Despite their vastly different coats, both the Siberian Husky and Finnish Lapphund are double coated, meaning that they have a harsh outer coat and a soft under coat. The outer coat is weather proof, protecting the dog from the elements. It also prevents snow from balling up in the coat and freezing while the dog performs its original purpose (sled pulling for Sibes and herding for Lappies). The undercoat is made to insulate the dog from both the cold and the heat. For this reason, both the Finnish Lapphund and Siberian Husky should never have their coats shaved off, even in the hottest of climates. Without the coat, both breeds no longer have the ability to regulate their body temperature and are much more likely to overheat. They also lack pigmentation in the skin usually hidden by their coat, which means it burns very easily without the coat to protect it.
Both Siberians and Lapphunds should not require baths very often as their coats tend not to hold dirt and debris. As the dog dries, the dirt should loosen in the coat and fall out.
Grass seeds and other debris which “grips” the coat is another story, needing to be removed before it has a chance to become embedded in the skin and infected.
Lappies in Australia tend to have less coat than their northern ancestors simply because of the warmer weather here but that does not necessarily mean less grooming is required. Finnish Lapphund owners should set aside roughly an hour a week for grooming, more if the dog is “blowing coat”. Blowing coat refers to the time when a dog will lose large amounts of their undercoat in a small amount of time. Often dogs will go from being in full coat, to having very little undercoat in the space of a month or less. During this time, owners must groom their dogs much more often to prevent the dead coat from getting caught in the rest of the coat and matting. Entire males will blow their coat once a year with entire females generally blowing coat twice a year in line with their seasons. Spayed and neutered (desexed) Lapphunds will tend to have a bigger, softer coat than entire Lapphunds and may “roll” coat, meaning that they will lose a small amount of coat all the time, though they will often also have large coat blows once a year (sometimes twice for bitches).
At Pawformance, we find the most effective method of grooming is “line combing” or “line brushing” where the coat is pulled back against the natural lay of the coat, and separated into smaller, more manageable pieces for combing or brushing. This allows us to get the brush or comb all the way down to the skin and get any loose or dead coat out before it is able to knot into matts.
Our grooming kit for the Lappies includes a comb, pin brush, slicker brush and t-brush.
While Sibes at first view may look to have an easier coat to deal with than the Lappies, quite the opposite is true. Sibe coats are incredibly dense, which protects them from the cold while running in Siberia, but also protects their skin from the harsh sun in Australia. For this reason, they should never be shaved. Taking their coat off stops Sibes from being able to regulate their body temperature naturally, as well as leaving their sensitive skin unprotected from the sun’s rays. In Summer, it’s not uncommon for Sibe owners to trim the hair between the dog’s toes and paw pads to prevent grass seeds from becoming caught and embedding in the skin.
Like Lappies, they shed their entire undercoat once a year for the boys, and twice for the girls, taking roughly 6 weeks from start to finish. During this time, all the dead hair needs to be removed from the coat to prevent it knotting and forming matts, as well as to promote strong re-growth.
Grooming a Siberian is often a lengthy process as their coat is so dense. We find the easiest (and fastest!) way to groom Sibes is to line comb the coat with a wide toothed comb to break up any clumps and then use a forced air dryer (a specially designed dog dryer) to blow the loose undercoat out. Once the coat has been blow dried, any knots caused by agitating the coat can be easily brushed out with a pin brush.
While neither the Siberian Husky or Finnish Lapphund require a specialised diet, as a general rule, both breeds do tend to need less food than many people expect, particularly once they have reached adulthood. Veikko and Ahsoka eat a very small amount of food, a heaped 1/2 cup of kibble and training treats once a day, while Zero has a heaped cup and training treats.
Dogs who are kept in peak condition (not too thin, not too fat and with good muscle mass) are much healthier in general and less prone to injury, though this can be difficult to tell through the coat. To test the condition of a dog, lightly part the coat on your dog's sides and gently touch your finger tips to the skin. Without pushing in, run your hands back and forward over the ribs. Your finger tips should be able to feel the outline of the ribs easily, without being able to fall into the depressions between ribs. If you cannot easily feel the ribs, chances are that your dog is overweight, if they fall into the depressions between the ribs easily, your dog might be underweight. When in doubt, consult your vet.
We feed a diet of super premium kibble, raw meaty bones, oily fish, vegetables, yoghurt and raw egg and find that these keep our dogs in peak condition. If you would like more specific information about our dogs' diets, feel free to ask.
Dogs & The Heat
With large double coats, many people assume that Lappies and Sibes will not thrive in hot climates. While there is a limit to what their coat can withstand (it's not recommended that owners walk their dogs in the heat), most dogs will simply slow down and limit their activity level.
In hot conditions, a kids paddling pool half filled with water, ice filled kongs and ice-cream containers and having multiple sources of cool drinking water at different places in the yard so there is at least one in the shade at all times are all most dogs need. Sibes especially will usually dig themselves a "nest" in the dirt until they hit the cooler soil beneath the surface to lay in, though the Lappies will sometimes do this as well.
Cooling coats and mats are available, though in my experience, the dogs would prefer to go and find themselves a cool spot in the shade rather than using them.
Both Sibes and Lappies need a fair amount of exercise, including a daily walk (or jog if the dog is old enough), but shouldn't be exercised in hot weather. Having a large yard or a dog who will chase a ball/toy does make exercising easier, though this is not always necessary. Both breeds are quite active, though the amount of exercise does differ between individuals.
Sibes in particular should have a yard with a high fence because the breed tends to be very good at escaping. There is more than one Sibe who is affectionately known as Hairy Houdini!
Without regular exercise and mental stimulation, both breeds can become bored and destructive. Lappies in particular can be prone to nuisance barking without proper exercise and training. Sibes are more prone to destructive and digging behaviours to vent their frustration.
Feeding your dog too soon before or after exercise should be avoided. As a general rule, an hour before/after is sufficient. Though rare, feeding too close to physical activity has been linked to 'bloat' or gastric torsion, where the stomach twists which can be deadly.