THE FINNISH SPITZ:
The strikingly beautiful medium-size Finnish Spitz with
the erect pointed ears, loosely curled tail, and glorious red-gold coat
is a native of Finland and is that country's national dog. Its Finnish
name, Suomenpystykorva, translated into English is "Finnish Erect Ear"
(Suomen = Finnish, pysty = erect, and korva = ear). Since having
erect pointed ears and a curled tail is characteristic of the Spitz breeds
of dogs and since the red dog with these characteristics was developed
by the Finns, the English name given to it is Finnish Spitz. The
Finns affectionately call it "The Red Spitz" to distinguish it from other
Spitz type dogs native to that country. The Finnish Spitz is one
of the very few breeds of all-red dogs in the world.
When the Finnish Spitz was referred to above as
being medium in size, both its height and its weight were intended.
Height is measured in a straight line from the floor to the top of the
shoulders. According to the breed standard approved by the American
Kennel Club (AKC), the Finnish Spitz female can be anywhere from 15 1/2
to 18 inches and the male anywhere from 17 1/2 to 20 inches. In Finland,
the mid-height and mid-weight Finnish Spitz are given preference.
Although the breed standard does not state an allowable weight, it does
use terms that indicate that the Finnish Spitz is a medium weight dog.
Some of the terms used in the standard that indicate weight are the following:
1. fox like; 2. lively; 3. brisk movement; 4. quick and
light on its feet; 5. trots with lively grace; 6. trots on
toes at a gallop. 7. symmetrical; and 8. heavy bone penalized.
The weight of the average size females should be about 23 pounds and of
the average size male about 28 pounds.
In his book, SUOMENPYSTYKORVA, Mr. Heikki Sarparenta, one of Finland's
foremost authorities on the country's national dog, noted that the dog's
original name was Finnish Barking Birddog; but, that, in 1897, the name
was officially changed to Suomenpystykorva. To the Finns, it is simply
the Pystykorva--Erect Ear.
Although fairly new to the United States, the Finnish
Spitz is an old breed of dogs. According to Mr. Sarparanta, the Spitz-type
ancestors of the Finnish Spitz were brought from Central Russia into the
area of Europe now known as Finland when hunting tribesman migrated into
that area at the beginning of the Christian Era--some 2000 years ago.
Since these hunter nomads were completely dependant upon their dogs for
their livelihood and the livelihood of their families, they brought their
dogs with them into the new land. In this land of dense forest, the
dogs that fulfilled the hunting expectations of their master were perpetuated
through breeding. Since each tribesman was completely dependant upon
the hunting expertise of his dog and since the conditions under which he
lived would not allow him to keep many dogs, the dogs that evolved were
all-purpose all-game hunters. These versatile dogs became the ancestor
of what we now know as the Finnish Spitz.
Since the Finnish hunter was so completely dependant for his livelihood
upon the expertise of his dog in locating game in the dense forest, he
and his dog were constant companions day after day when the weather would
permit them to hunt. Then, during the long and harshly frigid winter
when both man and dog had to stay inside, the dog was completely dependant
upon its master. This mutual dependance formed the character (or
temperament, if you prefer) of the Finnish dog and is dominant in the Finnish
Spitz breed even today. It is its master's dog! It graciously
tolerates other people! Because of this century-old inbred desire
for closeness with its master, any type of punishment or harsh scolding
completely undermines the self-confidence of the Finnish Spitz and
makes it cower. Always, its failures MUST be ignored and its successes
rewarded! It thrives on praise!
It must be remembered that the Finnish Spitz was and is first and foremost
a hunting dog. In its native land, it can not get a show championship
until it proves its hunting qualities in field trials; and, on the other
hand, can not get a hunting championship until it proves itself in the
show ring. Although, today, in Finland, the Finnish Spitz is used
mainly for treeing capercaillie and other woods grouse, it is widely used
for baying elk/moose and in hunting small fur-bearing animals, is sometimes
used for tolling and retrieving waterfowl, and is occasionally used in
hunting bear. For many years, the Finnish Spitz was used for treeing
both woods grouse and squirrel; however, around 1950, squirrel hunting
came to an abrupt end in Finland. Until that time, squirrel pelts
were used for making squirrel caps; so, squirrel were hunted for their
pelts. When, around 1950, these caps ceased to be stylish and the
hunters could not make money selling the pelts, they stopped hunting squirrel.
Since there are very few nut-bearing trees in Finland, the diet of the
squirrel, especially in winter, is primarily fir and pine buds. Because
of this diet, the squirrel's flesh taste like turpentine--they say; therefore
squirrel are not hunted as food. When the Finns stopped hunting squirrel,
they began trying, without much success, to train their Finnish Spitz to
ignore squirrel and to tree birds only; thus, making it a single purpose
dog. Seemingly, the Finns are now renewing their appreciation of
the Finnish Spitz as an all-round all-game hunter! This was especially
evidenced in the development of field trials for elk/moose hunting Finnish
Finnish Hunters enter their Finnish Spitz in local,
regional, and national bird treeing field trials and in elk/moose baying
field trials. Annually, in each type of trial, one Finnish Spitz
moves through the local, regional, and national competition and earns the
title, King of the Barkers. This simply means that that dog is recognized
as being the best hunting dog in Finland in the treeing of birds or in
the baying of elk/moose. The bird treeing field trials are very similar
to the squirrel treeing field trials held widely in the United States for
various breeds of treeing dogs. Although the bird treeing field trials
in Finland and the squirrel treeing field trials in the U. S. are similar
in many respects, there is at least one critical difference in the two
kind of trials. That difference is that, in squirrel treeing trials
in the U. S., several dogs are hunted together in a cast; but, in bird
treeing trials in Finland, there is only one dog in a cast. Because
of the extremely possessive nature of the Finnish Spitz, whether hunting
grouse in Finland or squirrel in the United States, each cast of Finnish
Spitz must be of a single dog. A Finnish Spitz would not willingly
tolerate another dog at "its" tree! The possibility of developing squirrel
treeing field trials in the United States for the Finnish Spitz is being
studied by the breed's parent club, the Finnish Spitz Club of America,
Although, in Finland, the Finnish Spitz is an old
breed of dogs whose purpose for existence is well known and universally
accepted, it is a fairly new breed in the United States and its purpose
is much less well defined and/or understood. The first Finnish Spitz
is believed to have arrived in the United States as early as 1959; however,
the first imported for breeding purposes arrived as late as 1966.
In 1975, the FSCA was formed. This club shepherded the breed to its
recognition by the AKC and is, today, the breed's parent club. In
THE COMPLETE DOG BOOK, the AKC stated that in 1983 it recognized the Finnish
Spitz for showing in the Miscellaneous Class. This recognition was,
of course, for showing beginning 1 April 1984. Also, it noted that
in 1987 it approved the breed for point competition in the Non-Sporting
Group. That approval was for exhibition in the show ring beginning
1 January 1988.
Some Finnish Spitz thoroughly enjoy the hustle and
bustle of dog shows and are great ring performers; however, many prefer
the much quieter life-style of being the master's hunting dog and/or of
being the pet of a family. If trained with praise and rewards only,
the Finnish Spitz does great in both Conformation and Obedience showing;
however, it responds quite negatively to training methods that use force
of any type. It is excellent as a hunting dog and/or as a family
pet for regular families; however, the Finnish Spitz does not enjoy situations
where there is yelling, screaming, and high tension. When the breed
first made its entry into the United States, it was thought of as a show
dog and family pet only; however, its inherent hunting abilities has prompted
its growing popularity among U.S. hunters. It is used primarily as
a squirrel treeing dog but in some areas is used for treeing wild turkey
and woods grouse.
The Finnish Spitz is spotlessly clean with no doggy
odor. It is friendly though quite cautious towards strangers and
strange situations. As a general rule, it is courageous to the extent
of being very macho with other dogs, especially those of its own sex.
Although the Finnish Spitz is not a biting dog, it is very possessive and
jealous of its master and of anything that belongs to its master.
It attempts to keep its master completely informed when anything approaches
its master's domain. This attentiveness makes it an excellent watch
dog to warn that someone or something is approaching.
The Finnish Spitz is a people's dog. It is especially good with
children. Also, it is great for visiting nursing homes and other
places where there are shut-ins. It is exceptionally intelligent
and extremely sensitive. It must be its master's companion and must
be trained with praise and rewards only! Anyone, whether pet owner,
hunter, or show enthusiast, who will not or can not train a dog with praise
and rewards only and who can not or will not make of the dog a companion,
should not get a Finnish Spitz. To do so would be a disappointment
and a waste of money. The Finnish Spitz wants and expects to have
a close relationship with its master. It is not satisfied being a
yard dog only, being tied away from the activities of its master, or being
a kennel dog. It must never be punished and must never be harshly
scolded. It expects that it will be rewarded! Its errors and
disobediences MUST be ignored!
The Finnish Spitz is a "voice" dog--a "talking"
dog! It tells about, discusses with, and/or questions its master
regarding everything that happens with an unbelievable number of different
sounds and tones. To enjoy a Finnish Spitz, one must have a relationship
to it close enough to be willing to listen to its talk!
Often, someone will ask whether he/she should get
a Finnish Spitz. For most, the answer is, "NO." Show enthusiasts,
hunters, pet owners, or whomever, who can not and/or will not spend the
time and effort to train a dog with praise and rewards only should not
get a Finnish Spitz! Anyone, who is of the attitude to insist that
the dog MUST do the command immediately and exactly the way the commander
insists that the command be done, should not get a Finnish Spitz!
For the right person, the Finnish Spitz is a super dog!