Meet the Icelandic Sheepdog Temperament (Hardy, Cheerful, Alert)

The only breed to originate from Iceland, the Icelandic Sheepdog temperament is inquisitive, energetic, and cheerful.

Nicknamed the “Icie”, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a fairly rare breed in the United States today. Other names for this Icelandic dog include the Icelandic Spitz, Friaar dog, Fiaarhunder, Islandske Spidshunde, and the Islandsk Farehond.

Portrait of Icelandic Sheepdog

Icelandic Sheepdog Temperament and Personality

Affectionate Temperament

Icelandic Sheepdogs are known for their warm and friendly personality. Don’t be surprised if the Icie wants to be friends with everyone they meet. They greet every person they meet in hopes of making a new friend.

In fact, this dog will follow you around like, well, a puppy. He is a very loyal dog, and he is happiest when he’s by his master’s side. Even when you’re spending time inside, he’ll be resting at your feet or next to you on the couch.

Loves to Watch Birds

Like their heritage, the Icelandic dog still loves to watch – and bark at – birds in the sky. It’s actually pretty funny – and fun – to watch!

However, it’s not so fun if you actually have a pet bird. The Icie may try to go after the bird, as that is really the only prey he knows how to hunt. For this reason, you should always supervise your Icie if you have a pet bird. Though, it’s probably best not to have both together in the same house at all.

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdog | Dog Temperament

Loves to Bark

Icelandic Sheepdogs are infamous for their barking. They’ll bark to alert their humans of anything they hear or see. Therefore, they may not make the best apartment dogs.  You may be able to train him out of it, but you have to start when he’s incredibly young, and it may take a lot of hard work to get him there.

However, despite being great watchdogs, they’re not great at being guard dogs. The Icie is all bark, no bite. He’ll tell you someone’s nearby, but then he’ll leave it up to you to deal with it. He’s too friendly to even venture into aggressive territory – even to protect his family – and he doesn’t fear strangers in the least.

Outgoing, But Not Pushy

The Icelandic dog is alert and outgoing – but they are not aggressive or pushy. Interestingly, the male Icie tends to be more cuddly and relaxed than the female.

Sociable

Icelandic Sheepdogs are very social and love to be around people. In fact, Icies do exceptionally well with children.

What’s fantastic about the Icie is that you never have to worry about the dog accidentally knocking a child over and hurting him or her because he’s not so large as to have a cumbersome body. However, you should still supervise playtime between the Icie and children, especially children who are still very young.

These dogs are patient and gentle, making them an ideal family pet.

There’s no doubt when an Icie’s happy to see someone. He’ll wag his tail 100 miles an hour while giving the target of his affection a delighted look.

They don’t do well being left alone for long periods of time and, as a result, can develop separation anxiety. Along with separation anxiety comes destructive or otherwise unwanted behavior, like chewing, digging, or barking. So, if you have the kind of schedule that keeps you away from home at hours at a time, the Icie is probably not a good match for you.

Doesn’t Have a Strong Prey Drive

The Icelandic Sheepdog doesn’t have a strong prey drive as they weren’t bred to hunt and kill but rather control and protect. Therefore, the Icie gets along well with other dogs and pets.

The Icelandic dog doesn’t have a strong prey drive as they weren’t bred to hunt and kill but rather control and protect. Therefore, the Icie gets along well with other dogs and pets.

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdog Running

He’s a Chaser

You may want to keep him close to you when you’re outside with him because he’s a chaser. He loves to chase cars in particular, or anything with a motor really (though he’ll chase bikes too). Make sure you leash him up or fence him in securely when he’s outside.

A Brief History of the Icelandic Sheepdog Breed

It’s believed that Vikings brought their ancestors to Iceland in the 9th century. The breed was used to protect flocks – particularly lambs – from becoming prey for large birds. In fact, the Icie has a nickname (among his many other names): “Dog of the Vikings.”

The fact that that Icie is related to the Karelian Bear Dog provides proof that he came to Norway from a location somewhere in the east. However, in the late 19th century, we almost lost the Icie as a breed due to a severe outbreak of canine distemper.

How Do You Train an Icelandic Sheepdog?

The Icelandic Sheepdog temperament is extremely intelligent and willing. They are quite easy to train thanks to their “eager to please” attitude, but that’s only if you remain persistent and consistent in your training. You get from your training sessions what you’re willing to put into them.

You should also start training the Icie as soon as you bring him home. He’s never too young to start training. In fact, when he’s really young, he’s like a child in that he’s like a sponge – he’ll absorb everything you’re trying to train him, and relatively quickly too!

Because they are so smart and enthusiastic, you should always present them with training that challenges and stimulates them. Otherwise, they’ll become detached and bored.

One of the first commands you should teach the Icie is to “come.” Coming when you call is one of the easiest things for him to learn. So, you might as well build up both of your confidences in this whole training thing and start small, then work your way up to the more challenging tasks later.

Keep training sessions short and ever-changing. Try rotating their activities every few days to keep them happy and alert.

Icelandic Sheepdogs do not respond to harsh or negative training methods. Always use positive reinforcement training to get the most out of your sessions.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Icelandic Sheepdog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Finding the Perfect Icelandic Sheepdog

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdog in Snow | | Dog Temperament

If you’re ready to add this lively family dog do your pack, it’s time to find the perfect one.

First, consider your lifestyle. Icelandic Sheepdog puppies are cute, but do you have the time to train and socialize a puppy?

Puppies need constant supervision and if not trained properly, will grow into rowdy adults.

If you don’t time for a puppy, consider adopting an adult through Icelandic Sheepdog rescue. Adults do not require constant supervision and often have a foundation of basic training.

How Much are Icelandic Sheepdog Puppies?

Purebred Icelandic Sheepdog puppies for sale from a breeder will cost between $800-$1000.

The Icelandic Sheepdog price depends on location, breeder availability, and bloodline.

Puppies from a champion bloodline will be far more expensive than those without.

Icelandic Sheepdogs for adoption will cost between $200-$500, depending on the rescue organization as well as location.

Icelandic Sheepdog Rescue and Adoption

Don’t assume Icelandic Sheepdog rescue is only for adults. You can easily find Icelandic Sheepdog puppies for adoption through the National Icelandic Sheepdog Rescue Alliance.

Not only are you able to find puppies available for adoption, but you can also find Icelandic Sheepdog mixes available.

While there are dedicated Icelandic Sheepdog rescues, contact your local rescue or shelter and ask if they have any available.

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdog | Dog Temperament

Icelandic Sheepdog Breeders

If you’re ready to add a puppy to your family, you can find Icelandic Sheepdogs for sale through the AKC Marketplace as well as the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America.

Both websites have the option to search for Icelandic Sheepdog breeders based on location and gender. The AKC Marketplace also allows you to search based on bloodline and litter availability.

Choose several breeders you’d like to visit and prepare a list of questions. Ask about the litter’s temperament as well as any known health conditions.

A reputable breeder will always provide a health certificate and be able to answer any question you have about the breed.

Breeders should also ask you questions to determine whether the Icelandic Sheepdog is the right breed for you.

Take your time choosing the right breeder to make sure your new Icelandic Sheepdog puppy is the perfect fit.

The Icelandic Sheepdog Appearance

The Icelandic Sheepdog size is medium; males stand at about 18” while females are 16.5” tall. They weigh between 25-30 pounds and live between 12-14 years.

Icelandic Sheepdog Colors

As far as Icelandic dog colors go, their coats are relatively fair and typically consist of combinations that include white. For instance, their coats can be combinations of white and black, fawn, cream, gray, gold, or chocolate.

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdog Watchful

Caring for an Icelandic Sheepdog

How Do You Groom an Icelandic Sheepdog?

Icelandic Sheepdogs have an ample coat. Their outer coat is long while their undercoat is dense and short.

Do Icelandic Sheepdogs Shed?

Expect the Icelandic Sheepdog to shed quite a bit – especially during shedding season.

Icelandic Sheepdogs require weekly brushing – daily brushing during shedding season – to remove dirt and loose hair.

As for hypoallergenic, the Icelandic Sheepdog is not. If you tend to be allergic to dogs, then you’ll more than likely be allergic to this one, too.

Trim their nails regularly to avoid painfully overgrown nails.

Staying Healthy

The Icelandic Sheepdog is fairly healthy, but they are prone to specific health conditions such as:

Note: Few things are more important than our Health. It's no different with our Dog's Health. Some visits (and Money) to your Vet can be avoided if only we know what to do when our dog is ill. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is the answer. No dog owner should be without this handy guide. It's not a substitute for your Vet but help you quickly understand and recognize symptoms before they become a serious problem for your dog.

Exercise

Icelandic Sheepdogs are a fairly active breed and require moderate exercise. They make perfect companions for active families, especially those who enjoy long walks or hikes. They also love to go for the occasional swim!

The Icie needs a large yard in which he can perform his daily exercise. While, as with other breeds, you might have been able to keep him as an apartment dog if you took him out for long walks every day, his tendency to bark regularly already dooms him to a life not meant for apartment living.

The Icie likes to stick close to his master while exercising, which is why a long walk or a hike is ideal. You can’t just stick him in the backyard and hope he’ll run himself ragged. He won’t be happy unless he can exhaust you right along with himself!

Daily moderate exercise – such as walks, jogs, or games of fetch in the backyard – will keep the Icie happy and healthy.

Photo of Icelandic Sheepdogs Min

The Icelandic Sheepdog also excels in dog sports such as herding, obedience, tracking, agility, and rally.

Conclusion: Why the Icelandic Sheepdog?

The agile, inquisitive, and cheerful Icelandic Sheepdog temperament makes them the ideal family dog, thanks to their love for almost anyone. This includes other animals as well, especially dogs.

Expect your Icelandic Sheepdog to greet everyone they meet with a smile and don’t be surprised if you find them playing with children for hours on end!

He’s a barker, though, so just keep that in mind if you live in an apartment. He also does not do well if you have to leave him alone for long periods.

This is a fairly active breed that does well with an equally active family. During shedding season, the Icelandic Sheepdog needs extra grooming, but during the off-season, only require weekly brushing.

If you’re looking for an energetic, hardy, alert family dog, the Icelandic Sheepdog is perfect for you.