Icelandic Sheepdog

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Icelandic Sheepdog

20-30 lb
11-14 years
AKC Herding
Best Suited For
Families with children, active singles, houses with yards, farms/rural areas
Affectionate, confident, playful, loving
Comparable Breeds
American Eskimo Dog, Norwegian Elkhound
16-18 inches
Icelandic Sheepdog Basics

Also known as the Icelandic Spitz or Icelandic Dog, the Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s only native canine breed. A spitz breed, this dog was bred for guarding and herding flocks of sheep and livestock, and was also used to pull sleds. Not only that, but the Icelandic Sheepdog is a wonderful family companion. Gentle and loving, this breed gets along great with kids and is extremely social.

Intelligent and eager to please, you’ll find that this dog is easy to train – just one more reason why he makes the ideal family dog. While still small in numbers, this breed is gaining popularity… and for good reason! Please read on to learn more about this loving dog.

Also known as the Icelandic Spitz or Icelandic Dog, the Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s only native canine breed.


We have the Vikings to thanks for this amazing breed. The Iceland Sheepdog tagged along with the Vikings when they settled in Iceland between 874 and 930 AD. These dogs protected the livestock, and herded sheep, cattle and horses. Boasting a keen sense of smell, the Icelandic Sheepdog could tell what sheep belonged to their owner. Because of Iceland’s unforgiving terrain, the breed adapted and became indispensable to their owners. These dogs would collect the sheep grazing on the Icelandic hills and bring them safely back to their owners.


Believed to be one of the oldest of all domestic dog breeds, it’s quite hard to trace the bloodline of the Icelandic Sheepdog. However, recent tests have shown that the breed and the Finnish Karelian Bear Dog are related.

Food / Diet

The Icelandic Sheepdog does well on a diet of high-quality dry kibble. Because this is an active breed, make sure your dog gets enough to eat and keep his energy level up.

Gentle and loving, this breed gets along great with kids and is extremely social.


A joy to train, you’ll find that the Icelandic Sheepdog is eager to please. Add intelligence and a willingness to learn, and you’ve got a very trainable breed on your hands. You should keep up training even after the basics have been mastered, as this dog wants to be challenged with a variety of different training, exercise and play tasks. It helps keep them active and out of trouble. Feel free to mix it up with your training activities. This will ensure that your dog is always on his toes and learning as much as possible.


A medium -sized breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog weights between 20 and 30 pounds.

Temperament / Behavior

You’ll fall in love with the Icelandic Sheepdog just as easily as he’ll fall in love with you and your family. Outgoing and energetic, this breed is lively and confident. You’ll find him friendly and inquisitive, always ready to play and make new friends. This is also a social dog, so they don’t do well if left on their own for long periods of time. They like to be with their family. The perfect family dog, the Iceland Sheepdog loves to be around kids, and they are gentle and patient. Feel free to add him to your multi-pet household – he likes other animals.

You may find that your Icelandic Sheepdog likes to bark – at birds, toys, playing with other dogs, etc. But other than that, you’ll have a happy, social dog on your hands. He’ll greet everyone he meets with a wagging tail, even strangers. He’ll also take to new environments and situations with ease.

Common Health Problems

A relatively healthy breed, the only problem the Icelandic Sheepdog may suffer from is cataracts.

Life Expectancy

The Icelandic Sheepdog has an average lifespan of 11 to 14 years.

Exercise Requirements

An athletic and energetic dog, you’ll need to make sure that your Icelandic Sheepdog gets plenty of exercise. This ensures that he stays healthy and happy. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ve got an eager companion that will have no problems keeping up with you. He’ll join you on long walks, hikes and jogs. He loves to hang with his friends at the dog park or play endless games of fetch. You can even train him for competitive dog sports such as obedience, agility, flyball and herding competitions.

You’ll find him friendly and inquisitive, always ready to play and make new friends.


The American Kennel Association says this about the breed: “Playful, friendly and inquisitive, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a hardy and agile dog. Slightly under medium size with prick ears and a curled tail, the breed has two coat types, long and short. Confident and lively, they are so loved in their native country as working dogs and pets that they have been portrayed on postage stamps.” The AKC first recognized this breed in 2010.


The Icelandic Sheepdog can come with a short or long-haired coat. Either way, the coat is double-coated and dense, making it weatherproof. Their undercoat is thick and soft. This breed comes in a range of colors and markings. This includes combinations of brown, chocolate, red, gold, beige, cream, tan, grey and black, although a single color will always be dominant. White markings usually are found somewhere on the dog, and you will sometimes see a black mask.

Your Icelandic Sheepdog will need regular brushings, especially around the times when his undercoat is shed (twice a year).


The Icelandic Sheepdog makes for an adorable puppy. He’s not shy and will take to socialization early on. And start obedience training early, as this intelligent dog will be up to the challenge, even as a puppy.

Photo credit: Gangleri/Wikimedia; Zonjah/Wikimedia; Kopieccy/Wikimedia

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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