The Icelandic Sheepdog, Iceland’s only native dog breed, is a charmingly friendly and faithful all-around herder of small-to-medium size. A densely coated Nordic spitz-type breed, Icelandics are enthusiastically devoted to their humans.
Icelandics are one of the 50 or so northern breeds from around the world classified as spitzes. The breed’s “spitziness” is expressed by a dense coat, foxy face, pointed ears, and a bushy, curling tail. Icelandics, standing no higher than 18 inches at the shoulder, are just under what we’d consider medium sized. They come in several predominant colors, always accompanied by white markings. An endearing trait is the facial expression: friendly, happy, always looking as though there’s no place they’d rather be than with you.
About 1,100 years ago, Norse settlers sailed west across the Norwegian Sea to Iceland. These seafaring pioneers set about creating a new Scandinavian country on the otherwise uninhabited island. Among the cultural touchstones they brought from Norway were the Nordic language and a taste for epic literature. Another was the spitz-type dogs the Icelanders used for herding sheep and rounding up ponies, forerunners of the modern Icelandic Sheepdog. Today, Iceland is still distinctly Scandinavian and the Icelandic Sheepdog is a beloved national symbol.
Temperament: friendly / playful / inquisitive
Height: 16.5 to 18 inches
Weight: 25-30 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
Icelandic Sheepdogs are generally very healthy dogs. They can be prone to a few health conditions, including hip and elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation. Responsible breeders test their stock for conditions that can occur in the breed. An Icelandic’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
Icelandic Sheepdogs enjoy outdoor activities and make great companions on long walks or hikes. Moderate exercise every day will help keep them healthy and happy. This can come in the form of walks and play sessions. The breed also exercises mind and body by participating in canine sports such as obedience, herding, tracking, agility, rally, and other activities that can be enjoyed by dog and owner.
The Icelandic Sheepdog has a profuse double coat, with a longer outer coat and a dense undercoat. Icelandic Sheepdogs shed a fair amount, even more so during shedding season, which occurs twice a year. Weekly brushing’ daily during shedding season’ will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. Any tangles can be worked out with a slicker brush or metal comb. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog.
Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Iceland Sheepdog grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. Icelandics are lively, intelligent, and eager to please, so they are generally easy to train. They don’t respond well to harsh corrections or training methods. They love being the center of their family and are unhappy if they are regularly left alone for long periods of time.
The Icelandic Sheepdog should be fed a diet appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Learn about which human foodsare safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet or the dog’s breeder if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should always be available.