From several sources, so there is a small amount that is repetitive, but all of this is very accurate and worth knowing when someone is deciding if the Icelandic Sheepdog is the special dog for you. They are mostly quite active dogs and not a good match for inactive people. They need room to run and play daily. Some of our dogs are actually blissful in their running sessions and you can see the emotions of an Icelandic Sheepdogs as they communicate this with their ears, which they have a lot of control over and move through numerous positions. This is particularly true of Rosie's puppies.


The Icelandic Sheepdog, one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world, is descended from the ancient Nordic Spitz dogs. The Vikings brought them on their open boats to Iceland more than 1100 years ago along with their sheep and horses. Those animals were necessary for their survival. The early Icelanders demanded the highest character, ease of care, and health in their sheepdogs.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a working dog still used to watch sheep that graze in open fields much of the year. They are also used to work with Icelandic horses. There are no large native prey animals in Iceland, so there has been no need for an aggressive dog. Ravens and hawks sometimes bother lambs during the birthing season in the spring, so Icelandic Sheepdogs can react to larger birds.  The Icelandic Sheepdog is even tempered and can be trusted with all animals.

Today there are only about 3500 registered, purebred dogs in the world. One of the reasons for the low numbers is that by law dogs used to be restricted to working farms. They were not allowed in the cities.  Fortunately, this ancient law has recently been changed. The breed is popular in all the Scandinavian countries as well as Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

The breed is still rare in the USA and Canada but a few dogs have been imported to North America recently. The number of Icelandic Sheepdogs in the United States is uncertain, but it?s estimated at fewer than 150 dogs. However, dedicated breeders are making an effort to

ensure that the "dog of the Vikings" will survive and thrive in this country.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is sensitive, very obedient and extremely affectionate. It is sociable, making it a devoted and ideal family dog. It loves the whole family especially children.  They also get along very well, when properly introduced, with other animals in the family.

The Icelandic Sheepdog loves people and prefers to be with people all the time, to follow us around everywhere and to sleep at our feet. It can learn to be alone for several hours every day, but it is happier when it can be in close contact with people.

The Icelandic Sheepdog is very watchful and barks at strangers, but it never bites. All guests are welcomed with kindness and joy. Some dogs like to bark at running animals. That's part of their herding nature.

The dogs are very clever and trainable. They learn quickly and remember very well. They excel in training programs like obedience, agility, therapy, hearing assist, fly-ball and so forth. They simply love working and playing with people and have a never-ending interest in pleasing. They have a good nose and have been used in search and rescue for people and animals.

The Icelandic Sheepdog loves exercise but is not as demanding as bigger working dogs. They are calm and easygoing inside the home even on those days when you don't have time to take them for a walk.

The breed is extremely healthy and strong both physically and mentally. Most of them visit the vet for a vaccination only once a year. There are relatively few harmful inherited conditions that can be found in Icelandic Sheepdogs.  Of course all breeds of dogs have some inherited harmful conditions.  In our dogs these include cataracts, extra eyelashes, hip dysplasia, etc.  [Please see our health page for further descriptions.]

There are two coat types in Icelandic Sheepdogs, a longhaired one and a shorthaired version.  Both generally shed twice a year. All dogs have a thick, warm undercoat. All fur colors are permitted except pure white.  Shades of yellow or reddish with some white and black are the most common colors.  Black, chocolate, and gray, etc. are also found but are less common. All coats should contain at least 3 colors.

The Icelandic Sheepdog keeps its vitality into an advanced age and 15 years is not an uncommon life-span.


Icelandic Sheepdog

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Icelandic Sheepdog.

Alternative names

Icelandic Spitz

Iceland Dog

Íslenskur fjárhundur

Islandsk Farehond

Friaar Dog

Canis islandicus

Country of origin


Classification and breed standards

FCI: Group 5 Section 3 #289 Stds

AKC: Herding (FSS) Stds

The AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS)

CKC: Group 7 - Herding Stds

UKC: Northern Breeds Stds

The Icelandic Sheepdog is a breed of spitz dog originating from the dogs brought to Iceland by the Vikings. Later, dogs were taken from Iceland to the British Isles and became the basis for Border Collies and Corgis. In the Shetland Islands, it was crossed with the Norwegian Buhund and became the Shetland Sheepdog.

The icelandic sheepdog is often described as a large dog in the body of a small dog.


The Icelandic Sheepdog's distinct features are pointy ears and a curly tail. It is of medium height, and is commonly golden, reddish, black, or grey combined with white. The coat may be long or short. Because of this variety it may be difficult to tell that two different dogs are the same breed.


The icelandic sheepdog very much resemblance dogs found in graves in Denmark and Sweden from about 8000 B.C. Dog imports to Iceland was limited and from 1901 even forbidden.

In 1650 sir Thomas Brown wrote "To England there are sometimes exported from Iceland ... a type of dog resembling a fox ... Shepherds in England are eager to acquire them!"

Plague and canine distemper destroyed over 75% of the breed in the late 19th century, leading to a ban on the importation of dogs. The purebred Icelandic sheepdog was again bordering extinction in the late 20th century and in 1969 the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association (HRFÍ) was established, which had among other aims to preserve the breed.


The breed is sometimes denoted in Latin as canis islandicus even though it is a breed and not a species.

The Icelandic sheepdog often have double dewclaws on the hind paws and single dew claws on the front paws.

Like the name implies it's a sheep dog, but it was also used as a guard dog and general working dog. When herding the icelandic sheepdogs was not mainly used to take the sheep from one point to another. In the icelandic landscape sheep often got lost and it was the job of the dog to find them and bring them back to the pack. They are used to work on their own and they figure out things for themselves so owners have to beware so that they don't learn things they shouldn't. As a guard dog their main task was to alert the inhabitants that somebody was coming so the icelandic sheepdog tends to bark a lot when it sees people approaching. It barks, but don't bite. The only predator in Iceland that was a threat to the sheep was eagles so an icelandic sheepdog have a tendency to bark at birds and sometimes also at aircrafts. The icelandic sheepdog is very loyal and wants to be around all the time. It follows it's owner everywhere. Unlike most other working dogs the icelandic sheepdog calms down when indoors and happily lie down next to its master's feet.


Originally the Icelandic Sheepdog was a native spitz, known in the North since the Later Stone Age. It was brought to Iceland with the first Viking settlers - hence the name, Icelandic Sheepdog.

Its characteristics are the triangular muzzle, erect ears and the tail, which curls and touches the back. The size of the Icelandic Sheepdog is approx. 40-48 cm; according to the breeding standard the ideal size is 42 cm for bitches and 46 cm for dogs.

When first meeting an Icelandic Sheepdog you will see a cheerful and friendly dog. It gives an enthusiastic welcome and loves to be patted. The dog is very social; a typical family dog which is very devoted to everybody. It prefers to be with its family all the time, follows the family members round the house, and lies down at their feet.

However, being a sheepdog it also has the characteristic qualities of a herder like intelligence, independence, and eagerness to work, all of which make it very trainable. In return it has practically no hunting instincts.

The Iceland Dog is a happy and lively dog, that easily gets attached to the family and would follow it everywhere if it could. It is very friendly and good with children. Its lively nature is mostly expressed outdoors, and it easily calms down and will lay down next to its masters feet, when the family is calm.

This lively, easily barking dog is very quick and cooperative, but also possesses an independent nature. Important qualities that have been developed during hundreds of years as a sheepdog.

The tendency to bark comes from its sheepdog instincts which gets the sheep and horses to move or keeps birds of prey away from the lambs.

The job of protecting the lambs from birds of prey has given the dog an excellent sight that can spot the birds very high up in the sky, often far too high for people to spot. A flock of birds will, without fail, release an eager barking. But as it is a very bright dog, it is not an impossible task to teach it to be quiet, if so desired.

It requires a consistent, but not a strict upbringing.

It is not a guard dog, but it is still a dependable watchdog, that barks but does not bite.

It adjusts itself easily into the family’s daily patterns in the city as well as in the country, however it is not a dog for inactive people.

The Iceland Dog is a small, strong and robust spitz that is not put off by trackless countryside or foul weather. It has a strong, resilient and short body, and is light and agile on foot. The coat is thick and water resistant, but has great variation. It can be both very short haired as well as long haired. But regardless of length of hair it has a very warm undercoat to keep it warm and dry under any weather condition. The color varies from cream/yellow over reddish and brown to grey/black or a combination of these colors. At the shoulder it measures 38-48 cm.

A special characteristic for the breed is, that it has wolf-claws on the hind legs, preferably double, but single claws are acceptable too.

The History of the Iceland Dog

The Iceland Dogs descendancy goes as far back as to the Stone Age. The dogs that people from the danish Maglemose Culture (6000 b.c.) used when hunting the giant oxen, where probably of the same spitz type, and similar to the Iceland Dog and its cousin, the Norwegian Buhund.

The dogs where introduced to Iceland along with the first settlers from Norway in the year 874. As other domestic animals they soon became common on all farms and are often mentioned in the ancient Sagas: "The farm Dog is always following its master, where ever he goes, and is always following between farms and on long trips."

The dog became a faithful companion to the farmer and an invaluable help in finding and gathering the sheep, when they were driven home from their summer pastures in the fall. The dog is flexible, tireless and persistent, and without it a lot of sheep and lambs would have been lost. The dog was also a good help when working with the Icelandic Horse and to this day, when horses are driven to graze or home again.

An epidemic of distemper killed about 3/4 of the Iceland Dog population in the end of the last century. Mixing with other breeds, such as the Border Collie, almost wiped out the remaining few, and only a supreme effort saved the breed:A few Icelandic breeders and an Englishman by the name of Mark Watson, who found and imported a pair of pure-bred Iceland dogs to England with the intention to breed. He travelled extensively throughout all of Iceland and registered the few remaining specimens, establishing a pedigree for the pure-bred dogs. The breed has now vanished in England but is in progress in Iceland and Scandinavia as well as in the Netherlands and Germany. The largest population, app. 1300 dogs, is found in Denmark, where it was officially introduced in 1973 by Danish journalist Hans Karlsson, who started to breed them, together with his Icelandic wife.


The Iceland Dog is basically a strong and healthy breed. It has been developed with the emphasis put on everyday use, rather than physical appearance, throughout several hundred years. Through the isolation in Iceland many inherited diseases have been avoided, with the condition of Hip Displacement (HD) being the only major disease that the breed is pestered with. It is a disease that is partly inherited and partly environmental. However it is not an overwhelming problem, because many dogs go symptom free because of good habits, even when badly affected. It is always a goal to get rid of this disease through selective breeding and sensible feeding and exercise.

[ At LoneStar Icelandics, we only use breeding stock with very good hips. Laki's hips are close to being the best of any male ISD in the US. ]


(Íslenskur fjárhundur)

FCI-Standard No. 289/29.11.2000/GB

Translated by: Helga Andrésdóttir

ORIGIN: Iceland


UTILIZATION: Herding dog.


Spitz and primitive types.

Section 3

Nordic Watchdogs and Herders.

Without working trial.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is Iceland’s only native dog. It was brought to Iceland with the first Viking settlers (AD 874 - 930). The Icelandic Sheepdog and its method of working adapted to the local terrain, farming methods and the hard struggle for survival of the Icelandic people over the centuries, making it indispensable in the rounding up of livestock on the farms. The Icelandic Sheepdog’s popularity has increased over the last few decades and, despite the fact the breed is still very small in numbers, it is no longer considered to be in danger of extinction.



The Icelandic Sheepdog is a Nordic herding spitz, slightly under medium sized with prick ears and a curled tail. Seen from the side the dog is rectangular; the length of the body from the point of shoulder to point of buttock is greater than the height at withers. The depth of the chest is equal to the length of the foreleg.

The expression is gentle, intelligent and happy. A confident and lively bearing is typical for this dog. There are two types of coat, long and short, both thick and extremely weatherproof. There is a marked difference in appearance between the sexes.


The Icelandic Sheepdog is a hardy and agile herding dog which barks, making it extremely useful for herding or driving livestock in the pastures, in the mountains or finding lost sheep. The Icelandic Sheepdog is by nature very alert and will always give visitors an enthusiastic welcome without being aggressive. Hunting instincts are not strong. The Icelandic Sheepdog is cheerful, friendly, inquisitive, playful and unafraid.