Fri, 04/12/2024 - 11:08pm

Postcard From Finland

It was a snow scene at Lahti International


Photos by Yossi Guy and Paula Heikkinen Lehkonen


When foreigners think of Finland, they immediately come up with visions of enormous fields of snow. But Finland is also known for its high-quality breeding in multiple breeds, well-run dog shows and large entries. 

The Finnish city most foreigners are familiar with is Helsinki, and when one mentions famous dog shows in Finland, the Helsinki Winner comes into mind, a prestigious annual show held in December.

The show that is the subject of this report is the Lahti International Show — like Helsinki, also located in southern Finland, about an hour and a half north of the capital. It is held in March, a time of the year that flirts with spring, but temperatures are still freezing. This show has been held for the last 40 years by the Finnish Kennel Club in cooperation with local authorities.

Henna Eskonsipo-Bradshaw, the city’s director of economic development, calls the show “one of the highlights of our spring,” and urged the 10,000 visitors that attend the event at the Sports and Fair Center to explore the nearby Salpausselkä UNESCO Global Geopark, whose ridge system was formed by the Ice Age. 


View of Lahti in Finland with Vesijarvi Lake.


Named the European Green Capital in 2021 by the European Commission, Lahti kicked off its reputation as “one of the world’s most progressive environmental cities” in the 1970s with the restoration of the local Lake Vesijärvi, Eskonsipo-Bradshaw continued. “Indeed, our goal is to become one of the first cities in the world to achieve climate neutrality. In our city we take our environment seriously, so please enjoy our green nature, clean water and fresh air!”

This year’s event encompassed 4,244 dogs from 305 breeds. The largest entry was Whippets with 115, and the second-largest was in Shelties ,with 92 dogs entered.

A truly international show, there were 33 judges from nine different countries and exhibitors from six different countries, including Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Spain, Latvia and the Czech Republic.

Judging is quite similar to that of most FCI shows. The judge goes over all the dogs in specific classes and dictates a critique for each, ending with a score (the top score being Excellent, followed by Very Good, etc.). After that comes a twist that is unique to Finnish shows: The judge sends several dogs from each class to the next level in which they compete for championship certificates, and they are actually placed without relation to the class in which they were judged. For judges who are unfamiliar with the system, it may be a bit confusing. However, the experienced ring staff is available to assist those who are unsure of what they should do.

One thing that catches one’s eye in the ring is the fact that the majority of dogs are not handled by professional handlers — instead, they are almost always shown by the dog’s owner and mainly by women and girls.

After the Best Puppy, Best Junior, Best Veteran and Best of Breed are chosen, those winners can compete in the main ring for the title of BIS Puppy, Junior and Veteran, and then take part in the group competition, consisting of 10 groups.

It turned out all group winners at the show were owned by Finns. The quality was excellent, and the BIS judge definitely had a great lineup from which to choose his ultimate winners. Harri Lehkonen, president of the Finnish Kennel Club, judge BIS. His final choice was an English Toy Terrier, followed by a Toy Poodle, Greyhound and Pharaoh Hound. 


The English Toy Terrier took top honors.


FCI Group 1 (Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs): Belgian Shepherd Dog, Tervueren, Figaron Stravinsky, owner Rintakoski Riikka & Lotila Päivi / breeder Päivi Lotila

FCI Group 2 (Pinschers, Schnauzers and Molossers): Leonberger, Jantonely Yolo Jeeves, owner Roste-Torniainen Sanna & Torniainen Heikki 

FCI Group 3 (Terriers): English Toy Terrier, Bonwild Black Magic Woman, owner Laitinen Sari & Immonen-Sillantie Jaana & Leivo Kira / breeder Sari Laitinen (Best in Show)

FCI Group 4 (Dachshunds): Miniature Dachshund, Wire-haired, Angelina Pet Vitoraz, owner Timonen Unto & Miettinen Sampo 

FCI Group 5 (Spitz and Primitive): Pharaoh Hound, Onnentuojan Formula Ykkönen, owner Palonen Jenni & Palonen Sinna / breeder Jenna Leino (BIS4)

FCI Group 6 (Scenthounds): Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, After Me Certainly Worth It, owner Kristina Bergström & Hänninen Heidi & Jutila Jaakko / breeder Kristina Bergström

FCI Group 7 (Pointing Dogs): Irish Setter, Sarmando Dream Super Dynamite, owner Ylitalo Mikko & Kontio Mikko 

FCI Group 8 (Retrievers and Flushing and Water Dogs): Golden Retriever, Gladtail Champagne Lady, owner Virenius Anne / breeder Anne Virenius and Jenna Smolander

FCI Group 9 (Companion and Toy Dogs): Toy Poodle, Bhanyanan Troublemaker, owner Virtanen Tiia / breeder Carita Lund (BIS2)

FCI Group 10 (Sighthounds): Greyhound, Ina’s Fashion Fantastic, owner Marttinen Pirkko-Liisa & Koulermou Ina (BIS3)



Vitautas Baranauskas from Lithuania was on the judging panel for the first time. 

“The breeds I judged impressed me with high entries compared to much smaller entries in other countries,” he noted. “The show was well organized and hospitality was warm” — adding, however, that he thought accommodations for judges could have been a shade better. “I enjoyed the quality of the dogs, particularly the Bichon Frise, and the fact they were handled by owners and breeders rather than professional handlers.”

The vision of dogs playing and running in the snow will remain in the visitors’ minds forever.


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