The Icelandic Sheepdog, as its name would suggest, originated in Iceland as a result of Viking habitation. The breed is Spitz-like in appearance and, at different points in its history, has bordered on extinction. Many think this breed is a predecessor to modern breeds such as Shetland Sheepdog and Welsh Corgi.
History and Origin of the Icelandic Sheepdog
Iceland’s only native breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog is thought to have migrated to Iceland with early Viking settlers in the first century. The breed was able to adapt to the rugged terrain and cold temperatures and became a necessity for livestock keeping and herding. An epidemic of canine distemper and plague almost destroyed the breed in the late 19th century, and for a time, Iceland banned all imported dogs into the country. Although the breed continues to be limited in number, it is no longer considered to be teetering on the brink of extinction.
Appearance and Size of the Icelandic Sheepdog
The breed is approximately 12-16 inches in height and weighs from 20-30 pounds. The double coat may be short or long, but in either case, it is very thick and weatherproof to withstand the bitter coldness of its native environment. Other characteristics include pricked ears, a curling tail, black lips, and double dewclaws on the forelegs.
Personality of the Icelandic Sheepdog
Confident, intelligent, energetic, inquisitive, and hardy are all words commonly used to describe the Icelandic Sheepdog. They are excellent watchdogs and loving family companions. A highly active breed, they desire daily exercise such as walks or hikes. Many an Icelandic Sheepdog has also excelled in dog sports such as herding, fly ball, or agility.
Home and Family Relations with the Icelandic Sheepdog
The breed is known for being friendly and devoted to its family. The Icelandic Sheepdog adores children and is very playful. The breed also coexists peacefully in multiple pet households.
Training of the Icelandic Sheepdog
The Icelandic Sheepdog is known for its intelligence and hardworking tendencies. As such, training sessions with use of positive reinforcements are the most beneficial. The breed desires to please its owner and strives to learn.
Grooming of the Icelandic Sheepdog
Because of their thick double coat, weekly brushing at minimum is recommended. They may require more frequent brushing twice a year during shedding seasons. Regular trimming of the nails, including the double dew claws, and routine cleaning of the ears and teeth is also recommended.
Special Care of the Icelandic Sheepdog
Because of their tendency to develop close bonds to family members, the breed has, at times, been observed to demonstrate anxiety during periods of separation. Early training and positive reinforcement during stressful situations can help alleviate this issue. The Icelandic Sheepdog is also highly energetic and can become destructive if not routinely and adequately exercised.
Common Diseases and Disorders of the Icelandic Sheepdog
The following disorders or conditions have been observed in this breed:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
- Retinal dysplasia
Life Span of the Icelandic Sheepdog
The average life span of the Icelandic Sheepdog is approximately 12 years.