Characteristics of the Icelandic dog
Resting at the horse corral after a hard day’s work
The Icelandic sheepdog is a hardy dog, happy, lively and friendly with a gentle disposition. It is a spitz, small strong and robust, that is not put off by travelling over a rough country in foul weather. The stamina is often incredible. His love of working, eagerness to learn and cheerful bark have eased the shepherd’s load and earned him his master’s trust and affection, and more often than not a share of his packed lunch. The Icelandic sheepdog is also a very good guard dog, without being aggressive. The hunting and retreiving instincts are not strong (so they don’t get lost chasing small animals). These dogs are also very good playmates for children, and love to play all day long.
The Icelandic dog Bangsi, travelling
The Icelandic Sheepdog is a working dog, and now as then, the dog assembles sheep that graze in the open landscape all summer and is also used to work with horses. There are no beasts of prey in Iceland, so there has been no need for a fierce dog (aggressive dogs have through the ages simply been destroyed).
This dog gets easily attached to the family and to individuals, and would follow their people everywhere if it could. These dogs can be seen with farmers in Iceland in all likely and unlikely places, sitting in the tractors, following them in all chores, and trying to help where it can. It also gets very well along with other animals, whether they are farm animals or pets. After all, it’s been taking care of animals for centuries.
Outdoors this is a lively dog, but indoors it lies down by it’s masters feet, enjoying a quiet moment. It adjusts itself easily into the family’s daily patterns in the city as well as in the country, however it is not the best dog for inactive people. It can adjust to being alone for a few hours every day, but it is happiest around people.
Icelandic Dogs and kids just love each others!
The Icelandic Sheepdog has a strong tendency to bark, and there are individuals where this habit has become a nuisance. Teaching the dog to be quiet already as a puppy, and only bark on command, reduces this problem to a minimum. A dog that barks constantly is usually a dog that has done most of it’s own raising. This instinct comes from the fact that it was used, and is still used, to herd sheep, driving them out of acres (in the medieval Iceland fences were a scarsity), or down from enourmous mountain pastures where these dogs are still of tremendous help. They have also driven away birds, like ravens, that in medieval times were often dangerous to lambs, because of their unpopular habit of plucking out the lamb’s eyes and eating them. The dog keeps itself clean, and the coat needs little grooming. An occational brush will do. A strong doggy smell is almost unknown.
The Icelandic dog Kría, hiking.
A part of this dog’s interest in people and companionship is how extremely clever and trainable this dog is. They learn quickly, remember well, and love to show their tricks. They do well in all sorts of training programs, herding, obediance, agility and more. They also have a good nose and have been used to search for people and lost animals, and also as avalance-dogs. The breed is exeptionally healthy and strong (both physicalli and psychically).
The only fault in the breed is hip displasia (HD, a hereditary deformity of the hip joint), and breeding dogs are usually examined to try to breed it out. HD appears in different degrees, but it doesn’t seem to bother the dogs, even in heavy degrees. The Icelandic Sheepdog keeps it’s vitality into high age. 15 years is not an uncommon lifespan.