Icelandic Sheepdog

A Large Dog in a Small Dog's Body

Looking for a good sheep wrangler?

The Icelandic sheepdog can very well live up to its name, having spent centuries herding flocks throughout Iceland; however, the breed is a very loyal family companion that seeks attention and a lot of TLC.

The Icelandic sheepdog is also moving on to other pastures: In June 2010, the American Kennel Club announced that the breed is one of the newest members of its registry, clearly a sign of the dog's growing popularity in the United States.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The dog from which the Icelandic sheepdog is believed to have originated was brought to Iceland by the Vikings between 874 and 930 A.D.

Some historians believe they can trace the breed's roots to those of similar-looking dogs found in Danish and Swedish graves dating back to 8000 B.C.

During the late 19th century, plague and canine distemper caused the deaths of more than 75% of the Icelandic sheepdog, influencing the ban on the importation of dogs in 1901 — a ban which is still upheld in Iceland today.

By the end of the 20th century, the breed was again threatened with extinction, so in 1969, Iceland established the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association to preserve their one and only native dog.

Icelandic sheepdogs aren't just good with sheep — they like people, too. In fact, they are incredibly affectionate and playful, finding playmates in children and pets alike.

Just like many sheepdog breeds, the Icelandic sheepdog will shadow its owner, often preferring to stay close-by at all times. They are also known to be energetic and mighty, often described as "a large dog in the body of a small dog."

Due to its herding abilities, the Icelandic sheepdog's behavior can become vocal when it wants something and can be very keen on creating "tasks" when bored. As a result, training is recommended for this working dog so that you can control any barking and prevent your dog from herding couch pillows or getting into trouble while you're not home.

Icelandic sheepdogs are incredibly affectionate and playful, finding playmates in children and pets alike.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic sheepdog is classified as a spitz-type dog, a group which includes the American Akita and the Chow-Chow, a combination of which the sheepdog somewhat resembles.

The breed can have either short or long hair and has a variety of coat colors with white markings, including tan, reddish-brown, chocolate, grey and black. It has that trademark tightly curled (and fluffy) tail, with triangular ears that stand upright.

Considered a medium sized dog weighing 25 to 35 pounds on average, the Icelandic sheepdog has an unusual feature: it can often have two dewclaws on each hind leg.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic sheepdog can suffer from a variety of health conditions. While these may be common medical conditions, your Icelandic sheepdog will not necessarily develop those listed below.

  • Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joints that causes lameness and arthritis.
  • Elbow dysplasia, a malformation of the elbow joints that causes lameness and arthritis.
  • Distichiasis occurs when eyelashes grow in the wrong place on the eyelid and cause an eye irritation which may result in scarred corneas.
  • Hereditary cataracts occur in the breed. A CERF examination for eye disease is strongly encouraged by the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America.

The Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America encourages breeders to have their breeding animals certified normal for hip and elbow dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation of America and DNA samples registered with the Canine Health Information Center maintained by the association.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.