The Finnish Spitz (also known as Suomenpystykorva) was declared the national dog of Finland in 1979. The breed is believed to be descended from various mixing of Russian hunting dogs and Scandinavian Spitz-type dogs and was developed in Finland hundreds of years ago to track and hunt all types of game, large and small, furred and feathered. Due to indiscriminate breeding the Finnish Spitz as a distinctive type became nearly extinct towards the end of the 19th century. It was fortunate that the plight of the breed was recognized in time by Hugo Sandberg and Hugo Roos who brought together some of the surviving pure-bred animals and established a breeding program which restored the breed to viable numbers. In 1892 the breed was recognized by the Finnish Kennel Club, in 1920 the first dogs were imported into England and the Breed Club was registered with the U.K. Kennel Club in 1934. Finnish Spitz are still used extensively as bird dogs in their native country. Their method of hunting is to follow the flight of a bird until it settles in a tree and then to attract the attention of the huntsman by barking at the quarry. Outside of Finland they are best known as companions and show dogs.
If one word could sum up the Finnish Spitz that word is surely ‘sparkling’. His coat sparkles, his eyes sparkle and his whole personality sparkles with liveliness and enthusiasm for life. He bonds closely with his family and is always eager to be included in whatever is going on, be it walks, play, car rides, swimming, or just relaxing in the company of those he loves. Although he is happy to be out and about in all weathers he should not be regarded as a kennel dog to be fed, watered and left to his own devices in the backyard. Not only does he need human interaction and affection but he will become bored and miserable alone, which may lead to constant barking, destructiveness and attempts to escape in order to find diversion. Fences need to be secure as the hunting instinct runs deep and he will try to follow any scent or sound which excites him. Curiosity is also a characteristic of the breed and his desire to know what is going on over the fence or across the road can lead to his downfall. He is an extremely good watchdog. He is always vigilant and his keen eyesight and acute hearing will pick up the slightest suspicious movement or sound. He can be somewhat reserved and cautious with strangers but he also has boundless courage and a strong protective instinct, so will defend his territory and people if presented with a threat. Barking (he has a high-pitched voice and can bark over 150 times per minute) can become a nuisance so he must be trained to know when it is appropriate and when to be quiet. For all his cheerful, confident demeanour he is very sensitive to tension and raised voices and thrives best in a tranquil environment. He is generally good with children and for active families who enjoy outdoor pursuits and may be looking for a dog to share in all aspects of their lives then the charming Finnish Spitz could be the answer.
Bred for the endurance and stamina needed to hunt for hours over long distances the adult Finnish Spitz needs quite a lot of exercise to keep him fit and mentally alert. The minimum would be a daily 45 minute walk, but he will be pleased to take as much exercise as is offered. Care should be taken with off-lead exercise as, not only is he a born hunter, but he is also inquisitive and his investigations or tracking may cause him to become lost or get into other trouble. Interactive games, especially those such as ‘find it’, will help burn up some of his energy and will allow him to use his smart brain. He will enjoy agility sports and is an excellent partner on hikes.
From a young age the Finnish Spitz puppy needs to be kindly but firmly taught the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and what his place is in the family. Failure to consistently apply the rules may result in this extremely intelligent dog ending up as head of the household without you quite knowing how it happened. It is not a difficult task to train a Finnish Spitz provided that positive reinforcement methods are used. He is quick to learn and basic obedience exercises should present no problems for him. However, he is a practical dog and may see no point at all in repetitive heeling, sits, etc. The key is to keep lessons short, fun and interesting and to stop before he gets bored and switches off. Harsh physical and verbal corrections and reprimands should not be used as they will have only a negative effect on the dog making it harder for him to learn and eroding his trust and willingness to work. Socialization should also be started early. Introducing the pup to as many people as possible will prevent his natural caution developing into an undue suspicion of strangers. If, as a pup, he is accustomed to various people, animals, places, noises, situations, he will be prepared to take his place in the home and in society as a dog whose manners, confidence and good nature match his physical beauty.
- Hip dysplasia
Some photographs of the Finnish Spitz...