Icelandic Sheepdogs

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The Icelandic Sheepdog comes in many colors, this one is tan with a large white blaze.

This Icie is watching his owner to see what's next.

This dog is a tri; golden and white, with sable tips.

This breed is friendly to all and devoted to his people.

The breed comes in many colors, this one is tan with a large white blaze.

I met my first Icelandic Sheepdog last year at the World Show in Paris. The dog looked like some sort of smallish Nordic breed but obviously had the temperament of a Sheltie.

I later learned that this is the dichotomy of the Icie; he has the look of a nordic wolf, loping along the tundra -- but the temperament of a happy sheepdog, eager to please.

He is playful and cheerful, devoted to his owners but friendly with all. He is an excellent herding dog; capable of working the sheep, cattle or horses all day long in the rugged Icelandic terrain, then playing with the kids in front of the fire in the evening.

He has a double coat, thick and waterproof, in two coat lengths -- a long coat and a "short" one (though the shorter length still has the typical thick undercoat with medium length, outstanding guard hairs). He comes in a variety of colors and markings, ranging from tan and white, through golden, red, sable and black.

This breed is definitely kid-friendly; on the down-side, he is definitely not hypoallergenic and can be noisy.

They are a new breed to the US and were accepted into the AKC Herding Group in 2010.


This is an ancient breed, harking back more than a thousand years. When the Vikings decided that it was time to become farmers instead of marauders and pillagers, they needed four-legged assistants. The Icelandic farmers used the canine genetic blueprints available -- nordic dogs with a wolf-like appearance -- and selected over many generations for the traits they were looking for.

They selected for friendly, biddable dogs who had a sixth sense about sheep, cattle and horses, with an uncanny ability to negotiate the rugged Icelandic terrain.

After almost disappearing in the late 1800's, the breed surged back in the 1960s due to concerted efforts by Sigriour Petursdottir and the Icelandic Ministry of Agriculture.

Still relatively low in numbers, the breed is Iceland's only native breed.

By the Numbers

Size: Dogs 18" at the shoulder, females 16".
Coat Care: 4 – low. They need thorough and regular brushing to keep their shedding manageable, especially during their twice yearly molts. They should only be bathed if stinky.
Trainability: 9 – high. This is a very trainable breed, eager to please his owners. 
Energy level: 7 -- medium. This is a breed built for stamina. He can herd and shepherd all day long and is a marathoner rather than a sprinter. He needs a job to be at his best, but his work can be watching the kids just as easily as being a farm dog.
Good with Children: 10 – very high. They love kids, and kids love them.
Noise level: high – 8: The breed's training is to bark when they find lost animals, bark to move the herd along and bark to warn of coming dangers. In other words, when in doubt, bark!
Low Shedding/hypoallergenic: – 10 -- very high He sheds copiously and is not good for people with dog allergies.

To get more information or to find a puppy, contact the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America.

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