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The Finnish Spitz

Finish Spitz head photo


The Finnish Spitz, Finland’s National Dog, is one of the world’s few basal breeds. This red-gold, square, higher-stationed spitz was bred to hunt birds and game in the dense Finnish forests. Quick and agile, he is a lively and natural breed in every way. These are the essentials of the breed.


Proportions and Size of the Finnish Spitz Dog

In judging the breed, start with the proportions and size. The Finnish Spitz is a square dog. Square is repeatedly mentioned in the standard, so please put this at the highest priority. The 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.

The muscular and clean neck may appear shorter due to a heavy ruff, and the leg/body proportions may also appear “off” 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.

The Finnish Spitz has obvious gender differences, with the males at 17.5 to 20 inches (28-32 pounds) and the females at 15.5 to 18 inches (22-25 pounds). The bone is proportionate for this size and weight of dog. One common mistake is looking for a heavier dog and bone. Both the Norwegian Elkhound and the Norwegian Buhund are heavier-boned dogs than the Finnish Spitz.

Although there are no disqualifications, please penalize Finnish Spitz outside these height ranges. In the past, dogs were fairly consistent in size. Sadly, this is not the case presently. We are seeing adult Finnish Spitz both over and under the size range. These outliers cannot properly perform their function.

Finnish Spitz


Examining the Finnish Spitz Breed

The Finnish Spitz is never presented on the table. They are presented on the floor or on the ramp, at the judge’s option. The ramp usually makes it easier for both the judge and the exhibitors.

Examining an inexperienced dog can be challenging in that they rarely hold a stack, are cautious of strangers, are sensitive in nature, and do not recover quickly when upset. They are also noise sensitive, 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. Your hands-on examination should be gentle and efficient.

Ask the handler to show the bite. 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. Although the standard penalizes a wry mouth, I have never seen this in a Finnish Spitz. Lips are clean and pigmented.

Examining an inexperienced dog can be challenging in that they rarely hold a stack, are cautious of strangers, are sensitive in nature, and do not recover quickly when upset. They are also noise sensitive, 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. Your hands-on examination should be gentle and efficient.


Finnish Spitz – Head

The head is slightly tapered, with a skull-to-muzzle ratio of 4:3. It should not be heavy with a broad wedge, or fine with very little taper. The forehead and skull are slightly arched, neither domed nor flat. The skull’s length is equal to the width.

The Finnish Spitz standard says that the stop is “moderate.” You will occasionally see a prominent stop or lack of stop. These destroy the “foxlike and lively” expression that is essential to the breed.



The eyes are almond-shaped, dark, and obliquely set. Faults commonly seen are round and lighter eyes.



The nose is black. If a dog is presented with a liver nose, it should be excused for lack of merit. This is a red dog with black points.



The ears are set-on high, relatively small, and erect. They should not be hooded. Some spitz breeds are slightly rounded at the tip. The 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 investigate. Using the hands to follow the head’s wedge on the examination will easily indicate 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 and gentle movement; the head examination is quickly done.



The backline on this square dog is level and strong, both standing and on the move. The loin is short and there is a moderate tuck-up. The Finnish Spitz is moderately angulated in the front and rear.



The feet are compact, well-arched, and deeply cushioned. The roundish feet can appear more oval because the standard allows the center two toes to be slightly longer. The Finnish Spitz may be born with not only front dewclaws but rear dewclaws, either singly or double as well. The rear dewclaws are removed. The front dewclaws are also sometimes removed.

Finnish Spitz are being imported from countries which ban the removal of dewclaws. Because of this, you may find that the rear dewclaws are present, either singly or double. This is a man-made minor fault, which will hopefully be addressed in the next standard revision.



The plumed tail has a functional element 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.

The flashing tail is often the only way the hunter can initially find the dog and treed bird in the dense forest. Think about watching deer in the dense forest. You often do not even know they are there until there is movement, such as the flash of the tail. Although the tail is important, it should not be prioritized higher than the essentials of the breed in the opening paragraph.

The ideal tail encompasses numerous elements. The set-on is just below the topline. The carriage points forward, flat along the back. The tail should not go up at all nor should there be discernible space between the tail and the topline. It curves vigorously downward and backward, pressing flat against the thigh. The tail then points backward, following the line of the stifle.

Although the tail should be able to reach to the hocks, please do not pull the tail down. An inexperienced, 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. However, if the tail is a very faulty tight bun on the back, please do not lift or touch the tail; doing so could cause pain to the dog. If the set-on and carriage are correct, the tip of the tail bone should reach to the middle of the thigh. It is important to feel the length of the tail, as tail feathering can disguise a short tail. The 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 side 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, or a dog shown in extreme heat, will often not hold the tail up when gaiting.

Assess the appropriate tail set-on, carriage, and length during the hands-on. Certainly, you can fault a dog for failure to carry the tail up, but please do not excuse for lack of merit on this aspect alone.



The 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 his speed increases. Since his working gait is a gallop, he may move quickly from a trot to a gallop. You usually do not see the transition to a gallop in the Breed ring, but may see this in the Group ring. Please do not penalize the Finnish Spitz for this transition. The handler will adjust the speed back to a trot.



One of the first impressions of the dog is his striking red-gold double coat. The coat should have a short, soft undercoat that warms him in the cold climate and a harsher outer coat that repels the snow, ice, and rain. The outer coat is medium in length. Any trimming of the coat should be severely faulted. The only exception is neatening the feet. Spring and Fall bring seasonal changes of coat. Females are usually more affected by the seasonal “blowing of the coat” than males which tend to rotate coat.


Colors & Markings

The 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 obvious lighter shade in the undercoat. This lighter color should be easily found on the underline, the tail, the britches, and the “harness markings.” The 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 as a red/gold dog.

Generally, dogs with too much white are not shown. But if a dog appears in your ring with a full bib and white stockings, you may excuse the dog for lack of merit.

Most Finnish Spitz are born with a heavy black overlay which starts to clear when the puppy is around six weeks old. The head clears first; the buttocks and tail clear last. If you judge the 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Competition, 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.


Finish Spitz Colors (AKC)

Gold NO
Red NO
Red Gold YES


Finish Spitz Markings (AKC)

White Markings NO


Function of the Finnish Spitz Breed

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. The US handlers work hard to train their dogs not to bark when being shown! Once a Finnish Spitz starts to bark, it is difficult to get them to stop—and the bark is infectious.



Are you looking for a Finnish Spitz puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home a Finnish Spitz dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


Finnish Spitz Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the lively Finnish Spitz dog breed with articles and information in our Finnish Spitz Dog Breed Magazine.


Finnish Spitz Breed Magazine - Showsight