The Finnish Spitz is truly a mesmerizing medium size breed out of Finland, that for centuries has been a nightmare for bird game to contend with. How so? Impressively, the breed wags their tail slowly and yodels putting the bird game into such a helpless stage of hypnosis. All without unleashing physical harm until their humans arrive.
Furthermore, it was the Saami people, from Northern Finland, who would rely on this breed to do just that. The Finnish Spitz did so effectively and to this day is still a favorite with its homeland people.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing after a brush up with near extinction?
So how did the breed survive and what makes them such favorites in Finland?
Here is what you need to know about the Finnish Spitz.
The Finnish Spitz has a lot of names the breed goes by. Some call them Finkies and others simply refer to them as Finns. Additionally, in Finland, the breed’s name is Suomenpystykorva,” which translates “Finnish Cocked Ear Hunting Dog.”
This handsome wolf life breed has been a hunting and watch dog for the Saami Tribe for centuries. Many believe the breed can trace its roots as far back as 3,000 years ago. Historian claim Russian migrants brought their northern spitz dogs with them to Finland.
Although there isn’t much documentation about this breed prior to the 1800’s, it is popular belief that the semi nomadic tribe led a life of seclusion. This would be to the benefit of the breed later on when extinction was a real possibility.
The breed’s first job was contending against elk and bear. The Finnish Spitz job was to track down large game. Thanks to their unique barking, which is still a Finkie’s hunting tactic, the sound of barking or yodeling would alert the tribe to the whereabouts of the game. This was true with birds as well, who the Finnish Spitz would put into a trance. The technique “rapid fire bark” was an effective method these tribes would employ to survive.
At the tail end of the 1800’s, people began migrating and brought their dogs along as well. This would result interbreeding. Insomuch, that at one point, the breed was nearly unrecognizable. A couple of sportsmen and Hugo’s, Hugo Roos and Hugo Sandberg, were big fans of the breed and made it their quest to save the Finnish Spitz.
During a hunting trip, both were awestruck at the elegance and impressive nature of the original Finnish Spitz. Hugo Sandberg would write about the breed in sporting journals, while Roos was mostly responsible for the breed’s development. It is said that Roos would search all over for anything resembling the original Finkie.
This passion would pay off as a breed standard and recognition was given by the Finnish Kennel Club in 1892. In 1897, the breed would officially take the name Finnish Spitz.
Meanwhile, in England, the breed made its way to the country around the 1920’s. In fact, in 1934, the Finnish Spits Club in England formed. The breed would undergo a revival following World War 2 due to poor breeding stock. Thankfully, by the end of the 1950’s, a couple of imports from Finland and Sweden would help salvage the Finkie in England.
The breed began making appearances in the United States and Canada by the 1960’s. The Canadian Kennel Club gave the Finkie recognition in 1974.
In the United States, it would take until 1991 for the breed to obtain recognition with the American Kennel Club. However, the breed was competing at Non Sporting events by 1988. Furthermore, the breed was also given recognition by the United Kennel Club in 1992.
Today, the breed is still a working dog in its home country. While their numbers in the United States aren’t as impressive as other breeds, this is a popular choice for companion in Finland. Moreover, according to the American Kennel Club’s registration numbers, the Finkie is the 179th most popular breed in the U.S. out of 194.
High in energy and a medium size breed, the Finnish Spitz has size differences according to sex. For males, the height should be 17.5 inches to 20 inches. Females should stand between 15.5 to 18 inches.
With regards to weight, a male should weigh between 25 to 33 pounds, while females range from 20 to 28 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
The Finnish Spitz was bred to be a hunting dog. This means they have the stamina to be in the woods all day. You have to realize that this is a dog that needs and wants a purpose within its family. The breed enjoys engaging in canine sports and performing in agility and tracking. They love to get out and run. A very intelligent dog, that can pick up on tricks and learn commands rather easily just as long as it is interesting.
With their master, they are friendly and faithful. The Finkie needs to be part of the family and loves spending as much time as possible with their family. They are eager to please and not afraid of challenges. From their efforts against bears and elk to smaller game like birds, the Finkie looks to please its human.
They are wonderful with smaller children. The Finnish Spitz is more likely to walk away from confrontation with any member of the family. They have a great deal of patience and tolerance towards smaller children. They do fine with other dogs and cats.
This is a vocal dog, as you read above earlier, the yodel or rapid fire barking was a proven technique this breed would use against game. They love to alert and communicate with their master.
Strangers may see a bit of aloofness. Naturally, the breed is protective of their family and may be wary of strangers they don’t know.
All in all, this is a wonderful family companion dog, that loves to bond with their family and play around with smaller children. Supervision may be necessary.
The Finnish Spitz is generally a healthy breed. However, your chances of a healthier dog are better when you buy from a reputable breeder. The breeder should be able to provide you with the proper documents and health clearances. In addition, you should schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to ensure a good grade of health.
Hip Dysplasia isn’t a huge concern with this breed, although there is a chance your dog may suffer from this malformation of the hip joint. This can be incredibly painful and cause discomfort. Bulldogs and Pugs are the most prone to this orthopedic complication. The Finnish Spitz has a 6.5 dysplastic rate out of the 142 Finkies that were part of the OFA survey. This puts them at 142 on their rankings among the Cocker Spaniel and Doberman.
Elbow Dysplasia is abnormal growth and malformation of the elbow joint, which can lead to pain and discomfort. The Finkie is at low risk for this condition. Most dogs appear to show sign from four to ten months if they are suffering from Elbow Dysplasia. According to the survey from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Finkie have a .9% incident rate putting them in the same company of the Bichon Frise, Briard and Dalmatian..
Patellar Luxation or when the knee joint falls out place or dislocates from its normal position, is a condition that the Finkie is at low risk for. In fact, the Finnish Spitz ranks 70th with only a 2.0% incidental rate among the Akita, English Cocker Spaniel and Malamute.
A group of genetic diseases of the eye, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, is seen in breeds like the Bullmastiff and can be found with the Finn. Some partial vision loss or complete blindness is possible. Cataracts is another condition that this breed suffers from.
Pulmonic Stenosis, which is an obstruction of blood flow from the heart to the lungs and causes breathing problems and fatigue is also a problem with the Finnish Spitz.
Additionally, epilepsy, pemphigus, allergies, obesity, glaucoma and a lower incident rate of Hypothyroidism are all issues that can be found with this breed.
These intelligent dogs may be smart but they do like to wander at times. Wanderlust is common with these spitz type breeds. You should do yourself a solid and make sure your fences are up to snuff. This is a breed that may have a proclivity or two to show prey drive. Smaller animals or pets like birds or mice may be in harms way. Something to keep an eye out for.
One solid long walk per day or two short walks per day should suffice this breed’s energy requirements. They are highly active and will appreciate regular exercise. Giving this dog a task or a job will make them feel like a vital part of the family. They don’t do well being alone for long periods of time. Colder weather the breed handles well and should be okay with the heat.
Early socialization and training is necessary to help maintain a friendly and sociable dog. With it, your dog will do better with strangers, smaller children and other dogs. Without it, they may be wary and suspecting of strangers and pets. Positive reinforcement and breaking up the routine during training will ultimately lock this breed in during their training. They do bore easily and may exude a side of stubbornness.
Trimming their nails and feeding them a regular balanced diet is necessary. Obesity is an issue for the breed.
Just how much your Finnish Spitz eats will vary from other dogs. Factors like age, metabolism and activity rate will play a role in the volume of food your dog can handle. That said, your Finnish Spitz should do well with a high quality dry kibble of 1 1/3 to 2 cups per day. You should break this up into two to three meals per day. This will help reduce the chances of your Finn obtaining Bloat. Bloat is deadly and painful, and mostly avoidable with a proportionate diet.
Meat as their first ingredient, chicken, beef, salmon, veggies, and fruits are all wonderful options. Throwing in Omega 3 and Omega 6 for better coat and heart health will help. Glucosamine is great for the joints and is a great idea to incorporate with the breed’s diet.
A high energy or medium size formula should be just enough for the Finnish Spitz. For a Finkie, with a high activity rate weighing between 20 to 30 pounds, you will need to replenish between 1466 to 2134 calories per day. For a less active Finkie, you’ll require less calorie intake.
Furthermore, you should provide your Finnish Spitz with fresh drinking water. In fact, water is this breed’s most important nutrient to consume.
A true spitz breed, the Finnish Spitz has a double coat. The undercoat is soft, durable and dense. This will protect them from trying weather conditions. The undercoat should be soft to the touch, where the body portion is harsh and straight. Also, the outside coat is stiff and long around the neck and back.
Moreover, you should never trim the breed’s coat aside the fur on the feet. Occasional grooming for this seasonal shedder is necessary. In fact, it is best to brush the Finnish Spitz two or so times per week to promote a healthier and better looking coat. That said, the breed will shed heavily twice a year.
According to the American Kennel Club, the breed has one coat color: Red gold. There are no markings.
Fun Finnish Spitz Facts
- In 1975, the Finnish Spitz Club of America opened its doors.
- According to Stanley Coren’s “Intelligence of Dogs,” the Finn is the 40th most intelligent breed. In fact, the breed is in the fourth tier, which means they obey commands 50 percent of the time. Furthermore, the most intelligent breeds are Border Collies, Poodle, German Shepherd, Gold Retrievers and Dobermans.
- In 1979, the breed became Finland’s national dog. Along with the Karelian Bear Dog, Finnish Hound, Finnish Lapphund, Lapponian Herder, the Spitz is one of five native breeds.
Thanks to a few fanciers who saw what this breed has to offer, today, the Finnish Spitz is a devout and reliable working dog. While not a popular breed here in the United States, the Finkie is one of five native Finland breeds, that is one of the most popular companions in the country.
That said, with more awareness and historic knowledge of this breed, it’s only a matter of time until this beautiful spitz breed becomes a household name outside of Finland and Sweden.