Let's talk Icelandic Sheepdog

Say cheeeeeeeese. The first thing you’ll notice about an Icelandic Sheepdog is that their charming expression looks like a smile. With an outgoing personality and gentle manner, this medium-sized dog has evolved to embrace family life. Brought to Iceland by Viking settlers, the breed has a herding history and with their waterproof coats and strong, athletic build, Icelandic Sheepdogs were born to be outdoors. They are the opposite of a couch potato—an Icelandic Sheepdog needs plenty of exercise and will thrive best in a house or on a farm surrounded by nature.

Other names: Icelandic Spitz, Iceland Dog, Íslenskur fjárhundur, Islandsk Fårehund, Friaar Dog, Canis Islandicus

Origins: Iceland

Close-up of Icelandic Sheepdog puppy in black and white
 Drooling tendencies:

Very low

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level: Very high
Suited to apartment living? Very low
 Energy level (high, low, medium) *: Medium Family pet? *
 Compatibility with other pets: High
Can stay alone? * Low

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed’s specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy, healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare, social and behavioural needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Side view illustration of a Icelandic Sheepdog
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 Baby age:  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age:  2 to 12 months
 Adult age:  1 to 7 years
 Mature age:  7 to 10 years
 Senior age:  From 10 years

Side view of Icelandic Sheepdog standing in grass


Get to know the Icelandic Sheepdog

All you need to know about the breed

“The more the merrier” is a good way to describe the mindset of an Icelandic Sheepdog. They are most content when next to their humans, preferably burning off some energy outside, and once trained, display a friendly attitude towards other dogs, household pets and children. Having said that, their herding ancestry means that Icelandic Sheepdogs need some supervision around young children, as they will instinctively round them up, like sheep! The breed is rather vocal, which makes apartment living ... a little complicated. However, an Icelandic Sheepdog’s bark is more of a friendly welcome for strangers as opposed to a threat.

You need to keep training an Icelandic Sheepdog fresh and interesting—or you may lose the attention of this free-thinking canine. The same goes for exercise, as the Icelandic Sheepdog is an intelligent and energetic breed. This breed responds well to physical and mental stimulation, so is well suited to an active owner who is happy to engage in tracking, obedience and agility-based exercises.

Icelandic Sheepdogs have a friendly temperament and are very devoted to their family—be aware that they will become anxious or sad if left alone for long periods of time. But with their gentle and playful nature, who would want to be separated from their Icelandic Sheepdog for too long?

Icelandic Sheepdog sitting on rocky hill


2 facts about Icelandic Sheepdogs

1. The long and short of it

The glossy coat of an Icelandic Sheepdog is one of the breed’s many appealing qualities. They can have a long-haired or short-haired double-coat but be prepared, Icelandic Sheepdogs shed all year round, and then some during shedding seasons (twice a year). A weekly brush will save your carpets and keep your Icelandic Sheepdog looking like they just walked out of a (canine) hair ad. 

2. Barking mad...

... when it comes to birds! Icelandic Sheepdogs have a heritage of herding sheep and protecting them against birds of prey. To this day, Icelandic Sheepdogs are on high alert to potential predators that move fast and come from up above. So if your Icelandic Sheepdog takes to staring at the sky and sometimes even barking at it, rest assured they are not losing their marbles. They’re simply doing their utmost to keep you, and any nearby sheep, safe.


History of the breed

Fascinating fact—the Icelandic Sheepdog is not originally from Iceland, as the name would have you believe. The breed’s origins date back at least a thousand years, to the Norwegian Vikings who brought them to Iceland when they created new Scandinavian territory.

Icelandic Sheepdogs quickly adapted to the cold, harsh landscape, helping shepherds to protect and herd their flocks. These Spitz-like dogs have always shown great affection towards their human owners and even today, Icelandic Sheepdogs are known as one of the friendliest dog breeds. They also remain highly skilled in the field, often being trained to help out with search and rescue missions.

The breed was discovered by the Brits in the mid 1500s, proving popular with both rich families (as pets) and shepherds. Their popularity continued to grow, right up until the 20th century, when they almost faced extinction due to a drastic dip in farming needs.

Despite being one of the oldest dog breeds, Icelandic Sheepdogs remain rare. They were officially recognised in Denmark in 1898, and seven years later in England. The AKC registered the breed as recently as 2010. Icelandic Sheepdogs are the national symbol of Iceland – no surprise there – and remain much sought after as a friendly canine companion.

Icelandic Sheepdog lying down in black and white


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Icelandic Sheepdogs

1. Ears

Medium-sized ears with a round tip that sit upright.

2. Eyes

Almond-shaped eyes that are light to dark brown.

3. Body

Muscular, rectangular-shaped body.

4. Coat

Waterproof double coat, with a soft undercoat and wiry outer coat.

5. Tail

Tail sits high and always curls over to touch the back.

Close-up of Icelandic Sheepdog looking at camera


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Icelandic Sheepdog
Icelandic Sheepdog standing on snowy rocky outcrop


Caring for your Icelandic Sheepdog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

The sleek coat of Icelandic Sheepdogs is one of their most appealing features—but they are shedders. A weekly brush will keep their coat clean and shiny, but do up the brushing during shedding seasons. Check ears regularly to avoid infections and maintain good oral health with a canine toothbrush. Enjoying the great outdoors with your Icelandic Sheepdog is a great way to keep them at a healthy weight. But be careful during the warmer months—they overheat with their thick coat that is better suited to colder climes. Training your Icelandic Sheepdog is generally a paws-itive experience as they’re eager to please. Their herding ancestry means they have an independent streak (just don’t let them know that you know). Food rewards in their early training sessions, taken out of their daily rations, and a kind approach will go down a treat.


All about Icelandic Sheepdogs

Is the sky blue? Despite their high energy levels, and love of the great outdoors, Icelandic Sheepdogs enjoy being with their family first and foremost. So long as your Icelandic Sheepdog is getting enough mental and physical exercise, they will calm down once inside and lie at your feet—or cuddle you at the first opportunity.

Icelandic Sheepdogs are too curious and friendly to guard either you or your prized possessions. However, these same qualities make Icelandic Sheepdogs excellent watchdogs. So they’ll helpfully signal the presence of a visitor or delivery with a welcoming bark.



1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/