Showsight Presents the Finnish Spitz


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By Peggy L. Urton

History T

he Finnish Spitz, known in its native country of Finland as Suomen- pystykorva, the Finn- ish Cock (Erect) Eared Dog, is the National

Dog of Finland. Th is ancient breed, the only European breed with a basal genetic signature, was used for millennia by the Finno-Ugric people of central Russia both to hunt both small and large game and to guard his master and his master’s proper- ty. By 1880, however, this hardy little red dog had become nearly extinct. A single breeder, Hugo Roos, dedicated his e ff orts to rescue the Finnish Spitz by traveling to remote villages and collecting the pur- est specimens of the breed. He and Hugo Sandberg, who wrote the fi rst breed stan- dard, worked diligently to re-establish the breed in its native land. Following a hunting trip to Scandinavia in 1927, Sir Edward Chichester imported the fi rst Finnish Spitz to England. Lady Kit- ty Ritson, also an early devotee of the breed, coined the nickname “Finkie” by which the breed is a ff ectionately known in many countries, including the United States. By 1935 the Finnish Spitz had acquired enough support in England to warrant registration with Th e Kennel Club. Another of the early British supporters was Mrs. Grisenda Price, whose Cullabine pre fi x can be found behind many dogs worldwide. Th e fi rst recorded import to the United States was Cullabine Rudolph in 1959. In the mid-1960s serious breeding began in the kennels of Henry Davidson of Minnesota, Mrs. Aino Hassel of Connecticut and Mrs. Ella Chisholm. In 1974 Richard and Betty Isaco ff and Margaret (Peggy) Kohler fell in love with the breed and imported a bitch and later a dog from the Cullabine Ken- nels in England. In 1975 they founded the Finnish Spitz Club of America and adapted the Standard of the country of origin. Th e breed was accepted into the Miscellaneous 264 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A PRIL 2014

Class in 1983 and was formally recognized for registration with the American Kennel Club in 1987. Assigned to the Non-Sport- ing Group by the AKC, the breed became eligible to fully compete on January 1, 1988. Finnish Spitz were introduced in Canada by a native of Finland, Mr. Ray Rinta, who was essential to the recognition of the breed with the Canadian Kennel Club. In 1974 the breed was formally accepted and assigned to the CKC’s Hound Group. An additional early supporter of the breed, Mrs. Joan Grant, imported Finkies from the renowned Cullabine Kennel of England to establish her successful Jayenn Kennel in Canada. Performance In its native country of Finland, the Finnish Spitz is still used primarily as a hunting dog. It is a “bark-pointer”, indicat- ing the position of game with a ringing,

constant bark that secures the hunter’s attention and holds the game in place until the hunter is in position. Although mainly used for grouse and capercaillie in Finland, in Russia and other countries the breed is also used to hunt small game such as tree martens, squirrel and rodents, as well as for large game such as moose, elk, bear and boar. Th e Finnish Spitz Club of Finland has produced an excellent video of Finnish Spitz on the hunt, which can be found at http:// www.spj.f i/f i/rodut/suomenpystykorva/. Finnish Spitz mainly work alone with their hunter, but may be used in groups of two or three for larger game. Finnish Spitz are highly intelligent, capa- ble problem solvers. Th ey learn very quickly, but can become bored with repetitive train- ing. Although not a traditional obedience breed, owners attuned to their dogs have dis- covered that the natural tendency to hunt as

one dog/one handler can be readily adapted for success in companion events such as agil- ity, rally and barn hunting. Finkies have proven especially adept at agility, a sport that pairs well with their quickness and natural athleticism. Th inking outside the box and keeping training sessions short and fun will result in an enjoyable experience for both dog and handler. Comanionship Finnish Spitz need to be an integral part of their family’s life and therefore make excellent companions and family pets. Th ey are particularly fond of children and dili- gent in alerting the family about “intruders” around the home. A talkative breed, Finkies enjoy “conversations” with family members using many unique vocalizations. Th eir independent nature means that, although devoted, they are not an “in-your-face”


VELCRO® breed. Th ey prefer instead to keep an eye on their two-legged companions from a distance, approaching from time to time for pets and cuddles. Training requires persistence, patience and kindness. Highly intelligent, they will fi nd ways to entertain themselves if bored, so it is up to the owner to provide mental stimulation through suit- able activities, toys and challenges as well as exercise in a fenced area or on a leash. Th is is not a breed well-suited to con fi nement in a yard—they expect and need to be an inte- gral part of family live. Grooming needs for Finnish Spitz are fairly basic and minimal. Th is is a very clean breed with no tendency to mat or tangle and no doggy odor. Regular brush- ing and occasional baths along with nor- mal nail and dental care are all that is needed. Th ey do shed their undercoats sea- sonally and at that time will require more extensive coat care to keep them tidy. Health Resulting from the natural selection of breeding stock that could endure the harsh hunting environment of Finland, the Finnish Spitz is an extremely healthy dog. It has no known breed speci fi c health problems. Th ere are occasional diagnoses of cancer, liver, kidney, heart, epilepsy or other diseases common to all canines; however, none of these is widespread. Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation also appear from time to time, but neither is prevalent in the breed with any statistical signi fi - cance. Overall, breeders have been diligent in minimizing problems and are the best source for information concerning speci fi c health concerns within their lines. BIO Peggy L. Urton started showing toy poodles in the early 1980s. She obtained her first Finnish Spitz in 1992 and has owner-handled her dogs to both champi- onships and grand championships. She has also bred many champions and is an AKC Breeder of Merit. Peggy has been involved in the Finnish Spitz Club of America since 1993, serving as President, Secretary and Treasurer, in addition to chairing and serving on many committees. She is an approved FSCA Mentor and Presenter. S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A PRIL 2014 • 269

JUDGING THE FINNISH SPITZ By Cindy Stansell T he Finnish Spitz, Fin- land’s National Dog, is one of the world’s few basal breeds. Th is red- gold, square, higher-sta- tioned Spitz was bred to “IN JUDGING THE BREED, START WITH THE

hunt birds and game in the dense Finnish forests. Quick and agile, he is a lively and natural breed in every way. Th ese are the essentials of the breed. In judging the breed, start with the proportions and size. Th e Finnish Spitz is a square dog. Th e length is measured from the forechest to the buttocks. He has more leg than depth of body. If the total height ratio is 9, then 5 parts are leg and 4 parts are depth of body. Your fi rst impressions of the proportions may be incorrect due to coat, especially on the heavier-coated males. Th e muscular and clean neck may appear short- er due to a heavy ru ff and the leg/body pro- portions may also appear o ff due to a heavy coat, so please verify with your hands. If the depth of chest approximates half or more the height of the dog, this is very faulty. Th e Finnish Spitz has obvious gender di ff erences with the males at 17 ½ to 20 inches (28-32 pounds) and the females at 15 ½ to 18 inches (22-25 pounds). Th e bone is proportionate for this size and weight of dog. One common mistake is looking for a heavier dog and bone. Th e Finnish Spitz is presented on the ground. Th is can be an awkward size on the ground but naturalness of presentation is very important. Another common mis- take is asking the breed to be tabled. Examining an inexperienced dog can be challenging in that they rarely hold a stack, are cautious of strangers, sensi- tive in nature and do not recover quickly when upset. Th ey are also noise sensi- tive, so please do not startle them. When approaching them, speak pleasantly to the handler to put the dog at ease and to alert him to your approach. Asking the handler to show the bite is advisable. A view of the front alignment of


a scissors bite is all that is needed. Further mouth examination is apt to cause great distress to the inexperienced dog. Lips are clean and pigmented. Th e head is slightly tapered with a skull to muzzle ratio of 4:3. It should not be heavy with a broad wedge, nor fi ne with very little taper. Th e forehead and skull are slightly arched, neither domed nor fl at. Th e skull’s length is equal to the width. Th e Finnish Spitz standard says that the stop is pronounced. Th e FSCA de fi nes “pronounced” as “moderate.” A prominent stop would destroy the “foxlike and lively” expression that is essential to the breed. Th e eyes are almond-shaped, dark and obliquely set. Faults commonly seen are round and lighter eyes. Th e nose is black. Th is is a red dog with black points. Th e ears are set on high, relatively small, and erect. Th ey should not be hooded. Some spitz breeds are slightly rounded at the tip. Th e Finnish Spitz ears are not; they are pointed. It is sometimes very hard to see these very mobile ears as dog shows have many sounds to investi- gate. Using the hands to follow the head’s wedge on the examination will easily indi- cate the smoothness of the taper, the head proportions, and the set on of the ears. If your hands come away wet, it could also indicate a less than clean lip line. One

smooth movement: the head examination is quickly done. Th e backline on this square dog is level and strong both standing and on the move. Th e loin is short and there is a moderate tuck-up. Th e Finnish Spitz is moderately angulated in the front and rear. Th e feet are compact, well-arched, and deeply cushioned. Th e roundish feet can appear more oval because the standard allows the center two toes to be slightly longer. Th e Finnish Spitz may be born with not only front dew claws but rear dewclaws either singly or double as well. Th e rear dewclaws are removed. Th e front dewclaws are also sometimes removed. Th e plumed tail has a functional ele- ment and has an unusual construct from other spitz breeds. When the dog trees the bird, the swishing tail focuses the bird on the dog and not on the approaching hunter. Th e fl ashing tail is often the only way the hunter can initially fi nd the dog and treed bird in the dense forest. Th ink about watching deer in the dense forest. You often do not even know they are there until there is movement such as the fl ash of the tail. Although the tail is important, it should not be prioritized higher than the essentials of the breed in the open- ing paragraph. Th e ideal tail encompasses numerous elements. Th e set-on is just


“The Finnish Spitz is a barking bird dog. This is his function in the field, not in the show ring. PLEASE DO NOT ASK THE HANDLER TO MAKE THE DOG BARK.”

below the topline. Th e carriage points for- ward, fl at along the back. Th e tail should not go up at all nor should there be dis- cernible space between the tail and the topline. It curves vigorously downward and backward, pressing fl at against the thigh. Th e tail then points backward, fol- lowing the line of the sti fl e. Although the tail should be able to reach to the hocks, please do not pull the tail down. An inex- perienced, sensitive dog may not recover from this handling. Assess the tail simply by slightly lifting it when going across the backline to see the set on. If the set on and carriage are correct, the tip of the tail bone should reach the middle of the thigh. It is important to feel the length of the tail as tail feathering can disguise a short tail. Th e tail may go to either side. You will often see handlers putting the tail on the judge’s side when the tail falls better to the other side—not because that is the side it must fall but because a tail falling on the judge’s side tends to make the dog appear squarer! Although the dog looks better if the tail is carried up, it is not required. An inexperienced or uneasy dog will often not hold the tail up when gaiting. Assess the appropriate tail set-on, carriage and length during the hands-on. Th e gait is light and lively. Because the Finnish Spitz is moderately angulated, he will not have as much reach and drive as some other Spitz breeds. He tends to single track as the speed increases. Since his working gait is a gallop, he may move quickly from a trot to a gallop. Please do not penalize the Finnish Spitz for this transition. Th e handler will adjust the speed back to a trot. One of the fi rst impressions of the dog is his striking red-gold double coat.

Th e coat should have a short, soft under- coat that warms him in the cold clime and a harsher outer coat that repels the snow, ice and rain. Th e outer coat is medium in length. Any trimming of the coat should be severely faulted. Th e only exception is neatening the feet. Spring and Fall bring seasonal changes of coat. Females are usu- ally more a ff ected by the seasonal “blow- ing of the coat” than males who tend to rotate coat. Th e color ranges from pale cream to honey to mahogany red. Whatever the shade of red (there is no preference to the shade), the coat is bright, with an obvi- ous lighter shade in the undercoat. Th is lighter color should be easily found on the underline, the tail, the britches and the “harness markings.” Th e two tone shades create the unique Finnish Spitz “glow.” A monotonous color is “muddy” and undesirable. Although the Finnish Spitz is a red-gold dog some white is allowed. A quarter-sized spot or a narrow strip of white, not to exceed ½ inch, is allowed on the chest. White markings are also allowed on the tips of the toes. Although excessive white is not a DQ, too much white, as in full stockings and/or a white bib, will destroy the essence of the Finnish Spitz. Most Finnish Spitz are born with a heavy black overlay which starts to clear when the puppy is around six weeks old. Th e head clears fi rst; the buttocks and tail clear last. If you judge the four to six month puppy class, you may still see black shadings towards the rear of the dog. Do not penalize this in a puppy. Also do not penalize black hairs along the lip line and the tail in an adult dog.

Th e Finnish Spitz is a barking bird dog. Th is is his function in the fi eld, not in the show ring. Please do not ask the handler to make the dog bark. Th e US handlers work hard to train the dog not to bark when being shown! Once a Finnish Spitz starts to bark, it is di ffi cult to get them to stop, and the bark is infectious. BIO Cindy Stansell started showing Sibe- rian Huskies in the early 1980s and Finnish Spitz in the late 80s. She and her family owner-handled the dogs to cham- pionships and obedience titles. She is past president, secretary and newsletter edi- tor, and the current delegate and JEC of the Finnish Spitz Club of America. She is approved to judge breeds in the Work- ing, Non-Sporting and Herding groups. She has also judged in Central Amer- ica, South America, Europe, Asia and New Zealand.


82 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • O CTOBER 2010 Finnish Spi tz as Hunting Dogs The person I got my f i rst Finnish Spitz from told me that they’re bred to r un away and bark a lot. It wasn’t unt i l many years later that I under- stood what that meant. I had the good for tune to meet a man from Finland who hunted w ith his Finnish Spitz, and he taught me why that trait is so strong in this breed. Except for rare occasions where cer tain prey warrants it, Finnish Spitz hunt alone. The hunter and dog go to wherever it is they’re Finnish Spitz are highly intel l i- gent, so they learn quick ly when they enjoy what they’re doing. And Finnish Spitz T H E F A S C IN A T IN G BY HOLLY HORTON ! AJUAQ KENNELS going to hunt, and the hunter turns the dog loose. The dog goes out and makes a loop, anywhere from a few hundred yards up to a mi le or so. If the dog f inds no prey, he returns to the hunter. Then either the dog goes out again, mak ing a w ider loop, or the two of them move to a new locat ion and go again. The dog must tr ust that the hunter w i l l be where he lef t him, and the human must tr ust that the dog w i l l return. Depending on the terrain and size of the loop, the dog w i l l usual ly be gone anywhere from f ive to twenty minutes (take a good book!). Using sight, scent and hear ing to f ind the game being hunted, he’ l l f lush it, tree it, and bark. Thei r “ treeing bark” is dist inct—a rhythmic r inging bark that carr ies for quite a dis- tance. This aler ts the hunter and helps him locate the dog and prey, and also covers the sound of his approach. On an average hunt for grouse/ capercai l l ie, the hunter w i l l travel six to f i f teen mi les; the dog w i l l cover more than f ive t imes that distance. In addit ion, the dog w i l l traverse of ten rough forest terrain. Thei r square frames al low them to bound over fal len trees and rocks and easi ly navigate steep hi l ls that would stop a rectangular dog in its tracks. Thei r glor ious red-gold coats, which I thought would st ick out l ike a neon sign in the forest, work l ike camouf lage against the forest f loor. The only thing visible is the glow ing gold tai l, bobbing along through the br ush. Finnish Spi tz in AKC Companion Events Even though the AKC offers sev- eral venues for dog owners to com- pete and earn t it les, many people w ith arct ic breeds avoid them. Fi rst, there is the deep-seated fear of let- t ing thei r dogs off leash only to watch them bound off across the show grounds. Then there is the know ledge that, tradit ional ly, one would get more success and sat isfac- t ion beat ing down a br ick wal l w ith one’s head (and that would also be far less embarrassing than the cre- at ive disobedience at which arct ic dogs excel). But those who have dared to step into these r ings have found that Finnish Spitz not only enjoy these events but excel at them. Ah, the w isdom of a four-year old! Th is quest ion from my fr iend’s daughter is one of many that I ’ve f ielded about my Fi nnish Spi tz. I t is a rare occasion that I only have to say the breed once, no mat ter how caref ul I am to enunciate each word. And I always have to clar i f y w i th some version of the fol low i ng: The Finnish Spitz is the nat ional dog of Finland. They’re a hunt ing dog, thei r pr imar y prey being a grouse-l ike bi rd cal led a capercai l l ie. They’re a bark pointer, so thei r hunt ing style is most simi lar to Coonhounds here in the USA, as they f lush thei r prey and then bark at it to hold it in the tree and also to lead the hunter to them. And I always have to add that of al l the arct ic breeds I’ve had, they actual ly care what I think. Al l arc- t ic breeds have an independent streak. For some it’s a pinstr ipe, whi le for others it’s as w ide as a free- way in a major city. Most were bred to work independent ly of thei r humans, so they aren’t sure you are ent it led to an opinion. But because Finnish Spitz are hunt ing dogs that hunt in a team of one dog and one human, a bond is created between them. Thus they are one of the most versat i le breeds I’ve owned. “Mom, how can she be a Fi nni sh Spi tz? She i sn’ t fi ni shed, and she doesn’ t spi t!” Reprinted from ShowSight June 2009

T H E F A S C IN A T IN G Finnish Spitz BY HOLLY HORTON ! AJUAQ KENNELS that’s the catch. Training for compe- t it ion is of ten repet it ive, which is bor ing. Finnish Spitz want to please thei r humans, but w i l l not do end- less repet it ions just to prove it. Doing obedience, ral ly, or agi l ity w ith a Finnish Spitz isn’t so much “ training” as it is “ teaching.” By var ying teaching techniques and work ing obedience moves into games, these dogs can and w i l l learn, and can earn per formance t it les. We must keep in mind that these dogs were bred to track and tree prey independent of the and the chal lenge of negot iat ing obstacles at high speed appeals to this quick-minded and f leet-footed companion. Finnish Spi tz in the Show Ring The Finnish Spi tz r ing is a chal- lenging one in which to compete. It takes a person who has already been bi t ten by the “ show bug”—and who has an incurable case—to take on the unique chal lenge of show ing a Finnish Spi tz to i ts championship. Not because they al l “ look al ike” (although that is occasional ly an issue—especial ly at a Suppor ted Entr y or Specialty), but because you whi le you do it—especial ly i f a chew y is par t of the deal. A tr ip to the dog park is a great way to spend an af ternoon. But the thing they enjoy best is a long walk or hike—i f possible in a park or in the moun- tains—where they can use thei r f ine- ly tuned hunt ing senses. The f i rst t ime I went hik ing w ith my Finnish Spitz it felt l ike my f i rst t ime in the mountains, though I had grown up hik ing them. This ancient hunt ing breed not ices ever y l itt le thing: ever y sound, scent, and f l ick- er of movement. A r ust le in the

leaves could be a mouse or a grouse; the breeze br ings more than just the scent of pine and the sound of w ind in the trees; that movement yards off the trai l needs watching! What a joy to see those dark eyes track the game into br ush or up a tree, and red furr y bodies tremble w ith excitement! But the best par t about this won- der ful, versat i le, intel l igent breed is that they have one of the happiest personal it ies of any dog I’ve ever owned. Because of thei r reputat ions as barkers, many people pass up the oppor tunity to own this excel lent companion. They want to be w ith you and please you. In Finland, it is common for a household to have only one to three Finnish Spitz (the current hunt ing dog, the venerable old ret i ree, and perhaps a pup star t- ing to learn the fami ly business). They are par t of the fami ly, and you are impor tant to them—as they are to you. No day is ever bad enough that thei r br ight eyes and fox y gr ins can’t f ix it. And real ly, what more could any human ever ask? Hol ly Hor ton PO Box 901464 Sandy, Utah 84090-1464

hunter, so they have to be able to make decisions w ithout being com- manded f i rst. They want to think— not simply take orders. Tr ue to arc- t ic dog personal ity, my dog some- t imes couldn’t resist doing creat ive interpretat ions of some of the exer- cises—l ike heel ing on my r ight instead of my lef t. He thought it was funny (no one could miss his big happy gr in); I was mor t i f ied! That is, unt i l I caught the judge tr ying to hide his laughter behind his cl ip- board. If a CD st i l l seems too daunt ing, Ral ly is the way to go. Precision is st i l l needed to get high scores on the exercises, but the course and exercises are di f ferent ever y t ime, so there isn’t a need to be creat ive to keep himself—or the judges— enter tained. This is a venue where many arct ic breeds succeed, and where Finnish Spi tz can tr uly shine. I ’m cur rent ly work ing on earning the f i rst RAE w i th a Finnish Spi tz, and we are having a lot of fun doing i t . The event that the most Finnish Spitz tr uly enjoy is Agi l ity—and they are wel l-suited for it. There have been several Finnish Spitz who have ventured into this r ing and excel led. Quick turns and bounding over objects is exact ly what they were bred to do. The thr i l l of the chase

there are relat ively few being shown. Finding compet i t ion so even one point is avai lable of ten requi res travel l ing long distances. Where I am, my nearest compet i- t ion is a minimum of a six-hour dr ive away; f inding majors of ten requi res 12-18 hours. As a result , there are many qual i ty Finnish Spi tz who never set foot inside a show r ing. Breeders can’t keep ever y promising pup, and there are a l im- i ted number of show homes. Few people who search out this breed as a pet see the point of dr iving many hours and spending a lot of money to get a r ibbon. The upside to having only a few Finnish Spitz compet ing at any one t ime is that it’s not a r ing that sees a lot of “ big name” professional han- dlers. The incidence, whether inten- t ional or not, of judging the “w rong end of the lead” rarely happens here. Most of us are owner-han- dlers—and ver y proud of it. Finnish Spi tz as Companions Like many arct ic breeds, Finnish Spitz adapt to whatever envi ron- ment thei r humans l ive. They are not a breed that w i l l park itself on your lap whi le you watch TV. But they’ l l be w i l l ing to hang out w ith

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