The Nordic Kennel Union (NKU: the national kennel clubs of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) officially recognizes 29 native Scandinavian/Nordic Countries’ breeds: primarily used for hunting or livestock management, these tenacious Scandinavian dog breeds adapted well to cold weather conditions and harsh terrain. Here follow details on some of these breeds:
Finnish Lapphund (officially renamed ‘Finnish Lapponian Dog’ in 2015). The Sami people have been using these dogs to guard and herd reindeer for hundreds of years. Surprisingly calm for a herding breed, lappies are loyal, sociable, and smart: they can be strong-willed and tend to bark. Their long, dense, weatherproof double coats keep them warm in the harsh climates, therefore they are not well suited to living in hotter climates.
Broholmer. The large mastiff-type Broholmer has been around for hundreds of years, and it is one of the five breeds native to Denmark. It was a popular guard dog for large manors and estates, thanks to its size and strength. Although they’re watchful and powerful, the Broholmer is known for being a docile and affectionate giant, and (with proper training and socialization) they make a great family pet. The Broholmer faced extinction after World War II, but a dedicated group of enthusiasts worked to save the breed.
Finnish Spitz. Although not as well known as the Lapphund, the little Finnish Spitz are full of character: naturally provided with strong hunting instincts, hunters traditionally used them to sound the location of birds hidden in trees. They are not suitable to have around other small pets as they have a strong prey drive. Smart, independent, energetic, and fun-loving, Finkies often make enthusiastic running or hiking partners, even if they are difficult to recall.
Icelandic Sheepdog. The country’s only native breed, their descendants were brought to Iceland by Viking settlers, and farmers used them to herd and protect livestock roaming the harsh, sparsely populated landscapes. Fun-loving, affectionate, and highly trainable, these dogs drip stamina, drive, and athleticism and are best suited for a home that can offer them plenty of physical and mental enrichment. As a family dog, its herding instincts need to be trained.
Karelian Bear Dog. An ancient breed traditionally used for big game hunting, the Karelian Bear Dog is well-known in its native Finland. U.S. wildlife agencies use these intelligent, courageous dogs in national parks to minimize human and bear conflict. Karelians are intensely loyal and protective, and they can be territorial, also wary of strangers; they are not always suited to living in multi-dog homes. A rather active breed, a Karelian needs a lot of activity.
Norwegian Elkhound. Believed to be a Viking dog, it is the best known Norwegian breed, and it also resembles Norse mythology’s dogs. They get their name from the big game they used to hunt, but they also guard and herd the livestock of remote Norwegian farms. Unsuited to apartment living with inactive owners, they have great energy, independent spirit (may be wary of strangers) and are loyal and friendly to their family.
Norwegian Lundehund. The Norwegian word for puffin being "lunde", these dogs coming from the remote Islands off the coast of Norway were traditionally used for hunting these little birds and their eggs. The lundehund has impressive flexibility so that it can squeeze into small cliff-side nests, and it also has six toes on every paw, which helps them navigate slippery slopes. This breed is intelligent, problem-solving, agile, energetic and if it does not get enough physical exercise and at-home enrichment, it can be destructive. On the other hand, in an active home a Lunde can thrive and make a playful and loyal companion.
Norwegian Buhund. Another dog with Viking heritage, the spitz-type Norweigian buhund was an adaptable and reliable little farm dog. A devoted family companion, this fun-loving, affectionate, and sweet-tempered breed is another energetic dog
that needs lots of in-home entertainment and exercise. Buhunds are smart, but they can also be independent and stubborn: keep them motivated with tasty treats and short, fun sessions.
Swedish Vallhund. Another breed descended from the Vikings, the short-legged, long-bodied, bobtailed Swedish vallhund may be related to the similar-looking Welsh Corgi. This tough little dog’s working instincts sometime translate into a desire to nip at the heels of running children or chase after bikes and cars. Vallhunds are intelligent, loyal, and trainable: motivate them with fun, reward-based methods.
Samoyed. The breed originated in Siberia, but in the late 1960s the breed standard was assigned to the Nordic Kennel Union and added to the Nordic breeds list. The Samoyed’s beautiful thick coat, smiling expression, and gentle temperament are famous the world over: this breed has not deviated much from its origins as a hunter, herder, and sled dog for the semi-nomadic Siberian people. They are also known for being pack dogs and form strong bonds with their family (they are prone to separation anxiety).