~ About Finnish Lapphunds ~

A Lapphund's original role in life was to herd reindeer in snowy and frozen Lapland, which included the north of Finland, and was a working companion to the Sami people.

Today it is mostly a companion pet but some still herd in their native country.

Activities that Lappies participate in include conformation (dog shows), obedience, agility, Rally O, fly-ball, scent-work, tracking and search & rescue. A number of Lumikoira bred dogs have worked as therapy and assistance dogs.

They will enjoy as much exercise as you want to give them, be it mental or physical.

They are what is described as a Primitive Breed (more) “In biology, primitive means an organism that has not changed since it first appeared, so its ancestral traits are still intact.” In other words the Lapphund you see today would be indistinguishable from the one you might have seen a thousand years ago - there has been no human interference in their stature or appearance.

Though their roots can be traced back thousands of years (more) Finnish Lapphunds are a comparatively new breed to the UK and less than 1,500 have been registered since they were first introduced into the country in 1991, but interest in, and demand for, them continues to grow, and once you meet one you can understand why.

When we put our first Lumikoira website together there wasn't an awful lot of information about the breed available so we included lots of pages about the breed in it. Now all one has to do is to type "Finnish Lapphund" into Google and one is spoilt for choice of sites and pages to visit. So rather than plagiarise other sources we have included links to sites that we believe are of interest or relevance. However I have moved the "about the breed" content from our old website (circa 2016), and it can be seen here.


Lappies are classified by the Kennel Club as being in the Pastoral Group. Dogs in this group are those that are (or have been) used for working cattle, sheep, reindeer or other cloven footed animals. This includes both stock guarding dogs and herding or droving dogs.

Size, Weight & Life Expectancy

Male - 49cm, Female - 44cm (think "coffee table" height)
13kgs - 23kgs
Mylo's fighting weight was 17kgs though he did once creep up to over 20kgs - Kiva was 16kgs +/- 10% - Ohra is 14.7kgs - Kassi is 13.9kgs

The important thing to be aware of is body condition - if the dog looks fat it probably is, if you can see its ribs and backbone then it's underweight. You can find out more about body condition scoring here.

Life Expectancy

A recent report (February 2024) identified that the average life expectancy for a Finnish Lapphund was 13.8 (more)

Our two departed Lappies both exceded this, both having a good life until passing at 15.7 and 16.6.


Finnish Lapphunds come in almost every colour of the canine rainbow and are one of the most diverse breeds when it comes to recognised colours.

Our great friend Shareen Chouffot, a Finnish Lapphund owner and breeder in Australia, has uploaded a comprehensive article on colours to her website and it is well worth a read, find it here

Having spent time caring for almost 150 Lappies I can say with some confidence that I think Lappies are as individual as ones fingerprint.

Yes there are Lappies of similar colours, but their markings will differ.

Yes there are Lappies with similar markings, but their colours will differ.

In short Lappies are as individual and unique as their owners.

Care, Maintenance, Diet and Exercise

Care & Maintenance

Despite their profuse coat Lappies really are a low-maintance breed and require a lot less grooming and bathing than one might expect.

They do have a couple of heavy moults each year which might require more but generally half and hour each week is all that ours have ever needed.

However if you and your dog enjoy, then it grooming sessions can be very relaxing to you both.

Lappies do not have a doggy odour. We only bathe when required (normally after one of the dogs might have rolled in something unpleasant).


We feed our own dogs commercialy available raw food - currently Natural Instinct, but have in the past fed Natures Menu, Cotswold Raw and Nutriment; there are many products available.

We feed our dogs twice a day and because of the weight issues we experienced with Mylo we are very stringent as to what and how much we feed the dogs - every meal is weighed out.

Many of the dogs that come and stay with us are overweight. Some are fed raw, others are fed kibble or canned food.

We find that the dogs that are overweight are so because their owners feed according to the guidelines on the product but base the ammounts on what the dog's weight is as rather than what it should be.

Dogs, especially Lappies, can put on weight really easily and quickly!


As much or as little* as you want to give them.

Our dogs get between 30 and 60 minutes walk a day, however they do have access to the gardens via a dog flap. We have a friend (a former GB triathelete) who used to think nothing of taking his Lappy out on 30k training runs!

It is our experience that mental exercise is equally as important - and just as tiring - snuffle mats, scent games, training, etc. are all part of the exercise regime.

* But not in the rain - Lappies do NOT like rain.

Traits and Characteristics

Guard Dog or Watch Dog

If you want a guard dog don't get a Lappy - they're far too friendly, but if you want a watch dog, a dog that will alert you to visitors, then get a Lappy.

Do They Make Good Family Pets

Oh yes, they are a very sociable breed and love company, be it 2 or 4 legged, they are not a breed that is happy being alone or ignored.


They are excellent with children - in fact the majority of Lumikoira Lappies have lived, or do live, in families with children.

Other Dogs

If they are allowed to meet other dogs on their own terms then in the main they are pretty good with other dogs. Dogs they are already familiar with will be friends for life, there are a lot of Lappy families with more than one.

Their can be instances of angst between entire males, however this can be managed.

Their mannerisms and demeanor; erect ears, what appear to be wide eyes (due to their eyebrows) and curved tail, are often construed as threatening and rude by non-spitz breeds.

They are generally not good in dog parks - they're herding dogs so in their minds dogs running loose need herding, and not all dogs like being herded!

Cats and Other Domestic Pets

Yes, when introduced properly and from an early age they can be taught to live with small pocket pets who belong to the family. There are Lappy owning families where the cat accompanies the dog/s and humans on walks.

Intruders to the property or family may still be chased and new introductions need to be supervised.



They are a remarkably intelligent breed and I'm not sure if this is a positive or a negative!

They are very quick to learn, but get bored easily with repetitive exercises - they like to be mentaly challenged and like to challenge the humans in their pack.

Though one would expect all Lappies to be similarly wired we have found that this isn't the case.

  • Some enjoy agility - some don't
  • Some enjoy obedience training - some don't
  • Some enjoy scent-work - some don't
  • Some enjoy herding - some don't

The important thing is that you find an activity that you BOTH enjoy - trust me, it's no fun if it's not mutually enjoyable.

I have my own theories as to why this might be and I am currently doing some research on this based upon my experience of having cared for over 150 Lappies.


Yup - they can be vocal. But no more so than many other breeds. 

Dogs bark for many reasons, especially if they're allowed to or are not trained not to.

Lappies tend to bark to alert you or to get you to do something (think encouraging reindeer to move). If you give in to that "do it now" bark they'll quickly realise that they've trained you to react to their bark.

They'll also bark if they're bored. Mylo got threatened with expulsion from his dog training class because he was vocal, he'd easily mastered the training exercise (they are bright remember) and was bored waiting for the Labradums, Doodles, Spangles, etc. to grasp the basics.

They can also bark when playing  - for no other reason than that they're just happy.

Our dogs are not particularly vocal and neither are the guest dogs that come to stay with us.


Some Lappies like to dig, some not to.

Digging is hard-wired into them, as in their native environment they would dig a shallow hole in which to hunker down for protection against the elements.


Lappies are known to appear to startle. This is a self-preservation instinct from their history of herding reindeer (one wouldn't want to be too close to a reindeer when it kicks out), and perfectly normal. They have incredibly fast reflexes and recover quickly.


Lappies are also known for being submissive to people, but this should not be misunderstood as an indication of a fearful, shy or anxious dog.

What is does mean is that they love people and the stokes and cuddles that they give them.

About The Breed
There are few cultures where the lives of man and dog are so tied together as they have been in the harsh conditions of Lapland. There, these dogs have made it possible for man to earn his living by herding reindeer and at the same time the dogs earned food for themselves.

The Sames (Laplanders) have an old proverb: "Give the first bite to the dog and it will work harder than you". When the Laplanders and the dogs found one another no one knows, perhaps it happened from time immemorial. The dogs were trustworthy, independent, fearless and capable of defending themselves whenever needed. Dogs of this kind are still used by the reindeer breeders of today in their work.

The Arctic Spitz of Lapland was, for thousands of years, similar to the types seen today - this has been confirmed by archaeological findings. A survey was carried out during 1959 to 1961 of the dogs found herding the reindeer and two different types were evident.

One was a nearly square, longhaired galloper; The Finnish Lapphund, or Suomemlapinkoira, the other was longer than its height, had a shorter coat, was bigger than the Lapphund and moved at a trot; The Lapponian Herder.

In Finland, today's breeding pays particular attention to the proportions and strength of the skeletal structure of the body and head, together with the arctic suitability of the coat and with its colour - in which a lot of variation is accepted.

Although the 2nd World War destroyed a large part of Lapland and its dogs, a good number were saved and the Finnish Clubs continue to strive to maintain the Finnish Lapphund to the type depicted in the pictures from the old standards and the stories of reindeer herding. The breed standard of the Lapphund was confirmed in 1975 and subsequently revised in 1982 and 1987. The standard has now undergone its final fine tuning to meet FCI requirements and was reissued by the FCI 12/3/99.

One should never forget that the Lapphund is one of the most perfect products of nature and a part of the Finnish tradition worth taking care of. Heavy work in austere life conditions has made our Lapphunds healthy, modest farm-hands, content with very little and excellent companions for the whole family. They do everything that they can for their master and dinner plate! Therefore the contentedness and the lovely smile of the Lapphund is readiest when they are allowed to act according to the orders and instruction of their master.

In the past our domestic herding dog has been called a Lapp herd dog, Lapp Spitz dog and a Lapp hound but since 1993 the breed has been called the Finnish Lapphund (Suomenlapinkoira) originating from the longhaired dogs used for reindeer herding in Lapland. It is still to some extent used as a shepherd dog for herding reindeer, cattle and sheep but the majority of Lapphunds serve as pet dogs and watch dogs for country houses and more densely populated areas, i.e. yard dogs.

According to the registrations of the Finnish Kennel Club the breed is amongst the top fifteen (2010 top 5) most favoured breeds in Finland. The popularity of the Lapphund is based on its health, character, conformation and variety of colouring. For a family keen on outdoor life and exercise this dog is an excellent all year round companion for all weathers.

The variety and combination of colours are as much part of the attraction of this breed as are the dazzling good looks which prove immensely popular in Finland not only for showing but also as a family dog. One of the National Dogs of Finland, the Lapphund is of medium size, strongly built and capable of a days work herding reindeer. Characteristics and temperament are accurately summarised in the Breed Standard which states; tendency to herd, intelligent, brave, calm, faithful; suitable as a companion and watch dog. and only those fortunate to be owners will know just how typical that description is of the breed.

The breed works in Lapland to this day as a herder of reindeer. It is described by the Lapps as a galloping dog and works alongside the Lapponian Herder, a trotting dog. Between them the two breeds are said to work herds ideally - their styles perfectly complimenting each other.

Written information on the Lapphund is scarce, most of the information, we are told, is written in obscure Lapplandic dialects which even the Finns have trouble interpreting. We do know that the breed is still strong in Lapland and the Finns, when they wish to introduce new stock, travel north to select from the working packs.

Introduction into the UK

The UK story starts in 1989 when Sue & Roger Dunger imported the first Finnish Lapphund into the UK. Since her arrival there has been an orderly progression in numbers with further imports and a controlled number of litters being bred.
Those involved with the development of the breed to date have been determined that there should be no immediate explosion in numbers as seen in some other newly imported breeds. This has meant that our breed has had time to settle, for hip scores and eye tests to be carried out and we now know, as far as this is possible in a relatively short time, that the breed is both healthy and sound. The average hip score is encouragingly low with the breed mean score at 14 (range 9 - 35) from 23 dogs scored under the BVA scheme (at the time of reporting); at the time of writing (July 2010) the mean is now 13 (range 6 - 40) from 138 dogs scored. A large proportion of the adult stock in the UK has been eye tested clear but 2 cases of suspected PRA have been reported in older dogs.

In 1989 the top bitch in the breed in Finland, SF MVA Lecibsin Hissukka, was flown to the UK in whelp and her litter of five was born in quarantine, Sue and Roger Dunger were responsible for this population explosion! The puppies were released at 8 weeks of age and Hissukka was flown home to Finland. Subsequent importation included a brown and tan dog; Staalon Runne of Sulyka, a black and tan dog; Tsinghuan Poarka at Chelville, plus a further three bitches (cream, red sable and wolf sable).

A slow and careful breeding programme then started and since the first litter born in quarantine a further 29 litters had been produced up to 1999 - varying in size from 2 to 8 pups per litter. 1999 was yet another exciting year for the introduction of new blood; the Finnish Champion SF MVA Eetla came into quarantine and whelped a litter of 4 in the March. She was to be joined later in the summer at the Chelville kennel by Staalon Kidda, an older puppy bitch brought in under the Balai Directive. In the last few years further imports have joined the UK population to further enhance the gene pool. As a result of the carefully planned importations we have a number of distinct breeding lines available in this country - the future looks interesting.

The Finnish Lapphund had originally been granted Import Register Status by the Kennel Club which restricted the breed showing to Matches, Exemption Shows plus Import Register Classes at open and championship show level. The breed was not eligible to compete in breed classes, however since the Irish Kennel Club did not operate an Import Register category the breed was eligible to compete in breed classes, where scheduled, and in AVNSC (and variety not separately classified) Pastoral classes and a number of Finnish Lapphunds have crossed the waters and been awarded Green Stars. In 2011 the Finnish Lapphund was given CC status.