Finnish Lapponian Dog

Paula Heikkinen-Lehkonen

The Finnish Lapponian Dog shares its roots with the Lapponian Herder and the Swedish Lapphund. It is descended from the long-haired reindeer herding dogs that are common in the fell regions of Lapland and is nowadays a popular companion dog.

The Finnish Lapponian Dog is intelligent, brave, eager to learn, friendly and fairly submissive. Its herding instinct is strong and it displays a clear disposition to guard.

Photo Paula Heikkinen-Lehkonen

The Finnish Lapponian Dog is slightly smaller than average and powerfully built relative to its size. Its coat is abundant and long. The males have a distinct mane. All colours are acceptable, but the overall colour must be dominant. Colours that deviate from the overall colour may be present on the head, neck, chest, lower torso, legs and tail.

The head is clearly defined and fairly wide. The muzzle is slightly shorter than the skull. The ears are mid-sized and quite mobile and erect or cocked. The eyes are oval and brown. The tail is attached high and will coil over the back or loins when the dog is on the move. Its movements are effortless – these dogs are agile and fast when working.

The history of the Finnish Lapponian Dog

The Sami people of Fennoscandia and the northern parts of Russia have been using dogs similar to the Finnish Lapponian Dog to shepherd and guard reindeer for centuries. More recent writings on the Sami culture mention the traditional Lappish dog as a herder.

The Lappish landrace dog breed does not have a uniform appearance; instead, local populations of differing appearances have been identified. The colouring has also varied a lot. Accordingly, the Sami language has numerous names for dogs of different colours.

Dogs from Lapland were displayed as Lappish shepherd dogs at the first-ever Finnish dog show in 1892. Dog enthusiasts first became interested in them in the first decades of the 20th century, but the battles that raged in Lapland during the Second World War were disastrous for the dog population.

The first breed definition dates back to 1945. The Finnish Lapponian Dogs of the time would now be considered large, long and narrow-headed. These dogs are not included in the ancestry of most Finnish Lapponian Dogs today.
The Finnish Lapponian Dog and the Lapponian Herder were separated into their own breeds in 1966 once their functional differences became understood.

A new phase in the breeding of Lapponian Dogs began in the 1970s when relatively strong-boned dogs with short and wide heads and a long, coarse coat were discovered in Lapland. A new breed definition was confirmed in 1975. Of particular significance was a reduction in the size to 49-55 cm on the part of males and to 43-49 cm for bitches. The size has continued to decrease. According to the latest breed definition, which was confirmed in 1996, the ideal height at the withers is 49 cm for males and 44 cm for bitches, with the acceptable deviation being plus/minus 3 cm for both.

Before the breed was called Finnish Lapphund but since 2015  the official breed name is Finnish Lapponian Dog. In recent years, the Finnish Lapponian Dog has established itself as one of the ten most popular dog breeds in Finland. The highest-ever number of registrations, 1,143, was recorded in 2004.

Lappalaiskoirat ry
The standard of Finnish Lapponian Dog