Life without a Icelandic is like dancing with no music – you can still do it,
but it’s not as much fun!” – Unknown
The Iceland Sheepdog, known outside North America as the Icelandic Sheepdog, is a member of the Spitz or Nordic group of dogs.As his name suggests, he is a native of Iceland and was originally brought to that country by Viking settlers around 850 AD.
This intelligent and adaptable dog soon accustomed himself to the terrain of Iceland and became invaluable as a livestock herder and drover on the farms. He was used as a general working dog and watch dog but he was primarily a sheep dog. His job was to prevent sheep from straying and find lost animals. He was also used to herd horses and other animals.
In the late 1800s, over 75% of the native dogs had been lost to diseases such as the plague and canine distemper which had been brought to the country by outside dogs. This led to a ban on the importation of dogs to Iceland. Brought back from the brink of extinction, the Icelandic Sheepdog is still considered rare in this country.
Iceland’s only native dog has a happy and gentle expression. With a confident and lively air, he presents an alert, affectionate personality. Although smaller than most of the northern dogs, the Icelandic Sheepdog is hardy and agile and possesses plenty of endurance. He easily moves over varied and difficult terrain.
Photos displayed courtesy of Trisha Sheehan, OSheehan’s Perm Reg’d, British Columbia
The Icelandic Sheepdog is a strongly-built dog but stands no more than 18 inches (46 cm) tall at the shoulder.
He has a thick, weather-proof double coat that is either short haired or long haired. The coat has a predominant colour in shades of tan (from cream to dark red), chocolate brown, grey, black tri-colour, or pied (patches of the above colours on white). White always accompanies the predominant colour. The most common white markings are a blaze, collar, chest, socks, and tip of tail. Lighter shading often occurs on the underside of the dog from throat to tip of tail. Like other Spitz dogs, the Icelandic Sheepdog carries his tail curled up over his back.
A dog who is accustomed to having a job to do, the Icelandic Sheepdog is intelligent and easy to train as he learns very quickly. He makes a good watchdog but is not aggressive. These dogs do have a tendency to bark a lot. They drove animals by barking if herding was unsuccessful. Their instinct is to bark when they want something. As watchdogs, they barked with the approach of people. This behaviour can be controlled through early training.
As the dog’s job has been to roam over the hillsides locating lost sheep and returning them to the herd, this breed has developed to work independently and solve his own problems.
This dog loves the great outdoors, and regular exercise should keep him mentally and physically stimulated. Cheerful, friendly, inquisitive and playful, the Icelandic Sheepdog makes an enthusiastic companion who will adapt to suburban life as well as country living.