Other names: Icelandic Spitz, Nordic Spitz, Iceland Dog, Islandsk Fårehund, Friaar Dog
The Icelandic Sheepdog is a type of Spitz breed that is thought to have arrived in Iceland along with the first Viking settlers. It is the island’s native breed and is used to herd sheep across the rugged Icelandic countryside. The dog is rare in other countries, but clubs and associations in the UK promote the dog’s companionable nature.
Key facts about the Icelandic Sheepdog
Origins and history
The canine ancestors of today’s Icelandic Sheepdog are believed to have accompanied early Viking settlers to the island of Iceland between 874 and 930 AD. It wasn’t until the early 1700s that the Icelandic Sheepdog arrived in the United Kingdom. The popularity of the dog has increased gradually since then, but the dog has never been a best-seller.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 5 - Spitz and primitive types
Section 3 : Nordic Watchdogs and Herders
Physical characteristics of the Icelandic Sheepdog
Female : Between 16 and 17 in
Male : Between 17 and 19 in
Female : Between 22 and 33 lb
Male : Between 22 and 33 lb
Seen of sable, yellow, red, and black and white.
Type of coat
A double coat comprising a thick, soft undercoat beneath a thick and glossy topcoat. The fur is thicker on the neck, legs and tail.
Dark brown/chocolate brown
Well-proportioned is the Icelandic Sheepdog being both long in body but tall and reasonably stocky. The head is wide and the muzzle broad and short. Ears are medium-sized and triangular with slightly rounded tips. The ears of this dog are mobile and alert, and are often telling of the dog’s mood.
Good to know
In the early 1800s, about a century after it was first imported to the UK, the breed became troublesome. Dogs that were allowed to eat the dead sheep of their flocks became infected with a type of tapeworm that they then passed to their owners. The tapeworm ‘epidemic’ destroyed three quarters of all Icelandics in the UK.
The Icelandic Sheepdog has a pleasant personality and if trained and treated correctly is affectionate and loyal.
An active and playful dog, the Icelandic thrives upon interaction with its family.
Confident and peppy is the Icelandic. This is not a dog that is quick to anger or fright.
This is a highly intelligent dog but requires a firmness of training; it is easily bored by repetition and thrives on varied lessons.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are not hunters; they are herding dogs. As such they do not have a high prey drive. They are however very alert to other animals, including birds, at which they will bark enthusiastically.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Icelandics are not reserved around strangers and will greet visitors to their home with enthusiasm and love.
This breed of dog needs a lot of human contact for its peace of mind; it needs to feel part of the clan. They become very unhappy when deprived of the chance to be with people.
Behaviour of the Icelandic Sheepdog
If left alone for long periods of time this dog becomes agitated, barks excessively and chews furniture and carpets.
Easy to train / obedience
Training of the Icelandic Sheepdog can be challenging. It must be carried out by a confident master who is consistent and varies their style of training. Harsh training techniques will not work with any dog.
The Icelandic’s bark is perhaps the least desirable characteristic of such an elegant dog.