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  • Temperament: Friendly, Energetic, Watchful
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 163 of 194
  • Height: 12.5-13.75 inches (male), 11.5-12.75 inches (female)
  • Weight: 20-35 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Swedish Vallhund standing sideways facing right, head turned forward

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Swedish Vallhund is a small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog. The correct relationship of height to length of body is 2:3. The SV has a wedge-shaped head, prick ears, and a close-fitting hard coat of medium length and sable coloring. The double coat and the characteristic “harness markings” are essential features of this breed. Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked. The appearance of the Swedish Vallhund conveys intelligence, alertness and energy. Balance, outline, temperament and movement are of overriding importance.

HEAD

Rather long and clean. Viewed from above, the head forms an even wedge from skull to tip of nose and is well filled-in under the eyes. Eyes – Medium size, oval in shape and dark brown with black eye rims. Ears – Medium size, pointed, prick. Set at the outer edge of the skull above a line drawn from the corner of the eye. Ear leather should be firm from base to tip, smooth-haired and mobile. The dog should make good use of them.

BODY

Neck – Long, strongly muscled with good reach. Topline – Level when standing or moving. Body – Chest – Good depth. The ribcage is long with fairly well sprung ribs. Viewed from the front, the chest should be oval; from the side, elliptical. In a mature dog it should reach down two-fifths of the length of the forelegs and, when viewed from the side, the lowest point of the chest is immediately behind the back part of the foreleg.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – Strongly-muscled. Shoulder blades – Long and well laid back. Upper arms – Slightly shorter than the shoulder blades, set at an approximate 90 degree angle, close fitting to ribs, but still very mobile. A line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from the tip of the shoulder blade through the elbow to the ground. Elbows – Move parallel to the body, turning neither in nor out. Forearms – When viewed from the front, slightly curved to give free action against the lower part of the chest; the pasterns and feet are parallel. Viewed from the side the forearms are straight. The height from ground to elbow is almost half the height from ground to withers. Legs – Well boned. Patterns – Slightly sloping, elastic.

COAT

Medium length hair, harsh; topcoat close and tight. Undercoat is soft and dense. Hair is short on the head and the foreparts of the legs and slightly longer on neck, chest and back parts of the hind legs. Dogs are to be shown in an untrimmed, natural state. Faults include woolly, curly, or open coats. Fluffy coats (longer hair on body and furnishings, with ear fringes) are a serious fault.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – To balance the front. Well angulated at stifle and hock. Legs – Well boned. Upper and lower thighs are strongly muscled. Lower thigh is slightly longer than the distance from hock to ground. Stifles – Well bent. Hocks (Metatarsal bones) – Perpendicular to the ground and viewed from the rear, parallel. Feet, toes and pads – Same as forefeet.

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swedish vallhund illustration

About the Swedish Vallhund

With their thick sable coat, sturdy construction, and overall no-frills look, Vallhunds are a timeless breed, as comfortable in a suburban backyard as they were on the prow of Viking longships 1,200 years ago. These lively herders are built long and low the ground—in not quite as exaggerated a fashion as their distant cousins the corgis, but the idea is the same: Their build makes it easier to nip at the heels of cattle and avoid kicks to the head. Balance, power, and smooth movement are breed hallmarks.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Swedish Vallhund

Find a Puppy: Swedish Vallhund

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Care

NUTRITION

The main thing when feeding Swedish Vallhunds is to keep in mind that the dog’s body condition (there are many easy-to-follow dog body condition charts available for free online) is what matters, not how much food is measured into the bowl. Most Vallhunds are “easy keepers” and need less food than one would think, even if they’re very active. They tend to become overweight easily, even if they get a lot of exercise. Owners should not free-feed Vallhunds (or any dog)—it’s not normal for dogs to graze, and it makes it difficult to know quickly if the dog isn’t eating well. Meal-feeding is more biologically appropriate for dogs and makes housetraining and management simpler.

GROOMING

Swedish Vallhunds need a good, down-to-the-skin brushing occasionally, a bath when they get dirty, and regular shedding their undercoat twice a year—which will make you wonder just how many dogs you have, going by the snowdrifts of hair—they are very easy dogs to manage when it comes to grooming. When they are shedding, a warm bath and good massage when shampooing, followed by drying with a dryer and a thorough brushing, can get rid of the worst of it.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Occasional Bath/Brush

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

There is quite a bit of individual variability in terms of exercise needs in the breed. Some Swedish Vallhunds have more energy than others. Keep in mind that while this isn’t a breed intended to run all day, the Vallhund is a working farm dog and needs regular exercise. One decent walk daily with some time playing fetch or performing a sport or other activity is likely adequate for most Vallhunds, but some need more. They also need mental exercise in addition to their physical exercise. Puzzle games, clicker training, and participating in a sport can all contribute to their mental and physical wellbeing.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Needs Lots of Activity

TRAINING

Most Vallhunds should want to work with you; that’s one of the hallmarks of the breed. They do best with positive, reward-based training, since most just need to understand what you want. Keep in mind that this is a cattle-herding breed. They’re strong willed (as they need to be to do their job), and your goal should be to get the dog to work happily with you. Most do extremely well with clicker training, and most are very biddable.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

There is some incidence in the breed of hip dysplasia (as with most breeds), and the breed can be affected by an eye issue called Swedish Vallhund retinopathy. A genetic test for this was developed in 2017. In most dogs who have the first stage of the disease, it does not progress and does not affect vision. If it does progress to the second stage, affected dogs may have some reduction in night vision, but day vision is unaffected. In the rare cases which progress to the third stage, vision may be significantly affected, and a few dogs have gone blind, but almost all are older dogs with additional issues such as cataracts, which also affect vision. Testing, and being aware of how this issue appears in bloodlines, while taking a sensible and balanced approach to which dogs to breed together, makes the most sense at this time, in order to avoid losing genetic diversity over an issue with minimal effect on most dogs who have it.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • SV Retinopathy DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Swedish Vallhund
Swedish Vallhund
Swedish Vallhund

History

Between the 8th and 11th centuries, seaborn Vikings from Scandinavia raided, conquered, and settled vast areas of Britain. Traces of Viking influence can still be seen in the Scandinavian place names around the British Isles. Another reminder of Britain’s Viking past is the Vallhund, thought to be a cross of Scandinavian spitz dogs with Welsh corgis. Exactly when and where the breed was developed is unknown, but we do know that for centuries Vallhunds were rugged cattle dogs and all-purpose farmhands in western Sweden.

Did You Know?

The Swedish Vallhund is AKC's 156th breed.
The Swedish Vallhund is also known as Vastgotaspets and Swedish Cattledog.
The Swedish Vallhund is considered an ancient breed. Sweden says the Swedish Vallhund goes back well over 1,000 years and that it is an original species meaning it did not (come from another breed of dog).
The Swedish Vallhund comes naturally with no tail (bobtail), stub tail or full curl tail.
The Swedish Vallhund is pictured on a number of countries' stamps: Sweden, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Mali, Russia, Tajikastan, Altay...but not yet in the USA postage stamps.
The first Swedish Vallhund litter in the United States was bred by Marilyn Thell of Jonricker Kennel in 1986.
The Swedish Vallhund almost became extinct in Sweden in 1942 but was rescued from that fate when count Bjorn von Rosen of Sweden became involved.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Swedish Vallhund is a small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog. The correct relationship of height to length of body is 2:3. The SV has a wedge-shaped head, prick ears, and a close-fitting hard coat of medium length and sable coloring. The double coat and the characteristic “harness markings” are essential features of this breed. Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked. The appearance of the Swedish Vallhund conveys intelligence, alertness and energy. Balance, outline, temperament and movement are of overriding importance.

HEAD

Rather long and clean. Viewed from above, the head forms an even wedge from skull to tip of nose and is well filled-in under the eyes. Eyes – Medium size, oval in shape and dark brown with black eye rims. Ears – Medium size, pointed, prick. Set at the outer edge of the skull above a line drawn from the corner of the eye. Ear leather should be firm from base to tip, smooth-haired and mobile. The dog should make good use of them.

BODY

Neck – Long, strongly muscled with good reach. Topline – Level when standing or moving. Body – Chest – Good depth. The ribcage is long with fairly well sprung ribs. Viewed from the front, the chest should be oval; from the side, elliptical. In a mature dog it should reach down two-fifths of the length of the forelegs and, when viewed from the side, the lowest point of the chest is immediately behind the back part of the foreleg.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – Strongly-muscled. Shoulder blades – Long and well laid back. Upper arms – Slightly shorter than the shoulder blades, set at an approximate 90 degree angle, close fitting to ribs, but still very mobile. A line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from the tip of the shoulder blade through the elbow to the ground. Elbows – Move parallel to the body, turning neither in nor out. Forearms – When viewed from the front, slightly curved to give free action against the lower part of the chest; the pasterns and feet are parallel. Viewed from the side the forearms are straight. The height from ground to elbow is almost half the height from ground to withers. Legs – Well boned. Patterns – Slightly sloping, elastic.

COAT

Medium length hair, harsh; topcoat close and tight. Undercoat is soft and dense. Hair is short on the head and the foreparts of the legs and slightly longer on neck, chest and back parts of the hind legs. Dogs are to be shown in an untrimmed, natural state. Faults include woolly, curly, or open coats. Fluffy coats (longer hair on body and furnishings, with ear fringes) are a serious fault.

HINDQUARTERS

Angulation – To balance the front. Well angulated at stifle and hock. Legs – Well boned. Upper and lower thighs are strongly muscled. Lower thigh is slightly longer than the distance from hock to ground. Stifles – Well bent. Hocks (Metatarsal bones) – Perpendicular to the ground and viewed from the rear, parallel. Feet, toes and pads – Same as forefeet.

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swedish vallhund illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
GRAY Check Mark For Standard Color 100
RED Check Mark For Standard Color 140
BLACK 007
BLUE 037
WHITE 199
YELLOW 232

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
SABLE Check Mark For Standard Mark 026
WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 014