Icelandic Sheepdog: The Ultimate Dog Guide

Icelandic Sheepdog


Meet the Icelandic Sheepdog, a remarkable breed from the beautiful Nordic region of Iceland. These lovable dogs are known for their intelligence, agility, and loyalty, making them superb companions in various settings. Icelandic Sheepdogs have been a part of Iceland’s history and culture for centuries. They were brought to Iceland by the Vikings, becoming an integral part of the community, helping with herding livestock, and keeping predators at bay.

Characteristic Details
Breed Icelandic Sheepdog
Origin Iceland
Size Medium (20 to 30 pounds)
Coat Colors Black, Brown, Tan, White, and Combinations
Temperament Friendly, Energetic, Loyal
Life Expectancy 12 to 15 years
Diet High-quality dog food suitable for their age, size, and energy level
Exercise Needs High (Needs plenty of physical and mental stimulation)
Training Needs Responds well to positive reinforcement; early socialization recommended
Grooming Regular brushing to maintain a healthy coat
Common Health Issues Hip Dysplasia, Eye Disorders, Icelandic Sheepdog Neuropathy

Origin and History of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Origins of the Icelandic Sheepdog

The roots of the Icelandic Sheepdog can be traced back over a thousand years when Vikings first settled in Iceland. These dogs were essential to the survival of settlers, assisting in managing livestock and safeguarding the home.

Role in Icelandic Culture and Livelihood

From herding sheep in the rugged highlands to being the family’s beloved pet, Icelandic Sheepdogs have always held a special place in the hearts of Icelanders. They were often portrayed in folk tales and local lore, highlighting their importance in Icelandic life.

The threat of Extinction and Revival Efforts

Icelandic Sheepdogs faced near-extinction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to disease outbreaks. However, thanks to concerted breeding programs and dedicated dog lovers, the breed has made a remarkable comeback and is now thriving.

Physical Characteristics of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Size and Weight

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a medium-sized breed, typically weighing between 20 to 30 pounds. Their compact size makes them well-suited for harsh weather and the rough Icelandic terrain.

Coat and Colors

One of the distinguishing features of the Icelandic Sheepdog is its thick and weather-resistant double coat. They can come in a variety of colors including black, brown, tan, white, and combinations thereof.

Physical Distinctions

Apart from their beautiful coats, Icelandic Sheepdogs have a few other notable physical features. These include their bushy tail that curls over their back, erect ears, and expressive almond-shaped eyes.

Temperament and Personality of the Icelandic Sheepdog

General Temperament

Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their friendly, energetic, and outgoing nature. They are exceptionally loyal and enjoy being part of a family or a working team.

Interaction with Humans

These dogs are very affectionate, getting along well with both adults and children. Their alert nature and inherent protective instincts also make them excellent watchdogs.

Interaction with Other Animals

Being herding dogs, Icelandic Sheepdogs are naturally good with other animals. They are social creatures who enjoy the company of other dogs, although their herding instincts might surface around smaller pets.

Common Personality Traits

These dogs are highly intelligent and trainable, making them excellent participants in obedience, agility, and herding trials. They are also known for their playful and cheerful disposition, bringing joy to any household they are a part of.

Health and Lifespan of the Icelandic Sheepdog

General Health Issues

As a breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog is relatively healthy. However, like all breeds, they may be susceptible to certain genetic health conditions. Regular vet check-ups are crucial to ensure their well-being.

Common Diseases in Icelandic Sheepdogs

Some of the potential health issues in Icelandic Sheepdogs include hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and a condition called Icelandic Sheepdog Neuropathy. Early detection and intervention are vital in managing these health conditions.

Average Lifespan

On average, Icelandic Sheepdogs live between 12 to 15 years. Proper diet, regular exercise, and good veterinary care can contribute to their longevity.

Care for Aging Icelandic Sheepdogs

Older Icelandic Sheepdogs may require more specialized care, including adjustments to diet, more frequent health screenings, and accommodations for any physical limitations.

Training and Exercise Needs of the Icelandic Sheepdog

Training Needs and Tips

Icelandic Sheepdogs are quick learners and respond well to positive reinforcement training methods. Early socialization and obedience training are recommended.

Exercise Requirements

As an active and energetic breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog needs plenty of exercises to keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Daily walks, playtime, and puzzle games are all great options.

Ideal Activities for Icelandic Sheepdogs

Due to their intelligence and agility, Icelandic Sheepdogs excel in activities such as agility courses, herding trials, and fetch games. These activities can help channel their energy in a positive and rewarding way.

Grooming and Maintenance for the Icelandic Sheepdog

Coat Care and Grooming Needs

Icelandic Sheepdogs require regular grooming to maintain their coat’s health. Brushing several times a week can help prevent mats and keep the coat looking its best.

Dietary Requirements

A balanced and high-quality diet is essential for the Icelandic Sheepdog’s overall health. Consult with your vet to determine the best nutritional plan for your dog.

Regular Check-ups and Vaccinations

Regular veterinary check-ups and up-to-date vaccinations are critical to keeping your Icelandic Sheepdog in optimal health.

Living Conditions for the Icelandic Sheepdog

Suitability for Families and Children

Due to their friendly and loyal nature, Icelandic Sheepdogs make excellent family pets. They are gentle with children and can be a wonderful addition to a household.

Compatibility with Other Pets

Generally, Icelandic Sheepdogs get along well with other pets, especially if they are socialized from a young age. However, their herding instincts may kick in around smaller animals.

Ideal Living Conditions and Environment

While Icelandic Sheepdogs can adapt to a variety of living situations, they thrive in environments where they have plenty of space to run and play. A home with a yard is ideal, but they can also do well in apartments as long as they get enough exercise.

The Icelandic Sheepdog as a Working Dog

Historical Roles

Historically, Icelandic Sheepdogs were indispensable herding dogs. Their intelligence, agility, and stamina made them excellent at managing livestock in harsh Icelandic conditions.

Modern-Day Roles and Jobs

Today, besides being fantastic family pets, Icelandic Sheepdogs are also seen in various working roles, including therapy and assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, and in various dog sports competitions.

Ability in Competitions and Dog Sports

Their intelligence and trainability make the Icelandic Sheepdog a strong contender in various dog sports, including agility, obedience, and herding competitions.

Adoption and Purchase Considerations

Things to Consider Before Adoption or Purchase

Before bringing an Icelandic Sheepdog into your home, it’s important to consider whether you can meet their exercise, grooming, and health needs. These dogs require plenty of time, care, and attention.

Finding a Reputable Breeder or Rescue Organization

It’s essential to do your research and find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. A good breeder will prioritize health and temperament, and a reputable rescue can provide support and guidance throughout the adoption process.

Estimated Costs of Owning an Icelandic Sheepdog

Remember that owning a dog is not just a one-time expense. Costs such as food, grooming, vet care, and potential health issues should be factored into your decision.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is a wonderful breed with a rich history and vibrant personality. With their intelligent, loyal, and affectionate nature, these dogs can make excellent companions for the right individuals or families. Owning an Icelandic Sheepdog can be a rewarding experience filled with lots of activity, affection, and companionship. If you think this breed might be a good fit for you, take the time to do your research and prepare, and you will have a loyal and loving friend for life.


Sergey Uhanov, a certified veterinarian, has authored all of the content here. With over 20 years of experience in dog care and breeding three dogs of his own, he has a deep passion for these furry friends. Sergey owns a pet clinic in Israel where he provides care and treatment to dogs. He enjoys sharing his expertise and knowledge to assist others in caring for their dogs.

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