Mitch with his human brother
© M Ferguson
Lumi competing in agility
© C Ward
Kulta playing with some doggie friends
© J Lincoln
Veikko showing how barking is the best thing ever
© M Gurney
The Finnish Lapphund is a breed unlike any other, and will immediately win you over. They are lovely and easy to live with, and capture hearts where-ever they go.
They are a very friendly breed, fond of people, and soft and gentle, but still active and fun loving. They are naturally submissive with humans, humble, cooperative, intelligent, curious and very quick learners. However, many of them will still harbour a typical-spitz independence and strong-will.
As a soft and gentle breed they are particularly good with young children, and are a perfect family dog when they are made an important part of the family. They are not (as most breeds aren’t) a dog that can be left and forgotten in the backyard. They are an energetic breed, that will love to be involved in all of their family’s activities, but still remain composed and adaptable to most lifestyles.
There are not large differences in temperaments between males and females, and more will often come down to individuals than gender. However, on average, females will generally be a little softer, but at the same time a little more independent and strong willed.
Their train-ability is relatively strong, particular in comparison to other spitz breeds, although may be more of a challenge to those used to training other working breeds. Most agree that they learn very quickly, but as perhaps a sign of their intelligence will think before going into action - an important point to be aware of if you are training a Finnish Lapphund. They are also not a breed to cope well with corrections, and can “tune out” if things get too tough or harsh, so a gentle approach works best. Many can be quite "handler sensitive" and for performance training require slightly different training skills than a trainer may be used to with harder breeds.
Suitability for performance spots varies, with motivation and drive levels varying across lines and individuals. But many are highly successful in a variety of dog sports, and are well suited to most of them, with a strong nose and natural “cat-like” agility. They compete in obedience, rally, agility, herding, flyball, lure-coursing, tracking and searching trials. Some have also been used as search and rescue dogs and as assistance and therapy dogs. In Finland, they are able to be tested for their instinct to still work reindeer, although herding competitions with sheep, like here in Australia, require different skills to how they work instinctively, so does require some significant training work. They are a highly versatile breed.
Their hunting instinct is generally still strong, so while with appropriate training they can be let on off-lead walks, they do need to be watched carefully, lest their nose or eyes lead them off on an adventure. Strong recall training is essential and does require some work to ensure reliability.
Most Finnish Lapphunds love and get on very well with other dogs, loving nothing better than a good play and the opportunity to meet and interact with friends. Many have a strong sense of appropriate “dog manners”, but will respond to bad manners from others with clear, non-aggressive signals. Others, particularly adolescents, can be a little on the dim side when picking up on signals from other dogs, being a bit obsessed with playing. Like all dogs, however, some entire males can have a mixed opinion of other entire males, and can exchange a few heated comments if a challenge is made. Likewise for the females.
They are a breed that will bark, given a reason to do so, so are probably not suited for an environment where any barking is likely to be an issue. It is important to remember that, in their natural environment, their voices are used when they herd reindeer, and a critical part of their working style, so they have a natural instinct to bark under certain circumstances, particularly when excited in play or surrounded by aroused activity. However, the amount that they bark varies considerably amongst individuals, with some being quieter than others. Generally they will bark at the presence of wildlife and other animals (possums, cats, rabbits), and when there is a disturbance of some kind (people arriving at the front door). Some also can develop a habit of barking to express frustration (and this can be high pitched and annoying) so need to be trained carefully to avoid this habit developing.
Many people can never stop at one, and once you have a Finnish Lapphund as part of your life you will wonder how you could have ever done without.