HomeNewsAug 27, Icelandic Sheepdog: Friendly, Affectionate, Energetic and Rare

    Aug 27, Icelandic Sheepdog: Friendly, Affectionate, Energetic and Rare

    by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 08-26-2021

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is an old breed that has stayed
    around for a reason. This breed is  loyal, cheerful, attentive and hardy  with plenty of
    energy to play.

    At the same time, they are affectionate and ready to cuddle
    with their family. They have a personality that will make them fit right in as
    a member of the family.

    Icelandic Sheepdog: Loyal, Friendly, Affectionate

    Quick Facts

    Known as the “Dog of the Vikings” due to its history

    The breed has changed very little due to Iceland’s isolation

    Iceland’s only native dog

    Other Names Used:

    • Canis Islandicus
    • Friar Dog
    • Icelandic Spitz
    • Iceland Dog

    Affiliations: AKC, CKC, and UKC Herding group


    Height: 16-18 in. (41cm-46cm)

    Weight: 25-30 lbs (11-14 kg)

    Coat Type: Two types, either long or short but both are
    thick and water resistant


    • Black and White
    • Chocolate and White
    • Gray and White
    • Fawn and White
    • Cream and White
    • Gold and White
    • Sable and White
    • Tan and White
    • White Tan and Black
    • Red and White


    • Chocolate Markings
    • Black Markings
    • Black Mask
    • Cream Markings
    • Gray Markings
    • Piebald
    • Reddish Brown Markings
    • Tan Markings

    Country of Origin: Iceland

    Activity Level: The Icelandic Sheepdog is known to be a
    fairly active dog, although regular exercise is enough to relax their energetic

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

    Good with Children: These dogs are known for being great
    with kids. Their warm and hospitable temperaments welcome the company and
    playfulness of children.

    Thanks to their size, they do not risk knocking over
    small children as quickly as some breeds.
    That being said, all children must be taught how to interact with a dog before
    they do so and small children must always be supervised while playing.
    Altogether, this breed is appropriate for families.

    Good with Other Pets: These sheep dogs tend to get along
    alright with other pets. This is especially the case should they be raised
    alongside other pets. The more that a dog is exposed to fellow canines, the
    more relaxed it will be around them.

    Being herding dogs, they are not likely to
    harm smaller animals, and their size
    keeps them from doing so accidentally. They do not have much of a prey drive so they won’t confuse those smaller pets
    for prey either. 

    Dog Breed Ratings Got You a Little Confused?
    Here’s a little help in understanding them

    • Playfulness:   Most Playful = 5    Least Playful = 1
    • Affection:  Most Affectionate = 5   Least Affectionate = 1
    • Friendliness Towards Strangers: Most Friendly = 5  Least = 1
    • Good With Children:  Great= 5    Not Good with Children = 1
    • Good With Dogs:  Great = 5   Not Good Around Dogs = 1
    • Exercise Required:  Extensive Daily Exercise = 1  Minimal = 1
    • Ease of Training:  Very Easy = 5     Difficult = 1
    • Watch Dog:  Excellent Watch Dog = 5  Minimal = 1
    • Grooming:  Time Consuming = 5   Minimal = 1
    • Shedding:  Heavy Shedder = 5     Minimal = 1
    • Cold Tolerance:  Well Tolerated = 5   Poor Tolerance = 1
    • Heat Tolerance:  Well Tolerated = 5  Poor Tolerance = 1

    History of the Icelandic Sheepdog Breed

    The Icelandic Sheepdog

    The Icelandic Sheepdogs is a spitz type breed, one of the
    most popular breed types in the world. Ancient spitzes are the bases for many
    of our modern breeds.

    They are known for
    their fox like snouts and northern European breeds,
    such as this one, are known for their thick coats. A clue into their history
    can be found in their name, these herding dogs come from Iceland.

    It’s likely that this breed originated from Scandinavia.
    There’s stuff to back up this theory, there are skeletons that many bare similarities to the sheepdog we know

    These dogs are well known as the Viking Dog too, another name pointing
    to their history. Vikings would have used these dogs to assist in maintaining
    their herds. This is considered to be the way in which they managed to get to
    Iceland, their ultimate country of

    Historical accounts suggest that when the Vikings came and
    took over Iceland in the 9th century, they brought these dogs with them. As a result
    of their isolation in the country, there are very few other breeds that live

    To this day, the breed remains the most common dog in the country.
    Having lived there for what is now a millennium, it’s not likely that they’re
    going to die out anytime soon.

    While the breed has a steady population now, this was not
    always the case. There was a significant
    portion of Iceland’s history in which their existence was threatened due to a
    myriad of problems.

    There are cases of disease outbreaks and famines that
    resulted in significant drops in the
    breed’s population. Towards the end of the 10th century,
    there was a very considerable famine in
    the country, leading many of these dogs to die so that more food could be given
    to the people.

    As result of this decrease in population, the price for an
    Icelandic Sheepdog was that of a horse or a cow.

    The breed carried on in the country for centuries, surviving
    many successive famines and disasters alike to the one in the 10th century.
    They found themselves most threatened by extinction in the late 19th century
    when the majority of their population was killed by disease.

    Their isolation was further compounded when there was a
    ban on bringing animals into the country in 1901. This ban was followed by the
    two World Wars. Once again, it would have been expensive to own one of these
    dogs and impractical to do so. Instead, people would spend their money on food.  

    This hardy breed
    prevailed. This was through the efforts of the Icelandic Dog Breeder
    Association, which was founded in 1969. 

    In between the 1930s and 70s, a man named Mark Watson helped to
    introduce these dogs to the outside world. He helped to breed them into a more
    consistent appearance and temperament, another step towards their officiality
    as a breed. On top of this, he brought Icelandic Sheepdogs to the US and other

    Today, the Icelandic Sheepdog is not an especially common
    breed, ranking as the 153rd most popular breed in the AKC.


    The Icelandic Sheepdog makes an excellent Agility Dog.The Icelandic Sheepdog makes an excellent Agility Dog.

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is an affectionate family pet with
    plenty of playful energy. Being a herding dog, they love to be around their
    herd, which is their family in this case. 

    As previously stated, these dogs can be great for families,
    especially with younger children. The breed’s size makes them unlikely to
    accidentally harm children, and they
    aren’t known to bite frequently either.

    They will appreciate having someone to
    spend time with, whether it’s an adult or a child. These dogs are warm
    companions and playing with them will disperse some of their energy that can
    otherwise manifest in bad behaviour.

    Small children should always be monitored
    when playing with a dog, and people of all ages should be shown how to interact
    with a dog before doing so.

    While they tend to be warm towards people and affectionate
    with their families, this is not the same for fellow canines.

    These friendly, affectionate traits make them an excellent choice for work as therapy dogs.  These Viking dogs
    tend to be a bit more protective of their territory with other dogs.

    It is essential
    to introduce an Icelandic Sheepdog to many animals as well as people to help
    reduce their anxiety around them.

    Raising these dogs alongside others will also
    make them less anxious. However, they
    don’t enjoy sharing the house with new pets once they’re grown up.

    This breed is known to be relatively
    vocal, mostly when barking at animals outside their territory. Birds are noted
    as being a favorite target for the Viking
    dog, as historically they would have had to protect their herds from predatory

    While it is not the most vocal breed, it’s still not ideal to have them
    living in an apartment. If they are living in an area with high population
    density, whether it be the number of people or wildlife, they are more likely
    to sound off to warn their owner of something’s presence.

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is also characterized as an
    intelligent breed. They tend to pick up
    lessons quickly and have some enthusiasm for learning.

    This makes potty
    relatively easy, although they
    can also quickly learn flaws in their owners’ training.
    It is crucial, as with any breed, to make
    your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

    This breed isn’t infamous for having a lot of wanderlust
    potential. Being herding dogs, they prefer to stay put on their property and
    make sure nothing goes awry. This is good for owners, as it lessens the
    expenses in preventing a dog from running away.

    Given their size and their
    temperament, it’s not necessary for them to have a fence keeping them on the
    property. A simple electric fence would suffice
    just so they can’t get out into the street or get lost.

    Since the Icelandic Sheepdog enjoys being around their families so much, this
    breed is known to have separation anxiety.

    While they are not the most anxious
    dogs, they might not be the best for owners who spend most of the day away from
    home. Their sensitivity towards being alone is one of the few things they are especially
    sensitive about, as they are pretty hardy dogs.

    They can withstand the cold
    well due to their coats, although, this is not the same for the heat. No dogs
    should be left out in any sort of extreme weather for extended periods of time.

    As previously stated, these dogs have plenty of playful
    energy that can manifest in negative behaviour if it is not satisfied. Whether
    it’s chewing on furniture or just being antsy, it’s best for the dog’s health
    to release some of their excess energy.

    Regular exercise will keep them healthy
    and relaxed, making them happier altogether. This can be accomplished through
    playing fetch or a walk around the neighborhood. They make excellent agility dogs because of their energetic temperament.


    The Icelandic Sheepdog, also known as the Viking Dog

    This breed isn’t known for being especially difficult to
    groom. Their thick coats will shed
    according to drastic weather changes, such as before the winter or summer.

    They will shed their thick undercoat during these seasonal molts.  During these times regular brushing and combing is needed to reduce the amount of hair that will begin to fall wherever they are.

    owners recommend brushing once or twice a week during the rest of the year.  Regular brushing will prevent the thick coat from getting matted.  Due to their reasonably regular shedding, they really only
    need bathed as needed or at least twice a year.

    They are not hypoallergenic meaning that they would not be a good choice for someone with allergies.

    While they don’t need their nails painted, they certainly need them clipped. If a dog’s nails get to
    be too long, they can become
    uncomfortable and dig into their paws.

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is known for
    having nails that grow relatively
    quickly. Most owners recommend clipping them at least once a month. You can
    tell if a dog’s nails become too long by listening to them clicking against the ground as they move. If you hear the
    click, it should be time to clip.

    Dogs aren’t famous for having fantastic dental care, but it
    is an integral part of the grooming
    process. Brushing a dog’s teeth will prevent tartar buildup, keep their teeth
    clean and make their breath fresher. Most owners recommend brushing a dog’s
    teeth at least twice a week.

    Another vital part of
    the grooming process is checking a dog’s ears. Dogs’ ears can hold in bacteria
    that will cause ear infections. Thanks to the shape of the Icelandic Sheepdog
    ears they have more airflow, preventing things from getting stuck in them.

    the same, it is recommended to check and clean a dog’s ears at least once a
    week. This will remove excess wax and any bacteria that has been caught in it.

    For the Icelandic Sheepdog Lover

    Health Issues

    Before buying any pet, an owner must be prepared to pay for
    any sort of preventative or emergency healthcare. This is on top of making sure
    they get to the regular vet visit.

    Dogs get sick like people do, so it’s
    important to be ready for any sort of health issue down the road. There are
    also outside problems like ticks and fleas that need to be taken into

    It’s important when getting a purebred breed that you look
    into the sort of health issues that the breed is prone to.

    While some dogs of a breed may not be affected by any of the
    health issues they are known for, it is still crucial when buying one. The
    Icelandic Sheepdog is known to be a reasonably
    healthy dog
    with a long lifespan. All the
    same, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to knowing their possible health problems:

    Another critical thing
    to consider when purchasing a purebred dog is the source. It is crucial that
    you know the breeder that you’re getting the dog from and their knowledge of
    the breed.

    Any qualified breeder will be able to answer any of your questions
    about the breed and be able to pass health checks for their dogs. Any breeder
    that suggests that this is unnecessary or seems to know very little about their
    dogs should not be considered.


    • Make good watchdogs
    • Hospitable and social
    • Intelligence makes them easy to train
    • Housebreaking is also easy due to intelligence
    • Affectionate


    • Not excellent guard dogs as they are very welcoming
    • Can be vocal
    • Fairly rare breed 
    • Have some separation anxiety
    • Shedding may be a problem during months of shedding


    Breed Parent Club

    The American Kennel Club

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