Exploring Iceland – The Icelandic Sheepdog
In Iceland, you can not only find the purebred Icelandic Horse but we also have our own dog breed i.e. the Icelandic Sheepdog.
We are pleased to share following information (and photos) with you and if you are interested in our lovely native dog we are happy to arrange a visit to a local breeder on your next visit to Iceland. (text and photos by Brynhildur Inga Einarsdóttir)
The Icelandic Sheepdog is an affectionate, friendly, curious, smart and lively dog. It is extremely social meaning that it will be your shadow indoors and out and needs to have close human contact. It is not a breed that does well in a kennel situation. The breed is extremely good with children and most other animals. It has a natural talent for driving/herding and therefore barking is in its makeup, of course, each dog is an individual and some are noisier than others.
The ISD is a breed that is very intelligent and learns exceptionally fast. It is, however, a soft tempered dog in the fact that it does not respond well to rough or negative training methods, such methods may cause stress barking in sensitive individuals. This dog breed is best treated with a kind hand but they do in fact need a leader figure to feel most comfortable. Being an active working breed they do best if stimulated mentally. It can be said that most Icelandic Sheepdogs re extremely willing to please and naturally obedient but need to know the rules of the household. ISD´s are a breed that is so intelligent that it needs an owner who is always one step ahead of them.
The breed is not an aggressive breed by nature. They are very easy going and usually love all humans and animals. However if not socialized properly as puppies they can show aggressive tendencies towards same-sex individuals, especially of the same breed. Icelandic sheepdogs should never show aggression towards humans, but they do show guard dog tactics by barking when strangers approach or when left alone in the car.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are fun-loving individuals, highly playful and love attention. They are very good candidates for things like agility, fly ball and especially keen on clicker training. Depending on the individual they may be too stressed by high-speed games but most cope well and love the excitement. ISD´s love learning tricks and seem to enjoy the attention they get from showing off. They are however not very keen on repetitive learning, they learn so fast that they tend to get bored quickly if their owners repeat things more often then they feel is necessary. They have their inbred purposes and they do their best to keep the flock together, be it human-canine or livestock and this can mean that they hate to see family members or quests leave the house. It´s something ISD owners get used to and often find quite amusing. In the standard for the Icelandic Sheepdog they speak of his smile, the breed always seems to be smiling and happy. This smile can be exaggerated at times anywhere from permanently visible what appears to be bearing of teeth or an occasional bearing of teeth to only those family members or friends the dog truly loves. This must not be mistaken for aggressive behaviour. Some dogs also like to use verbal communication like mumbling to get attention.
This breed is truly a social being; they will go home with strangers if given the chance. They love their owners tremendously but if someone else has something that smells good, they´ll make a friend for life! Although open and loving to everyone they do actually have a good sense of reading types of people and how best to win them over. This is a breed especially well suited for work as therapy and assistant dogs. Unfortunately, the breed is still so few that they have not been tried in great numbers in such work, but the ones that have been used in therapy have done a tremendous job. They certainly are of the perfect size, not too big and not too small.
This breed is a working dog, they are very individual in the amount of activity they need. Some dogs seem to be content just with a short daily walk on a lead while others can have endless energy. However, the nature of the ISD is to be able to run free and enjoy nature and they definitely love running. As long as they are kept in good health they can be on the go all day without tiring, as long as their owner is close by. Most ISD´s will make it a point to keep in good contact with their owners while running free, they are not loners. In general ISD´s are a nice family dog that only needs moderate exercise, but they are just as content on the farm as a working dog.
Socialization with other dogs at a young age is important because the Icelandic Sheepdog is a spitz breed. They can be slightly aggressive towards same-sex individuals even in the same household if stressful situations arise, like during a female´s season. However in most cases they are easy to get along with and love the company of other dogs. They seem to bond very well with all types of pets in the same household, in the case of neighbour´s cats however they just may have a lot of fun chasing them for fun. They readily take well to most types of animals, pets and livestock; of course, again socialization never hurts. They can be used to drive all types of livestock from horses, cows and sheep to even chickens or rabbits. They have a natural ability to work with other animals and are generally very friendly and outgoing.
Icelandic Sheepdogs are especially loving with children, they are quite patient and if they feel threatened they will often walk away rather than show aggression. As with all dogs, care must be taken to not let children be too overbearing because the dogs are many times too patient with them.