Showsight Presents the Finnish Spitz

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

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