By Elaine Waldorf Gewirtz
Look for eight Finnish Lapphunds at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show this year. They won’t exactly have roamed from various points around the country as they did when the Sami, a tribe of semi-nomadic people roamed over Lapland – northern Finland, Sweden, and part of Russia. The show Lappies will arrive by airplane or car.
Their handlers will expect their eager-to-please natures to serve them well, just as they did when the Sami relied on the dogs to protect them and help their hunters supply food. When the tribe moved less frequently and began keeping herds of reindeer, the breed assisted, transitioning to herding behavior.
This explains the Finnish Lapphund’s northern look of the Samoyed, but in a host of coat colors including black, blond, brown and tan. Ideally, male Lappies are 19.5 inches at the shoulder, with 18 to 21 inches acceptable. The ideal bitch stands 17.5 inches and ranges 16 to 19 inches. Type and soundness are valued over size.
The dogs’ double coats do shed, “so potential owners should be willing to deal with that and plan on brushing them once a week,” said Linda Marden, president of the Finnish Lapphund Club of America. “Their harsh, weather-resistant coats make grooming them relatively easy. They rarely mat.”
The Finnish Lapphund may be the answer for anyone who wants a northern working or herding bred that’s easy to train. Lapphunds interact well with people of all ages and have calm, submissive demeanors.
Like most dogs, the Lappy needs daily exercise and enjoys a good run. It may not be suitable for apartment living. “They also make excellent competitive obedience and agility dogs,” Marden said.
With a soft expression, a thick furry coat to snuggle up against and empathy to spare, Lappies are good therapy dogs, as visitors to hospitals and retirement homes, or just to a stressed-out, tired owner at the end of a busy day.
You can be sure the handlers of the first Westminster Lappies will be cuddling up to them back in their hotel rooms after their turn in the ring on February 13, 2012.