The Finnish Lapphund is a Scandinavian breed that is closely related to the Swedish Lapphund. Both breeds originated in Lapland, an area that includes parts of northern Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. The Finnish Lapphund was initially used as a hunting and guard dog by the semi-nomadic people of the area, known as the Sami. Over time, the Sami stopped moving around and settled into a more sedentary lifestyle, turning their attention from roaming to raising reindeer, primarily as a source of food. Their Spitz-type dogs eventually evolved from hunters/protectors to herding dogs. They were used to manage large herds of reindeer, a role that they filled for hundreds of years. With the arrival of the snowmobile in modern times, dogs became less necessary to manage reindeer herds. Fortunately, fanciers of the breed continued to breed quality dogs in Scandinavia and elsewhere.
In the 1940s, aficionados in Finland took steps to standardize and save their breed. The Finnish Kennel Club (FKC) recognized the “Lapponian Shepherd Dog” in 1945, with both long-haired and short-haired varieties. In 1967, the two coat types were separated into distinct breeds: the long-haired version became the Lapinkoira (Finnish Lapphund), and the short-haired version became the Lapinporokoira (Lapponian Herder). The breed first came to the United States in 1987 and was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1994 as a member of its Northern Breed Group. The Finnish breed standard was revised in 1996, and an English translation was accepted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1999.
The breed was admitted to the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service in 2001. It was accepted into the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class in 2009. The Finnish Lapphund was officially recognized for full AKC registration in 2011, as a member of the Herding Group. The parent club for this breed in the United States is the Finnish Lapphund Club of America. In the United Kingdom, the breed is represented by the Finnish Lapphund Club of Great Britain, and in Canada the Finnish Lapphund Club of Canada oversees breeding and registry. Today's Lapphunds are much more than reindeer-herding dogs. They are active competitors in agility trials, mushing, obedience, rally and conformation. One of the most popular breeds in Finland, the Finnish Lapphund is steadily gaining fans world-wide.
The Finnish Lapphund generally is a healthy, hearty breed, with an average lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. Breed health concerns include generalized progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA), cataracts and hip dysplasia.