Swedish Vallhund: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Portrait Of Swedish Vallhund Standing On Field
Liv Oom / EyeEm / Getty Images

The Swedish Vallhund is a medium-sized, robust herding dog that hails from Scandinavia. The Swedish Vallhund’s short stature makes it an excellent cattle herder, as it is just the right size to nip at the heels of livestock to move them along, as well as balanced and agile enough to avoid kicking hooves.

At first glance, the Swedish Vallhund might seem small with its short legs, but it has the body of a larger dog that's sturdy, muscular, and substantial. Swedish Vallhunds have one of three types of tails: a natural bobtail (no tail), a stub tail, or a long, full tail. The sable coat is comprised of two types of hair, a medium-length, harsh-textured outer coat, and a softer, dense undercoat. The hair on the head and on the lower legs is shorter; the coat is slightly longer on the neck, chest, and back of the thighs.

Swedish Vallhunds are friendly, fearless, engaging companions with energy to spare. They are happiest when they have a job to do, whether that is herding or working on a farm, competing in a performance sport, or accompanying you everywhere you go. Swedish Vallhunds generally get along well with people, including gentle and respectful kids, as well as most other pets. Many Swedish Vallhunds have a tendency to “herd” family pets and kids with nips and nudges, so training to discourage this behavior is recommended. Swedish Vallhunds are known barkers, which makes them excellent watchdogs, but excessive barking might be problematic in urban settings.

Breed Overview

  • GroupHerding
  • Height: 11.5 to 13.75 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 20 to 35 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Medium length and harsh, with a close, tight topcoat and soft, dense undercoat; a sable pattern in various shades of gray through red, and combinations of these colors
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Swedish Vallhund

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Swedish Vallhund

The Swedish Vallhund is an ancient breed that has been used for herding cattle in Sweden for hundreds of years. Although it’s a part of the American Kennel Club (AKC) Herding Group, the Swedish Vallhund is not a shepherd or collie. The Swedish Vallhund is a spitz breed (sometimes called Northern breed), which is a type of dog known for its characteristic wolf-like appearance, with a wedge-shaped head, upright ears, and double coat.

Not much is known about the true origins of the Swedish Vallhund, but the breed is thought by some to have developed from the mixing of Scandinavian spit-type dogs and the short-legged Corgis of the British Isles. The AKC recognized the Swedish Vallhund as the 156th breed in 2007.

Swedish Vallhund Care

Like most herding breeds, the Swedish Vallhund has a ton of energy. After all, they were bred to work on farms all day herding cattle. Providing enough daily exercise and mental stimulation is key to keeping a Swedish Vallhund happy and well-behaved. Some good activities for Swedish Vallhunds include walking, hiking, agility, fetch, obedience, tracking, herding and trieball, a simulated herding activity using inflatable balls. The old adage, “a tired dog is a good dog,” holds true for the Swedish Vallhund.

Swedish Vallhunds want to please their human companions. They are extremely intelligent and highly trainable. A Swedish Vallhund will eagerly learn as many tricks and commands as you wish to teach it. They respond best to positive-based training methods like clicker training, which uses treats, play, or praise as rewards, but punishment-based methods won’t get you far. After all, a breed that was developed to herd cattle won’t be bullied into doing something it doesn't want to do. The small but mighty Swedish Vallhund can be strong-willed, so keep training fun and upbeat for the best results.

When it comes to grooming, Swedish Vallhunds are wash and wear. A good brush-out once a week and the occasional bath will keep the coat looking, smelling, and feeling great. Trim the nails every other week, inspect the ears and clean as needed, brush their teeth daily, and your Swedish Vallhund will sparkle. Swedish Vallhunds shed moderately most of the time, with a twice-annual heavier shed of the undercoat (called "blowing the coat"). During the bi-annual heavy shed, brush and bathe more frequently to help remove the shedding undercoat.

Swedish Vallhund puppy
ValerijaP / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Swedish Vallhunds are generally healthy. Like all purebred dogs, they can be prone to certain genetic disorders, including hip dysplasia and Swedish Vallhund retinopathy (a degenerative eye disease that results in vision loss and even blindness). Responsible breeders screen their dogs for these issues to avoid breeding affected dogs.

Diet and Nutrition

The Swedish Vallhund has a relatively large body in proportion to its short legs. It’s important to keep them lean to avoid placing too much stress on the joints. Feed your Swedish Vallhund measured meals at scheduled times (morning and night). Leaving food out all day (called "free feeding") can lead to an overweight dog, which can contribute to health issues like hip dysplasia and diabetes. If you’re not sure how much you should be feeding your Swedish Vallhund, work with your veterinarian to determine your dog’s ideal weight and how much food to feed daily.

Pros

  • An intelligent dog that's easy to train
  • Overall, generally healthy without any major breed-specific concerns
  • Protective of its family without being aggressive

Cons

  • Sheds significantly twice a year and moderately the remainder of the year
  • Needs a good amount of regular exercise
  • May bark a lot

Where to Adopt or Buy a Swedish Vallhund

The Swedish Vallhund is a relatively rare breed, so it might be hard to find one. Check local pet shelters and rescue groups. The best way to locate a Swedish Vallhund breeder is to contact the Swedish Vallhund Club of America, which is the national club for the breed. The club maintains a list of breeders.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you’re unsure if the Swedish Vallhund is the right dog for you, reach out to Swedish Vallhund breeders and owners to ask questions and learn more about life with the breed.

If you like the Swedish Vallhund, check out similar breeds, including:

There is a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.