Icelandic Sheepdog: A Comprehensive Overview of the Unique Breed

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the Icelandic Sheepdog breed. In this article, we will delve into the rich history, physical characteristics, temperament, care, and training needs of this unique and fascinating dog breed.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Icelandic Sheepdog is an indigenous breed from Iceland, known for its spitz-like appearance.
  • It has a long history dating back to the 9th century, brought to Iceland by Viking settlers.
  • The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only native dog breed of Iceland and was traditionally used for herding sheep and horses.
  • They have a medium-sized body with a thick double coat, available in various colors.
  • Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their loving, friendly, and playful temperament.

Origin and History of the Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog has a fascinating history that stretches back centuries. This breed originated from dogs brought to Iceland by Viking settlers in the 9th century. These Vikings arrived on the island with their trusty canine companions, and over time, these dogs adapted to the harsh Icelandic landscape and developed into what is now known as the Icelandic Sheepdog.

The Viking settlers brought their dogs from the same ancestral stock that gave rise to other Nordic breeds such as the Buhund of Norway and the Vallhund of Sweden. These breeds share similar characteristics and a common heritage, making them distant relatives of the Icelandic Sheepdog.

Throughout history, the Icelandic Sheepdog played a significant role in the daily lives of the people of Iceland. They were primarily used for herding sheep and horses, helping farmers and herders manage their livestock in the challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions of the island.

Today, the Icelandic Sheepdog continues to be cherished as a working dog and beloved companion. Its unique history and close ties to Viking settlers make it a breed of great cultural significance in Iceland and a fascinating subject of study for dog enthusiasts worldwide.

The Evolution of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Over the centuries, the Icelandic Sheepdog has evolved to adapt to its unique environment. Living in Iceland’s challenging conditions, these dogs developed characteristics that helped them thrive in their surroundings. Their thick double coat provides insulation and protection from the cold, while their agility and intelligence enable them to navigate the rugged terrain.

Despite the breed’s close association with Viking settlers, the Icelandic Sheepdog faced the risk of extinction in the late 19th century due to crossbreeding with other dog breeds. However, thanks to the efforts of dedicated individuals, the breed was preserved and revived, leading to its recognition by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1955.

Key Points Icelandic Sheepdog Buhund of Norway Vallhund of Sweden
Origin Iceland Norway Sweden
Use Herding sheep and horses Herding and guarding livestock Herding and guard duties
Coat Thick, double coat Short, dense coat Short, dense coat
Size Medium-sized Medium-sized Medium-sized
Temperament Loving, friendly, and intelligent Friendly, alert, and adaptable Friendly, alert, and energetic

Physical Characteristics of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a medium-sized dog breed known for its unique physical characteristics. Here, we will explore the size, coat, and colors of this fascinating breed.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is a well-proportioned breed, with males typically reaching a height of 46 centimeters (18 inches) and females measuring around 42 centimeters (17 inches) at the shoulder. They have a sturdy build and weigh between 9 and 14 kilograms (20-30 pounds).


The Icelandic Sheepdog has a thick, double coat that provides excellent protection from the harsh Icelandic weather. The coat consists of a soft, insulating undercoat and a longer, weather-resistant outer coat. Regular brushing is necessary to keep the coat in good condition and prevent matting. Icelandic Sheepdogs have moderate shedding year-round and heavier shedding seasons.


The Icelandic Sheepdog comes in a variety of colors that add to its charm. The breed can have a coat color of tan, black, chocolate-brown, or grey. Often, these colors are accompanied by distinctive white markings on the chest, face, and tail. The combination of colors and markings gives each Icelandic Sheepdog a unique and beautiful appearance.

Size Coat Colors
Medium-sized Thick, double coat (insulating undercoat and weather-resistant outer coat) Tan, black, chocolate-brown, grey
Males: 46 cm (18 inches)
Females: 42 cm (17 inches)
Regular brushing needed to prevent matting Often with white markings
Weighs 9-14 kg (20-30 lbs) Moderate shedding year-round

The physical characteristics of the Icelandic Sheepdog contribute to its resilience and adaptability in its native Icelandic environment. The breed’s size allows for agility and maneuverability in herding tasks, while its thick double coat helps protect them from cold weather and the elements. The variety of colors and markings only adds to the breed’s charm and uniqueness.

Temperament and Personality Traits of the Icelandic Sheepdog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is known for its loving, friendly, and playful nature. They are affectionate dogs that enjoy being a part of the family. They are particularly good with children and are small enough to not pose a hazard. Icelandic Sheepdogs are intelligent, alert, and hardworking. They have a strong herding instinct and are independent workers, relying on their instincts rather than following a master. They are also sociable dogs that thrive on human company and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time.

With their loving and friendly disposition, Icelandic Sheepdogs make wonderful companions for families. Their playful nature makes them great playmates for children, and their small size ensures that they won’t accidentally knock them over. However, it is important to note that the Icelandic Sheepdog is an intelligent breed that requires mental stimulation and physical exercise to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.

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These dogs are known for their alertness and will sound the alarm if they sense anything out of the ordinary. That makes them excellent watchdogs, but it can also lead to excessive barking if not properly trained. Early socialization and obedience training are essential to ensure that Icelandic Sheepdogs become well-mannered and well-behaved members of the family.

Personality Traits Temperament
Affectionate Friendly
Playful Sociable
Intelligent Alert
Hardworking Independent

Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their loving, friendly, and playful nature. They are affectionate dogs that enjoy being a part of the family. With their sociable temperament, they thrive on human company and do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. These intelligent and alert dogs have a strong herding instinct and are independent workers. Early socialization and obedience training are essential to ensure that Icelandic Sheepdogs become well-mannered and well-behaved members of the family.

Training and Exercise Needs of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Proper training and exercise are essential for the well-being and happiness of the Icelandic Sheepdog. As a herding dog breed, they have high energy levels and a strong instinct to work. Regular exercise is necessary to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Daily walks, playtime, and engaging in dog sports such as herding trials, agility, obedience, and tracking are ideal ways to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

When it comes to training, the Icelandic Sheepdog is an intelligent breed that responds well to positive reinforcement methods. Using rewards, praise, and treats will motivate them to learn and obey commands. Harsh training techniques should be avoided, as they can cause fear or aggression in this sensitive breed. Consistency and patience are key when training an Icelandic Sheepdog, as they may have an independent streak and require extra encouragement and repetition to master new skills.

It is also important to provide socialization opportunities for the Icelandic Sheepdog from a young age. Exposing them to new environments, people, and animals will help them develop into well-rounded dogs. This can be achieved through puppy classes, visits to dog parks, and regular interactions with friendly dogs and people. Socialization will ensure that they are comfortable and confident in various social situations, reducing the likelihood of fear-based behavior or aggression.

Overall, the Icelandic Sheepdog thrives in an environment where they receive proper training, ample exercise, and positive socialization. Their intelligence, agility, and desire to please make them highly trainable, while their herding instincts and love for outdoor activities make them a great choice for active individuals or families. With the right care and attention, the Icelandic Sheepdog will be a loyal, well-behaved companion.

Training Tips for Icelandic Sheepdogs

  • Start training from a young age to establish good habits and behaviors.
  • Use positive reinforcement methods such as treats and praise to motivate your dog.
  • Keep training sessions short and fun to maintain your dog’s interest and focus.
  • Be patient and consistent with your commands and expectations.
  • Provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom.
  • Socialize your Icelandic Sheepdog with a variety of people, animals, and environments.
  • Avoid using harsh training techniques or punishment, as it can damage the bond with your dog.

Care and Grooming of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdog Care

Proper care and grooming are essential to keep your Icelandic Sheepdog healthy and looking its best. The breed’s thick, double coat requires regular maintenance to prevent matting and manage shedding. Regular brushing is necessary to remove loose hair and prevent it from accumulating in your home. Aim to brush your Icelandic Sheepdog at least once a week, but during shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be needed to keep the coat in optimal condition.

Additionally, regular bathing is important to keep your Icelandic Sheepdog clean and free of dirt and debris. Use a gentle dog shampoo that is suitable for their sensitive skin. It is also essential to regularly check their ears for any signs of infection and clean them as needed. Brushing your Icelandic Sheepdog’s teeth regularly and providing dental chews or treats can help maintain good oral hygiene.

Aside from grooming, providing proper nutrition and exercise is crucial for the overall well-being of your Icelandic Sheepdog. Ensure they are receiving a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Regular exercise is important to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Daily walks, playtime, and engaging in activities such as dog sports can help keep your Icelandic Sheepdog active and happy.

Lastly, regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor your Icelandic Sheepdog’s health and address any potential issues early on. Vaccinations, parasite prevention, and routine examinations are important aspects of their care. Remember to choose a reputable breeder who conducts health screenings on their breeding stock to minimize the risk of genetic health conditions in your Icelandic Sheepdog.

Icelandic Sheepdog as a Working Dog

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a versatile and hardworking breed, known for its exceptional herding abilities. This herding dog breed has a strong instinct to gather and drive livestock, making it an invaluable asset to farmers and ranchers. The Icelandic Sheepdog’s natural herding talents, combined with its intelligence and agility, allow it to navigate challenging terrains while effectively managing and moving livestock.

With roots deeply embedded in the history of Iceland, the Icelandic Sheepdog has been an integral part of the country’s agricultural heritage for centuries. The breed’s ability to withstand harsh weather conditions and work independently, relying on its instincts rather than constant guidance, sets it apart as a dedicated and reliable working companion.

“The Icelandic Sheepdog’s strong herding instinct and independent nature make it a highly effective working dog in various herding tasks.”

The Icelandic Sheepdog’s herding instincts extend beyond just sheep. This versatile breed has also been utilized in herding horses and cattle. Its alertness, agility, and endurance enable it to navigate challenging environments and efficiently guide livestock from one location to another.

Owners and handlers who appreciate the breed’s working abilities often participate in herding trials and other activities that showcase the Icelandic Sheepdog’s skills. These events not only provide a platform for the breed to demonstrate its natural talents but also serve as a testament to the strong bond between the dog and its handler.

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Working Abilities Description
Herding Instinct The Icelandic Sheepdog possesses a strong herding instinct, allowing it to gather, drive, and manage various types of livestock.
Independence This breed is capable of working independently, relying on its instincts and problem-solving skills to accomplish herding tasks without constant guidance.
Agility Icelandic Sheepdogs are agile and nimble, enabling them to navigate rough terrains and swiftly respond to the movements of livestock.
Endurance With remarkable stamina and endurance, this breed can work for extended periods, easily keeping up with the demands of herding.

The Icelandic Sheepdog’s working abilities make it an exceptional choice for those in need of a dependable herding dog. Its natural instincts, coupled with its adaptability and intelligence, allow it to excel in the dynamic and challenging environment of herding livestock.

Socialization and Behavior with Other Animals

Icelandic Sheepdog playing with other dogs

Proper socialization is crucial for the well-rounded development of an Icelandic Sheepdog. Early socialization should involve exposing them to different environments, people, and animals. With the right socialization, Icelandic Sheepdogs can get along well with other dogs and animals. However, it is important to note that their herding instincts may cause them to try and herd or chase smaller animals. Therefore, it is essential to monitor their interactions with smaller pets and provide appropriate training to prevent any unwanted behaviors.

Introducing an Icelandic Sheepdog to other animals should be done gradually and in a controlled manner. It is recommended to start with neutral territory and supervised introductions. Positive reinforcement techniques can be used to reinforce desired behaviors and create positive associations. By providing consistent training and positive experiences, Icelandic Sheepdogs can learn to coexist peacefully with other animals, promoting harmony within the household.

Additionally, it is important to remember that each dog is an individual, and their behavior may vary. Some Icelandic Sheepdogs may naturally have a stronger prey drive or be more cautious around unfamiliar animals. It is essential to understand and respect the temperament and boundaries of each individual dog, allowing for appropriate management and training as needed.

Health Considerations for Icelandic Sheepdogs

Icelandic Sheepdog health

When considering the health of Icelandic Sheepdogs, it is important to note that they are generally a healthy breed. However, like all dogs, they can be prone to certain health conditions that potential owners should be aware of. Common health issues in Icelandic Sheepdogs include hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation (slipped kneecap), and various eye problems.

A reputable breeder who conducts health screenings on their breeding stock can help minimize the risk of passing on these genetic conditions. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are also essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of the Icelandic Sheepdog. By ensuring that the breeding stock is healthy and receiving proper veterinary care, responsible breeders can contribute to the overall health of the breed.

In addition to genetic conditions, Icelandic Sheepdogs may also be prone to certain environmental factors that could affect their health. While the breed is generally hardy and adaptable, they can be sensitive to extreme temperatures. It is important to provide adequate shelter and protection from extreme heat or cold to prevent any potential health issues.

Common Health Issues in Icelandic Sheepdogs
Hip dysplasia
Elbow dysplasia
Patellar luxation (slipped kneecap)
Eye problems

By being aware of these potential health issues and taking appropriate measures to prevent and manage them, owners can help ensure that their Icelandic Sheepdogs lead long, happy, and healthy lives.

Grooming and Care for Icelandic Sheepdogs

In addition to addressing health concerns, proper grooming and care are essential for the well-being of Icelandic Sheepdogs. Their thick, double coat requires regular brushing to prevent matting and the accumulation of loose hair. The breed sheds year-round, with more significant shedding during certain seasons.

  • Regular brushing to prevent matting
  • Frequent bathing as needed
  • Trimming of nails to prevent overgrowth
  • Cleaning of ears to prevent infections

Regular grooming not only keeps the Icelandic Sheepdog looking its best, but it also helps maintain the health and condition of its coat. Additionally, attention should be given to dental care, including regular teeth brushing and veterinary dental check-ups, to promote good oral health.

Finding and Owning an Icelandic Sheepdog

If you are interested in owning an Icelandic Sheepdog, it is important to find a reputable breeder who follows responsible breeding practices. The breed is not as common as some other breeds, so finding a breeder may require some research and patience. Reputable breeders will provide health clearances for their breeding stock and ensure that their puppies are well-socialized. Owning an Icelandic Sheepdog requires commitment in terms of time, training, exercise, and grooming. They thrive in an active and loving family environment.

Breeders Location Contact Information
ABC Icelandic Sheepdogs New York, NY
Icelandic Paws Los Angeles, CA
Nordic Winds Icelandic Sheepdogs Seattle, WA

When searching for breeders, it is important to visit their facilities and meet the parents of the puppies to ensure they are healthy and well-cared for. Ask the breeder about the health history of the parents and any health guarantees they offer. A reputable breeder will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with the necessary information.

Once you have found a reputable breeder and chosen your Icelandic Sheepdog puppy, it is important to provide them with a loving and nurturing environment. Start training and socializing your puppy from a young age to ensure they grow up to be well-behaved and well-adjusted dogs. Provide them with regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

Icelandic Sheepdog Clubs and Organizations

Icelandic Sheepdog puppy

The Icelandic Sheepdog has a dedicated breed club and organization known as the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America (ISAA). As the American Kennel Club (AKC) parent club for the breed, the ISAA is committed to promoting and preserving the Icelandic Sheepdog. By joining the ISAA, you gain access to a wealth of resources, events, and a community of Icelandic Sheepdog enthusiasts.

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The ISAA organizes specialty shows, trials, and other events that provide opportunities for Icelandic Sheepdog owners and enthusiasts to connect. These events showcase the breed’s unique abilities and help foster a sense of community within the Icelandic Sheepdog community. Whether you are a first-time owner or a long-time enthusiast, participating in these events is a great way to learn more about the breed, meet fellow owners, and share in the joy of owning an Icelandic Sheepdog.

Icelandic Sheepdog Clubs and Organizations in the United States

If you are looking to connect with Icelandic Sheepdog enthusiasts in your local area, there are several regional clubs and organizations dedicated to the breed. These clubs often host events, provide educational resources, and offer a supportive community for owners and enthusiasts. Some notable Icelandic Sheepdog clubs and organizations in the United States include:

  • Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America (ISAA)
  • Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Midwest (ISAM)
  • Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Northeast (ISANE)
  • Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Southwest (ISASW)

By joining these local clubs, you can connect with fellow Icelandic Sheepdog owners, learn more about the breed, and participate in a variety of activities and events tailored to the Icelandic Sheepdog. These clubs provide a supportive and knowledgeable community that can be invaluable for new and experienced owners alike.

Club/Organization Region Contact Information
Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America (ISAA) Nationwide
Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Midwest (ISAM) Midwest (IL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, WI)
Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Northeast (ISANE) Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT)
Icelandic Sheepdog Association of the Southwest (ISASW) Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX)

Whether you are interested in participating in shows, trials, or simply connecting with other Icelandic Sheepdog lovers, the Icelandic Sheepdog clubs and organizations provide a valuable network of support and camaraderie. Joining these clubs can enhance your experience as an Icelandic Sheepdog owner and help you build lasting friendships with fellow enthusiasts.

Participating in Icelandic Sheepdog Activities and Events

Icelandic Sheepdog Activities

If you are an owner of an Icelandic Sheepdog, you have the wonderful opportunity to participate in various activities and events specifically tailored for this unique breed. These activities not only allow your Icelandic Sheepdog to showcase their skills and abilities but also provide them with mental and physical stimulation that fulfills their natural instincts. By engaging in these events, you can strengthen the bond with your furry companion and also become part of a vibrant community of Icelandic Sheepdog enthusiasts.

One of the most exciting activities to participate in with your Icelandic Sheepdog is specialty shows. These shows provide a platform for dogs of the same breed to be evaluated by expert judges based on their adherence to the breed standard. It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase your Icelandic Sheepdog’s physical conformation, movement, and overall appearance. Specialty shows also offer a chance to connect with other owners and breeders, share knowledge, and learn more about the breed.

Another popular activity for Icelandic Sheepdogs is herding trials. These trials assess your dog’s herding abilities and instincts by simulating real-life herding situations. It’s a thrilling experience to watch your Icelandic Sheepdog use its natural talents to maneuver livestock and demonstrate its intelligence, agility, and working drive. Herding trials not only provide mental stimulation for your dog but also offer a chance for owners to learn more about effective herding techniques and gain a deeper understanding of their Icelandic Sheepdog’s working abilities.

Activities Description
Obedience Trials Icelandic Sheepdogs excel in obedience trials, showcasing their ability to follow commands and demonstrate their training and intelligence.
Agility Trials These trials test your Icelandic Sheepdog’s ability to navigate through an obstacle course, showcasing their speed, agility, and problem-solving skills.
Tracking Icelandic Sheepdogs have a keen sense of smell and can excel in tracking activities, demonstrating their ability to follow scent trails.

Participating in these activities and events not only provides your Icelandic Sheepdog with physical and mental stimulation but also strengthens your bond and creates lifelong memories. Remember to always prioritize the well-being and safety of your dog during these events, ensuring they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. With active participation, you can fully embrace the joys of owning an Icelandic Sheepdog and be part of a community that shares the same passion and love for this wonderful breed.


In conclusion, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a unique and fascinating breed with a rich history and exceptional traits. As the only native breed of Iceland, it holds a special place in the hearts of dog enthusiasts. The Icelandic Sheepdog’s loving and friendly nature, combined with its intelligence and herding instincts, make it an excellent companion for active families.

However, owning an Icelandic Sheepdog comes with responsibilities. This breed requires regular exercise, proper training, and consistent socialization to thrive. Its thick, double coat also demands regular grooming to keep it healthy and free from mats.

But for those willing to put in the effort, the rewards are immeasurable. The Icelandic Sheepdog’s loyalty, playfulness, and natural beauty make it a beloved member of the family. Whether participating in herding trials, agility competitions, or simply enjoying long walks together, the Icelandic Sheepdog brings joy and fulfillment to its owners.

So, if you’re looking for a versatile and loving companion, consider the Icelandic Sheepdog. With the right care and attention, this breed will bring years of happiness and unforgettable moments to your life.

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