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The Finnish Spitz is a medium purebred from Finland where it was bred to be a hunting dog and to act as a pointer, meaning it let the human hunter it was with know in what direction the downed prey was. It is also known by several other names including the Finnish Barking Birddog, the Finnish Hunting Dog and the Finnish Cock-eared Dog. In Finnish it is the Suomenpystykorva and since 1979 has been their national dog breed. While it can be kept as a companion dog and does well in that role, in Finland it is still today mostly bred to be a hunting dog.
|The Finnish Spitz at A Glance|
|Other names||Finnish Hunting Dog, Finnish Spets, Finsk Spets, Loulou Finois, Suomalainen Pystykorva and Suomenpystykorva|
|Nicknames||Barking Bird Dog, Finkie|
|Average weight||23 to 36 pounds|
|Average height||15 to 20 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Medium, dense|
|Color||Black, red, grey, brown|
|Popularity||Not popular – ranked 183rd by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Average – understands commands after 25 to 40 repetitions|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – able to live in warm climates just fine but nothing too hot|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent – can live in cold climates even extreme ones|
|Shedding||Heavy – be prepared for lots of hair in the home especially during seasonal shedding periods|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Average – if allowed to overeat, will gain weight but not especially prone|
|Grooming/brushing||Moderate – daily or ever other day brushing will control the loose hair|
|Barking||Frequent – hence the nickname Barking Bird Dog, training will be needed to control|
|Exercise needs||Fairly active – will need a good amount of physical activity each day|
|Trainability||Moderately difficult – experience would help|
|Friendliness||Excellent with socialization|
|Good first dog||Good but better with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Good but need socialization and can be issues with dogs of the same sex, especially if they have not been fixed|
|Good with other pets||Moderate to good – socialization is essential|
|Good with strangers||Good with socialization but wary|
|Good apartment dog||Good but would be better in a place with a yard|
|Handles alone time well||Low – can suffer from separation anxiety|
|Health issues||Quite a healthy breed a few issues only including hip dysplasia, epilepsy and patellar luxation|
|Medical expenses||$460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$540 a year for toys, basic training, grooming, miscellaneous items and license|
|Average annual expenses||$1145 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,000|
|Rescue organizations||Several including the Finnish Spitz Rescue Organization|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Finnish Spitz’s Beginnings
The Finnish Spitz’s ancestors come from 2000 years ago originating from central Russia and then moving to Finland. They were bred to hunt small game but are used still today to track a variety of game from squirrels, to birds, even up to bear. When the dog found the prey it would bark and point their human counterparts to the prey with their head. Its success with game birds was especially good which is why it was given the Barking Birddog nickname. Tribes that used the Finnish Spitz’s ancestors traveled and so changes in the dogs occurred according to different needs in different locations.
Over hundred of years the original Spitz was crossed with other dogs and the pure native dog became less common. In the 1880s they were at risk of becoming extinct but several hunters and foresters saw the dogs working during a hunt and came home with dogs to start a breeding program in the hopes of saving them. One of those people was a man called Hugo Roos and he went as far as to take trips to remote corners to find dogs that were untainted by other breeds. He spent 30 years breeding and reviving this dog. Another person involved in saving it was Hugo Sandberg and a standard for the Finnish Spitz was later developed in 1892 based on his knowledge. The Finnish Kennel Club officially recognized them in 1892 and the dog’s official name became the Finnish Spitz in 1897.
In the 1920s the Spitz came to England and enough interest was shown that the Finnish Spitz Club was formed in 1934 and the Kennel Club recognized them in 1935. However with the arrival of World War II there came a period of great difficulty for this dog breed as for most dog breeds in fact. For a time straight after the war those Finnish Spitz that appeared in dog shows were of a poor quality.
New Lease on Life
After the war efforts were made to return the dog to a better quality. The Finnish Spitz came to the US in the 1950s, coming from a kennel in England. Then further imports were brought in in the 1960s and the Finnish Spitz Club of America was formed in 1975. Using the Finnish club standard an American breed standard was drawn up in 1976. It was recognized by the AKC in 1987. In Finland it became the national dog in 1979 and even appears in several patriotic Finnish songs. It is used as a hunting dog there still and is very popular. In the US however it is still fairly uncommon and is ranked 183rd by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
This is a medium sized dog weighing 23 to 36 pounds and standing 15 to 20 inches tall. It has a double coat, the under coat is soft, short and dense and the outer coat is longer, around 21/2 inches, harsh and straight. Males tend to have coat hat is more abundant that females. Common colors are golden, red, honey, auburn. There can be small white markings. Puppies tend to be born a darker color and then lighten as they age. They can also be born with black markings which then also fades as they age.
Between its erect ears set high on the head, the head is flat and then it rounds a little at the forehead. It has a narrow muzzle that tapes to a point and the lips and nose are black. Its eayes are alond shaped, dark and have black rims. It is often compared to the looks and movement of a red fox. Its body is squared and muscular and it has a straight topline. Its chest is deep and its legs look straight from the front. Its tail is plumed and bushy and curls over the back and that thick fur also appears on the back of its hind legs. Its feet are round and catlike and the dewclaws are removed in some countries.
The Inner Finnish Spitz
The Finnish Spitz can be a very good watchdog as it will bark to alert you to a strange presence and it has some protective instincts so it may act to defend you. However it does also bark frequently at anything and sometimes nothing so a command to stop it will be needed, and understanding neighbors would be ideal if you have any close by. (In barking competitions it can reach 150 barks a minute!) It is a good dog for new owners but is best with those who have experience, there are better breeds out there if this is your first dog.
This is a dog that is all about people, it wants to be around you all the time, it wants attention and to be a part of family activity and needs lots of companionship. It will have a favorite person it bonds more closely to. It is therefore not the right breed for people who are out all day, it can have problems with separation anxiety and this is a very sensitive breed so it is also not a good fit for homes where there is a lot of tension and raised voices.
When around strangers it is reserved until it gets to know them but when well raised and bred it should not be suspicious or shy. It is a lively and active dog and will need a good mix of outdoor exercise time and then being with the family indoors for bonding and affection. It can have an independent side and males can be more domineering than females. It is a loyal and playful dog but keep in mind it matures later than many breeds and will remain exuberant and puppy like even up to 3 or 4 years old.
Living with a Finnish Spitz
What will training look like?
The Finkie is a moderately easy dog to train meaning results will come but it will be a gradual process. However some can be more difficult if you run into that independent side along with a lack of maturity. Stay calm and positive with your approach. Show the dog you are the boss, you are the pack leader not it. Offer it treats to motivate it, and also praise its achievements and offer positive encouragement. Keep in mind that they do become bored easily so avoid making it too repetitive, and keep the sessions short, fun and engaging. Some Finkies can be very obstinate and are more dominant so may test you more. Consistency and meaning what you say is essential.
Early socialization is important with the Finnish Spitz too. Make sure it has the opportunity to be exposed to many different places, situations, animals and so on. With more exposure it can get used to noises and people that might otherwise be unknown to it. It also means it grows into a more confident dog that can be trusted.
How active is the Finnish Spitz?
Finnish Spitz are very active dogs so need active owners who are happy to be out with them each day and do not have any resentment committing to that. It can adapt to apartment living as long as it gets out at least twice a day for some good long walks, and then has opportunities to play too. But preferably it has access to a yard though. Visiting a dog park where it can play with you, have time off leash and a safe place to run, and even socialize is a good idea. Just take care in hotter months as it can overeat very easily so will need shade and water and opportunities for rest. If it does not get enough mental stimulation and physical activity it will become hyperactive, anxious, destructive and hard to control. It would happily join you for a jog, a hike and such and still makes an excellent hunting dog. In all a good couple of hours a day should be spent having it engaged in physical activities. Any yard should be well fences as some are very good escape artists. Keep it on a leash too when not somewhere enclosed as if it sees a small critter, bird or really anything that moves that catches its interest, it will try to chase off after it.
Caring for the Finnish Spitz
There is going to be at least a moderate amount of grooming and maintenance required when you own this breed. Its coat is self-cleaning though, like many Arctic dogs so baths should be very few and far between and it has less of a doggy odor than many breeds. However it needs regular brushing to keep its coat healthy and to remove loose hair. This is a heavy shedding dog, and during seasonal times that becomes even heavier. Expect the need to clean up with a vacuum daily, and have some hair still around the home. If you are not a person willing to live with dog hair on things, this is not the breed for you. It is important to get that dead hair out of its coat otherwise it can become trapped there and causes skin problems. It is also essential so that new coat can properly grow through. The only real trimming needed will be around the foot pads, its coat should not be trimmed if you are keeping it to show standards.
Other needs include keeping its teeth and gums strong and healthy by brushing at least two to three times a week, or daily if possible. This also keeps it breath nice and fresh! Its nails may need occasional trimming if they get too long but dogs that are active often wear down their nails naturally. If you do need to take care of them and you want to do it yourself make sure you learn about dog nails, there are certain places to avoid as it cuts through nerves and blood vessels causing pain and bleeding. If you are unsure at all have a groomer or vet show you or do it for you. There are also its ears to monitor weekly for infection signs and to clean using a warm damp cloth, or a dog ear cleanser. Never insert anything into its ears, this could cause serious damage and pain.
The recommended daily amount of a good quality dry dog food for this dog is 1¾ to 2½ cups split into two meals. There can be a variance in how much it eats just because things can change from one dog to another in terms of activity level, metabolism, age, health and build.
How is the Finnish Spitz with children and other animals?
This is a great dog to have around children, its energy means it is a tireless playmate for them and it is affectionate towards them too. Socialization and being raised with them does help but in general they are tolerant and tend to just walk away when they have had enough. This means they can even deal with toddlers who can be clumsy and may tug and pull at the Spitz sometimes. Supervision is still advised and children should be taught what is acceptable and what is not.
In general it gets on fine with other dogs with socialization but some can be more dominant and may be aggressive towards other dogs of the same sex, or ones they do not know. If raised with other dogs in the house it should get along well with them. With other pets they tend to bring its prey instinct so it will try to chase and seize birds, rodents and cats too. Some may be able to tolerate cats if raised with them.
What Might Go Wrong?
The Finnish Spitz has a life span of about 12 to 15 years. It tends to not like being physically examined so start this at a young age so it gets used to it. It is quite a healthy breed generally when bred carefully, but a few things that might come up include joint dysplasia, patellar luxation, Spitz dog thrombopathia, epilepsy and eye problems.
Canadian and American reports of dogs attacking people over the last 35 years and causing bodily harm do not mention the Finnish Spitz. It is not a commonly found breed in these places though so the chance of it being involved in such incidents is a lot less than more common dog breeds like the Golden Retriever. In terms of aggression the Finnish Spitz is not a dog to feel threatened by or concerned by. It is not prone to acting against people and is not a dangerous dog. But all dogs, no matter where they come from, what they were bred for, their size or their temperament, have the potential to attack a person. It can take certain triggers or situations, but it can also be a case of a dog just having an off day. Important things to do as a responsible dog owner to minimize the risk are to keep it stimulated and exercised, trained and socialized and to give it the kind of attention it needs.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
A Finnish Spitz puppy from a trustworthy breeder of pet quality dogs is going to be around the $1000. From a top breeder of show dogs that can double or even triple. Either are likely to have you on a waiting list since there are fewer decent breeders in North America. Avoid turning to disreputable or ignorant breeders, there can be a whole host of health issues with dogs from there, and these are not people you want to fund, at the least the animals are neglected but often are mistreated and have miserable lives. The other option for finding the dog you want is to check out shelters and rescues where dogs can be $50 to $400, though a purebred Finnish Spitz is going to be an unlikely find!
When you do have your puppy or dog there are some things it will need at home, and it will also need to go for a trip to a vet. At home you need a crate, carrier, leash and collar, bowls and such which will cost about $200. At the vet it will have a physical exam, be dewormed, given shots, have blood tests done, be micro chipped and spayed or neutered. This will cost about $270.
Ongoing costs are another important factor, when being a responsible owner you need to be prepared for what kind of costs are going to be involved in your dogs care for the rest of its life. Each year the Spitz will cost about $460 for pet insurance and basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups. Then feeding your dog will cost about $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. Finally miscellaneous costs like toys, license, miscellaneous items, basic training and grooming are going to be about $540. This gives a yearly estimated figure of $1145.
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The Finnish Spitz is a lively and agile dog who will need owners able to keep up with it and happy to be active with it. It bonds very closely and is a very sensitive dog so needs lots of attention and people to be home with it more than they are out. Socialization is important in it getting along with other pets and dogs, and it also helps stop it from being too shy or suspicious around strangers. It is very loyal and affectionate and has some protective instincts but it does bark a lot, and even yodels, so be prepared to train it stop on command.
Featured Image Credit: BMJ, Shutterstock
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.
- The Finnish Spitz’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Finnish Spitz
- Living with a Finnish Spitz
- Caring for the Finnish Spitz
- How is the Finnish Spitz with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag