Swedish Vallhund

Table of Contents

swedish vallhund portrait
Meet the Swedish Vallhund, a pint-sized powerhouse with a Viking heritage! These spunky little dogs are sure to steal your heart with their unique "wolfish" appearance and exuberant personalities. With their signature stumpy legs and boundless energy, Swedish Vallhunds are the perfect combination of adorable and adventurous.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Swedish Vallhund is an ideal companion for active individuals or families who enjoy spending time outdoors and engaging in physical activities. They also adapt well to various living situations, be it a house with a yard or an apartment, as long as their exercise needs are met.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMESwedish Vallhund
OTHER NAMESSwedish Cattle Dog, Swedish Shepherd, Västgötaspets
ORIGINSweden
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT11.5-13.75 inches
WEIGHT20-35 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK160th
swedish vallhund in a park
Photo: CaptureLight/Getty Images

Appearance

The Swedish Vallhund is a small to medium-sized dog breed with a sturdy, well-proportioned build that showcases its strength and agility. Their body is slightly longer than it is tall, giving them a rectangular shape.

Males typically stand between 12.5 to 13.75 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly shorter, measuring about 11.5 to 12.75 inches. The average weight for both sexes ranges from 20 to 35 pounds.

One of the most distinctive features of the Swedish Vallhund is their short, powerful legs, which are a result of a natural genetic mutation. Despite their short stature, these dogs possess remarkable strength, agility, and endurance. Their muscular thighs, broad chest, and strong back contribute to their impressive physical abilities.

The head of the Swedish Vallhund is wedge-shaped, with a slightly rounded skull and a well-defined stop. Their muzzle is medium length, strong, and well-filled under the eyes, ending in a dark, well-developed nose. The Vallhund’s medium-sized, oval-shaped eyes are dark brown and exhibit an alert and intelligent expression.

Another striking feature of this breed is their medium-sized, pointed ears, which stand erect and are set well apart on the head. They are mobile and highly expressive, often displaying the dog’s mood or emotions. The Vallhund’s powerful jaw houses a complete set of strong, evenly spaced teeth that form a scissors bite.

Swedish Vallhunds come with a variety of tail types: long, stubby, or naturally bobbed. All tail types are accepted by breed standards and do not affect the dog’s overall appearance or function.

Their double coat consists of a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat. The fur is short and tight across the head, front of the legs, and on the ears, while it is slightly longer and thicker around the neck, chest, back of the thighs, and on the tail.

The coat comes in various shades of gray, ranging from light silver to dark gray, and can have red or brown highlights. Some Vallhunds may have white markings, usually on the chest, feet, and face.

Overall, the Swedish Vallhund’s appearance embodies a perfect blend of strength, agility, and charm, making them an eye-catching and unique breed.

swedish vallhund's face up close
Photo: JTGrafix/Getty Images Signature

Temperament

The Swedish Vallhund is a breed that brings together an array of qualities that make it a captivating companion. This breed, which traces its roots back to the Viking era, possesses a personality as vibrant and spirited as the legends of its ancestors.

One of the most striking aspects of the Swedish Vallhund’s temperament is their boundless energy. These dogs seem to have an internal battery that never runs out. Their zest for life is infectious, turning even ordinary moments into exciting adventures. They approach each day with a sense of wonder, eager to explore and experience the world around them.

The Swedish Vallhund is also known for its sociable nature. They are naturally outgoing, always ready to make friends and join in on the fun. Whether it’s meeting new people or mingling with other dogs, you’ll find a Vallhund at the heart of the action. This sociability extends to their human family as well, with whom they form strong, affectionate bonds.

But they’re not just sociable. The Swedish Vallhund is a breed that’s also fiercely independent. They have a mind of their own and aren’t afraid to use it. This independence can sometimes manifest as stubbornness, but it’s also what makes them so endearing. It’s hard not to admire a dog that knows its own mind and isn’t afraid to stand its ground.

Despite their independence, Swedish Vallhunds are incredibly affectionate. They enjoy nothing more than spending time with their human family, whether it’s cuddling on the couch or sharing in the excitement of a family trip. Their affectionate nature is one of their most endearing traits, making them the perfect companion for those who appreciate a loving, loyal pet.

Swedish Vallhunds are also known for their intelligence. They’re quick to pick up on things, always alert and aware of their surroundings. This intelligence, combined with their playful nature, often leads to mischief. But it’s the kind of mischief that brings a smile to your face, the kind that reminds you of the joy of having such a spirited companion.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Swedish Vallhund has a sense of humor. Yes, you read that right. These dogs are known for their impish antics, always ready to entertain and bring a smile to your face. Whether it’s a silly game they’ve invented or a funny face they’ve made, a Vallhund knows how to lighten the mood and make you laugh.

swedish vallhund running in a park
Photo: GoDogPhoto/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Swedish Vallhund is a versatile breed that can adapt to various environments, provided their physical, mental, and social needs are met.

Physical Environment

They can thrive in both rural and urban settings, from spacious houses with yards to smaller apartments. However, regardless of their living space, it’s essential to ensure they receive adequate daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

Climate Adaptability

As a breed that originated in Sweden, the Swedish Vallhund is well-equipped to handle cold climates. Their double coat provides them with insulation against frigid temperatures, making them comfortable in colder regions. However, it’s essential to monitor them during extreme weather conditions and provide a warm shelter when necessary.

In contrast, Vallhunds may be more sensitive to hot climates due to their thick double coat. During warmer months, it’s crucial to ensure they have access to shade, fresh water, and proper ventilation. Avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day, opting for early morning or evening walks instead.

Keep an eye out for signs of overheating, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and take appropriate action to cool them down if needed.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parents for Swedish Vallhunds are active individuals or families who enjoy spending time outdoors and engaging in physical activities. They should be willing to commit to regular walks, play sessions, and training exercises to cater to the Vallhund’s high energy levels and intelligence.

Given their working dog background, they are well-suited for owners interested in participating in dog sports or other canine activities.

Other Pets

When it comes to coexisting with other pets, Swedish Vallhunds can generally get along well with other dogs if properly introduced and socialized. As mentioned earlier, they may also live peacefully with cats and smaller animals, provided they are raised together or introduced gradually. However, due to their strong prey drive, supervision is recommended when interacting with smaller pets.

swedish vallhund sitting on a wooden bench
Photo: GlenisB/Getty Images

Grooming

The Swedish Vallhund has a relatively low-maintenance grooming routine, but regular care is still required to keep them in optimal condition.

Coat Care

Their double coat consists of a harsh, weather-resistant outer coat and a soft, dense undercoat, which requires specific attention to avoid matting and maintain its natural protective qualities.

Brushing the coat at least once a week is recommended to remove loose hair, prevent tangles, and distribute natural oils throughout the fur. During shedding seasons, which typically occur twice a year, Vallhunds may require more frequent brushing to help manage the increased hair loss.

A slicker brush or a pin brush can be used for this purpose, as they effectively remove dead hair and minimize shedding. Additionally, an undercoat rake can help remove loose undercoat hair without damaging the topcoat.

Bathing a Swedish Vallhund should be done on an as-needed basis, usually every couple of months, or when the dog gets dirty or starts to emit an odor. Overbathing can strip the coat of its natural oils, leading to dry skin and a dull coat.

When bathing, use a gentle dog shampoo that won’t irritate their skin. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as leftover shampoo can cause itching and irritation.

Dental Care

Dental care is a crucial aspect of grooming for any dog breed, including the Swedish Vallhund. Regular teeth brushing helps prevent plaque buildup, tartar, bad breath, and gum disease.

Ideally, you should brush your Vallhund’s teeth daily, but if that’s not feasible, aim for at least two to three times per week. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs, as human toothpaste contains ingredients that can be harmful to pets.

Nail Trimming

Trimming your Vallhund’s nails is another essential grooming task that contributes to their overall health and comfort. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort and even lead to problems with their gait or posture.

Depending on your dog’s activity level and the surfaces they walk on, nail trimming may be needed every three to four weeks. Use a good-quality dog nail clipper or grinder, and be careful not to cut too close to the quick, which can cause pain and bleeding.

Ear Care

Another grooming task to consider is cleaning your Vallhund’s ears. Check their ears weekly for signs of redness, irritation, or excessive wax buildup. To clean the ears, use a gentle dog ear cleaner and a cotton ball or soft cloth. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear canal or damage the delicate structures inside.

Additional Grooming Tips

Lastly, it’s essential to keep an eye on your Swedish Vallhund’s overall skin and coat health. Regularly check for any signs of irritation, rashes, or parasites such as fleas and ticks. Promptly address any concerns with your veterinarian to ensure your Vallhund remains healthy and comfortable.

swedish vallhund playing with a ball
Photo: Sarccu/Pixabay

Exercise

The Swedish Vallhund is an energetic and active breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. As a herding breed, they possess impressive stamina, agility, and strength, which need to be channeled through appropriate outlets to keep them happy and prevent boredom-related behaviors.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, Swedish Vallhunds require at least 45 minutes to an hour of daily exercise. This can include brisk walks, jogs, or off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area. It’s essential to vary the types of activities you engage in with your Vallhund to keep them stimulated and interested.

Incorporating interactive games like fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek can provide additional mental stimulation while also strengthening the bond between you and your dog.

In addition to structured exercise, it’s crucial to provide your Vallhund with opportunities for mental stimulation. Puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or scent games can help challenge their minds and alleviate potential boredom when they’re not engaged in physical activities.

Dog Sports

Swedish Vallhunds excel in various dog sports, such as obedience, agility, rally, and herding trials. These activities not only cater to their natural instincts but also provide an excellent opportunity for them to showcase their intelligence and physical prowess. Participating in dog sports can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your Vallhund, building teamwork skills and reinforcing good behavior.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Swedish Vallhund, be mindful of weather conditions, particularly during hot summer months. Due to their thick double coat, Vallhunds may be more susceptible to overheating. Avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day and always provide access to fresh water and shade.

It’s important to note that, like all dogs, the exercise needs of individual Vallhunds may vary depending on factors such as age, health, and individual temperament. Be sure to monitor your dog’s energy levels and adjust the exercise routine accordingly.

swedish vallhund swimming in a pool
Photo: GoDogPhoto/Getty Images

Training

The Swedish Vallhund is an intelligent and eager-to-please breed, making them highly trainable and capable of learning a wide range of commands and tasks. Their herding background means they are naturally accustomed to working closely with humans, which translates well into their ability to learn and perform in various training settings.

Positive Reinforcement

When training a Swedish Vallhund, it’s crucial to use positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play, to encourage good behavior and strengthen the bond between you and your dog. They respond well to consistency and clear communication, so it’s important to establish and maintain a structured training routine from an early age.

Socialization

Socialization is a key component of training for any dog breed, including the Swedish Vallhund. Exposing them to a variety of people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age will help them develop a well-rounded temperament and become more adaptable to new experiences.

Proper socialization can also prevent fearfulness or aggression towards unfamiliar people, animals, or environments.

Nipping Tendencies

Due to their herding instincts, Swedish Vallhunds may exhibit behaviors like nipping at heels or attempting to control movement. While these are natural tendencies for the breed, it’s essential to address and manage these behaviors through proper training techniques. Teaching them commands like “leave it” or “off” can help curb unwanted herding behaviors and ensure a well-behaved companion.

Patience & Persistence

It’s important to remember that patience and persistence are key when training any dog, including the Swedish Vallhund. While they are generally quick learners, each dog is unique, and some may take longer to grasp certain commands or concepts. Always approach training sessions with a positive attitude and be prepared to adjust your methods as needed to meet your dog’s individual needs.

swedish vallhund lying on the carpet
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Diet & Nutrition 

The Swedish Vallhund, like any dog breed, requires a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain optimal health and well-being.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting food for your Vallhund, it’s essential to choose high-quality options that follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the pet food meets the minimum nutritional requirements necessary for your dog’s growth and maintenance.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw diets. Each type has its pros and cons, and the best choice depends on your dog’s individual needs, preferences, and any specific dietary requirements. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable diet for your Swedish Vallhund, taking into account factors such as age, weight, activity level, and overall health.

The amount and frequency of feeding will vary depending on your Vallhund’s age and activity level. Puppies generally require more frequent meals, typically three to four times per day, to support their rapid growth and development.

As they mature into adulthood, this can be reduced to two meals per day. It’s important to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust portion sizes accordingly to prevent overfeeding and maintain a healthy weight.

Active Swedish Vallhunds may require more calories to support their energy expenditure, while less active or senior dogs may need fewer calories to avoid weight gain. Always refer to the feeding guidelines provided by the pet food manufacturer and consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog’s weight or nutritional needs.

Treats

Treats can be an enjoyable part of your Vallhund’s diet but should be given in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats and avoid feeding human food, as some ingredients can be harmful or toxic to dogs.

Water

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Swedish Vallhund to stay hydrated, especially during exercise or hot weather. Make sure to provide clean water in a suitable bowl and replenish it regularly.

swedish vallhund sitting in the snow
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Health

The Swedish Vallhund is generally a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. By providing a healthy diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and keeping up-to-date with vaccinations, you can help ensure your Vallhund remains in good health throughout their life.

Here are common health issues associated with the Swedish Vallhund:

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Responsible breeding practices can reduce the risk of hip dysplasia in Vallhunds, but it’s crucial to monitor for signs of discomfort and consult your veterinarian if you have concerns.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help identify early signs of PRA and allow for appropriate management.

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort and potentially affecting mobility. Mild cases may not require treatment, while more severe cases may necessitate surgical intervention.

Obesity: Swedish Vallhunds can be prone to weight gain if not provided with a balanced diet and adequate exercise. Obesity can contribute to various health issues, including joint problems, heart disease, and diabetes. Monitoring your Vallhund’s weight and adjusting their diet and exercise accordingly can help prevent obesity-related issues.

Allergies: Some Vallhunds may suffer from allergies, which can manifest as skin irritation, itching, or gastrointestinal issues. Identifying the cause of the allergy, whether it’s food-related or environmental, and implementing appropriate management strategies can help alleviate symptoms.

To maintain your Swedish Vallhund’s health, provide a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs, and engage them in regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Schedule routine veterinary check-ups, including dental care, vaccinations, and annual blood work, to monitor their overall health and identify any potential issues early.

By taking a proactive approach to your Swedish Vallhund’s health and well-being, you can help ensure they enjoy a long, happy, and fulfilling life by your side.

swedish vallhund walking in the forest during sunset
Photo: Skogs Studion/Getty Images

History

The Swedish Vallhund, also known as the Västgötaspets or the Swedish Cattle Dog, boasts a rich history that dates back over a thousand years. Originating in Sweden, these small but sturdy dogs were primarily used as herding and guarding animals on farms and homesteads. Their name, “Vallhund,” translates to “herding dog” in Swedish, which is a testament to their working dog heritage.

The breed’s ancestry can be traced back to the Viking Age, around 800 to 1066 AD. It is believed that the Swedish Vallhund shares a common ancestry with the Welsh Corgi, as both breeds possess similar physical characteristics and herding abilities.

The exact nature of this relationship remains unclear, but it is speculated that the Vikings may have brought Vallhunds to Wales, where they interbred with local herding dogs, or vice versa.

Swedish Vallhunds were highly valued for their versatile skillset, which included herding cattle, sheep, and horses, as well as guarding homes and properties. They were particularly adept at driving cattle by nipping at their heels, a herding technique still observed in the breed today.

Due to their compact size and agility, Vallhunds were able to navigate the rocky terrain of the Swedish countryside with ease, making them an indispensable asset to farmers and landowners.

Despite their long history, the Swedish Vallhund faced near extinction during the early 20th century. The breed’s numbers dwindled as farming practices evolved and the demand for herding dogs decreased. However, in the 1940s, two Swedish enthusiasts, Björn von Rosen and K.G. Zettersten, made a concerted effort to revive the breed.

They traveled throughout Sweden, locating and acquiring the remaining purebred Vallhunds to establish a breeding program. Their efforts successfully saved the breed from extinction and helped reestablish the Swedish Vallhund as a popular working and companion dog in Sweden and beyond.

The Swedish Vallhund was first introduced to the United States in the 1980s, and their popularity has been steadily growing ever since. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) on July 1, 2007, and became a part of the Herding Group. This recognition has further solidified the Swedish Vallhund’s status as a distinct and cherished breed in the United States.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Swedish Vallhund in the United States is the Swedish Vallhund Club of America (SVCA). Founded in 1987, the SVCA is dedicated to promoting and preserving the breed by providing education, resources, and support to Swedish Vallhund owners and enthusiasts. The club also organizes events, specialty shows, and participates in various dog sports. Visit their webpage for more information.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Swedish Vallhund’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC). 

swedish vallhund puppy in the sunlight
Photo: Skogs Studion/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Swedish Vallhund, it’s important to thoroughly research the breed to ensure it’s a suitable fit for your lifestyle and family. Prepare by gathering necessary supplies such as a crate, bedding, toys, grooming tools, and food.

Instead of purchasing a puppy, consider rescuing a Swedish Vallhund in need of a loving home. Rescue organizations often have dogs of various ages and temperaments, providing the opportunity to find the perfect match for your household. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Swedish Vallhund Club of America (SVCA) can assist you in finding reputable rescue organizations.

By choosing to rescue, you’re not only providing a second chance for a deserving dog but also helping to combat unethical breeding practices. Remember, adopting a Swedish Vallhund is a long-term commitment, so take the time to make an informed decision and prepare accordingly.

FAQs

Are Swedish Vallhunds related to Corgis?

Although the exact relationship between Swedish Vallhunds and Corgis is unclear, it is believed that they share a common ancestry. Both breeds possess similar physical characteristics and herding abilities, which suggests a connection between them, possibly dating back to the Viking Age.

How rare are Swedish Vallhunds?

Swedish Vallhunds are considered a relatively rare breed, especially outside of their native Sweden. Their numbers have been steadily increasing since the revival of the breed in the 20th century, but they remain less common than many other dog breeds.

Are Swedish Vallhunds good with other dogs?

Yes, Swedish Vallhunds typically get along well with other dogs, particularly when properly socialized from a young age. They have a friendly and sociable nature, making them adaptable to various household dynamics, including multi-dog homes.

How big do Swedish Vallhunds get?

Swedish Vallhunds are small to medium-sized dogs, with males standing between 12.5 and 13.75 inches at the shoulder and females between 11.5 and 12.75 inches. Their weight can range from 20 to 35 pounds, depending on factors such as age, gender, and individual build.

Are Swedish Vallhunds suitable for families with children?

Swedish Vallhunds generally make excellent family pets, as they are affectionate, playful, and good-natured. They typically get along well with children, but it’s essential to teach both the dog and the child how to interact respectfully and safely with each other.

Do Swedish Vallhunds require a lot of grooming?

Swedish Vallhunds have a weather-resistant double coat that requires moderate grooming. Regular brushing, approximately once or twice a week, will help remove loose hair and prevent matting. During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be necessary to manage the increased shedding.

How much exercise do Swedish Vallhunds need?

Swedish Vallhunds are an active and energetic breed that requires at least 45 minutes of daily physical and mental stimulation. They enjoy activities such as walks, hikes, playtime, and participating in dog sports like agility or obedience. Providing adequate exercise will help keep your Vallhund healthy, happy, and well-behaved.

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