Finland’s Dog Fancy*

Back in 2015, we reported that the Finnish Lapphund was Finland’s third most popular breed. That dipped to fourth place in 2016, but we’re happy to share the update that last year, Finns realized what a terrific breed the Lapphund is, and brought it back to second place. It’s always a good thing when people in a breed’s country of origin appreciate their native sons, so to speak.

The Lapphund will have some ground to cover to claim top spot. For seven years running, another fabulous breed, the Labrador Retriever, has been Finland’s favorite dog, according to the Finnish Kennel Club. In 2016,  there were more than 46,00 dogs registered with the club, and over 2,000 of them were Labrador Retrievers. It’s telling, however, that the last time there were as many Labrador Retrievers registered in Finland was 25 years ago, and the club thinks it’s because homegrown breeds are catching up. Last year, owners registered more than 700 Karelian Bear Dog and Finnish Spitz puppies, the registrations putting the KBD at seventh place, and the spitz at 13th.

As an aside, the Finnish Kennel Club is one of the oldest kennel clubs in the world – 125 years old. The vast majority of the country’s dogs – more than 75 percent –  have pedigrees, and most owners do things with their dogs. The Finnish Kennel Club has about 150,000 members, and that’s a lot in a country of only 5.4 million inhabitants.

A peculiar aspect in Finland is the amount of breeds. The FKC has registered 322 different breeds in the past five years which is probably more than any other country. The dog fancy is also thriving at a time when some countries are seeing the “graying” of their sport. Finnish dog shows are bigger than what one would expect in a country with a small population, and the two main shows (the Finnish Winner Show and the Helsinki Winner show) regularly drawing an entry of 7,000 to 8,000 dogs. All-breed shows rarely have fewer than 1,000 dogs, and if  there are less than 2,000 dogs, it’s considered a small show. There are also about 20 international all-breed shows yearly, plus the same amount of national ones. (International shows being very well attended because CACIBs are offered for the best dog and bitch of each breed, and the certificates earned at these shows go toward a dog’s FCI international champion title).

Every dog gets a written critique at dog shows in Finland, and sometimes a judge will give an oral critique to the audience, something that explains his or her decisions.  Doing this means that one judge can’t do more than 85 dogs a day, so a lot of judges and ring stewards are on hand for the shows. This necessarily means entry fees than what we pay in the US, but exhibitors get a lot for their money. Getting a judge’s opinion of our dogs is why many of us attend dog shows in the first place, and learning why a judge selected the dogs he or she did is invaluable.

*”Fancy’ is an old term that refers to the enthusiasts or fans of a sport or pursuit. It may date to the Victorian era

Image: Finnish Postage stamps featuring Finnish breeds from 1989

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