Guild of Shepherds & Collies

Meet the Icelandic Sheepdog

Viking settlers brought the ancestors of the Icelandic Sheepdog to the Nordic island of Iceland between 874 to 930 AD. The dogs adapted to the harsh climate, developing unique skills that made them invaluable to Icelandic farmers. The Icelandic Sheepdog is medium-sized, standing 16.5 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder.

Like all Spitz breeds - a small breed with a pointed muzzle - the Icelandic Sheepdog has a thick, weatherproof double coat that protects it from the cold, triangle-shaped ears and a plumed tail that curls over its back.

Size, Coat and Colors

The Icelandic Sheepdog’s coat comes in two varieties: short-haired (medium-length outer coat with a thick, soft undercoat) and long-haired (longer outer coat with a thick, soft undercoat). Both coat types feature shorter hair on the face, head, ears and fronts of the legs, and longer hair on the chest, neck, and backs of the thighs. Icelandic Sheepdogs have hair of solid colors (tan, brown, gray or black). All colors of hair on this breed have white markings.

Herding and Activities

Icelandic Sheepdogs are part of the American Kennel Club Herding Group, as they are adept at herding sheep, cattle, and horses. First and foremost, though, they are working farm dogs, capable of a range duties, including guarding and driving livestock.

Today, many Icelandic Sheepdogs are kept as pets, but some are used to herd and to search for sheep lost in the snow, and some are trained as search-and-rescue dogs. The breed is an upright driver, using voice (barking) to move the herd. Like all working dogs, the Icelandic Sheepdog requires lots of exercise, including free running.

Thanks to centuries of ingrained instinct, the Icelandic Sheepdog loves to bark - something it does while herding and also to warn of intruders. This can become problematic and is one of the challenges of living with the breed. Early and consistent training might help curb this tendency.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their intelligence, though a super-smart dog can be a double-edged sword. Icelandic Sheepdogs have been known to learn how to open doors, gates and crates. The good news is Icelandic Sheepdogs want to please you and will try to figure out what you want. Rather than always saying “no,” teach your Icelandic Sheepdog the good behavior you expect and reward them when they comply.

Icelandic Sheepdogs get along great with kids, other dogs and even cats, goats and chickens. They always want to be by your side and cannot tolerate being away from their human family for long periods of time.

Article By:
Jackie Brown

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