Icelandic Sheepdog | Dog Breed Information & Facts


Smart, loyal, reliable, unpretentious – all these characteristics refer to the Icelandic Sheepdog, which has firmly taken its place in the hearts of dog breeders. These dogs are famous for their docile nature and ease of care. And they are also very cute and friendly pets, which is important for those who have children in their families.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog has adapted well to the adverse weather conditions in Iceland

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a tough and agile herding dog, which barks at almost everything to make sure that you are paying as much attention to what is happening, making this extremely useful for gathering cattle in pastures or mountains and finding lost sheep. This is a rustic dog, prone to barking, which makes it especially suitable for driving and herding flocks, both on pastures and on the slopes of the mountains.

Not aggressive, friendly, quick-witted. The Icelandic Sheepdog get along well with small children, taking care of them like nannies. In urban environments, he is practically not contained – this dog needs space.

Breed history

Icelandic Sheepdog, Icelandic spitz, Icelandic shepherd – these are all names of one breed that appeared many centuries ago. There is an assumption that the ancestors of this dog sailed to Iceland together with the Vikings around the 9th-10th centuries. Some dog handlers believe that the breed came about by crossing the Norwegian Buhund with local dogs. In the future, the breed of the Icelandic Sheepdog was formed by natural selection of individuals that were most adapted to living in the difficult climate of those places. Since the indigenous population of Iceland was mainly engaged in farming (and more specifically, raising livestock), the qualities of a shepherd were most valued in dogs.

Traditionally, the duty of herding dogs was to accompany livestock to the pasture and home, to protect them from predators and strangers. The Icelandic Sheepdog coped with the duties assigned to him so well that he enjoyed great love of the population.

“There is historical evidence that these animals were buried after death with all honors, and during one of the famine years in Iceland, when people did not disdain even dog meat, this breed was not touched.

In the Middle Ages, when cattle breeding began to spread everywhere, The Icelandic Sheepdog was exported to European countries. This animal ws especially loved by UK farmers. In the 19th century, the existence of the breed was threatened. A severe plague epidemic broke out in the country, from which a large number of dogs died. But the Icelandic Sheepdog was saved. After the loss of a large number of these dogs, animals began to be brought into the country from abroad. This led to a decrease in the number of purebred Icelanders. Therefore, in 1901, a ban was introduced on the import of animals from abroad.

“It was very difficult to find a purebred Icelandic Sheepdog after the plague. The price for one puppy was the same as the cost of a horse or several sheep.

Slowly but surely, the breed was revived. In 1969, the Icelandic Kennel Association was formed. And in 1979 – the Icelandic Shepherd Dog Club. The world breed standard was adopted in 1898 in Denmark. Today, the Icelandic Sheepdog is part of Iceland’s cultural heritage. In 2017, the International Organization of Icelandic Shepherd Dogs registered about 16 thousand individuals who live in 11 countries. Most of the Icelandic Spitz are bred in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The colors of the Icelandic Sheepdog are very different

Physical characteristics of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Outwardly, the Icelandic Spitz is a sturdy, strong, well-built dog. Medium height (height at the withers in males is 46 cm, and in bitches – 42 cm). Males are more muscular in build, and females are more graceful.

An adult dog weighs between 12 and 15 kg.

Distinguish between short-haired and long-haired representatives of this breed. The main requirement is a thick double coat that does not allow water to pass through. A thick undercoat helps to keep warm well. The color of the Icelandic breed can be very diverse. The most common colors are black, gray, brown. Most individuals have white markings on their chest, muzzle or limbs. Often, light-colored dogs have a black mask spot on the muzzle.

Icelandic Sheepdog’s ears are in the shape of a triangle with slightly rounded ends. The tail is ring-shaped, set high, reaching down to the back.

Breed standard

Color: shades of orange, black and tan (tricolor), gray, chocolate brown. Small to medium-sized white spots on various parts of the body are acceptable. A large number of white, black backs of red dogs, solid black color are considered defects.

Dewclaws: necessarily double, like the fifth fingers.

Eye color: dark brown, chocolate colored dogs may be slightly lightened. The eyelids and lips are dark brown.

Nose color: black or dark brown with chocolate coat color.

General appearance: dogs of extended format with deep breasts, females are more fragile than males. The ears are erect, triangular in shape, the tail is curled in a ring. Energetic and light movements. The coat is either short or long, but with a thick undercoat. The muzzle is wedge-shaped.

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog needs a lot of outdoor activities

Character and temperament of the Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is characterized by:

  • Quick wits;
  • Friendliness;
  • Sociability;
  • Agility;
  • Endurance;
  • Playfulness;
  • Love for children;
  • Vigilance.

The lively character of a dog of this breed does not allow the animal to sit still. Therefore, keeping in an apartment is undesirable. But if, nevertheless, the dog lives in an apartment, then he needs long walks with high physical activity, so that the animal can run around to its fullest.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are very loyal to their master. They cannot exist without communication with a person. Dogs of this breed are ready to follow their master, wherever he goes, constantly. Therefore, when raising a puppy, it is imperative to teach him to be alone for several hours, without the company of a person.

The Icelandic Sheepdog dog is used as:

  • Shepherd dog;
  • Guard dog;
  • Companion dog;
  • Family dog.

This sheepdog gets along very well with other animals. And he doesn’t even chase cats, which is not typical of other dogs. Since the Icelandic Sheepdog has followed the herd for centuries, it has learned to use its voice to guide the livestock in the right direction. Therefore, barking in the house where the Icelandic Sheepdog lives is not uncommon. This fact should be taken into account by those whose neighbors do not tolerate noise.

“An unusual characteristic of this breed is that it always reacts aggressively to anything approaching it from above. This is due to the instinct developed over centuries of pasture, which helped the animal to protect young livestock from the attack of large birds of prey.”

Well-bred dogs do not show unreasonable aggression. They express it only in case of danger.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Many Icelandic Sheepdogs are ready to trade a piece of meat for fish


Icelandic Sheepdogs are in good health. But in rare cases, the following can be observed:

  • Dislocation of the patella
  • Dysplasia (abnormal development) of the hip and elbow joints;
  • Tendency to eye diseases in older dogs.

Vaccination of the Icelandic Sheepdog is carried out according to the vaccination schedule common for all dogs. The most popular vaccination schedule is shown in the table below, but be aware that your veterinarian may suggest another vaccination option.

The Icelandic Sheepdog lives an average of 12-14 years.

Basic care

The best place to keep an Icelandic Sheepdog is in a private house. This dog needs to move a lot and be outdoors. But the dog can also be kept in the apartment. However, it is necessary to provide him with the opportunity to warm up in the fresh air.

Walking should be long – at least 2-3 hours a day. The dog needs to run a lot without a leash, thereby quenching the thirst for movement.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is distinguished by its unpretentiousness, caring for this dog is minimized and will not be difficult.

Caring for the coat involves periodic brushing. Regularity of the procedure will reduce the likelihood of matted fur and remove accumulated dirt. It is enough to comb the Icelander dog once a week. But during the molting period (spring and autumn), the procedure must be carried out more often.

Shearing this breed is not practiced. The claws are trimmed as they grow back. Do not neglect the procedure, because there are frequent cases of growing claws into the pad of the finger.

Washing your Icelandic Sheepdog too often is not recommended. Frequent bathing leads to the fact that the natural protective fatty film on the animal’s skin is washed off. As a result, the skin becomes dry and irritated, and the dog’s resistance to frost decreases.

It is necessary to clean the auricles 3-4 times a month.

The eyes are rubbed as the discharge appears on them.

To prevent the appearance of fleas and ticks, you must use special collars or repellents (insect repellents).

Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdog exercises needs

Despite its relatively small size, the Icelandic Sheepdog has a large amount of energy and therefore needs a sufficient amount of exercise. This dog is best suited for rural areas where it will be provided with opportunities to play and explore in abundance.

However, the Icelandic Sheepdog will be the ideal dog for those families who have active hobbies and are willing to include her in them. The Icelandic dog loves to swim and will gratefully take part in family boat or canoe adventures. It would also be nice if you took your dog to a body of water from time to time so that he could swim freely.

Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdogs get along well with other pets

Education and training

The education of the Icelandic Sheepdog begins very early. He is very trainable. Excellent memory helps to quickly memorize a large number of commands. Strong attachment to humans and vulnerability place restrictions on rigorous training methods.

Treats and praise are best for this dog. An animal of this breed can be easily taught unusual tricks that it will easily perform due to its intelligence, mobility and agility.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is unpretentious in food. His diet should include all the products that are present in the menu of other dogs, namely: meat; eggs; dairy products; a small amount of cereals; vegetables are rare. Ready-made dog food is selected individually.

Nutrition for puppies up to 9 months of age ranges from 4 to 6 meals. Then the dog is gradually transferred to two meals a day. In addition to food, the veterinarian may prescribe complex vitamins.

“Since this breed comes from Iceland, rich in fish, often Icelandic Sheepdogs are ready to exchange a piece of meat for it.”

Icelandic Sheepdog

Hygienic grooming of the Icelandic dog is kept to a minimum: regular brushing, cleaning the ears and trimming the nails

Pregnancy and puppy birth

Pregnancy in dogs lasts 56–72 days. The number of puppies in a litter depends on the age of the female. The maximum number of puppies is born to dogs 3-4 years of age. During pregnancy, special attention should be paid to the nutrition of the expectant mother.

During puppy birth, the female Icelandic Sheepdog like any dog becomes anxious. Because of the dog’s strong emotional bond with the owner, his excitement is transmitted to him. Therefore, the pet owner needs to prepare for puppy birth and be calm so that the pet does not experience even more severe anxiety.

Choosing an Icelandic Sheepdog puppy

When choosing a cute puppy of an Icelandic Sheepdog – you need to pay attention to the following points: all Icelandic Sheepdogs puppies are very curious. Seeing a stranger, they confidently run to meet him. Fear and aggressiveness towards humans is a sign that this puppy should not be taken; the baby’s tail should stick out over the back. This indicates that the animal is not worried about anything.

Otherwise, the tail will hang; by the time the puppy is purchased (this age is 2 months), he must be vaccinated.

Breed conclusions

Performing well at shows, these dogs can compete in herding skills, stamina and obedience. Attaching to the owners, the Icelandic dog even plays the role of a nanny, looking after and playing with their children.

Overall, the Icelandic dog is a loving and loyal companion who loves to make friends and spend time with his family. He works hard when needed, and when he is at home, he enjoys socializing. They are ideal for active, curious people living in a private house.