Icelandic Sheepdog

Type: Northern Breed

Height: 12 - 20 inches.

Weight: 20 - 35 lbs.

Life Span: 12 - 15 years.

Litter Size: 3 - 6 puppies.

Country of Origin: Iceland

Activity: Medium to High.

Watch-dog: High. They are very alert and will bark at birds, aircraft, and running animals.

Guard-dog: Low. Icelandic Sheepdogs are friendly to everyone.


Description: The Icelandic Sheepdog, or Iceland Dog, is the Iceland's only native breed, and almost Iceland's only breed. After the Iceland Sheepdog suffered a bout with distemper and tapeworms in the late 1800s, a ban on all mammals was issued for Iceland. Healthy today, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a small, furry sheepdog used for herding, guarding and as a working dog. They are a progenitor of the Norwegian Buhund, and are the basic Spitz-type breed. They have a plumed tail carried over the back, with short legs and a foxy expression. Their muzzles are often darker than the rest of their bodies, and some have black markings above their eyes like eyebrows. They are quite fluffy, and can come in colors of wheaten, black, wolf sable, "dirty" white, all white, or with a symmetrical white. They are strong, agile and make noise when they want something. Icelandic Sheepdogs in the past have barked at sheep if they don't move, and therefore bark whenever they want something. They are lively, active dogs that are affectionate and loyal. They do not wander or hunt. Icelandic Sheepdogs like close contact with their families, and do not like to leave them. They are friendly, alert and relatively easy to care for. Lacking in maintenance and loaded with love, the Iceland Sheepdog is the ultimate companion and friend.

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Other Names: Icelandic Spitz, Iceland Dog, Íslenskur fjárhundur, Islandsk Farehond, Friaar Dog, Canis islandicus (Latin)

Colors: Icelandic Sheepdogs can be wheaten, black, wolf grey,

Coat: Icelandic Sheepdogs' coats are thick, coarse, medium length and stand off. Some have longer coats than others. Both are dense and waterproof, with a thick undercoat. It is its longest at the neck, back of legs, and the tail.

Temperament: Icelandic Sheepdogs are lively, active and intelligent. They are loyal to their owners and do not like to leave their sides. They are gentle in nature, and cheerful with children. They are peppy and confident, enthusiastic when working. They are playful and loving, but needing firm discipline. They are quite clean animals, and are used as watchdogs because of their alertness.

With Children: Yes, they are very playful and kind with children.

With Pets: Yes, they do well with other pets.

Care and Training: The Iceland Dog is relatively easy to take care of. They have the same cleanliness as the Buhund, with an easily cared for coat. Brushing every week will suffice. Their dewclaws should be clipped regularly, as they will grow to large lengths because they cannot reach the ground. Iceland Dogs should also be exercised efficiently. A play session or long walk daily is best. They need an activity or daily exercise to stay in shape. Icelandic Sheepdogs should be trained firmly but kindly from puppyhood. They should be socialized as well. They are still developing mentally at the age of 18 months.

Learning Rate: High. Obedience - High. Problem Solving - High.

Special Needs: Exercise, grooming, a job to do, socialization and training.

Living Environment: Icelandic Sheepdogs need human comfort. They do not do well alone, and should never be left outside by themselves. They tend to get anxiety problems when left alone for long periods of time. They are an active breed as well, needing a job to do and space for exercise. They are a small dog, but are best if kept in a country setting. The best owner for this breed would be a family or individual who are a firm discipliner and active, with a job for the dog to do, in a country living environment.

Health Issues: Iceland Dogs are normally healthy, although a health concern to this breed may be hip dysplasia.

History: Being the only dog to originate on Iceland, the breed has had a difficult past. They were thought to have been brought to Iceland by Vikings, who were known for raiding and plundering a myriad of lands, always leaving breeds in their wake. The Vikings actually colonized Iceland in 880 A.D., but bones of mysterious dogs largely resembling the Iceland Dog have been found in the graves of the people of Denmark and Sweden, thought to date back to 8000 B.C. They have been quoted in different literature throughout the centuries, such as one dedication from Shakespeare in Henry IV, "Pish for thee, Iceland Dog. Thou prick-eared cur of Iceland." And in 1650 Sir Thomas Brown recorded, "To England there are sometimes exported from Iceland...a type of dog resembling a fox...Shepherds in England are eager to acquire them!" And finally in A Summer in Iceland, written by Sir Richard Burton in 1875, Burton wrote that he believed one of these Icelandic Dogs to be worth the same as a horse. Not only did they serve as sheep herders, guarders and working dogs, but they were said to be able to find a sheep in 11 yards of snow! In 1898 Denmark created a breed standard for the Iceland Dog. Beginning in the late 19th century, the Icelandic Sheepdog became a hazard to have. They commonly contracted Echinococcus, a tapeworm that is the cause of Hydatid disease, before tapeworm medications had been invented. The dogs would eat the flesh of a dead sheep, contracting the worm, and would thus spread the worm to its owners. The tapeworm epidemic became so bad that nearly 75% of all of the breed were wiped out due to not only the worm, but also to a distemper plague. Iceland banned all of the Icelandic Sheepdogs from Iceland's capital, Rekjavik. The ban is still in issue today, although medication has cured the epidemic. In 1928 the ban of all imported mammals to Iceland further decreased the breed's population. British and Icelandic breeders soon gathered the last of the breed, combined them with Nordic sheepdogs, and continued the breed. A club was formed in 1969 to support the waning breed. Still rare in the world today, the Icelandic Sheepdog survived near extinction.

First Registered by the AKC: 2010

AKC Group: Herding Group

Class: Herding

Registries: FCI (Group 5), CKC (Group 7), UKC, AKC