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As a 'bark hunter' the Finnish Spitz is a breed originating in Finland that was bred to hunt many types of game from small rodents to bears. It is known as a 'bark pointer' because it would signal the proximity of prey by barking in the direction of its quarry.
As the name suggests, its role in the hunt was to signal the position of game that had hidden in woodland or thick undergrowth and in Finland it is still used for this purpose. They are tenacious hunters that are just ahs happy tackling birds as they are larger prey such as moose or elks - even bears!
They are well suited to domestic life and are particularly fond of children.
The specially bred spitz-type dogs that inhabited the Russia of several thousand years ago were used to develop the Finnish Spitz. These ancient Russian breeds were used by tribes in the far north of Finland to develop dogs to suit their particular needs, which often included hunting for food. As these breeds developed, the Finnish Spitz as we now know it, became the favourite choice due to its superior hunting ability.
In the late 19th Century, as transportation developed and different peoples spread through Finland, these original Finnish Spitz examples mated with dogs of differing origins and the breed became diluted, with numbers dwindling to catastrophic levels.
Fortunately the pure Spitz was observed by Helsinki sportsman Hugo Roos during his travels in the woodlands of the far North of Finland. He noted the desirable characteristics of the dog and began a breeding programme to rescue it from the brink of extinction.
All modern pedigree examples are descended from the original foundation stock developed by Roos.
Average height to withers: 17.5" - 20" (dogs) 15.5" - 18" (bitches)
Average weight: 26 - 30lb (dogs) 16 - 22lb (bitches)
Many people believe the Spitz closely resembles a fox, with its pointed muzzle, bushy tail and rusty red coat. Ideally examples should display a 'square' shape - the height being roughly equal to the length.
As a dog adapted to harsh Northern climates the Spitz boasts a thick, double coat which comprises a soft, heavy undercoat with longer, rough guard hairs that often measure 2.5 inches long but should not exceed this at the ruff. The dogs should display a thicker, rougher coat on the back of the thighs, back, neck and back of tail and males should have a slightly longer, harsher coat than the females.
In the showring the coat should not be clipped - a simple brush through is all that's required. The plume of the tail should move freely from side to side, but most dogs have a preferred side and according to breed standards this is not incorrect.
Puppies are born dark grey, brown, black or fawn and black and an experienced handler will be able to tell what kind of colour the mature dog will be. Adult colours range from bright, russet red to a deep chestnut. The coat should never be just one colour but instead should be shaded with no defined patches. The nose, lips and rims of the eyes should always be black.
Alert and lively, this is an incredibly active dog that requires one or two good walks a day. They will remain relatively inactive indoors. They are not a dog suited to the regimented routine of a kennelled life - they thrive on plenty of outdoor exercise and rough and tumble with the family.
They are always ready to play - particularly with children, yet they are not persistent. If they are ignored they will generally walk away. Despite this, all children should be supervised when with any dog.
They tend to be protective and fiercely loyal to their masters, but can be aloof with strangers. They can be a little unreliable with small animals due to their hunting background, but can get used to cats and generally get on well with other dogs.
Potential owners should note that the breed has a tendency to bark due to the methods they are trained in for hunting purposes. Anything out of ordinary will be an excuse to have a good bark - offering anything from a high-pitched yodel-style howl, to a quick-fire bark. In Scandinavia they are prized for their barking ability and competitions are held to find the best barkers. This propensity to be vocal may not be for every owner, but it does make them excellent watchdogs!
The breed does not seem to show a high occurrence of particular conditions like other types of dog, however there are a few conditions that do present in the Spitz.
Hip Dysplasia can result in extreme pain, lameness and even repeated dislocations and occurs due to a congenital malformation of the hip joint. Luxating patella involves movement and dislocation of the knee joint caused by weakened ligaments and tendons and elbow dysplasia, like with the hip, can result in repeated dislocations and lameness due to a malformed elbow joint. Epilepsy can also present in the breed.
The Finnish Spitz prefers a cool climate and needs a house with plenty of outside space. He will require two good walks a day and plenty of play with his family - providing he gets this he will be happy to curl up with you while you relax in the evening. It is interesting to note that the Spitz makes a great jogging companion.
Obedience training will give him plenty to occupy his mind and should be given regularly to make sure he knows who's in charge; males do have a tendency to be domineering and would definitely benefit from some boundaries.
The breed benefits from a self-cleaning coat like other Arctic types although it is a heavy shedder and will 'blow' its coat twice a year. However, as already mentioned, he will not require clipping. A brush and comb through is all that's required.