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Thoughts On Icelandic Sheepdogs

Icelandic Sheepdogs are tremendous family pets. They are loyal, fun loving and adaptable.  They excel with children. . They are a nice size at 25-40lbs with males being the larger.  The breed is just making its way into multiple venues and promise to succeed. As a farm dog, they are hard to beat. I have a flock of chickens and a pack of Icelandics. They clear the forest several times a day and to date, I have had no predator attacks. They will alert you if a bear or coyotes are near. My males are pretty fearless; the exception was moose in WA. They hid on the deck as a huge bull moose passed through, They are alert and will give you advanced notice of UPS, Fed Ex and your friends arrival. They are NOT a good guard dog as they know no strangers. They are a gregarious breed to is always part of the action.  Icelandic sheepdogs are a wonderful breed, but they aren't for everyone. They are a smart, active, herding breed that have a few traits that make them unsuitable in some situations. 

The Icelandic is a barking breed. Historically, they used their voice to move (herd) animals. They also bark as an alert to predators in the vicinity. In Iceland, the main threat to lambs are Ravens, Crows and birds of prey. What that means to a dog that barks (and can chase) large birds of prey. This is a hard wired response in some dogs. I'm on 250 acres and some of my dogs chase birds over the mountain. Certainly, in a subdivision, this behavior can get old. Similarly, due to their tendency to bark, seperation anxiety and need for exercise, apartment living can prove challenging. It is NOT impossible however, as I lived with 3 in an apartment for a year. It just takes dedication and someone who is home.

Seperation Anxiety: As a herding breed, they herd. They like and need responsibility. This can be you, your kids, your other pets or livestock. They are velco dogs who want to be in the thick of it. They languish if left alone all day. Many suffer from seperation anxiety. They may not the right dog for you if you and your spouse both work full time. It can be managed, but it is difficult.

Dog Reactive Behaviors.  Puppies in this breed MUST be appropriately socialized AND participate in puppy obedience. Failure to do so can result in dog reactive behaviors of lunging, barking, growling and a handlers loss of control. The behavior is rarely true aggression but a by-stander can NOT tell that by seeing this response. Proper socialization and exposure throughout puppyhood until 2 years of ageis absolutely necessary. A dog that displays this behavior IS NOT having a good time. As owners, its our responsibility to educate ourselves and our dogs.

Nordic Spitz traits. I love the spitz traits of pricked ears and a curled tail. But some also have the self-confidence, independance and willfulness to be a bit of a challenge. They are NOT the willing, compliant dog a German Shepherd is known to be. Talking an Icelandic into something probably wont happen. They benefit from patience and understanding. But the rewards for your dedication are awesome.

So barking, independance, reactivity and seperation anxiety are the most frequently raised issues.  Its easy to understand why many breeders, including myself, have serious reservations about first time dog owners. In these cases, we (our community) may suggest an older puppy or adult dog. It's very benefical to learn about dogs from an older dog who already has some foundational training. The vast majority of issues can be addressed through time and training. Make certain you can devote the necessary time in a young pups life. The groundwork you lay in the first 2 years will last your pups considerable lifetime. That is a HUGE payoff for a breed that lives well passed 15 years.


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