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Icelandic Sheepdog sitting facing right, head turned left.
Mikkel Bigandt /
  • Icelandic Sheepdogs are as old as Iceland itself, with ancestors dating back to the 9th century.
  • They were bred to safeguard and herd livestock and maintain those instincts today.
  • A sociable Spitz breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog enjoys the company of people.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s only native dog breed, and the breed is as old as the nation itself. The ancestors of these Nordic spitz dogs arrived on the island with its first human inhabitants in the late 800s, and were used to herd and guard sheep, horses, and cattle. They were brought to the United States in the 1950s, following concerns about potential extinction, and today, these small-to-mid-sized working dogs make loyal, loving family pets.

Here’s everything else you need to know about the Icelandic Sheepdog:

1. Icelandic Sheepdogs are loving, friendly, and playful.

These affectionate dogs like to be at the heart of family life, and make very loyal companions. They’re good with children, and since they reach just 18 inches at the shoulder, they’re small enough to not pose a hazard around young children.

2. Originally bred as herders, these pups love rounding up livestock.

They were bred by Iceland’s early settlers to safeguard livestock and bring sheep down from the mountains in fall. Unusually for herding dogs, they work independently and by instinct, rather than following a master. This requires them to be hard-working, highly alert, intelligent, hardy, and agile dogs — qualities they retain to this day.

3. A wide range of dog sports are enjoyed by Iceland Sheepdogs.

Their natural instincts make them stand out at Herding trials, but with their quick wits and eagerness to please, they also enjoy and excel in Agility, Rally, Obedience, Tracking, Barn Hunting, Coursing, and Trick Dog. It’s simply a matter of finding the sport your particular dog loves most.

4. These cattle-crazy herders should be kept in a well-secured yard.

The herding instinct is strong in these pups. In the absence of a flock to mind, they have been known to attempt herding cars — which makes a secure fence essential.

5. Be prepared for some heavy shedding.

Those beautiful coats are made up of two layers: a long outer coat and a thick undercoat. They shed year-round, and even more so in their twice-yearly shedding season. They should be brushed once a week to keep the coat looking its best and keep hairs from collecting around the house.

6. Like other sociable Spitz breeds, these pups love people.

Similar to the Keeshond and Norwegian Elkhound, these friendly dogs thrive on company, and they don’t deal well with being left alone for long periods of time.

Icelandic Sheepdog running outdoors in sunlight.

7. Exercise is essential for these high-energy dogs.

They’ll need at least one good walk every day as well as playtime, and they’ll happily accompany you on a long hike. As long as they’ve had enough exercise, they’re relatively tranquil in the house.

8. Icelandic Sheepdogs tend to be easy to train.

These working dogs are very intelligent, friendly, and eager to please, which makes puppy classes and obedience training fun for dog and owner alike. Positive reinforcement works best — they don’t respond well to harsh training methods.

9. Overall, Icelandic Sheepdogs are generally a hardy, healthy breed.

Though mostly a robust breed, Icelandic Sheepdogs are prone to a few health disorders, such as elbow and hip dysplasia, and problems with their kneecaps and eyes. If you buy from a reputable breeder, they will have screened their breeding stock for these diseases, and will be able to show you certification of the parents’ good health.

10. Birds and Icelandic Sheepdogs don’t mix well.

In the breed’s early days, they were used to keep sheep safe from birds of prey. Today, Icelandic Sheepdogs are still known to watch the sky and bark at birds, or anything else that moves fast and might be seen as a predator.

Purchasing and Registering your Icelandic Sheepdog

Think the friendly, intelligent Icelandic Sheepdog is the breed for you? Check out Icelandic Sheepdog puppies on the AKC Marketplace.

After becoming the owner of an Icelandic Sheepdog, it is important to register your dog. Why? The AKC is the only purebred dog registry in the United States that maintains an investigation and inspection effort. The AKC conducts thousands of inspections each year to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of dogs and the environments in which they live.

You can register your dog here, and you will receive your official AKC certificate in the mail. There are many other benefits, including a complimentary first vet visit, 30 days of pet insurance, and eligibility to compete in AKC events and sports.

Icelandic Sheepdog Products You May Like:

I Herd You T-Shirt

These cotton blend tees are embellished with Teddy the herding dog himself, along with his funny (and punny) witticisms. The tees fit just right, not snug or boxy, and come in lots of fun colors. Price: $32

Icelandic Sheepdog Beverage Tumbler

Take your Icelandic Sheepdog everywhere you go…or at least an image of them. This acrylic drink tumbler is ready for your favorite refreshment, complete with lid and straw. Price: $25


Learn About Other Herding Breeds

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Finnish Lapphund
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