Small, powerful, low and long, the Swedish Vallhund is a dog with Viking roots primarily used for herding cattle and working on farms. Today, he serves as an engaging companion, well-loved for its zest for life, confidence, and playfulness, much like his Corgi cousins. Regarded as a “big dog in a small package,” he also has ample energy to spare, be it competing in performance sports, doing the job he was initially bred to do, being a super watchdog, or simply following his beloved humans wherever they go.
Origins of the Swedish Vallhund
In the middle of the 8th to the 11th centuries, the Vikings from Scandinavia seized, subdued, and settled in many parts of the British Isles. One of the vestiges of their influence is the Swedish Vallhund, also known as the Vikingarnas Dog, which is believed to have been developed by crossing the spitz dogs from Scandinavia with the Welsh Corgis.
Whilst no information is when the breed was exactly developed, what is known is that these dogs were used as all-purpose dogs in Sweden, driving livestock, keeping vermins down, protecting homes, and barking as an alarm.
By 1942, the Swedish Vallhund was on the brink of extinction. Fortunately, Count Bjorn Von Rosen and his colleague, Karl Gustav Zettersten, took the cause and made efforts to save the breed. The dogs were first recognized as the Svensk Vallhund by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1964. However, in 1964, the breed’s name was changed to Västgötaspets, in reference to Vastergotland province, where the breed was revived.
In 1974, the first Swedish Vallhunds came to England and then to the United States in 1983. The American Kennel Club recognized them in 2007, becoming AKC’s 157th breed.
Characteristics of the Swedish Vallhund
Height: 11.5-13.75 inches
Weight: 20-35 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
The Swedish Vallhund is a small, hardy-built Spitz dog that lies low and long to the ground, though not overly, as his Corgi cousin. Nevertheless, his short stature is what makes him an excellent cattle driver, making it easy to nip at the heels of livestock and allowing him to be agile enough to avoid kicks to his head.
This breed has a fox-like expression, with a long muzzle, prick ears, and a prominent mask going lighter around the muzzle, eyes, and below the throat. He can have one of the three types of tails of the breed, a natural bobtail, a full curl tail, or a stub tail. His double coat is medium-length, with a harsh, tight topcoat and a softer and denser undercoat. The fur on the neck, chest, and back of the thighs is relatively longer, while shorter on the head and the lower legs.
While small in size, the Swedish Vallhund is big in terms of personality. He is loving, affectionate towards his people, and amiable with children, as with other dogs. Quite energetic and playful, possessing some sense of humor, but also when to tone things down and be calm and mellow, making him a fun canine to have at home.
However, with such a great demeanor comes great responsibility. This dog is fit for experienced families. He’s highly intelligent, ang may have an independent or willful streak, which can be overwhelming for first-time owners.
Moreover, the Swedish Vallhund is renowned for being very vocal. He will “talk” to you about this day and never fail to let you know whenever there is an approaching stranger or a cat is in the driveway. Adding his chatty personality with his alertness makes him an excellent watchdog. However, excessive barking can be a problem in urban settings if he’s not trained properly on how to use his voice.
Lastly, expect the Swedish Vallhund to be agile as a sports car with an incredible turning radius and speed. He’s capable of overcoming different terrains. Travelling, hiking, completing an agility course, or flyball competition won’t fear this enthusiastic and confident canine.
Caring for the Swedish Vallhund
Swedish Vallhund’s double coat sheds twice annually, creating snowdrifts of fur during the shedding season. Giving him a warm bath and shampooing him may help get rid of most of the loose hair. In the regular season, brushing him weekly using a bristle brush will suffice in keeping his coat healthy.
As with any other dog breed, regular teeth brushing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning are also necessary to keep the Swedish Vallhund healthy and comfortable. Introduce these activities to him at a young age, and keep these upkeep a regular and enjoyable part of his routine.
Being a herding dog, he needs daily exercise to keep him physically and mentally satisfied. A short jog, a long walk, and some puzzles are usually enough to keep him happy. However, if you can give him a job, it will be best, and he will gladly partake. This dog loves having a sense of purpose, which is entrenched in his roots.
Besides exercise, feeding him with high-quality dog food in the right proportions is essential in keeping him in shape. Avoid overfeeding as it can result in obesity, which then can make him susceptible to other health issues.
Fortunately, he is a relatively healthy breed, only known to suffer from common dog health concerns, such as patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, and eye diseases. Make sure to keep him lean to free his joints from stress. Consulting a vet regularly for checkups, necessary immunizations, parasite control, and feeding regimen can help extend your companion’s lifespan.