Finnish Spitz

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Finnish Spitz

The Finnish Spitz is a lively, determined little dog with beautiful red colouring. It was originally used to hunt all sorts of game and barks to distract its prey to allow the hunter to approach more easily. It is the national dog of Finland. The breed is intelligent but strong-minded so must be kept busy, requiring plenty of exercise and walking so it does not become mischievous. The Finnish Spitz can be wary of strangers but is exceptionally good with children and does not generally suffer from separation anxiety.

The breed has a short dense coat that should never be clipped or trimmed and requires little grooming other than occasional brushing. There are some illnesses that can affect the Finnish Spitz but it is a relatively healthy breed and has a life expectancy of around 12 years. The breed also makes an excellent guard dog, as it is inherently brave.

About & History

The Finnish Spitz or Suomenpystykorva as it is known in Finnish is the national dog of Finland. The breed standard was first established in 1812 but remains of dogs from thousands of years ago have been found in Finland, which closely resemble the Finnish Spitz, making it a very old breed. The breed as we know it today was established from dogs that lived in central Russia. The Finnish Spitz was originally bred as a hunting dog, used for all types of game. Its job was to bark and signal the location of the prey allowing the hunter to get closer unnoticed. The breed is affectionately known as ‘King of the Barkers’ and in some countries barking competitions are held. Although it belongs to the hound group in the UK Kennel Club the breed combines characteristics of breeds more commonly used as gun dogs and is classified as a Nordic hunting dog under the Spitz and primitive type category by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).

Towards the end of the 1800s, the breed nearly became extinct due to crossbreeding with other types of dog. However, two huntsmen called Hugo Roos and Hugo Sandberg realised this and had the foresight to try and revive the breed and the desirable qualities it possesses. After a period of careful breeding, they achieved this aim and the modern Finnish Spitz was formed and the breed standard was updated. The breed is now well-established in Finland and the population is large enough to maintain the breed. The Finnish Spitz first arrived in Great Britain after Sir Edward Chichester visited Finland in 1920 and decided to import them, after which they gradually gained in popularity.

Today the Finnish Spitz continues to be used as a hunting dog and is also often kept as a companion dog, making a good family pet as they are great with children. Their athletic physique means they can also excel at modern dog sports, such as agility, as well as making good guard dogs.


Finnish Spitz Large Photo

The UK Kennel Club permits registration of the Finnish Spitz in two different colours:

  • Red
  • Red Gold

The Finnish Spitz has a coarse outer coat that is longer around the shoulders, thighs and tail and stiffer on the back and neck. The undercoat is lighter in colour and soft and dense, providing insulation.

The breed has a compact square appearance. Male dogs are larger, standing at 43 to 50 cm at the withers and should appear distinctly more masculine than female dogs, which stand between 39 to 45 cm at the withers. The ideal weight for the breed is 14 to 16 kg. The Finnish Spitz should be well-balanced and proportions are important; the height at the withers should be the same as the length of the body and the depth of the chest should be just under half the total height to the withers.

The neck should be strong and of a medium length with no extra skin, leading to muscular, straight front legs and a square looking body with a flat strong back. The chest should be deep. The back legs should also be strong and the tail should be covered with plenty of hair and arch forwards.

The Finnish Spitz has a distinctive fox-like head, which is medium sized and narrower than it is long. The muzzle should be narrow and tapered leading to a fairly small black nose, with strong jaws and teeth forming a scissor bite. The breeds eyes should be almond shaped, dark, and of medium size with a lively expression. Their ears are high set, small and pointy and always alert and mobile. The breed is athletic and agile with a light, springy gait, giving a graceful appearance when moving, appearing to move effortlessly with plenty of power. When needed, the breed is capable of reaching high speeds for short bursts of sprinting.

Character & Temperament

The Finnish Spitz is a lively, brave and determined breed, which is sometimes a little suspicious of strangers but should never be aggressive. The breed is eager to please but can be sensitive and is intelligent and must therefore be kept stimulated to maintain its cooperation. Despite this, they are very faithful and known for being excellent with children.

They do not typically suffer from separation anxiety and are small enough to live in a house, serving as exceptional guard dogs. They do, however, have a strong character so benefit from firm and consistent but kind handling while they are puppies, so they do not take over the household.


The Finnish Spitz is very intelligent and learns quickly but this means that they easily become bored, so it is essential that there is plenty of variation to keep them entertained and ensure they do not become disobedient. Their ability to learn quickly means that training recall is not a problem but they should always be rewarded for doing as they are told to reinforce obedience. The breed needs consistence in its training and positive reinforcement methods should be used.

As the breed is very clean, house training is not normally an issue, especially when dogs are given plenty of access to outside spaces. The Finnish Spitz does enjoy barking as this has formed a part of its job in the past so it is important that barking is not encouraged from a young age, otherwise this can be extremely annoying if it becomes a habit in a household environment, especially if you have close neighbours. The Finnish Spitz is a natural hunter so if it is expected to live with other animals, it should be well-socialised from a young age.


The Finnish Spitz has a life expectancy of around 12 years. It has predominantly been a working breed and therefore suffers from few health problems. It is classed as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club with no specific points of concern or mandatory tests for health conditions that breeding dogs must undergo. That said there are still some health problems that can affect the breed. Some of the most common ones include:

Hip Dysplasia (HD)

This abnormal development of the hip joints can encompass various different developmental problems and abnormalities that often lead to joint conditions later in life. Dogs over a year old have their hips x-rayed and scored by experts using specific criteria.

The maximum score for both hips is 106 and the lower the score the fewer signs of hip dysplasia are present. Hip dysplasia is transmitted genetically but can also be influenced by environmental factors.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is where abnormal development of the elbow joint eventually leads to osteoarthritis. There is a large genetic component involved in this condition. Similar to hip scoring dogs are x-rayed and assigned a score depending on findings. Ideally, only dogs with a score of 0 should be used for breeding.


Epilepsy is a disease affecting the nervous system that causes seizures. Seizures can vary in severity and frequency and identifying the trigger is often difficult. Generally, medication can be used to control epilepsy effectively.

Patellar Luxation

This condition affects the kneecap in the stifle or knee of the hind legs. The kneecap becomes dislocated, causing pain and discomfort. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to treat the condition.

Ocular Problems

In the UK, Finnish Spitzes do not have a tendency to suffer from eye disease but in some countries problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy can occur in the breed.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Finnish Spitz is a lively, alert breed that needs quite a lot of exercise, with at least an hour and a half of walking a day. It is essential that some of this time is spent off the lead so that they are able to run and explore and use up excess energy.

As young dogs, the breed can be quite rowdy and may resort to barking, digging or chewing if allowed to become bored. This means that the breed is not well suited to urban environments and is a lot happier in the countryside.


The Finnish Spitz has a dense, double layered coat which should be shiny and healthy and their coat should never be clipped or trimmed. However, regular brushing is essential as the breed can shed heavily and leave large amounts of hair around the house, especially when the seasons are changing. Other than this, the breed is extremely clean and does not require any specialist grooming or care.

Famous Finnish Spitzes

Although the Finnish Spitz is a popular breed in many Scandinavian countries there are no very well-known examples in popular culture.


The Finnish Spitz has undoubtedly been crossed with other breeds throughout the years but there are not any common cross-breeds that are currently popular.

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