Life span: 14-15 years
Height: 16 – 18 inches
Weight: 20 – 30 lbs.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is believed to have originated from other dog breeds that were brought to Iceland with the Vikings. It is a medium-sized breed of the Spitz type that is closely related to the Norwegian Buhund and the Shetland Sheepdog. Like many Spitzs’, the Icelandic Sheepdog has a foxlike face, a thick coat of hair that comes in a wide range of colors, and, of course, a curling tail.
This happy dog is perfect if you want a friendly dog that does not bite nor is aggressive to anyone, but might be a terrible watchdog for the same reason that it sees everyone as its friend! They are also active dogs that require a fair amount of attention!
The ears are small and stand erect, with a small tail that curls over its body. The eyes are brown with a black or brown nose. Their thick double coat is waterproof and can be either the short type or long type. Short types have a soft and thick undercoat, and a medium length overcoat that is rough to the touch. Long types have a soft and thick undercoat, and a long overcoat that is rough to the touch. On both, the hair on the tail is longer, and the hair on its face, head and ears is shorter. Coat colors include black, grey, light grey, brown, light brown, and cream colored. They may also have irregular white markings or, in the case of the grey and brown coats, black markings.
Originating in Iceland, it is believed that the ancestors of the Icelandic Sheepdog were brought by the Vikings during the 9th century, and that the Icelandic Sheepdog itself was brought into Iceland from Norway, were graves have been discovered with similar dogs. They were originally used as protectors for sheep. This breed is related to the Karelian Bear. In the 19th century they nearly became extinct due to a plague of canine distemper, in which more than 75% of the breed was killed. Dog imports into Iceland were then limited, and eventually banned in 1901. In the 20th century, the Icelandic Sheepdog faced extinction yet again, with only 50 dogs left in the 1950s, causing the Icelandic Dog Breed Association to be created in order to save the breed in 1969. In 2010 the American Kennel Club recognized the breed, which is now far from extinction.
This happy dog is loving with just about everyone, even strangers. However, it may bark if it senses someone coming into its territory, but will befriend them as soon as they see them. Due to its history, it does not get along well with birds of any kind, and in various occasions may look up at the sky searching for birds. They are not quiet dogs, and will often bark. Daily playtime is a necessity for this breed, as they need to feel as an important part of the family, and cannot be left alone for long periods of time. Although easy to train, they still have herding instincts and might therefore chase after cars, so be sure to keep them within a fenced area or in a leash during walks.
This breed is very healthy, and rarely suffers from any diseases. They can, however, suffer from:
Hip dysplasia, a hereditary disease in which there is an abnormal formation in the hip socket, that may eventually cause painful arthritis. It may also be affected by the environment they reside in.
Patellar Luxation, a disease where their kneecaps are slightly out of place or even dislocated, although this disease is genetic, it can also happen through injuries.
Their coats should be brushed weekly, unless it is shedding season, in which case brushing should be done daily. Their nails should be trimmed regularly, as well as their teeth brushed and ears checked for any dirt to prevent infections. They are not overly energetic, but are meant to have daily exercise, preferably in the form of long walks or hikes as well as play sessions. Training is easy given that they love to please their owners and are highly intelligent. Positive reinforcement works best for this breed.