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The Finnish Lapphund: The Merry Wolf-Lookalike

The Finnish Lapphund

The name may strike you as familiar, being a popular Nordic breed, but what is a Finnish Lapphund?

With increasing interest in the breed and ever higher asking prices for every Finnish Lapphund puppy sold, they are clearly growing in popularity in the US.

Not least because of their handsome, wolfish looks and biddable, affectionate temperaments.

The Finnish Lapphund makes for an excellent pet and companion. They have their origins in northern Finland’s Lapland area, hence are best suited to cooler climates. The Lapphund requires a significant amount of exercise, a trait that reflects their role as reindeer herders.

They are highly social, craving companionship. This is one of the factors contributing to them being one of the most popular breeds in Finland. They are a matter of national pride, with measures put in place to protect their bloodlines.

As herders, they possess superior reflexes and are exceptionally agile. The Finnish Lapphund will instinctively protect either flock or family.

Their sensitive, protective natures make them excellent at alerting their owner to the presence of any potential threat. That said, they are not considered to be reliable guard dogs due to their friendly nature.

History of the Finnish Lapphund: Where Do They Come From?

Initially, the Lapphunds were helpers 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.

Remains of these dogs’ ancestors have been found to date back as far as 7000 years.

As such, they are close to another ancient, preserved breed, the Greenland Dog.

As the tribe started to shift from a nomadic to an agricultural society, the Lapphund found their new role as herders of their former prey, the reindeer.

However, the advent of snowmobiles meant that the use 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 and 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.

What are the Physical Features of the Finnish Lapphund?

Physical Features of the Finnish Lapphund
HeightBitches a minimum 17.5 Inches
Dogs a minimum of 19.25 Inches
WeightBitches a minimum 33 pounds
Dogs a minimum of 37 pounds
Lifespan12 – 15 years
ColorBlack with tanpoint, brown with tan point or Wolf Sable.
NoseSame color as primary coat color
EyesDifferent based on primary coat color, ranging from light to dark brown. Occasional blue eye color and heterochromia.

The Finnish Lapphund male weighs between 33 and 53 pounds, standing between 19.25 to 20.5 inches tall, while the female should stand between 17.5 18.75 inches tall.

Of medium stature, they are a stockier build than similarly sized herding breeds. On average, they are a little smaller than the Siberian Husky. Under the thick coat of fur, they are generally relatively lean and muscular.

The Finnish Lapphund is deceptively fast and can go from trot to sprint in the blink of an eye.

It has features reminiscent of many Nordic Spitz breeds. They also have thicker hair on their necks, giving them a subtle mane-like silhouette.

Colors range from brown to black, with the color of their nose and eyes varying for the four most common configurations:

  1. Black with tan points and darker eyes with a black nose,
  2. brown with tan points with a brown nose and lighter eyes,
  3. wolf sable, the brown cost with pale eyes, and a brown nose,
  4. or black wolf sable with dark eyes and a black nose.

The undercoat consists of densely packed, fine hair. This fluffy undercoat makes the thinner outer coat stand on end. The effect of this double coat is a dog that may look dramatically bigger than it is.

General Care of the Finnish Lapphund

Finnish Lapphund’s General Care
SheddingModerate to heavy shedding when molting.
ExerciseHigh energy dog. Minimum of one to two hours of daily exercise
HousingNeeds a secure yard. Prefers a cold climate.
TemperamentIntelligent, easily bored. Herding drive. Protective of family and wary of strangers. Highly energetic.
TrainabilityEasily trained with the right motivators.


The Finnish Lapphund is a high-energy breed. They require a lot of exercise and enjoy play as an outlet. Because of this, the breed is only recommended for those with an active lifestyle, able to accommodate their exercise requirements.

They are ideally suited to enjoy various activities, with their intelligence making it easy for them to be trained and develop new skills.

Their agility and acute focus make the Finnish Lapphund the perfect playground and park-play companion.


The Lapphund flourishes in large open areas and will enjoy a farm environment with livestock to herd.

Their proclivity for exploration means that they should be kept within a fenced-in yard.

They thrive in a cooler climate and run the risk of overheating should they be exposed to moderate to warm environments. They are social and prefer sleeping inside with their owner.

Should you require an ‘outside’ dog, they can be trained as such, given that you start early enough.

Food & Dietary Requirements

They require a well-balanced diet suitable for medium-sized, high-energy dogs. More specifically, they need a quality source of proteins. It is essential to keep an eye on their nutritional intake, managing their caloric intake accordingly.

Their dietary requirements can vary significantly based on their level of activity. It is always best to consult your vet on their diet as they grow. They may do well on a homemade raw food diet, but always check with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist first.

This is a dog that is given to weight gain and may suffer from bloat if it eats too quickly. A quality slow feeder can help avoid this problem.


The thick double coat requires weekly attention. Brushing is necessary to keep the coat from matting. Professional groomers can be used, as they are a trusting breed.

Should you prefer to attend to their coat yourself, be sure to brush thoroughly to take care of loose hair while they are shedding. A blowout may be needed during shedding periods, but a slicker brush should do the job the rest of the time.

Grooming should be practiced from a young age and could be a problem if the dog is under-stimulated or over-excited. Since it can be quite a task, brushing should be planned after exercise when the Lapphund is tired.

The grooming regimen must include clipping nails and a quick ear cleaning once or twice a month.

Happily, Lapphunds do not have a strong doggy odor. This means that an occasional bath schedule will more than suffice.



They will require a lot of exercise, but fortunately, this requirement is easily met through any number of activities. Play, rigorous training, walking, running, and socialized exercise are excellent outlets for the Lapphund.

As they are very eager to please. And their exercise regimen can include obedience, agility, herding trials, cani-cross, or hiking.

When walking or running, your Lapphund must be on a leash, given their propensity for wandering off. Choose a good no-pull harness to avoid damaging their throat, and always buckle your pup in when traveling for safety’s sake.

They are very friendly with other dogs and animals. This is great for activities in parks and other social situations. But beware, there is a danger of them unwittingly approaching more aggressive breeds.

Keep in mind their fondness for barking when planning an exercise routine and locale. You may need to teach them to turn their volume down.

Severe Health ProblemsProgressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Hip Dysplasia
Mild to Moderate Health problemsGlaucoma
Rare Health ProblemsElbow Dysplasia
Heart issues

Generally, the Finnish Lapphund is not prone to illness.

The most significant concern is a genetic predisposition to hip dysplasia. Additionally, it is uncommon but not unheard of, for the breed to suffer elbow dysplasia.

Dysplasia is often considered a reason to euthanize a pet, as the condition is extremely painful and sometimes inoperable. In many cases, treatments are ineffective. This condition highlights the importance of genetic screening. Of course, dogs live with varying degrees of dysplasia, and many can live long lives with milder forms of the condition.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a common health issue the breed is subject to. This is a congenital affliction in which the photoreceptor cells degenerate over time, leading to partial or complete blindness. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for progressive retinal atrophy.

Cataracts are another concern. The treatments can be costly, and vision impairments can be permanent regardless of whether treatment is administered. Early signs of possible cataracts should be tended to as soon as possible.

The breed also sometimes suffers from glaucoma. This is not particularly common but does require treatment if the condition is diagnosed.

Glaucoma is a subcategory of ocular afflictions relating to pressure buildup in the eye. When left untreated, any damage done to the optic nerve may be permanent.

There is, as with any maintained bloodline, some concern regarding health issues relating to inbreeding. However, these are not as prolific as with many other Nordic breeds.

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. Many in their native northern homeland live to the ripe age of 17.

The Trainability of a Finnish Lapphund: Temperament and Intelligence

Finnish Lapphunds have a great temperament and are considered to be an easy breed to train. They are willing and eager to please. This, combined with their intelligence, means that they quickly pick up on new skills when incentivized.

Sociability With Other Pets

The breed has its roots in hunting. But, unlike many other hunting breeds, selective breeding during the centuries spent herding reindeer means that the Finnish Lapphund has a more friendly predisposition towards other animals.

However, they may easily aggravate other breeds with their exuberant, high-energy demeanor, and they sometimes playfully chase smaller dogs and other small pets. Unintentional injuries may result from their zealousness.

This is worth keeping in mind with pets and infant children. Even though there is no cause for concern during monitored play, it is best not to leave a Finnish Lapphund alone with smaller pets for an extended period.

The Lapphund’s sociable nature fits in with most other breeds relatively easily, particularly with other high-energy breeds. All the better if the breed in question is equally fun and active.

Suitable Home: Are Finnish Lapphunds Good Pets?

The Finnish Lapphund is 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 ensure 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 if they are forced to lead inactive lives.

How Much Does a Finnish Lapphund Cost?

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, Finnish Lapphund 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.

Although they are rare, you can also try rescuing one from a breed specific shelter.


The Finnish Lapphund is a fantastic pet for the active family or individual.

These eager-to-please pets are the perfect dog for training and play with an amicable predisposition and excitable nature.

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 an extended period. Neither are they ideal for anyone looking for a dog that doesn’t need too much stimulation.


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.

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