Temperament: Friendly, Energetic, Watchful
- Height: 12.5-13.75 inches (male), 11.5-12.75 inches (female)
- Weight: 20-35 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
- Group: Herding Group
The long and low Swedish Vallhund, Viking Dog of ancient legend, is a smart and sociable herder of dense coat and boundless energy. These rugged cattle dogs are known for their zest for life, unique vocalizations, and cheerful demeanor.
The Swedish Vallhund is a small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog. The correct relationship of height to length of body is 2:3. The SV has a wedge-shaped head, prick ears, and a close-fitting hard coat of medium length and sable coloring. The double coat and the characteristic “harness markings” are essential features of this breed. Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked. The appearance of the Swedish Vallhund conveys intelligence, alertness and energy. Balance, outline, temperament and movement are of overriding importance.
About the Swedish Vallhund
With their thick sable coat, sturdy construction, and overall no-frills look, Vallhunds are a timeless breed, as comfortable in a suburban backyard as they were on the prow of Viking long-ships 1,200 years ago. These lively herders are built long and low to the ground—in not quite as exaggerated a fashion as their distant cousins the corgis, but the idea is the same: Their build makes it easier to nip at the heels of cattle and avoid kicks to the head. Balance, power, and smooth movement are breed hallmarks.
NUTRITION The Swedish Vallhund should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Most Vallhunds are “easy keepers” and need less food than one would think, even if they’re very active. They tend to become overweight easily, even if they get a lot of exercise. Owners should not free-feed Vallhunds (or any dog)—it’s not normal for dogs to graze, and it makes it difficult to know quickly if the dog isn’t eating well. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
GROOMING Swedish Vallhunds need a good, down-to-the-skin brushing occasionally and a bath when they get dirty. They shed their undercoat twice a year, which will make you wonder just how many dogs you have, going by the snowdrifts of hair. Vallhunds are very easy dogs to manage when it comes to grooming. When they are shedding, a warm bath and good massage when shampooing, followed by drying with a dryer and a thorough brushing, can get rid of the worst of it.
EXERCISE There is quite a bit of individual variability in terms of exercise needs in the breed. Some Swedish Vallhunds have more energy than others. Keep in mind that while this isn’t a breed intended to run all day, the Vallhund is a working farm dog and needs regular exercise. One decent walk daily with some time playing fetch or performing a sport or other activity is likely adequate for most Vallhunds, but some need more. They also need mental exercise in addition to their physical exercise. Puzzle games, clicker training, and participating in a sport can all contribute to their mental and physical well-being.
TRAINING Most Vallhunds should want to work with you; that’s one of the hallmarks of the breed. They do best with positive, reward-based training, since most just need to understand what you want. Keep in mind that this is a cattle-herding breed. They’re strong willed (as they need to be to do their job), and your goal should be to get the dog to work happily with you. Most do extremely well with clicker training, and most are very biddable.
HEALTH Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia. A genetic test for an eye issue called Swedish Vallhund retinopathy was developed in 2017; breeders can now identify carriers and breed them accordingly to ensure they do not produce affected offspring.