Finnish Lapphunds, although most known for being a family dog, are also traditionally a working dog. As such, they are an active breed, who thrive when given the opportunity to work with their owners.
All Lappies should have at least some basic obedience training while young to ensure they have the best opportunity to fit in comfortably with their owner’s lifestyle. After that, there are a number of different activities and dog sports that Lappies can get involved with, and there are many across Australia who have participated in some of these sports. These include formal obedience trialling, agility, flyball, herding, and tracking. These are a lot of fun for you and your dog, and will keep your Lappies happy and active.
There are a variety of levels within formal obedience trialling (testing) in Australia, with different exercises that become more difficult the further you progress, and different titles to be earned. Within a trial, points are earned for each obedience exercise, with passing requiring each exercise to be done adequately, and a minimum number of points to be gained in total. Most obedience clubs will help you train up to the levels required to start trialing and beyond. Most Lappies can do well in obedience, but will likely not respond well, or do their best, if your training approach involves lots of repetitive “drill work”. Making the exercises fun is very important for Lappies.
This consists of an “obstacle course” for dogs with, again, different levels to progress through. Dogs need to learn to do each of the obstacles correctly, as well as the process for running through a course with their handler, and doing each obstacle in turn as instructed. In a trial, passes are received for doing the whole course correctly, and within a set timeframe.
Many obedience clubs will have agility lessons, although generally dogs aren’t eligible to start these until they are a certain age (to minimise damage to growing joints) and have obtained a certain level of capability in basic obedience commands.
While your more laid back Lappies may not have the speed to be hugely successful in agility, most will still have a lot of fun, and for the higher drive Lappies, this is an ideal sport. Always remember that no Lappies should be jumped at full height until achieving 18 months of age.
This is a relay race for teams of dogs, involving jumps, the retrieving of a tennis ball and returning back over the jumps. Although titles can be earned for individual dogs, competition consists of races against other teams of dogs, with the performance and speed of the whole team being critical. Some obedience clubs have flyball training and teams, but not all. This is most suited to particularly higher drive Lappies who enjoy retrieving.
While herding tests and trials with reindeer aren’t really possible in Australia, Lappies are eligible to compete in tests and trials with sheep, duck and cows (where available). Most dogs start their training and work with sheep. There are several test levels first to ensure your dog has the instinct, capability and training to work effectively in trials.
There are a number of herding associations and private trainers around who can help. Lappies don’t herd in the same way traditional breeds like Kelpies and Border Collies do, and these tests and trials were designed for the more traditional breeds. So it is a good idea to try and find a trainer who has some experience working with ‘loose-eyed’ ‘up-right’ dogs/breeds. Most Lappies, even if not brilliant, will show an instinct for herding, and will have a lot of fun.
Again, this is a sport with lots of levels, which progressively get more complex and difficult for the dog. The aim is for the dog to follow a track laid out by a person, whilst in a harness attached to their handler by a long line, indicating articles they have dropped along the way and finding the person at the end of the track. It is very much a winter sport. Again, there are a variety of associations and private trainers who can help if you want to get started with this sport, and there is the occasional obedience club who may offer assistance. Whether your Lappie has an aptitude for tracking or not won’t be known until you give it a go, but most dogs can learn how to use their nose in this way.
Your State Canine Council (eg Dogs Victoria, Dogs NSW) can provide you with more information about these sports, including clubs and associations. For more information on how you can get involved, contact our Working Dog Coordinator.