best option.
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