Reindeer Herding Dogs

According to Kortesalmi (2008), the height of the Finnish reindeer herding dog from the withers is 49-53 cm and the dog is long, footy and fast. Mostly it is either black or dark brown. They can have lightly coloured spots in the chest, head and feet. The tail is like a herder dog’s tail and it moves broadly. Due to breeding, there are two different herding dogs in Finland: Finnish Lapphund and Lapponian herder.

Using dogs in herding has long traditions, but the snow mobile and other technical equipment have made it less popular to use. With snow mobiles, reindeer can be gathered quicker regardless of the dogs. Also, in the early snow mobiles, there was no place for the dog.  However, the interest towards using dogs has risen again since the 1990s. Today, these dogs are used widely particularly in the northern and central reindeer husbandry area.

Reindeer herding dog - Pösö, Muonio. Image: Tiina Pulska.

The relationship between dogs and humans reaches over 15 000 years. When did humans start to use dogs in reindeer herding? There is no written history about it. V. J. Oinonen says in his book “Lapin yliperällä”:

“When wild forest reindeer hunting changed into the modern reindeer herding, the Lappish dog had to change its nature. The dog that was used to attack reindeer had to be patient and gentle with them – but at the same time, be careful not to lose its authority in the eyes of the reindeer. The change that happened in the dog was due to Sámi people. The worst biters and harassers of the reindeer were killed. The same faith was with the dogs that were too soft and not respected by the reindeer. From the dogs left between these two extremes, were those trained as the mate of a reindeer herder.”

Reindeer Herding Dogs

The Finnish Lapphund and Lapponian herder dogs organisation

Lappalaiskoirat ry/english

Lapponian Herder


Finnish Lapphund