Showsight Presents the Finnish Spitz

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 hheventer@yahoo.com

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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S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE • O CTOBER 2010 • 83

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