The long and low Swedish Vallhund, Viking Dog of ancient legend, is a smart and sociable herder of dense coat and boundless energy. These rugged cattle dogs are known for their zest for life, unique vocalizations, and cheerful demeanor.
With their thick sable coat, sturdy construction, and overall no-frills look, Vallhunds are a timeless breed, as comfortable in a suburban backyard as they were on the prow of Viking longships 1,200 years ago. These lively herders are built long and low the ground in not quite as exaggerated a fashion as their distant cousins the corgis, but the idea is the same: Their build makes it easier to nip at the heels of cattle and avoid kicks to the head. Balance, power, and smooth movement are breed hallmarks.
Between the 8th and 11th centuries, seaborn Vikings from Scandinavia raided, conquered, and settled vast areas of Britain. Traces of Viking influence can still be seen in the Scandinavian place names around the British Isles. Another reminder of Britain’s Viking past is the Vallhund, thought to be a cross of Scandinavian spitz dogs with Welsh corgis. Exactly when and where the breed was developed is unknown, but we do know that for centuries Vallhunds were rugged cattle dogs and all-purpose farmhands in western Sweden.
Temperament: Watchful / Energetic / Friendly
Height: 11.5 to 13.75 inches
Weight: 20 to 35 pounds
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia. A genetic test for an eye issue called Swedish Vallhund retinopathy was developed in 2017; breeders can now identify carriers and breed them accordingly to ensure they do not produce affected offspring.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- SV Retinopathy DNA Test
Swedish Vallhunds need a good, down-to-the-skin brushing occasionally and a bath when they get dirty. They shed their undercoat twice a year, which will make you wonder just how many dogs you have, going by the snowdrifts of hair. Vallhunds are very easy dogs to manage when it comes to grooming. When they are shedding, a warm bath and good massage when shampooing, followed by drying with a dryer and a thorough brushing, can get rid of the worst of it.
There is quite a bit of individual variability in terms of exercise needs in the breed. Some Swedish Vallhunds have more energy than others. Keep in mind that while this isn’t a breed intended to run all day, the Vallhund is a working farm dog and needs regular exercise. One decent walk daily with some time playing fetch or performing a sport or other activity is likely adequate for most Vallhunds, but some need more. They also need mental exercise in addition to their physical exercise. Puzzle games, clicker training, and participating in a sport can all contribute to their mental and physical well-being.
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Most Vallhunds should want to work with you; that’s one of the hallmarks of the breed. They do best with positive, reward-based training, since most just need to understand what you want. Keep in mind that this is a cattle-herding breed. They’re strong willed (as they need to be to do their job), and your goal should be to get the dog to work happily with you. Most do extremely well with clicker training, and most are very biddable.
The Swedish Vallhund should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Most Vallhunds are “easy keepers” and need less food than one would think, even if they’re very active. They tend to become overweight easily, even if they get a lot of exercise. Owners should not free-feed Vallhunds (or any dog)’”it’s not normal for dogs to graze, and it makes it difficult to know quickly if the dog isn’t eating well. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.