The Icelandic Sheepdog: Your complete guide!

The Icelandic Sheepdog, a picture of charm, unwavering loyalty, and exceptional herding skills, has become a beloved choice among dog enthusiasts and farmers. With its Icelandic origins, distinctive physical features, and a unique set of personality traits, this breed is celebrated as an agile and dependable herding dog with a friendly and endearing nature.

Icelandic Sheepdog portrait
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    Everything you need to know about the Icelandic Sheepdog!

    Category (Explanation)Breed Information
    Year of Breed Conception9th century
    Country of OriginIceland
    Weight (lbs & kg) (Male)20-30 lbs (9-13.5 kg)
    Weight (lbs & kg) (Female)20-28 lbs (9-12.5 kg)
    Coat TypeDouble coat with a thick, weather-resistant topcoat
    Color VariationsVarious colors, often with white markings
    Shedding Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Height (cm & in)16-18 inches (41-46 cm)
    Breed SizeSmall to medium
    Trainability (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Mental Needs (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Intelligence Level (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Energy Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Agility (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Loyalty (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Playfulness (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Exercise NeedsRegular exercise and mental stimulation
    Guarding Proficiency (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Sociability with Children (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Barking Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Digging Tendency (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Destructive Behavior (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Drooling Level (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Obedience Level (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Apartment Friendly (Yes/No)Can adapt to apartment living with sufficient exercise
    Inherent Prey DriveModerate
    Physical Risk to Others (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Travel Fatality Risk (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Allergen PotentialLow
    Health Concerns (List of Common Health Concerns)Hip Dysplasia, Eye Issues, Epilepsy
    Average Life Expectancy (Life Expectancy in Years)12-15 years
    Make sure to take care of your Icelandic Sheepdog and

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    History of the Icelandic Sheepdog

    The Icelandic Sheepdog’s history is one of resilience and herding in Iceland. These dogs have been herding livestock in the challenging Icelandic terrain for centuries.

    Their compact size, intelligence, and weather-resistant coat made them well-suited for herding in harsh conditions. They were cherished for their loyalty and versatility.

    Today, Icelandic Sheepdogs are celebrated for their herding abilities and their role in Icelandic agriculture. They are known for their affectionate nature and as loyal family pets.

    What makes the Icelandic Sheepdog so special?

    icelandic sheepdog, posing on the rock

    What makes the Icelandic Sheepdog special is its agility and charming corgi-like appearance. These dogs have a history of herding in the challenging Icelandic landscape. Their loyalty and adaptability make them exceptional working dogs and companions.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have a tradition as herding and working dogs in Iceland. Their agility and herding instincts made them exceptional at managing and protecting livestock. They were known for their resilience and adaptability to the harsh Icelandic terrain. Today, they continue to serve as reliable working dogs and beloved family pets, preserving their heritage as dependable companions.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their spirited and loving personalities. They excel in herding sheep in the challenging Icelandic landscape.

    Their agility and herding skills make them excellent herders, and they have a sweet and loyal nature. Icelandic Sheepdogs are characterized by their energy, devotion, and a playful disposition, epitomizing the perfect blend of vitality and affection.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are affectionate and alert. They are typically good with children and other pets but may be reserved with strangers. Early socialization is important for a well-adjusted temperament.

    Mental and physical exercise is crucial for their well-being.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are small to medium-sized dogs with a well-proportioned and agile build. They have a slightly rounded head with expressive, almond-shaped eyes and small, triangular ears.

    They have a double coat with a dense, weather-resistant outer coat. Coat colors can include shades of red, sable, black and white, or chocolate. Their tail is often carried high and curled over the back.

    Males typically stand between 18 to 19 inches (46-48 cm) at the shoulder and weigh between 20 to 30 pounds (9-14 kg), while females are slightly smaller and lighter.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have a friendly and lively presence, reflecting their role as herding and working dogs.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs come in shades of red, tan, black, and gray with white markings. They may not have distinct coat colors.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs typically have coat colors in shades of red, tan, black, or gray with white markings, but they may not exhibit distinct coat patterns.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have a moderate shedding level. They shed consistently, with increased shedding during seasonal transitions. Regular grooming and brushing can help manage shedding and keep their coat in good condition.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have a double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it healthy and minimize shedding. Grooming habits for this breed include:

    1. Brushing: Regular brushing, about once or twice a week, is essential to prevent matting and remove loose fur. Use a slicker brush or an undercoat rake for thorough grooming.

    2. Bathing: Bathe Icelandic Sheepdogs when necessary using a dog-specific shampoo and ensure thorough rinsing.

    3. Ears: Check and clean their ears regularly with a veterinarian-recommended solution to prevent wax buildup or infections.

    4. Nails: Keep their nails trimmed to a comfortable length to maintain proper gait and prevent discomfort.

    5. Teeth: Brush their teeth regularly to ensure dental health and prevent bad breath. Dental chews or toys can be beneficial.

    6. Tail and Paw Care: Pay attention to the tail and paw areas, where dirt and debris can accumulate. Keep them clean and inspect for any signs of irritation or injury.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have a moderate activity level and thrive on both physical and mental challenges. Key points about their activity level include:

    1. Exercise Needs: Icelandic Sheepdogs require daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. Activities can include walks, playtime, and interactive tasks.

    2. Energy Level: They have a moderate energy level, especially when young. Regular exercise helps prevent restlessness.

    3. Herding Heritage: Historically, Icelandic Sheepdogs were bred for herding and protecting livestock. They excel in activities like obedience training, agility, and herding trials.

    4. Mental Stimulation: In addition to physical exercise, mental challenges through training and interactive games are important to keep them mentally sharp.

    5. Family Companions: They make good family pets and enjoy spending time with their human companions.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are intelligent and resourceful. They are known for their problem-solving abilities and adaptability. Here are some key points about their intelligence:

    1. Trainability: Icelandic Sheepdogs are trainable and respond well to positive reinforcement-based training.
    2. Problem-Solving: They exhibit problem-solving skills, which were valuable for herding and working in challenging Icelandic conditions.
    3. Adaptability: They adapt well to different living environments and routines.
    4. Work and Utility: Historically bred for herding, their intelligence and adaptability were assets in managing livestock in Iceland.
    5. Social Intelligence: They form strong bonds with their families and are attentive to human emotions and needs.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs’ intelligence makes them effective working dogs and cherished companions when provided with proper training and mental stimulation.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are intelligent and need mental stimulation. Engage them in obedience training and activities that challenge their minds to keep them sharp.

    Social Interaction: They are social dogs and require regular interaction with their human family. Loneliness can lead to anxiety or destructive behavior, so provide companionship and attention.

    Exercise: Mental exercise is equally important. Offer them tasks that challenge their problem-solving skills.

    Training and Obedience: Icelandic Sheepdogs benefit from obedience training and activities that engage their minds. Consistent, positive-reinforcement training is effective in shaping their behavior.

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    What to look out for, before you get a Icelandic Sheepdog!

    icelandic sheepdog, beach

    Thinking about an Icelandic Sheepdog? Consider these factors:

    1. Activity Level: Icelandic Sheepdogs are active and require regular exercise and mental stimulation.

    2. Training Needs: They are intelligent and benefit from consistent training and socialization to prevent behavioral issues.

    3. Space: Icelandic Sheepdogs need space to move around comfortably, making them better suited for homes with yards.

    4. Coat Care: Regular grooming is important to manage their coat, which sheds moderately.

    5. Herding Instinct: Be prepared for their natural herding behaviors and tendencies.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs, known for their herding instincts, may pose a physical risk to others if not properly socialized, trained, or managed. The risk assessment factors include:

    1. Herding Instinct: Icelandic Sheepdogs have a strong herding instinct, which may lead to chasing or nipping at people or other animals. Proper training is essential to manage this behavior.

    2. Socialization: Early and thorough socialization is crucial to ensure Icelandic Sheepdogs are comfortable around people and other animals. Poor socialization can lead to fear or aggression.

    3. Training: Obedience training is essential to teach Icelandic Sheepdogs appropriate behavior and ensure they respond to commands. Well-trained dogs are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior.

    4. Owner Responsibility: Responsible ownership involves being aware of the dog’s behavior and taking necessary precautions in public settings.

    5. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL): Icelandic Sheepdogs are generally not subject to BSL, but owners should be aware of local regulations.

    6. Individual Variability: Each dog is unique, and behavior can vary. Responsible ownership, proper training, and socialization are key to minimizing the potential physical risk to others.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are usually good with children. They are affectionate and may form strong bonds with kids. Proper socialization and training are important to ensure positive interactions with children.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs may be capable swimmers, but their preference for water activities varies. Their coat colors do not affect their swimming ability. Some may enjoy being in the water, while others may be more cautious or hesitant. Always gauge your individual dog’s comfort level with water and provide supervision.

    1. Early Training: Commence training your Icelandic Sheepdog puppy early to make the most of their learning potential.
    2. Socialization: Expose your puppy to various people, animals, and environments to ensure they become well-adjusted adults.
    3. Positive Reinforcement: Use treats, praise, and toys to reward good behavior and strengthen your bond with your puppy.
    4. Consistency: Maintain consistency in your training methods and cues to prevent confusion.
    5. Basic Commands: Teach essential commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” for obedience and safety.
    6. House Training: Establish a regular routine for potty breaks and offer praise for outdoor elimination to housetrain your puppy.
    7. Crate Training: Use crate training to create a secure and comfortable space for your puppy, building positive associations with the crate.
    8. Social Skills: Encourage positive interactions with other dogs and people to develop strong social skills.
    9. Exercise and Play: Ensure your Icelandic Sheepdog puppy receives ample exercise and playtime to prevent restlessness.
    10. Chewing: Provide suitable chew toys to satisfy their need to chew and protect your belongings.
    11. Patience and Persistence: Training may take time; be patient and avoid punitive methods.
    12. Professional Training: Consider professional training classes if you encounter challenges or need additional guidance.

    Positive training practices will help your Icelandic Sheepdog puppy become a well-behaved and loyal companion.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are often moderate to high in terms of noisiness. They may bark when they perceive potential threats, unusual sounds, or when they are herding. Their alertness contributes to their vocal tendencies.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs thrive in homes that provide:

    • 1. Active Lifestyle: They do well in households with active individuals or families who can provide regular exercise and playtime.
    • 2. Space: A house with a yard where they can exercise and explore is ideal.
    • 3. Socialization: Early and consistent socialization is crucial to their well-adjusted behavior.
    • 4. Routine: Establishing a routine helps them feel secure and reduces anxiety. Predictable daily schedules are beneficial.
    • 5. Training: They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and thrive in environments where training and mental stimulation are prioritized.


    • 1. Lack of Exercise: Without sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, Icelandic Sheepdogs can become bored and may develop behavioral problems.
    • 2. Isolation: They are social dogs and may struggle in homes where they are frequently left alone for extended periods.
    • 3. Lack of Socialization: Poorly socialized Icelandic Sheepdogs may exhibit fear or aggression towards strangers or other animals, which can lead to challenges in public settings.
    • 4. Owner Experience: Inexperienced owners who are not prepared for the breed’s specific needs and characteristics may face challenges in raising a well-behaved Icelandic Sheepdog.

    Traveling with Icelandic Sheepdogs involves these considerations:

    1. Exercise Needs: Icelandic Sheepdogs need regular exercise. Plan for breaks and opportunities to move around during travel.
    2. Size: They are a small to medium-sized breed. Ensure their comfort and safety with suitable travel crates or seat belt harnesses.
    3. Anxiety: Some Icelandic Sheepdogs may experience travel anxiety. Gradual introduction to travel and familiar items can help alleviate stress.
    4. Air Travel: Choose airlines with pet-friendly policies and suitable crate requirements for air travel.
    5. Identification: Ensure proper identification for your Icelandic Sheepdog during travel.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs are generally healthy, but they may be prone to certain health concerns, including:

    • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition that affects the hip joints and can lead to arthritis and lameness.
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A group of inherited diseases that can lead to blindness.
    • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): An inherited eye condition that can affect vision.
    • Epilepsy: A neurological condition that can cause seizures.

    Proper nutrition is essential for Icelandic Sheepdogs. Follow these nutritional habits:

    1. High-Quality Dog Food: Choose dog food with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient.
    2. Age-Appropriate Food: Feed the appropriate life stage formula.
    3. Protein: Opt for a diet with moderate to high protein content.
    4. Balanced Diet: Ensure a balance of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.
    5. Portion Control: Prevent overfeeding with proper portion sizes.
    6. Fresh Water: Always provide clean, fresh water.
    7. Avoid Table Scraps: Refrain from feeding human food.
    8. Treats: Use treats in moderation for training and rewards.
    9. Consult Your Veterinarian: Seek guidance from your vet for the best diet.
    10. Special Dietary Needs: Address dietary restrictions or allergies with your vet.
    11. Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight through exercise and portion control.
    12. Regular Check-Ups: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for monitoring.

    Proper nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of Icelandic Sheepdogs.

    Breed-specific laws (BSL) may affect Icelandic Sheepdogs in certain areas, and owners should be aware of these regulations. BSL is typically enacted at the local level, and the restrictions can vary from one jurisdiction to another. Here are some common types of BSL restrictions that Icelandic Sheepdogs may encounter:

    1. Mandatory Spaying/Neutering: Some areas may require owners of Icelandic Sheepdogs to spay or neuter their dogs under BSL.
    2. Special Licensing: BSL may necessitate special licenses for Icelandic Sheepdog owners, often involving additional fees and regulations.
    3. Liability Insurance: Owners of Icelandic Sheepdogs may be mandated to carry liability insurance as part of BSL.
    4. Muzzling in Public: In specific regions, BSL may dictate that Icelandic Sheepdogs be muzzled when in public spaces.
    5. Ownership Bans: In extreme cases, BSL may ban the ownership of Icelandic Sheepdogs altogether in certain areas.

    The rationale for BSL is often based on concerns about public safety and perceived risks associated with specific breeds, including Icelandic Sheepdogs. However, it’s important to note that Icelandic Sheepdogs are not inherently aggressive, and BSL may affect them due to their physical resemblance to breeds sometimes included in these laws.

    BSL is a contentious subject, and many advocates argue that it unfairly targets breeds rather than addressing individual dog behavior. They emphasize that responsible ownership, training, and education should be emphasized instead of breed-specific restrictions.

    To determine if there are breed-specific laws or restrictions regarding Icelandic Sheepdogs in your area, you should check with your local animal control or government authorities. Be aware of and comply with any local regulations to ensure that you are in compliance with the law while owning an Icelandic Sheepdog.

    Woof Mastery is reader supported and our articles may contain affiliate links. 

    Instead of running third party ads that we have no control of we only use links from high-quality companies we are directly partnered with. Making use of these links come at no cost to you our reader, and in many cases have the extra benefit of discounted rates or sign up bonuses.

    If you’re interested you can read more about our affiliate policy here.

    We appreciate your support and always insure that the products and services we recommend are high-quality, helpful and relevant to the subject at hand!

    Fun Facts About The Icelandic Sheepdog

    Myth 1: Icelandic Sheepdogs are from Iceland

    Truth: While they are the national dog of Iceland, Icelandic Sheepdogs originated from a mix of breeds in Iceland. They are not found in wild nature.

    Myth 2: They Don’t Need Exercise

    Truth: Icelandic Sheepdogs are active and require exercise. They enjoy outdoor activities and need regular physical and mental stimulation.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs, known for their herding abilities, may not have as many widely recognized famous individuals. They excel in herding and working roles, particularly in their native Iceland.

    • Herding: Icelandic Sheepdogs have a history as herding dogs and continue to excel in herding tasks on farms.
    • Working Dogs: They are used as working dogs in herding and guarding roles, particularly in herding and guarding livestock.
    • Icelandic Heritage: Icelandic Sheepdogs are considered a part of Icelandic cultural heritage, symbolizing their historical role in Icelandic farming.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs have been cherished by families and individuals for their herding and companionship. Notable historical owners may not be widely recognized, but these dogs have a rich history as herders in Iceland.

    Icelandic Sheepdogs, like all breeds, face certain challenges and dangers. Some of the greatest dangers and concerns for the breed include:

    1. Misunderstanding: Misconceptions about the breed’s exercise needs and independence can lead to misunderstandings and potential challenges for owners who are not prepared for the breed’s requirements.
    2. Health Concerns: Icelandic Sheepdogs are susceptible to specific health issues, including hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Responsible breeding and regular veterinary care are essential to address these concerns.
    3. Herding Instincts: They have strong herding instincts that may lead to chasing or nipping behavior if not properly managed through training.
    4. Exercise Needs: These dogs require regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent restlessness and destructive behavior due to their high energy levels.
    5. Climate Sensitivity: Icelandic Sheepdogs are adapted to cold climates and may struggle in extremely hot weather. Owners in warm climates must take precautions to protect their dogs from heat-related issues.
    6. Breed-Specific Legislation: Icelandic Sheepdogs may be affected by breed-specific legislation (BSL) in certain areas, leading to restrictions or bans on ownership.
    7. Irresponsible Breeding: Irresponsible breeding practices can result in health and temperament issues. Ethical breeding is crucial for the breed’s well-being.
    8. Training Needs: Proper training is important to manage their herding instincts and to provide mental stimulation for the breed.
    9. Socialization: Early and consistent socialization is necessary to ensure Icelandic Sheepdogs are well-adjusted around strangers and other dogs.

    By understanding these challenges and providing responsible ownership and care, many of these dangers can be mitigated to ensure the well-being of Icelandic Sheepdogs.

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s native herding breed. Its development involved the dogs brought to Iceland by the first Viking settlers. Over centuries, the breed was selectively bred for herding and working in Iceland’s challenging conditions.

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    Why you're going to love the Icelandic Sheepdog

    The Icelandic Sheepdog is a breed known for its charm, intelligence, and herding skills. They excel in herding and companionship roles, winning the hearts of dog enthusiasts with their unique characteristics and affectionate nature.

    Being an Icelandic Sheepdog owner involves providing mental and physical stimulation, grooming, and regular veterinary care. Responsible ownership includes addressing potential health concerns and embracing their herding instincts through training.

    With their expressive eyes and warm personality, Icelandic Sheepdogs continue to capture the hearts of those who appreciate their distinct traits and loyal companionship.

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