Activities For Icelandic Sheepdogs

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Introduction

We think it's pretty interesting how a dog that’s as friendly and cuddly as the Icelandic Sheepdog could have a historical bond with some of history's fiercest warriors but, as the old saying goes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Icelandic Sheepdogs are a breed of spitz-type dogs (dogs who are characterized by their full coats, pointy ears, and looping tails) who were originally brought to the land of ice and fire by Nordic Vikings. These ancient warriors employed Icelandic Sheepdogs as herding dogs who could keep entire flocks of sheep safe and organized. Activities like obedience training and agility training are key in order to help an Icelandic Sheepdog reach their full potential.

Obedience

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Easy
45 min
Items needed
Leash
Treats
Activity description
Obedience training activities are king in terms of influencing the dynamics of the relationship held between yourself and your dog; after completing enough obedience training courses together, you and your dog will gain a better understanding of one another's wants and needs. Icelandic Sheepdogs tend to be very eager to please their human companions by default, so they often acclimate to obedience training activities much easier than other, more stubborn breeds will. If you're also interested in teaching your dog how to perform tricks or execute commands on request, then you'll definitely need to incorporate obedience training activities in your dog's daily or weekly routine. Obedience training courses can cost between $100 to $200 plus if you seek out professional help, or you can do it yourself for about half the cost but twice the difficulty. Either way, try to complete these activities with your dog on clear, sunny days as you'll need to spend a lot of time outside.
Step
1
Basic commands
Helping your dog understand how to interpret and follow basic commands is essentially the crux of obedience training; it won't take much time at all to teach a dog how to sit, stay, and lay down on command but it may be some time before your dog can do those things without needing to be incentivized with treats or toys.
Step
2
Rules and restraints
Dogs have a lot of natural animal impulses that they're compelled to follow on a daily basis. Obedience training seeks to help your dog resist those urges by exercising restraint. Try this activity the next time you have some time and a few willing participants; have your dog lay down before asking your assistants to walk around your pet in a circle. Stand by your dog while the others walk by, and heel your dog any time they try to get up and approach one of the others. Keep their attention focused on you to the best of your ability.
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Agility

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 45 min
Items needed
Hurdles
Hoop
A-frame
Tunnel
Water and Food
Activity description
Bring enough food and water to help your dog refuel themselves after a workout because your pet's going to work up quite a sweat completing agility training activities. Activities in which dogs jump over hurdles or bound through hoops, run up and down wooden planks or through nylon tunnels, and carefully make their way up and down winding flights of stairs all fall under the agility training umbrella. Icelandic Sheepdogs naturally have a lot of energy and love to run around the place as much as they can. These two factors make them great fits for agility training activities of all kinds. You can set up an agility training course for about $60 or so on your own, or you can gain access to an agility training facility (which usually charge by the hour.) If you have to train your dog outside, try to do it on a sunny day when it looks like it won't rain.
Step
1
A-frame
A-frames are simplistic agility training devices that consist of two pieces of wood, plastic, or metal that have been bonded together in a triangular, "A" shape. The idea is to encourage your dog to run up and down one of these A -shaped ramps until they've learned how to do so in a quick, yet controlled manner.
Step
2
Hoops and hurdles
Encouraging a dog to jump through hoops and over hurdles is another effective way to increase their natural agility over time; get a ring that's at least twice the size of your dog, hold it sideways, and then encourage your dog to jump through it. Gradually raise the height of the hoop until you've reached the limits of your dog's jumping ability. It's a similar case for hurdles as well; start low but raise the bar higher over time.
Step
3
Dog tunnels
For dogs, running through one of these nylon tunnels will be like running through a maze at first. But with time, you're dog will get better at running through the tunnel without getting lost and will begin to attempt getting through it at a faster rate with each subsequent attempt.
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Herding

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Any Day
Expensive
Hard
45 - 60 min
Items needed
Leash
Sheep
Activity description
When people say that a person or an animal was born to do something, they're typically exaggerating a bit to make a point. But trust us when we say that, when it comes to Icelandic Sheepdogs and herding training activities, they genuinely were born to accomplish those sorts of tasks. Even if you don't intend to employ your dog as a professional or full time herding dog, this activity can be a great outlet for your Icelandic Sheepdog because of the many ways that it taps into their natural instincts. It would definitely make things a lot easier to have a professional around who can help you train your dog, as opposed to trying to do it all by yourself. Three training sessions typically cost about $250 or more, so this isn't exactly a cheap activity. That being said, you can find discounted trial sessions listed online throughout various times of the year. Just be prepared for any sort of weather, as training sessions can be offered during any of the four seasons.
Step
1
Getting help
Type in the words "dog herding trainer" into a Google search bar and you'll likely be presented with dozens of pet trainers near you. Read reviews and testimonies and watch any available videos to get a sense of the trainer's personality so that you can determine if they'd be a good fit for your Icelandic Sheepdog. It may be tempting to go with the trainers who have the best reviews or most decorated profiles right off the bat, but take your time and try to find a trainer who's mindset and philosophy towards animal care matches your own.
Step
2
Socialization
It's a good idea to let your dog get acquainted with the sort of animals that they'll be herding; if your trainer will incorporate sheep into their training classes, they'll probably set some time aside so that your dog can get familiar with the flock (or at least a few members of the flock) that they'll be looking after. Sheep and dogs often get along very well, so don't be surprised if your Icelandic Sheepdog ends up making a new friend throughout the course of their training.
Step
3
Herding 101
What typically happens during an average herding training session is that the trainer will bring one of their sheep out before leading it a good distance away from its stable. The trainer will then beckon your dog over and will ask them to usher the sheep back to the stable using a number of commands like "come-by" (to get your dog to move to the sheep's left) and "away to me" (to get your dog to move to the sheep's right.) It'll take a lot of time and practice but you'll begin to see your dog make some real progress by the end of their first training session.
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More Fun Ideas...

Swimming

If you can get access to a pool or a very shallow lake of some sort, then you and your dog can go swimming together as a means of getting a solid workout logged in for the day. Icelandic Sheepdogs can learn to swim quite well after they've spent enough time training, so the sooner you can get them started practicing the better. There are plenty of free, dog-friendly places you can go swimming with your dog at as well as a few indoor pools that charge by the hour.

Rally Obedience

This activity consists of walking your dog around an obedience training course, keeping them in the heel position all the while, and then encouraging them to complete various activities at each station. Rally obedience competitions are usually hosted annually by organizations like the American Kennel Club but you can set up a course of your own design so that you can try this activity out for fun. You'll need about $40 to $50 to buy the pieces of equipment for each station if you set this activity up on your own, or you can pay for access to a facility with stations already set up.

Conclusion

Herding training, tracking training, agility training - these methods are some of the best ways to help an Icelandic Sheepdog reach their full potential. But it's not all in the training; dogs, just like humans, perform tasks much better when they're treated positively and are adequately motivated. The best thing about most dogs is that is doesn't take much to meet those two requirements. Treat a dog with kindness, love and respect and that's all the incentive they really need to at least try and complete any tasks that you've asked them to tackle. Icelandic Sheepdogs are no exception to this trend, which is one of the reasons that makes them such great pets and companions - they don't need much more than a little love and respect to incentivize them to go the extra mile for their families.