All you need to know about the icelandic sheepdog
The icelandic sheepdog very much resembles dogs found in graves in Denmark and Sweden from about 8000 B.C. Dog imports to Iceland were limited and from 1901 even forbidden.
In 1650 Sir Thomas Brown wrote “To England there are sometimes exported from Iceland … a type of dog resembling a fox … Shepherds in England are eager to acquire them!”
Plague and canine distemper destroyed over 75% of the breed in the late 19th century, leading to a ban on the importation of dogs to Iceland. The purebred Icelandic sheepdog was again bordering extinction in the late 20th century and in 1969 the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association was established to preserve the breed, among other aims.
As the name implies, it is a sheep dog, but is also used as a watch dog and general working dog. When herding, the Icelandic sheepdogs were not mainly used to take the sheep from one point to another, but to prevent animals from straying. Additionally, the dogs were in charge of herding horses and other animals as well. When herding failed, the dogs drove the animals by barking. Thus, they tend to bark when they want something, although this behaviour can be controlled by training.
In the Icelandic landscape, sheep often get lost and it has historically been the dog’s job to find them and return them to the herd. They are therefore used to working on their own and to figuring things out for themselves, so owners have to beware lest they learn things they should not. As a watch dog, their main task was to alert the inhabitants when somebody was coming, so these dogs tend to bark a lot when they see people approaching.
The Icelandic sheepdog is very loyal and wants to be around its family constantly. It follows its owner everywhere. Unlike most working dogs, these calm down when indoors and will happily lie down at their master’s feet.
The Icelandic sheepdog gained AKC recognition in June 2010