The Icelandic sheepdog was just accepted into the American Kennel Club in June, 2010. This Nordic herder is just under being considered medium size. It has pointed ears along with a curled tail. Its nose is large and black, and its lips are black too. This breed has strong forelegs. The build of the breed is rectangular which means the body is longer than its height. These dogs have a pleasant, happy and intelligent expression. A lively and confident bearing is normal for this breed. The coat can be either short or long, with both being quite thick and very weatherproof. The sexes do differ in appearance.

History of the Breed

The breed of Icelandic sheepdog has its origins in Scandinavia and is a Spitz. Evidence has been found in Sweden and Denmark that this breed goes as far back as 8000 B.C. In 874 AD, as the Vikings sailed to colonize Iceland, they transported their dogs with them. Over time, other dog breeds were imported only in small numbers. From 1901 till now Iceland has severely restricted the import of animals. This has helped keep the Icelandic sheepdog real close to what it was when the Vikings first came to Iceland.

This dog has been a great work dog and has been used to round up livestock. Even though the popularity of the breed has grown over the years the numbers of these dogs are still small today. It is believed to be among one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and is Iceland’s only breed that is native.

Temperament of the Icelandic Sheepdog

These Icelandic sheepdogs are energetic dogs. Their toughness makes them durable. They are good herding dogs because of their agility and hardiness. They are great for herding sheep and other livestock, and their barking comes in handy with these roles. This breed is very alert and will react when visitors are around but will not be violent. It also has strong hunting instincts and ability.

An Icelandic sheepdog is friendly, playful, pleasant in nature and not fearful. It gets along with other pets, dogs and loves kids. This dog does best when treated with a calm, firm hand. They love to have a duty to perform too.


This breed is a hardy breed with little health problems. As with all dogs though, bad breeding could cause some. So buy from a reputable breeder. Also make sure the veterinarian is seen once a year.


With its double coat that is very weatherproof, the Icelandic sheepdog needs some grooming. It does need to be brushed to remove any debris and dirt on a regular basis. This brushing will also keep the coat from matting, and make it shine. Check the dog’s ears each week and clean them. Also clip its nails at least every other week.

This breed makes an excellent pet and can be trained to be a watchdog. It is a breed that is a joy to own. Think about the Icelandic sheepdog for your next dog.

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Friendly, Playful, Inquisitive
AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 155 of 193
Height: 18 inches (male), 16.5 inches (female)
Weight: 30 pounds (male), 25 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
Group: Herding Group

Icelandic Sheep dog

Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America, Inc.

Illustrated Breed Standard

Endorsed by the Icelandic Sheepdog Breed Club, Deild Íslenska Fjárhundsins (DÍF).

~ Dedicated to the memory of Iceland’s first champion ISCH Íslands Garða Tinni ~

ISAA Makes News in Icelandic Kennel Club Magazine: Samur

Recently we received news from the USA that the Icelandic Sheepdog had become a fully recognized AKC breed. This the result of many years of work of the ISAA in the USA. The Board of the ISAA was in a close cooperation with the Board of DIF in coordinating our standard with theirs, but AKC standards are different from FCI standards in structure. This cooperation has been both positive and necessary because the standard that the ISAA had previously presented was not acceptable at all in DIF’s assessment.

Translated by Thordur Runolfsson
August 2010

© SIFK Used with permission.
© SIFK Used with permission.

Welcome to the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America’s (ISAA) Illustrated Standard of the Icelandic Sheepdog (ISD). This is a tool specifically designed for ISAA members and AKC judges who wish to learn more about the AKC Standard of Excellence for the ISD. It has been reviewed and endorsed by the Icelandic Sheepdog Breed Club, Deild Íslenska Fjárhundsins (DÍF). We hope you find it a useful tool.

To get started, please utilize the buttons to your left, beginning with a complete copy of the AKC Breed Standard. Following that, you will find a button that will take you to a section regarding the history of the breed, and then the standard is broken into sections, beginning with General Appearance, etc.

Each button contains the specific pertinent section taken from the AKC Standard, followed by the FCI Standard with Comments from Hans-Åke Sperne, photographic examples of ISDs, judges evaluations and drawings (when available). The AKC standard for the ISD is based upon the international standard (FCI) which was developed by the Icelandic Sheepdog Breed Club, Deild Íslenska Fjárhundsins (DÍF). It mirrors the FCI standard almost word for word, so the comments are extremely relevant to our standard.

© Donna R. McDermott. Used with permission.

DÍF has said that three of the experts on the ISD are Guðrún R. Guðjohnsen, Hans-Åke Sperne and Sigríður Pétursdóttir. They are pictured above left to right. All Evaluations found under photographs are from an expert judge or submitted for inclusion by DÍF. If there is more than one evaluation for any given dog, we have used the evaluation of another expert. All evaluations from FCI/ISIC ISD clubs have been translated from the original language. All photographs utilized are of dogs that placed first, second or third, or the equivalent for an FCI country, under an expert judge as defined by DÍF or were specifically selected by an expert judge or submitted by DÍF. Our intent is to show you good examples of the breed from around the world, as determined by a breed expert or the home country.

We recommend that as a companion to the Illustrated Standard, you also purchase the Icelandic Sheepdog Video. The video is based on the official breed standard for the Icelandic Sheepdog. The breed standard sets down clearly what the dog should look like, its temperament and working ability. For more information, please visit:

© Brynhildur Inga Einarsdóttir. Used with permission.

We would like to thank the Board of Directors of the ISAA for this opportunity, Mari-Beth O’Neill of the AKC, the Icelandic Kennel Club, AKC Judges Pat Putman and Pat Hastings, the Board of Directors of DÍF, for their assistance with our standard and the membership of the ISAA for voting it in overwhelmingly in 2009. We also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Helga Andrésdóttir for her original translation of the standard, without which none of this would have been possible, including our work to create a standard that is specifically modeled after the FCI standard written by the country of origin, Iceland.

We would also like to thank the members who shared evaluations and photographs of their dogs from the National. Additionally, we are grateful to our partners from the Icelandic Sheepdog International Cooperation (ISIC) for their generosity of time and resources; specifically, Guðrún R. Guðjohnsen (ISIC/C), Hans-Åke Sperne (ISIC/C), Sigríður Pétursdóttir (DÍF), Ami Rooth (SIFK), Jørgen Metzdorff (DKK), Þorsteinn Thorsteinson (DÍF), Else Westermann (DKK), Susanne Schütte (DCNH), Dorthe Friis Reitzel (DKK), Pia Stämpfli (IHCS), Ulla Sonne (DKK), Monika Karlsdóttir (DÍF), and the many others whose assistance made this project possible.

The ISAA is the first official Icelandic Sheepdog breed club outside the FCI that has been recognized by the ISIC breed clubs as a partner. This partnership has proven invaluable to the process of creating this illustrated standard. If you would like to read more about our international partnership, please visit: About the ISIC.

Of course, we wish Sir Mark Watson could be present as his dream of full AKC recognition is realized as of June 30, 2010. He and Sigríður Pétursdóttir worked so hard in the beginning to save the breed from extinction and we wish to honor them by not changing the breed, which is Sigríður’s primary concern and request.

We hope you enjoy this information and find it a useful tool as you learn about the ISD. Please direct any questions to and we will be happy to help in any way possible.

Best regards,

Judges Education Committee
June, 2010