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The Norrbottenspets is a Spitz-type dog from Sweden bred to be both a hunting and farm dog, but more recently also kept as a companion dog. It is a small to medium-sized dog and its other names include Nordic Spitz, Norrbottenspitz, and Pohjanpystykorva. It is an ancient breed and would hunt smaller game like birds, raccoons, squirrels, and foxes along with larger game like moose or even bear. It has a life span of 12 to 15 years and its name means ‘Spitz from the county of North Bothnia.’
|The Norrbottenspets at a Glance|
|Other names||Nordic Spitz, Norrbottenspitz, Pohjanpystykorva|
|Average size||Small to medium|
|Average weight||18 to 33 pounds|
|Average height||16 to 18 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Straight, hard, double, close|
|Color||White with cream, black, brown, or red patches|
|Popularity||Working towards full recognition from the AKC|
|Tolerance to heat||Very good|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent even extreme cold|
|Shedding||Average – will be some hair around the home|
|Drooling||Low to moderate|
|Obesity||Average – measure food and make sure it gets enough exercise|
|Grooming/brushing||Average – brush twice a week|
|Barking||Frequent will need training to control|
|Exercise needs||Fairly active|
|Good first dog||Good to very good|
|Good family pet||Good with socialization but has high prey drive|
|Good with children||Very good to excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Very good with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Good but needs socialization and can be wary|
|Good apartment dog||Good due to size but barking will be an issue if not controlled and it needs to be active daily, does best with a yard though|
|Handles alone time well||Low – does not like to be left alone for long periods|
|Health issues||A healthy breed, a few issues can include patellar luxation, eye problems, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia|
|Medical expenses||$460 a year for basic health care and insurance|
|Food expenses||$140 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$220 a year for toys, license, basic training, and miscellaneous items|
|Average annual expenses||$820 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$1,200|
|Rescue organizations||National Icelandic Sheepdog Rescue Alliance, Norrbottenspets Dog Rescues, also check local shelters and rescues|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Norrbottenspets’ Beginnings
There is a debate between Finland and Sweden about where the breed actually originated as it has been in both countries, in Lappland in Finland and Norrbotten (North Bothnia) in Sweden. Written documentation of the breed can be found dating back to the 1600s but there is a further suggestion that it is even older than that. It was developed to be a hunting dog and there is some theory that it descends from wild Dingos. While its origins are not well known it was also used as a guard dog, working dog, and in search and rescue even.
As a hunting dog, it was developed to use sound, sight, and scent rather than specializing which most hounds do. Hunters took it into a wooded area and it would find game, flush it out, chase it, then tree it or corner it or hold it until the hunter finds it by following its loud and frequent barking. (That is 100 to 120 barks a minute!) This fast barking not just helped the hunter find them it also kept the game confused and hid the sound of the hunter’s approach.
The first standard was written in 1910 for the Norrbottenspitz which the Swedish Kennel Club recognized and approved. But then things changed dramatically with the arrival of World War I. In fact numbers of the dog dropped so significantly that it was thought to be close to becoming extinct. Sweden even closed the studbook for the breed in 1948 believing the breed was reaching its end.
New Lease on Life
In fact, there were a few dogs left but they were spread far apart scattered between a few farms and hunters. Thankfully a breeding program was started, some breeders sought out and found the small number of dogs that were still around in the 1950s and successfully into the 1960s started improving its numbers. In 1966 the FCI accepted the breed and a new standard for it and the name Norrbottenspets. In 1967 the Swedish Kennel Club also accepted and recognized the breed. Finland accepted it in 1973 and named the dog Pohjanpystykorva. Both countries established strict breeding practices to preserve the breed. Its numbers have steadily recovered since then. In Finland and Sweden, each has a bit more than a thousand dogs registered and in North America, there are about 300 or so, so it is a rare breed there. It is not yet fully recognized by the AKC but is in the process.
The Dog You See Today
The Norrbottenspets is a small to medium-sized dog that weighs 18 to 33 pounds and stands 16 to 18 inches tall. It is the smallest of the Scandinavian hunting breeds but is not a toy. It is a light but powerful dog. Males are larger than females and the latter are also more slender. It is a little taller than it is long and its tail curls over its back. Sometimes dogs are born with bobtails. It looks a lot like the Finnish Spitz and the Norwegian Lundehund. The ribcage is oval-shaped and fairly deep and its neck is short but arched. The skull is broad and wedge-shaped and the muzzle is fairly long and tapers to the black nose. It has almond-shaped eyes that are large and range in color from light amber to dark brown. The ears are set high, medium-sized, and pricked with tips that are rounded.
This dog has a double coat that is actually shorter than most breeds from this area. It has a soft undercoat that can be sparse during the warmer months and an outer coat that is straight, hard, weather-resistant, and close to the body. Commonly the base color of the coat is white and then there are different colored markings, yellow, cream, red, brown for example. Some can have different coat patterns or ticking but it is preferred that the ears do not both have white on them as that means a higher chance of deafness.
The Inner Norrbottenspets
The Norrbottenspets is an intelligent, confident, and alert dog. If you want a dog that is full of personality, knows its own mind, and is lively this could be the dog for you. It will bark to alert you to an intruder but it is a frequent barker so will likely not stop. A command to control its barking in its training is a good idea. It is an affectionate, loving, and loyal dog and it will be your shadow around the home, and even when outside it will check in with you often. It also has a playful side to it and will get up to some antics.
It can be a great family dog but was bred initially as a hunting dog and in that role, it had to be brave, daring, and bold. It is a curious breed that will want to be mentally active and have chances for exploration. It is territorial and for that reason can be a good guard dog. It does not though like being left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety when it is. That can lead to it acting out including things like being destructive, vocal, anxious, and hard to live with. It thrives on its interactions with the humans in its life and needs that companionship as it forms very close attachments.
Living with a Norrbottenspets
What will training look like?
This is an intelligent breed and in general, with the right approach it does train fairly quickly to pick up basic commands, and can go beyond the basics should you want to. It enjoys the mental work of training as well as the physical and being close to you. It is important to establish your leadership so it knows who is boss as it can be willful. Stay positive and encourage, motivate and reward it. Be gentle but be consistent. It does get bored easily so training sessions should be short and engaging. Several short and fun sessions are more likely to see results than long boring ones. Make sure too that you socialize it from an early age so that it adapts to different people, places, animals, and so on.
How active are the Norrbottenspets?
Bred to be a working dog and hunter this is an active breed that loves to be outside and will need daily activity and mental stimulation if it is not being kept in its traditional role. It can adapt to apartment living but the barking would be an issue and it needs daily activity. It does best though with a yard of some kind that it can explore in. It needs a couple of long brisk walks a day and some physical play each day with you. Owners need to be active themselves to be able to give it what it needs as you can expect to spend 6o to 80 minutes daily meeting them.
Caring for the Norrbottenspets
The Norrbottenspets is fairly easy to care for really, it is a clean dog and does not have that doggy smell some dogs’ owners find themselves battling. It does shed an average amount so expect some loose hair around the home that will need cleaning up, and brush it about twice a week to keep the coat healthy. Only give it a bath and shampoo when it really needs one and that shampoo should always be a canine one. This is because when you give baths too close together or use the wrong soaps it can dry out its skin as it damages the natural oils.
Other care will include keeping its teeth and gums in good health by brushing at least two to three times weekly. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long if not worn down with their activity outside. Make sure you learn about dog nails and how you do it though. There are blood vessels and nerves in the lower section to avoid. If you are unsure or have trouble with it have a groomer or vet demonstrate or do it for you. Its ears should be checked weekly for infection and then clean using a warm damp cloth, or a dog ear cleaner.
The daily amount this dog will likely need is around 1¼ to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food split into two meals. There can be changes in how much each Norrbottenspets eats depending on things like activity level, metabolism, age, health and build. Give it water that is changed when possible.
How are the Norrbottenspets with other animals and children?
The Norrbottenspets can be a great family pet as it gets on very well with children especially with socialization and if raised with them. Its high energy means it is a fun and tireless playmate and it is loving and gentle towards them too. This means they can even deal with toddlers though supervision is still advised. Always teach children what is acceptable and what is not and how to play with dogs and stroke then kindly. If it feels overwhelmed by a child’s attention it would retreat not snap. It generally gets along well with other pets though sometimes it will want to play and they might perceive that differently! It also gets along well with other dogs.
What Might Go Wrong?
This dog has a life span of 12 to 15 years and is seen as a healthy breed. Some possible issues might be joint dysplasia, patellar luxation, epilepsy, and eye problems.
North American reports of dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm over the last 35 years do not include any on the Norrbottenspets. It is a rare breed though, only 300 or so in the whole continent so the chances for involvement are a lot smaller. In terms of aggression this dog is not one to be concerned about, it is gentle and gets along with everyone. However, since all dogs have the possibility of being threatened or triggered or there some responsibilities owners should accept to lessen the risks. Own a dog you can keep up with in terms of needs when it comes to attention, physical and mental stimulation, socialization, and training.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
A pet quality Norrbottenspets puppy from a reputable breeder is going to be around $1200. For something from a show dog breeder that amount will go up significantly. Since it is rare in North American be prepared to be placed on a waiting list. Be sure your breeder has the experience and is qualified to be selling people dogs and avoid places that are not like puppy mills, pet stores, or backyard breeders. Another option for finding a companion dog is to check out shelters and rescues where adoption fees range from $50 to $400.
When you have your puppy or dog home there are some things it will need such as a crate, carrier, leash and collar, and bowls for example for a cost of perhaps $200. It will also need to be taken to a vet for some tests and checks. There it will have things like a physical exam, be dewormed, given shots, have blood tests, be microchipped and spayed or neutered for around $270.
Ongoing costs are those costs of care that come day to day with pet ownership. Each year the Norrbottenspets will cost about $460 for basic health care and either emergency pet savings or pet insurance. A good quality dry dog food will be about $140 a year and that should also cover dog treats. Lastly, miscellaneous costs like toys, licenses, miscellaneous items, and basic training are going to be about $220. This gives a yearly estimated starting figure of $820.
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The Norrbottenspets is an active and hard-working dog that makes a good farm dog or hunting dog but can also be kept as a companion when active owners take it outside enough each day. It bonds very closely to its family and wants to be close to you, needing attention and interaction. Socialization and training are important as with them it can get along well with every person and animal in the family. It does bark a lot though so a command to stop it when it gets carried away should be included with its basic training. In Scandinavia, it is a favorite family dog highly praised for how it gets along with children and treasured for its happy nature and its personality.
Featured Image Credit: Northsweden, 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 Norrbottenspets’ Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Norrbottenspets
- Living with a Norrbottenspets
- Caring for the Norrbottenspets
- How are the Norrbottenspets with other animals and children?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag