Icelandic Sheepdogs are small to medium dogs with thick, weatherproof, double coats. Their coats come in long or short varieties and in a range of markings and color combinations, including tan, red, black, and golden. Although several colors are permitted in the same dog, one color should always dominate. Shorthaired dogs have a coarse, medium length outer coat, a thick and soft undercoat, and a bushy tail. Longhaired dogs have longer outer coats, with soft and thick undercoats and a bushy tail. Icelandic Sheepdogs have medium, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes and prick ears. Their tails are curled. These dogs measure 16.5 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 20 to 30 pounds.
This breed is so loved and so popular in its native country that it has been portrayed on postage stamps.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are loving, playful, inquisitive, and extremely social. They are also very patient with children and make excellent family pets. They are hardy and adaptable and can be happy anywhere their family takes them, provided they receive plenty of love and attention.
This breed is so loved and so popular in its native country that it has been portrayed on postage stamps. The breed's lively personality, confident nature, and attractive appearance contribute to its popularity.
A cheerful, playful, friendly, and unafraid breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog thrives in most settings. These dogs do well on farms or ranches, but they are also ideally suited to living at home with their human families. The breed gets along very well with small animals, but they may believe it's their duty to keep rats and other rodents away. This is great in some circumstances, but it may cause problems in homes with rodents as pets.
These curious and happy dogs form strong bonds with their human family, especially children, and they may become unhappy or even depressed if their time or attention in insufficient. These dogs are very alert by nature and will bark and greet visitors enthusiastically. There should never be any aggression in this behavior, though.
Icelandic Sheepdogs need regular exercise. A daily walk or run outside is enough on most days, but the occasional play session in an open yard if also beneficial. Because these dogs are people-oriented, they do well with walks on a leash around town.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are very strong and hardy dogs and are not known to suffer from very many serious health conditions. Congenital hip dysplasia, cataracts and some other eye problems, and a knee problem called patellar luxation are all known to affect the breed. Other conditions tend to be related to overuse injuries or time spent outdoors.
Because this breed is native to a cold climate, it's important to limit its time outdoors during very hot and humid weather. An air-conditioned home is the best place for these dogs to live if their comfort is a concern. This should not be a problem, however, as these dogs strongly prefer to live indoors with their human family members.
With routine veterinary care, timely canine vaccinations, proper nutrition, and regular access to exercise, Icelandic Sheepdogs can live a full and active life of up to 13 years.
Intelligent and eager to please, Icelandic Sheepdogs are highly trainable. Like most dogs, they respond best to positive reinforcement, such as praise, play, and food rewards. Consistency is key, but repetition should be avoided. These are intelligent dogs and may lose interest in training sessions that are too dull or long.
Icelandic Sheepdogs that receive early socialization are less likely to be timid than those without socialization. Socializing dogs early also improves their tolerance of people and other animals and makes them more generally friendly and outgoing. Frequent trips around town on a leash, visits to the dog part, and plenty of exposure to unusual sights, sounds, smells, and people will benefit Icelandic Sheepdogs immensely.
Fortunately, this breed is not known for any major behavioral problems. Barking can sometimes be a problem, and the breed has been known to escape from yards on occasion. Training and consistent reinforcement of rules should prevent most of these problems.
Icelandic Sheepdogs don't need much daily brushing or grooming, but the breed sheds its undercoat twice yearly and requires more aggressive brushing during these times. Mats and tangles are not generally a huge concern, but more frequent combing and brushing or use of a detangling conditioner can help.
Bathing with a pH-balanced canine shampoo can remove dirt and sticky substances from the coat, soften the hair, and make the coat more manageable. Veterinarian-approved shampoos for dogs are designed not to cause skin irritation or dryness, and most can be used at least weekly.
The Icelandic Sheepdog needs nail trimming performed every few weeks and regular tooth brushing can freshen the breath while protecting against dental cavities and periodontal disease. Regular ear cleanings are also important to remove excess wax accumulation, and any signs of ear infection, such as discharge or odor, should be reported to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is one of the world's oldest dogs and is the only breed native to Iceland. The breed is believed to have descended from dogs found in Sweden and Denmark as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. The breed likely came to Iceland with the Vikings somewhere around AD 874-930 and was instantly put to use working cattle, sheep, and horses.
The breed adapted quickly to Iceland's terrain and became an indispensable part of rounding up livestock on farms. Over time, Iceland's harsh climate and terrain helped form a dog that is very durable and tough. The breed is now quite genetically healthy and strong.
Today, the breed's numbers are still quite small, but the Icelandic Sheepdog has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. The breed is no longer at risk of extinction. In America, the Icelandic Sheepdog is primarily kept as a family companion and is beloved for its gentle personality and soft coat.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Icelandic Sheepdog in 2010.