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The Finnish Lapphund: The Merry Wolf-Lookalike - PawSafe

The Finnish Lapphund: The Merry Wolf-Lookalike

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

finnish lapphund black and white running on grass

The Finnish Lapphund, a spitz breed known for its intelligence, loyalty, and versatile nature, stands as a testament to the rich herding heritage of Lapland. Boasting a thick double coat, alert expression, and a friendly demeanor, this medium-sized dog breed is not only a capable working dog but also a devoted family companion. 

From the snowy expanses of its native Lapland to the cozy homes of dog lovers around the world, the Finnish Lapphund, or Lapinkoira, embodies a blend of resilience, agility, and warmth. In this article, we explore the multifaceted world of the Finnish Lapphund, shedding light on its appearance, temperament, care needs, and much more. Join us as we uncover the history, characteristics, and living requirements of this remarkable breed, ensuring your journey with a Lapphund is both enriching and informed.

So, What Is A Finnish Lapphund?

The Finnish Lapphund, known in its native tongue as Lapinkoira, is a spitz breed that originates from the harsh and demanding climate of Lapland, the northern region of Finland. This breed was traditionally used by the Sami people for herding reindeer, a testament to its working dog heritage, adaptability, and endurance. Today, while they may not herd reindeer as frequently, Finnish Lapphunds have found their place as energetic, intelligent, and loyal family dogs.

Characterized by their thick fur, spitz-like coat, and a variety of colors including black & white, brown & white, and solid white, Finnish Lapphunds are medium-sized dogs with a sturdy build. They possess a double coat that protects them from extreme weather, pointed ears that contribute to their alert expression, and a curled tail that is emblematic of their spitz lineage.

Temperamentally, the Finnish Lapphund is known for being friendly, playful, and loyal. These dogs are highly trainable, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please, making them excellent companions for active families. Their energy and playfulness, coupled with an innate alertness, also make them good with children, assuming proper socialization has taken place.

The breed’s adaptability extends beyond its working capabilities. Finnish Lapphunds can thrive in various living environments, from apartments to homes with large yards, as long as their exercise needs are met. This includes daily walks, opportunities to run, and mental stimulation through activities like agility, herding, or sledding.

Care for the Finnish Lapphund involves regular grooming to manage their shedding double coat, alongside consistent training, proper diet, and attention to health and lifespan. Understanding the breed’s predisposition to certain health issues is crucial for prospective owners, which highlights the importance of responsible breeding practices to maintain the breed’s genetic diversity and vitality.

As explored in recent genetic studies, such as the one published in PLOS ONE, the Finnish Lapphund shares a close relationship with other Nordic hunting and herding breeds, emphasizing its historical significance and the need to preserve its unique genetic lineage amidst modern breeding practices.

For those considering bringing a Finnish Lapphund into their lives, it’s essential to research reputable breeders, such as those listed in resources like Finnish Lapphund breeders near me, to ensure the health and well-being of these remarkable dogs. Additionally, for comprehensive training tips and advice on making multiple dogs cohabit peacefully, resources like PawSafe’s dog training offer valuable guidance for new and experienced dog owners alike.

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into the care requirements, fun activities, and fascinating facts about the Finnish Lapphund, enriching your understanding and appreciation of this loyal, active, and intelligent dog breed.

History of the Finnish Lapphund: Where do they come from?

Originally the Lapphund were the helper dogs and companions to a semi-nomadic tribe known as the Sami. Before herding reindeer, they primarily hunted them in the Sami’s homeland of Lapland. 

As the tribe started to shift from a nomadic to agricultural society, the Lapphund found their new role as herders of their former prey. The advent of snow mobiles meant that the usefulness of the Finnish Lapphund as a working dog dwindled. They are now primarily kept as pets.

In the early twentieth century interest in protecting the breed began to grow. The first breed standard was inducted by the Finnish Kennel Club in 1945. Dogs from bloodlines that had been kept relatively pure since the time of the Sami were fervently sought after.

The breed was introduced to the US in the 1980s. A formalized breed standards were observed in the decade that followed. In 2008 the breed was moved from the miscellaneous category to the herding breed category by the AKC board of directors.

What Does the Finnish Lapphund Look Like? Physical Traits

beautiful brown Finnish Lapphund lying on rock

The Finnish Lapphund is a spitz breed that boasts a unique and striking appearance, reflecting its adaptation to the cold climates of its native Lapland. This section delves into the physical characteristics and breed standard of the Finnish Lapphund, including size, coat, color, and general appearance, to give a comprehensive overview of what makes this breed so visually distinctive.

How Big Does the Finnish Lapphund Get?

The Finnish Lapphund is a medium-sized dog breed, embodying strength and agility in a compact form. Males typically stand between 46 to 52 cm (18 to 20.5 inches) tall at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, ranging from 41 to 47 cm (16 to 18.5 inches) in height. Their size makes them versatile, suited for various activities and living environments, from outdoor adventures to comfortable living in a family home.

Coat and Color

One of the most remarkable features of the Finnish Lapphund is its double coat, a dense underlayer paired with a harsh, longer outer coat that provides insulation against cold weather. The males are particularly notable for their abundant mane, which adds to their majestic appearance. The coat is shorter on the head and the front side of the legs, whereas the body and tail flaunt the breed’s profuse, luxurious hair.

The Finnish Lapphund’s coat comes in a wide array of colors, making each dog uniquely beautiful. All colors are permitted according to the breed standard, with the basic color being dominant. It is not uncommon to see variations including black & white, brown & white, and solid white, alongside a plethora of other hues. Markings of colors other than the basic color may adorn the head, neck, chest, underside of the body, legs, and tail, contributing to their distinctive and appealing look.

How much does a Finnish Lapphund puppy cost?

two Finnish Lapphund puppies lying beside each other

The rarity of pure bloodlines within the US has pushed the price of import and locally purebred puppies up tremendously since the 1990s. 

Priced between $1000 and $2000 at least, imports could set you back by up to $5000 in total. You can generally find them through accredited breeders, although demand may see prices vary.

General Appearance

The Finnish Lapphund carries an alert and intelligent expression, encapsulated by its bright, eager eyes and perky, pointed ears. The breed’s spitz-like features include a robust body, a curled tail that gracefully arches over its back, and a thick fur coat that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Their appearance exudes the ruggedness required for their original herding duties in the Arctic regions, yet they possess a gentle and friendly demeanor that endears them to families and dog enthusiasts alike.

The Finnish Lapphund’s overall appearance is one of balance and proportion, with no single feature overshadowing the others. Their sturdy build and spitz characteristics, combined with their lush coat and diverse color palette, make the Finnish Lapphund a visually stunning breed that is both a loyal companion and a capable working dog.

Caring for a Finnish Lapphund: A Simple Guide

two Finnish Lapphund dogs running on grass

Finnish Lapphunds are not hypoallergenic and they shed moderately to heavily, especially during their shedding seasons. They’re full of energy and need at least one to two hours of exercise every day to stay healthy and happy. While they love being active and playing, it’s important for their owners to lead an active lifestyle too.


These dogs are very playful and enjoy a variety of activities that should get at least an hour of activity per day. Thanks to their smart nature, they learn quickly, making them great partners for agility sports, playing fetch, and other park activities. They do best with owners who have time to engage with them actively.


Lapphunds need space to explore and prefer cooler climates. They’re better off in homes with secure yards to prevent them from wandering off. Although they can adapt to living outdoors, they’re social animals who enjoy being inside with their families. If they must live outside, training should start early.


A balanced diet that meets the needs of medium-sized, high-energy dogs is crucial. Quality protein sources are important, and their food intake should match their activity level to avoid weight gain. Always check with your vet to ensure their dietary needs are being met as they grow.


Their thick double coat requires regular maintenance. Weekly brushing helps prevent mats and handles shedding. While professional grooming is an option, at-home grooming after exercise can be a bonding activity. Regular grooming should include nail checks and ear cleaning but baths can be infrequent, as they typically don’t have a strong dog odor.

Common Health Issues in Finnish Lapphunds

Finnish Lapphunds are generally healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they have certain health conditions they may be more prone to. It’s important for potential owners to be aware of these issues to ensure their pets live long, happy lives.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

One of the most significant health concerns for Finnish Lapphunds is a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia, a condition where the thigh bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Elbow dysplasia, although less common, can also occur in this breed. These conditions can lead to discomfort and mobility issues, highlighting the need for genetic screening by breeders.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is another condition seen in Finnish Lapphunds, where the photoreceptor cells in the eyes degenerate over time, potentially leading to blindness. Unfortunately, there is no current treatment or cure for PRA, making early detection through regular veterinary eye exams crucial.

Cataracts and Glaucoma

Cataracts, which can lead to impaired vision and even blindness, are also a concern for Finnish Lapphunds. While treatment is available, it can be costly, and there’s no guarantee of restoring full vision. Glaucoma, less common but equally serious, involves a buildup of pressure in the eye that can damage the optic nerve if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to managing the condition and minimizing damage.

Heart Issues

Though not as prevalent, Finnish Lapphunds can also face heart-related health issues. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian can help catch and manage these conditions early on.

The Importance of Responsible Breeding

Given these potential health issues, choosing a reputable breeder who conducts thorough genetic screenings is essential. Such practices help reduce the risk of hereditary diseases and contribute to the overall health and longevity of the breed.

By being aware of these common health concerns and taking proactive steps towards prevention and early treatment, owners can ensure their Finnish Lapphunds lead healthy, active lives.

What is the Finnish Lapphund’s life expectancy?

The Finnish Lapphund is considered a healthy breed and usually lives an active life of between 12 and 15 years, with many in their native northern homeland living to the ripe age of 17.

Finnish Lapphunds and Cats: A Friendly Mix?

Finnish Lapphunds generally get along well with cats, especially if they’re introduced to each other gradually and at a young age. Their herding instincts might kick in, leading them to gently herd your cat, but they’re usually friendly and playful companions. Proper introductions and supervised interactions at the start can help forge a harmonious relationship.

Apartment Living with a Finnish Lapphund

Can Finnish Lapphunds adapt to apartment living? Absolutely, but with conditions. Despite their adaptability, their high energy levels and need for regular exercise mean they thrive best when they have plenty of space to explore. If you live in an apartment, daily walks, play sessions, and regular trips to the dog park are musts to keep a Lapphund happy and healthy. Ensuring they get enough physical and mental stimulation is key to a well-adjusted pet in an apartment setting.

Training Your Finnish Lapphund

Training a Finnish Lapphund is a rewarding experience thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. Start with positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and praise, to encourage good behavior. Consistency is crucial in training sessions to help them understand what’s expected. They’re quick learners but also independent thinkers, so patience and creativity in training go a long way. Engage them with a variety of activities to keep them interested and focused. Early socialization and obedience training are essential for a well-behaved Finnish Lapphund.

Sociability with other pets

The Lapphund’s sociable nature means that it fits in with most other breeds relatively easily, particularly with other high energy breeds. All the better if the breed in question is equally playful.

Suitable Home: Are Finnish Lapphund’s good pets?

As we have mentioned, the Finnish Lapphundis ideally suited to the more active household. Families with young children will find the high energy breed a delight for hours of active play.

They are perfect for those with a large yard to offer them all the additional exercise they need. Although not ideal, the Finnish Lapphund can be kept in smaller residences that do not have as much garden space.

In a situation like this it is imperative to make sure that you tend to their need for exercise by taking them out for at least two hours of intense physical activity every day. Neglecting their exercise requirements will lead to behavioral problems. 

As mentioned, due to a metabolism honed in cold temperatures they are even more prone to weight gain than other high energy breeds when inactive for extended periods of time.


The Finnish Lapphund is a fantastic pet for the active family or individual. With an amicable predisposition and excitable nature, these eager to please pets are a perfect dog for training and play.

They are great with children, and get on well with other dogs, particularly those who share their high energy levels and playful nature. Those living in the appropriate climate will find them a healthy, long-lived breed. 

They are not recommended for those looking for a dog that functions well left alone and unsupervised for any extended period of time. Neither are they ideal for anyone looking for a dog that doesn’t need too much stimulation.

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.