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.