The Icelandic Sheepdog is usually a very playful and friendly dog. He loves children and gets along well with other dogs. He hates to be left alone for long periods of time. The Icie, as they are nicknamed by lovers of the breed, will usually welcome visitors onto his property but will bark when they first approach. He is not aggressive towards strangers. He is a typical herding dog and will look for a job to do, even if that job is to herd cars that pass by. The Icelandic Sheepdog does not do well with pet birds or birds in the wild. He is most happy when he is with his family whether that be at home or on the road.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is the only known breed that originated in Iceland. Theory is that the Vikings brought this breed’s ancestors to Iceland in the 9th century. His original job was to protect the flocks of sheep, especially the lambs from large birds of prey. It is suggested that the Icelandic Sheepdog came into Iceland from Norway. Graves have been discovered in Norway and Sweden containing dogs that resemble the Icelandic Sheepdog. He is related to the Karelian Bear Dog and that gives evidence that the Icelandic Sheepdog came to Norway from somewhere in the east. In the late 19th century, the Icelandic Sheepdog almost became extinct from a plague of canine distemper. Over 75% of the Icelandic Sheepdogs died from this disease. This led to a ban on the importation of dogs into Iceland. Imports were limited and then banned in 1901. In the late 20th century, the Icelandic Sheepdog was once again close to extinction. In the 1950s there were only about 50 Icies left. In 1969 the Icelandic Dog Breeder Association was formed to help preserve the breed. Now, there are more than 800 Icies in the United States alone. The American Kennel Club recognized the Icelandic Sheepdog in June of 2010. The Icelandic Sheepdog is not considered to be a popular breed in the United States despite his happy, loyal personality. The Icelandic Dog Breeder Association is working tirelessly to preserve the integrity of the breed and to make people more aware of the breed’s personality and traits.
The Icelandic Sheepdog has a double, thick coat that is also waterproof. He comes in two coat lengths: short and long. Icies with a short coat will have a medium length outer coat that is fairly coarse and a soft, thick undercoat. His tail will be bushy and the length of hair will be proportional to his coat. Icies with a long coat will have an outer coat that is long and fairly coarse with a soft, thick undercoat. His tail is very bushy with the length of hair being proportional to his coat. The hair on his face, head and ears should be shorter. The Icelandic Sheepdog is seen in many different colors, however one single color should always be predominant. The predominant colors include various shade of tan, chocolate brown, grey and black. Tan can range from cream to reddish brown. Icies can also have white markings. These white markings are often irregular and will cover part of the face, collar, chest, feet and tip of the tail. Grey and tan dogs will generally have a black mask and black tips on their outer coat.
The Icelandic Sheepdog comes in two coat lengths, but both will shed excessively as both have a dense undercoat. He will need to be brushed once or twice a week to remove any loose or dead hair. The more often you brush him, the less amount of hair that will be seen floating through the air or settling on clothes or furniture. Mainly, he will be a seasonal shedder and the undercoat will come out in clumps. During these times, brushing every day is recommended. His nails will need to be trimmed every two or three weeks. If he will allow it, you can use a grinder on his nails rather than nail clippers. Clean his ears once a week to prevent infections from occurring. Regular teeth cleaning using a veterinarian approved toothpaste is also recommended. Once a year he may need to have his teeth cleaned by a veterinarian.