Icelandic Sheepdog – Full Breed Profile

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Icelandic Sheepdogs are playful and active dogs who thrive on human interaction. Could this be your next dog? Read on and discover.
Dog Breed Group:
Herding Dogs
16 to 18 inchestall at the shoulder
20 to 30 pounds
Life Span:
14 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Icelandic Sheepdog is the only native dog breed from Island.

With up to 18 inches and 30 pounds, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a playful and friendly dog of small-to-medium size.

This famous Nordic spitz-type breed is covered with a dense coat that is specially created to keep them warm during cold nights.

Icelandic Sheepdogs, or simply Icelandics are dogs who are passionately devoted to their humans. They are described as spitz dogs due to their dense coat, fox-like face, pointed ears, and famous bushy and curling tail.

With 18 inches at the shoulder, Icelandics are just a bit under what is considered medium-sized.

They come in many colors, but one trait is always present – their coat is always followed by white markings. These dogs are happy, friendly, and always excited to follow their people around.

This breed likes to bark. In fact, they are infamous for their barking. As true watchdogs, they will bark at anything they hear or see just to alert you.

As you may guess already, they aren’t much of guard dogs. Still, this is a great family dog, and thanks to their size they do not pose a hazard around young children.

Quick Facts

Real name: Icelandic Sheepdog
Other names: Icelandic Spitz, Iceland Dog, Íslenskur fjárhundur, Islandsk Fårehund, Friaar Dog, Canis Islandicus
Origin: Iceland
Breed type: Herding Dogs
Weight: 20 to 30 pounds
Height: 16 to 18 inchestall at the shoulder
Lifespan: 14 to 15 years
Litter Size: 4 – 8 puppies
Color: White and cream, grey and white, white and yellow. black and wehite, gold and white, chocolate and white
Coat: Double coat

Icelandic Sheepdog History

Icelandic Sheepdog is the only breed to have originated in Iceland.

Native to Iceland, this breed is one of the world’s oldest breeds alive. Dog historians believe that these active dogs got to know the Vikings. This would make them the main dogs of the 9th century.

In the first records, they are described as active dogs who resemble a fox.

The 19th century was a very hard period for this breed. Canine distemper and plague destroyed up to 75% of the breed. This resulted in the government being very protective of these medium dogs.

In other words, the government banned the importation of dogs to Iceland. This was a national strategy to keep the number of Icelandic Sheepdogs up and to keep their purebred line.

Yet, this action wasn’t enough, because the breed was in second extinction in the late 20th century, which is why the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association (HRFÍ) was founded in 1969.

The Associations’ goal was to preserve the breed, which they have done successfully.

In 2010, the KAC officially recognized the breed, next to Cane Corso and Leonberger.

Icelandic Sheepdog Physical Appearance

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a Nordic herding Spitz, of medium size. This dog has easy-to-recognize prick ears and a curled tail.

They are confident dogs and their appearance only proves this. Seen from the side, these dogs are rectangular.

There are two types of coat, long and short. Both coats are thick and weatherproof. This smaller dog is ready for any harsh weather.

The skull is longer, eyes are of medium size, while the ears are erect.

As for the color, they come in many shades, with cream, reddish, chocolate, brown, grey, and black color being the most common.

White markings are always present, mostly as a part of the face, collar, chest, or as socks.

Females are slightly smaller than males. These dogs tend to have between 20 to 30 pounds, while they are 16 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder. As such, they’re very compact, making them suitable for both rural and city living areas.

Icelandic Sheepdog Personality

Icelandic Sheepdogs may be smaller in size, but that doesn’t stop them from having the big dog energy.

These dogs are tough and packed with energy. Nothing is impossible for them, as they are highly agile and hardy. This is why Icelandic Sheepdogs have spent centuries working as herding dogs.

Finding lost sheep was an everyday task for them. They are not known for being hunting dogs, although they are very alert.

Overall, these dogs are friendly and cheerful, while at the same time they are playful and fear-free. They should get along with children nicely, as long as they are well-trained, and properly socialized.

Children need to be well-educated on how to behave around dogs. This is how safe interaction is created, but children and dogs should know the basic rules.

This means that children should know how to interact with dogs safely. They must never pull their ears or make sudden moves toward them.

Also, disturbing them while eating, sleeping, drinking water, resting, or playing with toys in their crate should be off-limits.

On the other hand, dogs should know house dog rules and how to behave around house visitors.

Last but not least, every interaction between dogs and children should be supervised, no matter how well they might get along. This is how rough playtime and accidents are prevented.

Icelandic Sheepdog Training

Did you know that dogs are capable of mastering basic commands as of eight weeks of age?

Icelandic Sheepdogs are no expectation, and by the time they turn two month these dogs should know to ‘sit’, ‘come‘, and react on ‘no’.

By the time the socialization ends, they should know house rules, how to behave around house visitors, and how to walk on a leash. They tend to be easy to train if you have enough dog experience.

If training this dog seems like too much work, think about hiring a professional dog trainer, or enrolling him in puppy classes. This way you can speed up the training process and get some professional inputs on dog training.

To get the most out of training sessions, keep them fun, short, consistent, and packed with treats.

Use only positive training methods. Never punish your dog, nor use any form of negative training methods.

No dog should ever experience any harsh handling. Again, if you need support talk with other dog owners or professional dog trainers. Make sure that you know what does it mean to own a dog.

Icelandic Sheepdog Exercise

These dogs love being active.

To keep their bodies strong and their mind stimulated provide regular exercise. Not only that they will love the mental challenge, but exercise time will boost their overall health and especially their joints strong.

Plus, exercise is a great way to help dogs burn off that extra energy. Don’t forget that a happy dog is a tired dog.

Icelandic Sheepdogs will love intense workout time, hiking, or even participating in dog sports, such as agility, obedience, and flyball.

Icelandic Sheepdog Grooming

Icelandic Sheepdogs come with a double coat, commonly longer outer coat, and a dense and shorter undercoat. They do shed, and you can expect more intense shedding during the shedding season.

This means that during the spring and autumn season you should have a vacuum cleaner on hand – this is something that Siberian Husky owners know very well. Since Icelandic Sheepdog resembles a popular Husky, you should think about grooming in advance. Otherwise, provide regular brushing once to twice per week.

To make brushing a fast and stress-and-tangles-free process use a slicker brush or metal comb.

Grooming is always easier when you use the right grooming tools.

The rest is basic care:

  • Trim or grind nails monthly
  • Bathe only when needed
  • Brush regularly
  • Check gums weekly
  • Check eyes daily for any sign of eye discharge

During the brushing session check the skin for any fleas, or signs of skin infection. If recommended brush your dog’s teeth.

Icelandic Sheepdog Health

Icelandic Sheepdogs are considered to be healthy.

Are you buying a dog? If yes, you should only deal with responsible dog breeders.

Responsible dog breeders will present you with medical documentation on the breed, inform you about any potential health issues in the future, and even show you the facilities and let you meet the bitch.

Expect a lot of questions from the breeder’s side, because they want to make sure that you are the best fit possible for his puppies.

Still, no matter how great care and nutrition you may serve, dogs can get sick. This means that certain health issues may appear, such as hip and elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation.

However, as long as you provide high-quality food, regular exercise, and regular veterinarian checkups your Icelandic Sheepdog should reach his senior years without any major health issues.

When it comes to a dog’s health the best way to keep him healthy is to provide prevention from regular checkups.

Is Icelandic Sheepdog For You?

Icelandic Sheepdogs are playful and active dogs. This is something to consider when getting this breed.

  • Do you love spending hours outdoors?
  • Is hiking or jogging a regular part of your week?
  • Do you mind brushing your Icelandic Sheepdog weekly?

If regular walks, additional exercise time, and regular grooming seem like too much work, maybe the dog isn’t a pet for you yet.

On the other hand, if you have experience with dogs, and you don’t mind regular grooming in exercise time, maybe the Icelandic Sheepdog is for you.

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