Complete Guide To The Icelandic Sheepdog: Health, Personality, Grooming and More

Maintaining much of its original look, the Icelandic Sheepdog originated with the Vikings as early as the 9th century. Long used to protect flocks of sheep, the Icelandic Sheepdog is able, athletic, and protective. Today, this dog makes an ideal pet as a consummate people-pleaser who is easy to train and exceptionally affectionate.  

This breed was only accepted into the AKC in 2010 making them a relatively new breed. They aren’t very common in the States but they can still be found here. If you’re interested in the breed, read further to find out if this unique dog is a good fit for you.

How Big Do Icelandic Sheepdogs Get?

HeightWeight
Male18″ at the shoulder30 lbs
Female16.5″ at the shoulder25 lbs

What Do Icelandic Sheepdogs Look Like?

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a type of Spitz and is a small to medium-sized dog. This dog has a very thick double coat designed to keep this dog warm in the cold Icelandic climate. The coat can be either medium length or longer and consists of a top, waterproof layer, and thick and soft undercoat.

The fur can be either wavy or straight and comes in several shades. This dog may be tan, brown, red-brown, gray, or black. White markings with any color are acceptable, as well as a black mask. The dog has a trademark bushy tail.  

What Is The Personality Of An Icelandic Sheepdog?

This little Spitz is charming and affectionate and is a people-pleaser at its core. The dog is very loyal and attached to all members of the family, including children. Male dogs tend to be more cuddly and laid back compared to females. The little dog is happy to take new commands and is easy to train. Never use harsh commands with this dog, and always use positive reinforcement to get the most out of your Icelandic Sheepdog.  

The Icelandic Sheepdog loves to be part of the family and expects to be included in every aspect of day-to-day life. If left alone for long periods, they can become unhappy and adopt nuisance behaviors. Although this is a small dog, they are not well-suited to apartment life due to their high energy.  

Icelandic Sheepdog Leaping Over a Jump at Dog Agility Trial

How Much Grooming Does A Icelandic Sheepdog Need?

Judging by the thick double coat, this little dog has some intense grooming requirements. The dog will shed very regularly, which worsens about twice per year, usually with the changing seasons. Owners must brush the Icelandic Sheepdog about once per week to remove any snags or tangles in the fur that could lead to painful matting.

Only bathe when necessary to remove dirt and debris. Be sure to keep the nails trimmed short if they are not naturally worn short by walking over rough surfaces.

How Much Exercise Does A Icelandic Sheepdog Need?

While these dogs may be small, they are extremely high energy and need to be properly exercised to keep them happy and healthy. This little dog enjoys a long walk or hike, as well as lively play sessions every day. Because the Icelandic Sheepdog is so easily trained, it excels at canine athletic competitions.

Consider enrolling your dog in trackingherding, obedience, rally, or agility competitions. Not only will this keep your dog physically exercised, but it will help to keep your dog mentally active and engaged. Plus, it gives your Icelandic Sheepdog the perfect opportunity to spend time with its beloved family.  

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A Icelandic Sheepdog?

Icelandic Sheepdogs don’t tend to need any particular type of dog food. They’re pretty easy to feed.

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

Best Puppy Food For Icelandic Sheepdogs:

Best Adult Food For Icelandic Sheepdogs:

How Long Does A Icelandic Sheepdog Live?

12-14 years according to information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Icelandic Sheepdog Have?

This is a breed with a pretty small population in America so there’s not a lot of health statistics out there to investigate. As a spitz-type herding dog, the biggest issues would be related to injuries and issues related to their living and working conditions.

Where Can I Find Out More About The Icelandic Sheepdog?

Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find an Icelandic Sheepdog?

Although there is so much to love about the Icelandic Sheepdog, this can be a difficult dog to find. Expect some extended wait times to get a puppy from a trusted and reputable breeder. Always make sure the breeder is knowledgeable about the dog breed and practices safe breeding standards that adhere to the code of ethics. Your puppy should receive basic health certifications to guarantee a lifetime of health.

To begin your search, start at the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America. Not only will you be able to find a list of reputable breeders, but you will be able to find members of the club that are actively breeding this type of dog. The association is also highly informative and will help you determine if this little Spitz is the right breed of dog for you.  

Looking for a Rescue? The National Icelandic Sheepdog Rescue Association is the place to start!

Fun Facts About the Icelandic Sheepdog

  • This breed of dog is the only dog species that is native to Iceland. It is considered a Spitz, a family of dogs categorized by their foxy face, thick coat, and bushy curling tail. There are about 50 different types of Spitz breeds, all coming from the world’s northern regions.  
  • The Icelandic Spitz was thought to have originated with the Vikings. The dog was used to protect lambs and sheep from birds of prey. Today, many Icelandic Sheepdogs will still instinctively watch the sky and bark at birds, attempting to protect their family.  
  • This breed of dog originally came to Iceland in the 9th century. Because Iceland is such an isolated country, the dog remained essentially unchanged, and the Icelandic Sheepdog known today is remarkably similar to its ancient ancestors.