The lively Finnish Spitz — called Finkies or simply Finns for short — is the most popular dog breed in Finland, where they're called Suomenpystykorva. The national dog of Finland, the Finn has become a beloved symbol of the country.
Bred to track and hunt game birds, the Finnish Spitz traditionally alerts their human hunting companion to the presence of game with rapid barks or yodels. Nicknamed the "Barking Bird Dog," there are even Finnish Spitz vocalization contests in Finland to crown an especially loud Finn the "King Barker."
Well-adapted to cold climates, Finns make an excellent dog for an active family that lives in an area with harsh winters. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the Finnish Spitz.
Characteristics of a Finnish Spitz
Spitzes are a collection of around 50 northern breeds of dog with distinct characteristics, including a fox-like face, dense coat, and a bushy, curling tail. Spitz means 'pointed' in German and likely refers to their pointy, wolf-like ears.
Finnish Spitz Colors
The Finnish Spitz is especially fox-like, with a golden-red coat that's reminiscent of the red fox.
Finnish Spitz Size
The Finnish Spitz is a medium-small dog, averaging 15.5 to 20 inches in height at the shoulders and 20 to 33 pounds in weight.
Finnish Spitz Temperament
Finns are affectionate, playful, and good-natured dogs that make excellent family dogs. The Finnish Spitz loves children and is typically not aggressive — if kids play too rough, a Finn will likely walk away. Of course, owners should still pay close attention while children are playing with dogs.
The Finnish Spitz has been bred as a "barking hunting dog" and has a loud bark to alert hunters. While this can make a Finn an effective watchdog, excessive barking can become a problem for families who are sensitive to noise, live in apartments, or have close neighbors.
In summary, common Finnish Spitz characteristics include being:
Caring for a Finnish Spitz
Finnish Spitz Grooming
Finns are considered "wash and wear" dogs and don't need haircuts or extensive grooming. Lightly misting their coat with water and brushing with a pin brush is typically adequate.
A Finnish Spitz has a thick, double coat that sheds, especially during shedding season. Double-coated dogs like Finns "blow their coat" twice a year, shedding their thick winter coat in the spring and shedding their summer coat in the fall. Daily brushing with a slicker brush can help keep shedding under control during shedding season.
You should never shave a Finnish Spitz. Their double coat keeps the dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer and helps protect them from sunburn and bug bites. Shaving a double-coated dog puts them at a higher risk for overheating, heat stroke, and skin cancer.
Finns are very clean dogs, so you should only bathe them as needed. Overbathing can strip natural oils from their double coat, so only bathe your Finnish Spitz more often when necessary. Use a shampoo formulated for dogs to bathe your Finnish Spitz — a dog shampoo formulated for shedding is a good choice for these double-coated dogs.
Only blow-dry a Finkie's coat using the cool setting — hot blow-drying will excessively dry out their outer coat.
Check your Finn's coat and skin for ticks regularly, paying close attention to their ears, head, and feet. You can help prevent ticks and fleas by giving your dog a regular tick and flea preventative. Tick and flea preventative products come in various formulations: chewables, sprays, topical treatments, powders, and flea prevention collars, and are available both over-the-counter and by prescription. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right flea and tick prevention for your Finnish Spitz.
Like all dog breeds, Finns need regular nail trims and dental care. You should definitely trim your Finnish Spitz's nails if you hear them clicking on the ground. Brush your Finn's teeth with a toothpaste formulated for dogs daily.
Finnish Spitz Exercise
Finns are bred to spend long days hunting over rough terrain, so they're high-energy, high-stamina dogs that require daily exercise. A securely fenced yard is essential for a Finnish Spitz. Finns love to be with their owners and enjoy taking daily leashed walks.
Finnish Spitz Training
Intelligent, strong-willed dogs, Finkies can be difficult to train. A Finnish Spitz needs a patient trainer who can be firm, gentle, and consistent. Finns are sensitive dogs and respond better to praise than correction.
The Finnish Spitz gets bored quickly, so you'll see better results with training sessions that are short and engaging. Finns are highly food-motivated and often respond well to positive-reward-based training.
Finnish Spitz Medical Care
Like all dogs, a Finnish Spitz needs to visit the veterinarian every 3 to 4 weeks during the first 6 to 8 months of life and annually after they reach one year of age. All Finns need core vaccines.
Core vaccines include:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine hepatitis
Some Finns will need non-core vaccines, depending on their risk of exposure to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if any non-core vaccines are necessary for your Finnish Spitz.
Non-core vaccines may cover:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Borrelia burgdorferi/Canine Lyme disease
- Leptospira bacteria
- Canine Influenza
Like all dogs, a Finnish Spitz should take year-round heartworm prevention medication. This medication protects your Finn from heartworms, a potentially fatal parasitic infection spread through mosquito bites. Puppies will be started on heartworm prevention medications no later than eight weeks. Your veterinarian can help you choose which prescription is right for your Finnish Spitz.
Finnish Spitz Health Problems
The average Finnish Spitz lifespan is 13 to 15 years. The Finnish Spitz is an exceptionally healthy breed, and there are no consistent health problems faced by the breed in the U.S. Some general health concerns to be aware of, though, include:
Finns can be prone to hip dysplasia, which is a condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint don't fit together correctly. Misalignment of the hip joint causes pain, deterioration, and, over time, loss of joint function.
- Lethargy or decreased activity
- Loss of thigh muscles
- A swaying or hopping gait
- Lameness in the hind legs
Let your veterinarian know if your Finnish spitz shows signs of hip dysplasia.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where your Finnish spitz’s thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Excessive shedding
- Fur loss or thinning
- Weight gain
- Reduced activity
- Reduced cold tolerance
- Thickening of the skin
- Frequent ear or skin infections
- Facial droop
Your veterinarian can make a hypothyroidism diagnosis with a blood test. Hypothyroidism is treated with a synthetic thyroid hormone that will need to be given for the rest of your dog's life.
Finnish Spitz: Special Considerations
A Finnish Spitz is a social, family-loving dog. Finns form deep bonds with their human families and are best suited to a family who wants to include their dog in as many activities as possible.
Finns can be wary of strangers. A deeply sensitive dog, the Finnish Spitz can be suspicious of strangers and benefits from early socialization.
A Finnish Spitz is exceptionally vocal. Finnish Spitz barking isn't like normal barking — these hunting dogs were bred to bark rapidly, up to 160 times a minute.
Finnish Spitz History
The Finnish Spitz was likely brought to Finland by Russian migrants around 3,000 years ago, starting as all-purpose hunting dogs. Over time, Finnish Spitz began to specialize as gamebird hunting dogs.
Finns have a unique hunting style. A Finnish Spitz will use their sense of smell to find gamebirds and then mesmerize the bird with their tail-wagging and vocalizations.
The Finnish Spitz was on the brink of extinction in the late 1800s but was revived by two dedicated admirers: Hugo Roos and Hugo Sandberg. The Finnish Spitz was exported to England in the 1920s and to the U.S. in the 1960s.