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Finnish Lapphund

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021

The Finnish Lapphund is a medium sized purebred from Finland. It was bred north of the Arctic Circle and was developed to be hardy, laid back and to work and live outside where amongst other things it herded reindeer. It is a Spitz type dog and while it is actually one of Finland’s most popular breeds elsewhere it is less common. It does well in shows and competitions such as obedience, flyball, carting, agility, mushing, obedience, rally, tracking and herding. It is also very good as a therapy dog.

The Finnish Lapphund at A Glance
Name Finnish Lapphund
Other names Lapinkoira
Nicknames Lappie
Origin Finland
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 50 pounds
Average height 16 to 19 inches
Life span 12 to 17 years
Coat type Dense, long, fluffy, soft, profuse, thick, water repellent
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, brown, blonde, tan, grey, red, white
Popularity Not popular – ranked 174th by the AKC
Intelligence Very intelligent – well above average
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good in warm or hot climates
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can live even in extreme cold conditions
Shedding Moderate plus heavy seasonal shedding – expect plenty of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drooling
Obesity High – prone to obesity so measure its food and make it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – will need daily commitment to keep it well groomed
Barking Frequent – it does bark a lot so training it to stop on command will be needed
Exercise needs Very active – needs active and committed owners
Trainability Easy to train – but keep sessions short and interesting as gets bored easily
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Very good – new owners would be fine with this breed
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization
Good apartment dog Good – can adjust as long as it gets exercise but does better in a home with a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Quite a healthy dog – some issues might include eye problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $535 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, grooming and basic training
Average annual expenses $1140 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $850
Rescue organizations Several including Finnish Lapphund Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Finnish Lapphund’s Beginnings

The Finnish Lapphund has DNA that shows it is native to northern Scandinavia and can be found in all Sami breeds. It has been dated back as far back as 3000 years ago and is the result of a male dog and female wolf hybridization. The Sami are the indigenous semi-nomadic people from the Scandinavian and European regions, who traditionally herded reindeer and still in fact do to some extent today. To herd reindeer they have used herding dogs for hundreds of years. These were the ancestors of the Finnish Lapphund we know today. It was bred to be ideal for working in cold and harsh conditions, to be hardy, independent and courageous.

Before and during the second world war in the 1940s the dog was at risk in part it is thought to a distemper outbreak. Steps were taken to establish a standard for the breed and it was accepted into the Finnish Kennel Club in 1945. A breeding program to raise its numbers and awareness of the breed was also begun. The dogs were called Lapponian Shepherd Dogs at first and there were two varieties, short haired and long haired. However later in the 1960s these were separated into two different breeds. The long haired versions are the Finnish Lapphund and the short haired are the Lapponian Herders. When snowmobiles came along its role went too.

New Lease on Life

However in Finland the dog did not lose its popularity thankfully and it went from working dog to very popular companion ranking 6th most popular pet there. While Finnish immigrants likely brought the dog over when they came to the US it was not until 1987 that interest was shown by some breeders. In 1988 the first American Finnish Lapphund litter was born and in 2011 it was fully recognized by the AKC. The UKC had recognized it in 1994. Today it is ranked 174th by the AKC and it is not a common dog there.

The Dog You See Today

This breed is medium sized weighing 30 to 50 pounds and standing 16 to 19 inches tall. It is a strong dog and it has a double coat that was developed to be able to handle the extreme cold conditions it used to work in. In fact in Finland it is one of just two breeds that are allowed to be kept outdoors in kennels in the winter. The undercoat is fluffy and short and the outer coat is longer, waterproof, dense, coarse and thick. It can come in any color or markings but they include tan, black, brown, blonde, red and cream. At the neck there is a mane like aspect to its coat that is especially noticeable in males. Its tail is covered in long and thick hair and curves over the back of the dog. It has a face that is expressive and is often compared to the look of a cute teddy bear. It has ears that are pricked and move around easily with an elegant nose and spectacle markings around its eyes.

The Inner Finnish Lapphund


The Lappie is alert and will make a good watchdog who will bark to alert you if there is an intruder, but they do not have strong protective instincts so some might defend you and some might not! It does bark frequently otherwise, and training will be needed to stop it on command. It can be a good breed for new owners and it is affectionate, friendly, gentle, smart and loyal. With strangers it can be wary or aloof but should never be overly shy or aggressive.

The Finnish Lapphund is a cheerful and happy dog, loving and quiet and also very sensitive. It is not suited to homes where there are a lot of raised voices and tension. It is active and brave and loving to its owners and family. It can be a great family pet but also comes from being a hard working dog so it needs to be kept busy. It should be included with family activities but it does have very strong herding instincts still which it may try to use on children, pets and even adults, and that is another thing to train a command to stop.

There is an independent side to this breed, coming from its reindeer herding days when it had to make its own judgment calls on occasion. It also can be very inquisitive and will want to explore everything. Herding reindeer is not like herding sheep! Those reindeer have deadly weapons in the form of their hooves and they are tough and large. A reindeer herding dog has to be crafty, agile, and quick witted to deal with that. It is calm and controlled and has great reflexes and while it may be calm and sweet, it is brave too.

Living with a Finnish Lapphund

What will training look like?

Finnish Lapphunds are moderately easy to train, it listens usually to its owner and is inclined to obey so in some cases there is less need for repetition. However as mentioned it can have an independent side and that stubborn streak can be stronger in some than others. Use positive methods of training and do not expect them to obey unthinkingly. They will have a think about things! Praise and encourage them, offer treats and make sure the sessions themselves are fun and not too long. The sooner you start training and of course socialization the easier and better it will be. At 8 weeks old a puppy is ready to learn and is going to be a lot more compliant than a more determined and willful 6 month old. Make sure you introduce it to different people, places, situations, animals and so on so that it is confident and able to deal with what might come!

How active is the Finnish Lapphund?

Living in an apartment is not the best situation for this dog, it does best with at least a small or averaged sized yard, if not a bit larger. It is a very active dog and will need owners who are happy about that and in fact are even committed to being active themselves, so there is not any issue with not giving the dog enough exercise and mental stimulation. If not kept active and stimulated Lappies can become destructive, restless and hard to control. It should get a couple of 20 to 30 minute vigorous walks a day as well as some playtime. It would also enjoy joining you on hikes, runs, jogging and such.

Caring for the Finnish Lapphund

Grooming needs

There is a fair bit of maintenance and grooming with this dog to keep it looking healthy and in good condition. The coat is thick and sheds a great deal so it will need a lot of care. Brush it daily to help reduce how much loose hair is left around the home, and be prepared to vacuum daily. Also be ready for even heavier seasonal shedding where the fur will come out in big clumps for a few weeks. Only give it a bath when it needs one so as to avoid drying out its skin, and for the same reason only ever use a proper dog shampoo. Start brushing and grooming when it is young so that it gets used to having its feet touched and so on.

Other than caring for its coat there are a few other regular grooming needs that will need to taken care of. Its ears should be checked weekly for signs of infection that might include redness, irritation, swelling or discharge. You can also give them a wipe clean using a cotton ball and dog ear cleanser or warm damp cloth. Wipe the sections you can see and reach easily, never insert anything actually into the ear canal. Its teeth need good care too so brush them at least two to three times a week, if not daily if it will let you. The nails too will need regular clipping when they get too long. You can do this yourself or have a groomer or vet take care of it. It requires a proper nail clipping tool and knowledge of where it safe to cut. Do not go into the quick of the nail where there are nerves and blood vessels as this will hurt the dog and cause bleeding.

Feeding Time

Feeding the dog will require a good quality dry dog food and amounts of 1½ to 2 ½ cups a day, split into at least two meals. How much each Lapphund might eat can vary depending on its metabolism rate, activity level, size, age and health.

How is the Finnish Lapphund with children and other animals?

Lappies are excellent with children they love to play and be energetic together with a play mate and best friend. They are also very affectionate towards them especially with socialization and when raised with them. They are almost tireless, are sturdy so can handle some rough and tumble and are gentle and sweet enough to put up with even clumsy handling from small children. This is a great family dog for homes with all ages of children in fact. It also gets along very well with other dogs and other pets and can even deal with cats when it has been raised with them!

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Lapphund can have a surprisingly long life as while the average is a good 12 to 14 years, in Finland it is not uncommon to have them living up to 17 years. There are health issues that can come up with Lappies such as hip dysplasia, eye problems and blindness.

Biting Statistics

In closer examination of reports of dogs attacking people over the last 35 years in the US and Canada, there is no mention of the Finnish Lapphund. It is the case though that in these countries it is not a common breed so it makes sense for there to be less mention of them! However when raised well and bred carefully this is a sweet dog, not aggressive, and there does not need to be too much concern in that regard. But it is still important to note that all dogs have that potential for aggression given certain situations, stimulation, mistreatment or even just having a bad day. Size and breed regardless, any dog does have the capability of attacking, it is just true that some are less likely to, and some things can be done by responsible owners to minimize those chances. Make sure you have a dog that is getting the right level of exercise and stimulation. That it gets the attention it needs and that it has at least basic obedience training and is well socialized.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Finding a Finnish Lapphund is not going to be an easy process, it may even involve being put onto a waiting list. It is important to stick to good and reliable breeders though rather than going off and finding a quicker but less trustworthy source like a puppy mill, pet store or backyard breeder. A pet quality puppy from a good breeder will be around $850, and you can pay over double that if you are looking for something show worthy from a top show breeder. Rescues and shelters are another option, a chance to give a dog a new home, but again finding a purebred is less likely than finding a mixed breed. You will also be more likely to find an adolescent or adult aged dog than a puppy. Shelters tend to have lower charges $50 to $400, and medical needs are taken care of.

Once you have found a puppy and are ready to bring it home there are some things to have prepared for it at home, and there needs to be a visit to a vet straight away. At home it needs a crate, collar and leash, carrier, bowls and so on, and these will cost about $200. At the vet’s it will need shots, basic blood tests done, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and a physical exam performed. These will cost about $270.

Then there are also ongoing costs to owning any pet, things like food, health care and such. For the Finnish Lapphund feeding it a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $145 a year. Miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, grooming, miscellaneous items and toys will come to about $535 a year. Medical basic needs like flea and tick prevention, shots, check ups and then pet insurance will come to about $460 a year. This gives you an estimated annual cost of $1140.


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The Lappie is a very popular Finnish companion for all kinds of people from the elderly, singles or couples to families. It is loved for its sweet disposition, its loyalty, intelligence, affection and cheerful nature. It is an active dog though, so you need to be active yourself to see that it gets enough stimulation. It is also a heavy shedding dog so this is not the breed for you if you are really against having hair around the home. It is a dog that needs companionship, just because it can handle the cold and being left outside does not mean it should be. It needs to be a part of your life. It does bark frequently so if you live where the neighbors are anti barking dogs you need to train it well to stop on command, and not be out all the time!

Featured Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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