Swedish Vallhund: Is This The Most Alert Dog Breed Alive?

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
The Swedish Vallhund is an ancient breed, with a watchful mind and boundless energy. Read on to discover more about this ancient breed.
Dog Breed Group:
Herding Dogs
11 inches to 1 foot, 1 inch tall at the shoulder
22 to 35 pounds
Life Span:
12 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?

Swedish Vallhund is known as the Viking dog among dog experts.

This small breed has a longer body, dense coat, and enormous amount of energy ready to share with everyone. They are also known for their unique vocalization and cheerful demeanor.

Vallhunds are a timeless breed, as they were on the stem of Viking longships 1,200 years ago.

They were bred to hunt and to stay low on the ground. Their main traits are power, balance, and easy movement.

Quick Facts

Real name: Swedish Vallhund
Other names: Swedish cattle dog, Swedish Shepherd, Västgötaspets
Origin: Sweden
Breed type: Herding Dogs
Weight: 20-35 pounds
Height: 12.5-13.75 inches (male), 11.5-12.75 inches (female)
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Litter Size: 4 – 8 puppies
Color: Color varies from grey, greyish brown and greyish yellow to reddish brown
Coat: Short and harsh coat

Swedish Vallhund History

The Swedish Vallhund is an ancient and national dog breed of Sweden. According to dog experts and historical documents, this breed goes back to the 8th or 9th century.

Originally, this breed is from the county of Västergötland, which extends just south of Lake Vänern, in Sweden. This is a small size dog with excellent traits for guarding, watching, and herding duties.

The breed dates to the Viking settlement of England and many dog experts believe that this breed played a huge role in developing the modern Welsh Corgi and even Lancashire Heeler.

There is definitely a similarity between the Swedish Vallhund, and joyful Welsh Corgi.

The Swedish Vallhund is related to larger spitz dogs, just like Finnish Lapphund and Swedish Lapphund.

Large dogs of spitz-type dogs are common for Scandinavia, and this dog’s skeleton is remarkably similar to modern Norwegian Elkhound, a popular breed of spitz dog.

Swedish Vallhund Physical Appearance

The Swedish Vallhund is a small and alert dog. Don’t let their size fool you, because they are quite powerful and fearless when needed. They are small but well-balanced and sturdy built.

The correct relationship of height to length of the body is 2:3. They come with a hard coat so expect some brushing sessions. Their double coat comes with “harness markings” which are essential features of this breed.

Their tail is always natural, longer, or docked. Head is long, while eyes are medium size and oval in shape, and ears are medium size, pointed, and prick.

The neck is long and well-muscled. The chest has good depth and from the front, the chest should be oval.

From the side, the chest should look elliptical. Shoulders and upper arms are strong, while legs are well boned.

The entire body is covered with medium-length hair. The coat is harsh, close, and tight. The undercoat is soft and dense.

Hair is short on the head and slightly longer on the neck, chest, and back parts of hind legs.

Swedish Vallhund Personality

The Swedish Vallhund is often described as a big dog in a small body.

This compact dog will always surprise you with how good behavior, and a sense of humor. This breed will enjoy long walks, so he can meet new friends, both humans, and other pets.

At home, they will be nice watchdogs, but they won’t be aggressive. You may expect some barking, so make sure that you adress this behavior at an early age.

This dog will love to chatter with you and let you know when someone is in front of your door, or nearby.

You can also expect him to reach when a cart crosses his path or simply crosses the yard. Your Vallhund might even react and bark when your neighbors open their garage door.

If you start training him at an early age, as you should, you can keep barking under control.

Living With Swedish Vallhund

This breed is a fine choice for first time dog owners, as long as people understand what getting a dog comes with. This breed is friendly, hardy, and eager to please.

They are a perfect fit for active families.

Since they are highly adaptable, they will adore children and other pets if raised together.

Make sure that your children know how to behave around dogs and not to disturb them when eating, drinking water from their bowl, or just chilling in their kennel – children must know that dogs are highly territorial animals and that they would defend it anytime.

Although they are great with children, any children-dog interaction shoudl be supervised.

They are also great with other dogs and pets, but since they still have a very high prey drive they won’t do well with small pets, because their alert nature loves to herd anything small that moves around them.

This dog will do fine with city living as long as they have enough outdoor time, exercise, or a space to run throughout the day.

If you are passionate about dog training, you and your Swedish Vallhund might participate in an active canine sport such as agility, fly-ball, or herding.

Swedish Vallhund Training

Start training your Swedish Vallhund the day you bring him home. If you are getting a puppy, be prepared.

You will need a dog bed, many toys, and a lot of patience for all the funny things your puppy will definitely do.

After all, this breed is an independent thinker, and he will try to go his way. Dogs can start learning new commands at 8 weeks old.

If possible, think about putting him into kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize.

If you truly want a well-behaved dog you need to think about socialization.

Keep vaccines up to date and have regular veterinarian check-ups to teach him to be comfortable durign the check-up.

Socialize your puppy as soon as the vaccine schedule is done.

If you are getting an adult dog or a senior, you can still teach him some tricks, just make sure that adjust your environment to them and that you provide proper nutrition and care.

Swedish Vallhund Exercise Needs

There are no two dogs of the same breed that are identical. Just like humans, dogs are highly individual animals and what might work for one, could be devastating for another one.

This is how you should adress any aspect of a dog’s life. You shoudl follow general guidelines, but also have your dog’s needs in the mind.

As a general rule, the Swedish Vallhunds have more energy than others. This is a working dog breed to work on farms and colder weather, but that doesn’t mean that they should run all day long.

This breed needs regular exercise: your Swedish Vallhund will enjoy a minimum of two long walks and playing fetch in the meantime.

You can also take him on a hike from time to time, or think about participating in numerous dog sport activities.

They also need mental exercise to keep their mind sharp and amused. They, just like any other dog breed, may become destructive when bored, ignored, or left alone for too long and frequently.

Participating in a sport, or playing puzzle games can all contribute to Swedish Vallhunds’ mental and physical well-being.

Swedish Vallhund Grooming

Swedish Vallhunds will love frequent brushing sessions. They need a good brushing on a daily level and a bath only when they get really dirty.

They do shed as all dogs do, and you can expect heavy shedding twice a year – have a good vacuum cleaner on your hand, especially during the shedding season.

In general, Vallhunds are easy to manage when it comes to grooming.

The rest is basic care.

Learn how to clean ears, how to recognize signs of an eye infection, how and why you should check dog’s gums, and care paws extra during the winter days.

Swedish Vallhund Health

If you are adopting a dog from a shelter, you will be informed about the dog’s current health condition.

Shelter dogs will only be passed further if they had their shots, are microchipped, and overall healthy.

All in, they will always be honest about a dog’s health condition.

When buying a dog, you should focus on only working with responsible breeders, because they would always screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, ophthalmologist evaluation, and SV Retinopathy DNA Test.

There is even a genetic test for an eye issue called Swedish Vallhund retinopathy which was developed in 2017, so responsible breeders can now do even more for their puppies.

Avoid puppy mills, and if you are not sure if you are dealing with responsible breeders or not, it’s easy to know – if you don’t get any medical documentation on the puppy, you are not standing in front of a responsible breeder.

If thats the case just turn around adn walk off. Health before price.

Swedish Vallhund Nutrition

The Swedish Vallhund should thrive on high-quality dog food. There are many options on commercially manufactured food, just make sure that you choose the best option available.

If you arent sure which food is the best, talk to your veterinarian. If you are thinking about raw food, again – talk to your veterinarian to get familiar with every aspect of that diet.

Learn how much your dog should eat, when you should feed him, and always match diet to your dog’s age.

You don’t want to feed puppies with food suitable for seniors, and vice versa.

Table scraps are ok, if they are served occasionally, in small amounts, and are 100% safe for your canine.

Always make sure that you know which human foods are ok, and which should be avoided no matter what.

They tend to become overweight easily, so be careful abotu nutrition. Obesity in pets is a problem on the rise across the States, so make sure that your dog doesn’t become statistics.

Sure, weight loss is possible, but it’s a long path.

Avoid free-feeding, and if you have any concerns about your dog’s diet or weight talk to your veterinarian. Provide clean and fresh water at all times.

The Bottom Line

If you are serious about getting a Swedish Vallhund, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have enough time to dedicate hours per day to a dog?
  • Can you provide enough exercise and mental stimulation?
  • Are you comfortable with occasional barking?
  • If you have an animal already, do you have energy from another one?
  • Are you ok with shedding?
  • Are you willing to work extra to overcome your dog’s independent trait?

Good to know: Know that Swedish Vallhund will require regular brushing to keep his coat neat and clean. This is usually mandatory for breeds that are similar to Siberian Husky

If you are comfortable with everything listed above, you might be ready to welcome Swedish Vallhund to your home.

You should also know that this breed is still rare (expensive), and very hard to be found in the States. This is why you should be only dealing with responsible dog breeders.

You can always start your search by visiting the breed’s official club.

If you want a small size dog with a big dog personality, who is playful, but also highly intelligent, a Swedish Vallhund may be right for you.

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