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Lapponian Herder

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Lapponian Herder is a medium to large-sized Finnish dog bred to be a herding breed as opposed to the other national Finnish breeds that are hunters, the Karelian Bear Dog, Finnish Hound, Finnish Spitz, and Finnish Lapphund. Its other names include Lapinporokoira, Lapsk Vallhund, and the Lapp Reindeer dog. It has a life span of 10 to 14 years and as well as being an outstanding herder it can be a companion in the right home being friendly, calm, and docile, but it needs enough activity and time outside.

The Lapponian Herder at a Glance
Name Lapponian Herder
Other names Lapinporokoira, Lapp Reindeer dog, Lapsk Vallhund
Nicknames Lap
Origin Finland
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 55 to 65 pounds
Average height 17 to 21 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Medium length, dense double coat
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, dark brown, gray
Popularity Not ranked by the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Good
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Average to heavy – will be some hair around the home year-round but it will be a lot heavier during seasonal shedding times
Drooling Moderate – maybe some when drinking but not a huge amount
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Average to high – brush twice a week, then daily during seasonal times
Barking Occasional – does bark some but should not be constant
Exercise needs High – very active breed so needs active owners
Trainability Moderately easy to train
Friendliness Very good
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good to very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization and supervision are needed, they do not like strangers and need proper introductions
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and at least a yard if not land
Handles alone time well Good – can be left alone for short periods of time
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues can include hip dysplasia, arthritis, eye problems, ear infections, and bloat
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $250 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $265 a year for the license, basic training, miscellaneous items, and toys
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations None breed-specific, check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Lapponian Herder’s Beginnings

In northern Europe, there was an ancient indigenous breed of people called the Sami who lived in an Arctic region that covered Finland as well as Russia, Sweden, and Norway. The Sami used a Spitz-type dog to herd their reindeer for hundreds of years. There was not a fixed expectation on how it should look just on its skill as a herding a dog. These were the ancestors of the Lapponian Herder, one of three dog breeds the Sami used. The Lapponian Herder (ironically named since the Sami deemed the term Lapp as an insulting term) deviates though from traditional Spitz types so there is some debate about how that happened. Information on reindeer-herding can be found only dating back to the 1500s and 1600s. In 1674 a book called Lapponia was published which mentions dogs that herd reindeer.

Coming into the 20th century in the 1930s Finnish and Swedish dog fanciers started collecting information about the breed and tried to start some organized breeding but their efforts were not successful. Then with the arrival of World War II, many dogs were lost in the Lapland War that happened towards the end of it. There was also less need for the breed with the growing use of snowmobiles when working with reindeer.

New Lease on Life

After the war, there were attempts made again to recreate the lost dog. The first efforts were called Kukonharjulainen by the Finnish Kennel Club and were created crossing herding dogs with Karelian Bear Dogs with a black and white coat. This led to a short-coated dog. Other breeder’s efforts created another dog that had a heavier coat they called the Lapponian Herder. Dogs were collected in the late 1950s and early 1960s and divided into the two varieties until the two kennel clubs merged and the dogs were registered together.

In 1966 though they were separated again based on the difference in coat length one was called the Lapphund and one the Lapinporokoira i.e the Lapponian Herder. In 1997 a new definition for the breed was approved and today reindeer herders have learned to use both the dogs and the snowmobiles. It also does well today in working dog trials and while it is uncommon numbers being registered are on the increase. The dog is recognized by the FCI and the UKC but has yet to be recognized by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Lapponian Herder is a medium to a large-sized dog weighing 55 to 65 pounds and stands 17 to 21 inches tall. Males and females look quite different with males being heavier and larger. It is longer than it is tall giving it a rectangular shape, it is muscular but not husky and the tail is bushy, set low, and somewhat long. Unlike most Spitz types the Lapponian does not carry the tail over its back and it has a shorter coat. That coat is medium in length and doubles with an undercoat that is fine and thick and the topcoat is harsh and straight. Common colors are black, dark grey, and brown with lighter shades around the lower sections of the body and head, and some can have white markings.

It has a long head and the top is slightly convex. The muzzle is a little shorter than the skull is and its ears are erect, medium-sized, and set far apart. It has dark oval or almond-shaped eyes that are also set fairly far apart and its eye rims are black. The nose tends to be black but can be lighter if the coat color is lighter.

The Inner Lapponian Herder


The Lapponian Herder with a good owner is friendly, adaptable, patient, and docile and is also intelligent and energetic. This is an alert dog that makes a good watchdog who will bark to let you know if someone is approaching or breaking in. It is reserved around strangers and should be introduced to them properly. It may spend some time watching them assess them but once it knows them it is friendly and social. It needs a job to do, needs to be kept busy both physically and mentally. If it does not get enough activity and attention it will act out, become hard to live with being vocal, destructive, and temperamental.

It can be left alone for short periods but not long ones and while you are away if it becomes unhappy it will destroy things. When leaving it makes sure it has things to do. Towards its family, it is affectionate, loyal, and eager to please. It will bond very closely with you and is people orientated. It is a great working dog but in the right hands, it can be a good family companion too.

Living with a Lapponian Herder

What will training look like?

Training this dog is generally moderately easy when you have some experience but would likely be a bit harder for inexperienced owners due to its dominance level. It will respond well to training when the owner uses a firm tone and is consistent and a good pack leader. It should not be dealt with harshly, use positive techniques offering rewards for successes, encouraging its attempts, and use things like treats to motivate. Training should be started from an early age when it is more responsive and this is also the time to start socialization. Socialization is when you get your pet used to different situations, people, animals, sounds, and so on teaching it how to recognize friend from foe and what responses are acceptable in each case.

How active is the Lapponian Herder?

The Lapponian Herder is a very active dog with lots of energy and needs plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation. Expect to give it at least 60 minutes a day which will include a couple of long brisk walks, playtime with you, and such. It is not an apartment dog, it needs at least a large yard or even better some land to run on. If you do not have the latter take it to somewhere like a dog park a few times a week to give it safely off-leash run time. A good way to keep a dog physically moving stimulated mentally, and feeling worked out is to train it in some sort of dog sport. This one does well in a variety of competitions including agility, herding, carting, obedience, mushing, tracking, and flyball.

Caring for the Lapponian Herder

Grooming needs

The Lapponian Herder does not have a coat that is as fluffy as most Spitz-type dogs but it is dense. Normally it is an average shedding dog and some hair will be left around the home, but it also has heavy seasonal shedding times where a lot more hair will be around. Normally you can get away with brushing twice a week but during those heavy times, it will need daily brushing. Use a slicker brush, a metal comb, and a deshedder in the process, and consider bathing in warm water to help remove more hair. Do not give over regular baths otherwise though, bathing too often or using a shampoo not design for dogs can hurt the natural oils it has and needs. It is a good idea to also give the hair between its footpads a trim.

Clip its nails when they need it is sure to use actual dog nail scissors or clippers. Avoid cutting too far though as if you cut where the nerves and blood vessels are it will cause bleeding and hurt it. The ears should be looked at weekly to make sure there is no infection. Signs of something wrong would include redness, irritation, a bad odor, discharge, or even wax build-up. If they are fine then clean them by wiping them with a damp cloth or use a dog ear cleaner. No one should insert anything into them, that can hurt them and actually do real damage. Brush its teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

The Lapponian Herder will eat about 3 to 4 cups of good quality dry dog food, split into at least two meals. The amount varies depending on its size, level of activity, health, age, and metabolism. All dogs need access to water at all times and that is changed when possible.

How is the Lapponian Herder with other animals and children?

Lapponian Herders with socialization and especially if raised with them, are very good with children. It is patient and docile and will rarely react to the rough handling of even small children. It also likes to play with them and is affectionate towards them. Keep in mind that its herding instincts mean it may try to herd the kids and that can include barking at them and nipping at heels. Be firm about stopping that. Also, make sure children are taught how to play and touch dogs properly. It is friendly enough with other pets too but around other dogs, there can be some dominance issues so early socialization and training need to pay some attention to that.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Lapponian Herder should live for 10 to 14 years and is generally thought to be quite healthy. A few issues can include arthritis, eye problems, ear infections, allergies, bloat, von Willebrand disease, and joint dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

In reports of dogs attacking people over the span of nearly 4 decades in North America that have led to bodily harm, there is no mention of the Lapponian Herder. However, some Spitz types have been, and while this is not an aggressive breed any dog indeed has that potential regardless of breed or size. Things you can do to minimize the risks though never eliminate them include at least basic level obedience training, good socialization, good exercise, and stimulation, giving it enough attention, and keeping it on a good diet.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Lapponian Herder puppy will likely cost about $800 from a decent breeder with good references and possibly double that from a top experienced breeder. Spend some time finding a breeder with a good reputation that you can trust. Stay away from neglectful or even cruel options like puppy mills, pet stores, and ignorant backyard breeders. There is another option to think about if your new dog does not have to be purebred. Look at rescues and shelters where adoption costs usually range between $50 to $400.

When it is time to bring it home there are some things your new dog will need. A carrier, crate, bowls, bedding, and leash, and collar for example, possibly other things too. These will cost about $230. Once it is home and has settled and bonded with you it should be taken to a vet. It needs to be microchipped, spayed or neutered, dewormed, have blood tests, shots, a physical exam and these can cost about $290.

There are costs when you are a pet owner that is there for the rest of the dog’s life. Things for its health, feeding, and general well-being. Basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots, check-ups, and insurance will be around $485 a year. A good to excellent dry dog food and dog treats will be about $250 a year. The other costs like a license, toys, basic training, and miscellaneous items can easily be at least another $265 a year. This gives an estimated starting figure cost of $1000.


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The Lapponian Herder is a hard-working dog and it needs to be kept busy both mentally and physically. It can be a good companion as well as a herding dog for active families with some experience with working dogs. It is a sweet, energetic, and affectionate dog that gets on well with others for the most part. It does need proper introductions with strangers though and in some cases, there can be some dominance issues when meeting strange dogs. It is certainly not a do for people with allergies and you will need to be okay with hair in the home.

Featured Image Credit: Popova Valeriya, 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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