AKC Dog Breeds: Iceland Sheepdog

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Herding Group
Height: 22-28 inches   Weight: 20-30 pounds  
Color: golden sable, sandy yellow, red, black/white/tan, black and white

As Iceland's only native dog, this breed is considered to be one of the oldest breeds in the world. The Iceland Sheepdog is strong, robust, and well-built. They are highly regarded for their herding and guarding abilities. This breed is one of stamina and endurance. Iceland Sheepdog's are able to work on any type of terrain and in any type of weather. They possess a happy and gentle expression. Plague and canine distemper destroyed over 75% of the breed in the late 19th century, leading to a ban on the importation of dogs to Iceland. The purebred Icelandic sheepdog was again bordering extinction in the late 20th century and in 1969 the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association  was established to preserve the breed, among other aims.

General Appearance

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a Nordic herding spitz, slightly under medium size with the pointed muzzle, erect triangular ears, dense coat and curled tail typical of the Northern breeds. This is essentially a herding dog that evolved over many centuries in the harsh Icelandic climate. The coat should be very weather-resistant and of good quality. It is thicker and longer around the neck, forepart of the shoulders and chest, forming a ruff that is more profuse in the male than the female. The rump and hind legs down to the hocks are also covered with thicker, longer hair forming the characteristic breeches or trousers. The double coat consists of a short dense undercoat, with longer guard hairs growing through it forming the outer coat, which may be of either medium or long length. It may be straight or moderately wavy. Seen from the side, the dog is rectangular; the length is in proportion to height and in harmony with general appearance. Lips should be slightly curved up at the corners of the mouth, giving the characteristic smile. There should be a strong neck and back, straight front legs and especially strong loins. The normally angled shoulder and upper-arm should match the rear angulation. The chest is deep with well-sprung ribs. Hindquarters should be particularly well-developed, stifles well-bent. The plumed tail may be tightly or loosely curled and may be carried upright over the back or rest flat on it.


Temperament is of primary importance in Icelandic Sheepdogs. It is a hardy and agile herding dog that barks, making it extremely useful for herding or driving livestock in the pastures and in the mountains or finding lost sheep. Hunting instincts are not strong. The Icelandic Sheepdog is outgoing, cheerful, intelligent, inquisitive, playful, yet gentle and unafraid. Although it is not a watchdog, it will bark an enthusiastic welcome to announce the arrival of any visitor. It learns new tasks quickly and is eager to please. It is an affectionate companion and outgoing with both people and other dogs. A loyal, loving, and hard working breed, the Iceland Sheepdog is active, alert, and energetic. This breed is affectionate, gentle, and friendly. Iceland Sheepdog's do well with children and other pets. They are typically non-aggressive unless they sense danger. They form close attachments to their family and do not do well if left alone for extended periods of time. Most adore children and get along well with other dogs and pets. Owners need to be consistent with the rules, calm but firm.

The Iceland Sheepdog requires occasional brushing as this will minimize loose and dead hair. Dew claw nails must be regularly trimmed. Bathing should only be done when absolutely necessary.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
They have an average life span of around 12 years and are generally a healthy dog breed.

Activity Level

The Iceland Sheepdog breed is not recommended for apartment living. They require an inordinate amount of exercise, activity, and family interaction. This is a very active breed that needs to be exercised every day.  This breed needs to be taken on a daily walk or jog.  The Iceland Sheepdog requires a rural setting with room to roam and a job to do.


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