The Finnish Spitz, also known as the Finnish Barking Birddog, the Finnish Cock-Eared Dog, the Finnish Hunting Dog, the Suomenpystykorva and the "Finkie," is the national dog of Finland. Its origin traces back several thousands of years, when the Finno-Ugrian peoples inhabited central Russia. This is an excellent breed for families, as it plays well with children of all ages and does well with other pets. The Finnish Spitz is an enthusiastic barker. It has been described as the ideal dog for people who like cats given its cat-like characteristics. The Finnish Spitz was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1983 as a member of the Miscellaneous Class, and became eligible to compete in AKC-sanctioned shows as part of the Non-Sporting Group in 1988.
The fox-like Finnish Spitz requires regular brushing to control shedding, but its dense red-gold double coat should never be trimmed. The mature male Finnish Spitz should stand 17½ to 20 inches at the withers, while adult females ideally stand 15½ to 18 inches in height. Adults typically weigh between 20 and 35 pounds.
The Finnish Spitz was originally a tribal dog used to hunt all types of game, from squirrels to bear. It became particularly proficient at hunting the Finnish game birds called capercaillie (similar to wild turkeys) and black grouse. As the tribes migrated over time, they bred their dogs according to their familial and geographical needs, and separate lines developed. In the far northern lake-filled reaches of the area now known as Finland, one clan became isolated and developed the pure breed now known as the Finnish Spitz. Over the ensuing centuries, as improved methods of transportation brought diverse populations of people and dogs together, the original Spitz was crossed with other breeds and approached extinction by 1880. In the 1890s, several foresters and hunters from Helsinki saw the pure native dogs during a hunting expedition to the northern forests and returned home with several superior specimens in hopes of salvaging the breed.
One of these early pioneers in the breed, Hugo Roos, took several trips to remote corners of far northern Scandanavia to obtain untainted stock. He bred the Finnish Spitz for more than thirty years, ultimately retiring from breeding to become a conformation show judge. Another early contributor to the breed, Hugo Sandberg, similarly launched an ultimately successful rescue campaign. In 1891, five Finnish Spitz earned ribbons at the first Helsinki dog show. The Finnish Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1892 and developed a standard based on Mr. Sandberg's observations. That standard was revised in 1897, when the breed's official name became the Finnish Spitz.
The first Finnish Spitz reportedly arrived in England in 1927, brought back by a hunter after a trip to Scandinavia. Early Brittish fanciers became instrumental in forming the English Finnish Spitz breed club. By 1935, these dogs were popular enough to warrant registration with The Kennel Club (of England). The Canadian Kennel Club admitted the Finnish Spitz to its studbook in 1974. The first Finnish Spitz imported into the United States is said to have come from the famous Cullabine Kennel in England in 1959. During the 1960s, the breed was further promoted in this country using Finnish imports. The Finnish Spitz Club of America was founded in 1975, and the American breed standard was prepared in 1976 based on the Finnish club standard. In November of 1983, the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous Class. The AKC Stud Book was opened to the Finnish Spitz in August of 1987. The breed became eligible to compete at AKC-licensed events in January of 1988, as a member of the Non-Sporting Group.
While almost exclusively a faithful house companion with an affinity for children, in Finland the Finnish Spitz remains a worker. He has a distinctive escalating yodeling bark and natural pointing stance, both of which are still used in his native country to direct hunters to game once it is flushed from ground and gone to tree. In Finland, no Finnish Spitz can earn a conformation championship title without first proving his worth in the field.
This is a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years and a low risk for developing hip dysplasia. There is a breed predisposition to Spitz dog thrombopathia, which causes chronic intermittent bleeding.
The Finnish Spitz is the perfect companion for an active family. This breed is happy and easy going and adores playing with children. They can be trusted with strangers, aren't prone to aggression and get along well with other dogs. They adore their families and despite their independent nature, attach themselves deeply to the ones they love and like to be included in outdoor activities. Their hunting roots make them an alert dog that can act as a reliable watchdog. The Finnish Spitz is a great choice for first-time dog owners, as well.
The Finnish Spitz is not a lazy house dog. They were developed to be sturdy bird-hunting companions and they have a built-in need to run and keep their minds active. Their medium size may be appealing to condo or apartment dwellers, but the Finnish Spitz needs several hours of vigorous exercise every day in order to stave off boredom and destructiveness. Active families are perfect for this breed, as they are a true family dog who will happily engage in group activities like jogging, hiking or biking. They adore children and will romp in the yard with kids for hours on end. Yards should be fenced in, as this hunter will take off after birds or small animals and aren't likely to obey calls to return home. For this reason, farms are not an ideal locale for the Finnish Spitz.
Their independent streak, coupled with a four-year strong puppyhood can make a Finnish Spitz difficult to train. Calm assertiveness is the best tack to take with this breed, as they don't respond well to discipline. They can become easily bored with repetitive training exercises, so breeders and trainers recommend keeping sessions short and mixing up the routine.
Once leadership is established and basic obedience has been mastered, the Finnish Spitz should be graduated to advanced obedience classes or agility training. They are intelligent dogs and need to be mentally stimulated as much as they need to be physically exercised.
In Finland, this breed is called the "Barking Bird Dog" and they got this nickname for one reason: they bark, and bark often. The Finnish Spitz can bark up to 160 times per minute. This makes them excellent hunting companions, but can drive an entire neighborhood crazy. Early training lessons should include commands to stop barking.
Separation anxiety can develop quite easily in this breed because they get so attached to their family. Their anxiety can be made much worse if they are not given enough opportunity to exercise. Keeping a Finnish Spitz active and giving him interesting things to do while you are away can stave off the destructive behaviors and excessive barking that come with an anxious dog.
Early and frequent socialization is important with the Finnish Spitz. They are reserved with strangers by nature, and if left unchecked can become overly shy and timid. Teaching him to accept new people and new situations is important for healthy mental development.
The Finnish Spitz presents a fox-like picture. The breed has long been used to hunt small game and birds. The pointed muzzle, erect ears, dense coat and curled tail denotes its northern heritage. The Finnish Spitz whole being shows liveliness, which is especially evident in the eyes, ears and tail. Males are decidedly masculine without coarseness. Bitches are decidedly feminine without over-refinement.
The Finnish Spitz' most important characteristics are its square, well-balanced body that is symmetrical with no exaggerated features, a glorious red-gold coat, his bold carriage and brisk movement.
Any deviation from the ideal described standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Finnish Spitz as in any other breed, even though such faults may not be mentioned in the standard.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Size--Height at the withers in dogs, 17½ to 20 inches; in bitches, 15½ to 18 inches. Proportion--Square: length from forechest to buttocks equal to height from withers to ground. The coat may distort the square appearance. Substance--Substance and bone in proportion to overall dog.
Clean cut and fox-like. Longer from occiput to tip of nose than broad at widest part of skull in a ratio of 7:4. More refined with less coat or ruff in females than in males, but still in the same ratio. A muscular or coarse head, or a long or narrow head with snipy muzzle, is to be penalized.
Expression--Fox-like and lively.
Eyes--Almond-shaped with black rims. Obliquely set with moderate spacing between, neither too far apart nor too close. Outer corners tilted upward. Dark in color with a keen and alert expression. Any deviation, runny, weepy, round or light eyes should be faulted.
Ears--Set on high. When alert, upward standing, open to the front with tips directly above the outer corner of the eyes. Small erect, sharply pointed and very mobile. Ears set too high, too low, or too close together, long or excessive hair inside the ears are faults.
Skull--Flat between ears with some minimal rounding ahead of earset. Forehead a little arched. Skull to muzzle ratio 4:3.
Muzzle--Narrow as seen from the front, above and from the side; of equal width and depth where its insets to the skull, tapering somewhat, equally form all angles.
Nose--Black. Any deviation is to be penalized. Circumference of the nose to be 80% of the circumference of the muzzle at its origin.
Lips--Black; thin and tight.
Bite--Scissors bite. Wry mouth is to be severely faulted.
Neck, Topline, Body
Neck--Well set, muscular. Clean, with no excess skin below the muzzle. Appearing shorter in males due to their heavier ruff.
Topline--level and strong from withers to croup.
Chest--Deep; brisket reaches to the elbow. Ratio of chest depth to distance from withers to ground is 4:9.
Tuck-up--Slightly drawn up.
Tail--Set on just below level of topline, forming a single curl falling over the loin with tip pointing towards the thigh. Plumed, curving vigorously from its base in an arch forward, downward, and backward, pressing flat against either thigh with tip extending to middle part of thigh. When straightened, the tip of the tailbone reaches the hock joint. Low or high tail-set, too curly a tail, or a short tail is to be faulted.
Shoulders--The layback of the shoulders is thirty degrees to the vertical.
Legs--Viewed from the front, moderately spaced, parallel and straight with elbows close to the body and turned neither out nor in. Bone strong without being heavy, always in proportion to the dog. Fine bone, which limits endurance, or heavy bone, which makes working movement cumbersome, is to be faulted.
Pasterns--Viewed from the side, slope slightly. Weak pasterns are to be penalized.
Dewclaws--May be removed.
Feet--Rounded, compact foot with well-arched toes, tightly bunched or close-cupped, the two center toes being only slightly longer than those on the outside. The toe pads should be deeply cushioned and covered with thick skin. The impression left by such a foot is rounded in contrast to oval.
Angulation in balance with the forequarters.
Hocks--Moderately let down. Straight and parallel.
Feet-As in front.
The coat is double with a short, soft, dense undercoat and long, harsh straight guard hairs measuring approximately one to two inches on the body. Hair on the head and legs is short and close; it is longest and most dense on plume of tail and back of thighs. The outer coat is stiffer and longer on the neck and back, and in males considerably more profuse at the shoulder, giving them a more ruffed appearance. Males carry more coat than females. No trimming of the coat except for feet is allowed. Whiskers shall not be trimmed. Any trimming of coat shall be severely faulted. Silky, wavy, long or short coat is to be faulted.
Varying shades of golden-red ranging from pale honey to deep auburn are allowed, with no preference given to shades at either extreme so long as the color is bright and clear. As the undercoat is a paler color, the effect of this shading is a coat which appears to glow. White markings on the tips of the toes and a quarter-sized spot or narrow white strip, ideally no wider than ½ inch, on the forechest are permitted. Black hairs along lipline and sparse, separate black hairs on tail and back permitted. Puppies may have a good many black hairs which decrease with age, black on tail persisting longer. Muddy or unclear color, any white on the body except as specified, is to be penalized.
The Finnish Spitz is quick and light on his feet, steps out briskly, trots with lively grace, and tends to single-track as the speed increases. When hunting he moves at a gallop. The angulation called for permits him to break into a working gait quickly. Sound movement is essential for stamina and agility.
Active and friendly, lively and eager, faithful; brave, but cautious. Shyness, any tendency toward unprovoked aggression is to be penalized.
Note: Finnish Spitz are to be examined on the ground.
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Sources: American Kennel Club