The Breed History
This is the National Dog of Finland. Several thousand years ago in Central Russia, Spitz-type progenitor dogs such as the Russian Laika likely served as the primary gene pool. Due to outcrossing, by the year 1880 The Finnish Spitz dogs were nearly extinct. The final breed standard was drawn up in 1897 (final American standard, 1976). The first specimens arrived in England in 1927, and were exported to the USA in 1959. AKC accepted the Finnish Spitz for registry in the late 1980s.
Breeding for Function
Originally, the breed was a treeing dog (wild turkey, squirrels and martins), though now especially in North America he is primarily a companion dog. In Finland, barking contests are held; this breed possesses other types of vocalizations as well. Pointing with his head, and tracking using sight, sound, and scent are breed characteristics. In Finland, any champion must prove himself in the field as well as the show ring. King barkers are those dogs that have a distinctive yodel that is judged to be optimal for hunting performance.
Height at Withers: female 15.5-18" (39.5-45.5 cm), male 17.5-20" (44.5-51 cm)
Weight: 31-35 lb (14-16 kg)
Coat: The double coat is dense, outer coat is short (1-2" or 2.5-5 cm) and stands off; it is a very harsh and straight outer coat. The undercoat is lighter in color than the outer coat. Coat color is a red-gold color with a spectrum of a dark, light or in-between shade; coat and ruff is less well developed in the female. Only a few white markings are allowed; tips of toes and chest marks are allowed. Puppies are allowed to have more than what meets the breed standard in dark hairs but they generally fade as the dog matures.
Longevity: 12-15 years
Points of Conformation: A classic foxy "spitz" type is required, with the classic pointed muzzle, erect ears and alert expression. This dog is also characterized by a square conformation, high head carriage and quick gait. The small ears are alertly pricked and triangular, with a sharp point. Dark-rimmed eyes are almond in shape, slanted and moderately wide set; darker colored eyes preferred. There is a pronounced stop, the skull is broad and fairly flat, and the narrow muzzle tapers. The nose and lips are black and lips are tight. The topline is level, and the neck is muscular, not throaty. The thorax is deep with well-sprung ribs, and the abdomen only slightly tucked up. The tail is moderately high set, reaching the tarsus in length, and curls over the topline to rest along the thigh, with a well-developed plume. The limbs are straight boned with moderate muscling and bone, the feet are round, compact, and toes well arched. The dewclaws may be removed in front and in North America, are removed in back also.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Excellent with children, loyal, friendly, courageous, lively with an independent streak, even strong willed. The Finnish Spitz likes cold environments. A well-developed tendency to bark exists due to their history as barking hunting dogs. This type of dog makes a good watchdog. Good with children and other pets, though inter-male dog aggression can be exhibited. High intelligence is characteristic; Finnish Spitz dogs are easily bored, and thus obedience training requires patience. Grooming needs are moderate, except during the heavy shedding season, and they have moderate to high exercise needs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 6.1% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 2.9% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Finnish Spitz have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Too few Finnish Spitz have been tested for thyroid autoantibodies at Michigan State University to determine an accurate breed frequency. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cataracts: Anterior and capsular punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 4.35% of Finnish Spitz CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Finnish Spitz with a cataract.
Diabetes Mellitus: Sugar diabetes. Caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Control by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Dorn reports an 8.07x odds ratio in Finnish Spitz versus other breeds. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (Inherited Seizures): Focal and generalized seizures occur in the breed. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Dorn reports a 7.08x odds ratio in Finnish Spitz versus other breeds. Quantitative EEG analysis can be a useful diagnostic tool in this breed. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia: Auto-immune disorder where the body produces antibodies against its own red blood cells. Treated with immunosuppressive drugs. There is generally a female preponderance with this disorder. One study found a significantly higher risk in Finnish Spitz versus other breeds. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Alopecia-X (black skin disease, BSD, coat funk): Progressive, symmetrical, non-pruritic, truncal hair loss usually beginning in early adulthood. ACTH, LDDS, and thyroid panel results are normal. Oral trilostane reverses the condition in some cases. The disorder appears to be familial.
Pemphigus Foliaceous: Immune mediated skin disease characterized by crusty eruptions and pustules on the nasal plane, around the eyes and on the footpad. Mean age of onset is 4 years. Diagnosis by biopsy. The Finnish Spitz has a breed predisposition. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Atresia Ani (Imperforate Anus): An increased incidence of this congenital condition is reported in the breed, with a frequency of 0.09%, and an odds ratio of 19.40x. Treatment is surgery.
Cleft lip/palate, Glaucoma, Lupus Erythrematosus, Pituitary Dwarfism, Pulmonic Stenosis, Shaker Syndrome, and Thrombopathia are reported.
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, patella evaluation, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Finsk Spets, Suomenpystykorva, Finky, Finkie, Finnish Barking Birddog (historical).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 153 (47 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Finnish Spitz Club of America: www.finnishspitzclub.org
The Finnish Spitz Club (Finland): www.spj.fi
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