AKC group: Herding
UKC group: Herding Group
Average lifespan: 11-14 years
Average size: 20 – 30 pounds
Coat appearance: medium or longer, always with a thick, soft undercoat
Coloration: Tan, reddish-brown, chocolate, gray, black, white is a prominent required color
Best Suited For: Families with children, active singles, houses with yards, farms/rural areas
The breed is sometimes denoted in Latin as canis islandicus, though it is a breed and not a species.
As the name implies, it is a sheep dog, but is also used as a watch dog and general working dog. When herding, the Icelandic Sheepdogs were not mainly used to take the sheep from one point to another, but to prevent animals from straying. Additionally, the dogs were in charge of herding horses and other animals, as well. When herding failed, the dogs drove the animals by barking. Thus, they tend to bark when they want something, although this behaviour can be controlled by training.
|The Icelandic Sheepdog often has
two dewclaws on each hind leg.
In the Icelandic landscape, sheep often get lost and it has historically been the dog’s job to find them and return them to the herd. They are, therefore, used to working on their own and to figuring things out for themselves, so owners have to beware lest they learn things they should not. As a watch dog, their main task was to alert the inhabitants when somebody was coming, so these dogs tend to bark a lot when they see people approaching.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is very loyal and wants to be around its family constantly. It follows its owner everywhere. Unlike most working dogs, these calm down when indoors and happily lie down at their master’s feet.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is native to, yes, Iceland — the only breed that originated there. It’s thought that Vikings brought the ancestors of this breed with them to Iceland in the 9th century. The dogs were used to protect flocks, especially lambs, from birds of prey.
The breed has been brought from near-extinction in the 1950s, when only about 50 of the dogs remained, to a population of more than 800 in the United States alone. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed as a member of the Herding Group in 2010.
This breed is prone to separation anxiety, so it is not recommended as an outside-only dog. The breed is social, affectionate, playful and friendly, making it a great option for families.
Icelandic sheepdogs are great with children, other dogs and smaller pets. The prey drive is not strong in this breed, so smaller pets should be welcomed by them. Always supervise your dog with smaller animals because the hunting instincts can vary depending on the individual dog. Calm but firm training is recommended.
Icelandic sheepdogs bark when active, working or excited, so apartment residents should take this into consideration.
The Icelandic Sheepdog generally has little health issues with an average life expectancy of 12 to 16 years. Main health concerns associated with the Icelandic Sheepdog include hip dysplasia and an eye disorder called distichiasis.
With such a thick coat, this dog breed does require weekly brushing.
An active exercise plan is best for the Icelandic Sheepdog. It should never be left alone for too long as isolation may result in anxiety issues.
The Icelandic Sheepdog needs a lot of activity and exercise and needs close contact to the family. Many of these dogs have “home-alone anxiety” problems, because they don’t like to be home alone.
As a breed, Icelandic Sheepdogs are smart, willing and eager to please. This makes them pretty easy to train. However, because they are so intelligent and enthusiastic, they should be kept challenged with a variety of different training, exercise and play activities, so that they don’t become bored. It can be helpful to rotate their activities every few days, to keep them alert and happy.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are active, athletic, energetic animals that need lots of exercise to keep them in tip-top physical and mental shape. They enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities
, such as taking long rambling walks with their owners, romping at the dog park and frolicking at the beach or along a river. They love to play with other dogs. They also love to participate in obedience, agility, utility, flyball, herding and other competitive dog sports, at which they excel.
The Icelandic’s coat of many colors can be short or long, with both lengths having an outer coat and an undercoat.
Brush the Icie’s coat once or twice a week to remove loose fur and reduce the amount of hair you find floating around the house or attached to your clothes. Be sure you have a good vacuum cleaner to keep your home tidy. Icie lovers say he doesn’t shed as much as you might think, but don’t get this breed thinking that he is a low shedder.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. You may also want to clip the tufts of hair between the toes, but other than that, the coat needs no trimming. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.
Is the Icelandic Sheepdog the Right Breed for you?
Moderate Maintenance: Regular grooming is required to keep its fur in good shape. Professional trimming or stripping needed.
Moderately Easy Training: The Icelandic Sheepdog is average when it comes to training. Results will come gradually.
Very Active: It will need daily exercise to maintain its shape. Committed and active owners will enjoy performing fitness activities with this breed.
Not Good for New Owners: This breed is best for those who have previous experience with dog ownership.
Good with Kids: This is a suitable breed for kids and is known to be playful, energetic, and affectionate around them.
Did You Know?
The Icelandic Sheepdog is also known as the Iceland Spitz.