Swedish Vallhund

They aren’t Corgis, although they look the part — the Swedish Vallhund is an ancient herding breed with high energy to shake off. 

While the breed is considerably rare, there is growing enthusiasm about them in the United States. And why not, they are eager to work, striving to please and yearning to love.

Moreover, when the breed isn’t at work, they are competing in agility, tracking, luring and other activities. In fact, the Vallhund loves to stay busy.

So what is this breed’s back story and will they make a nice addition for your home?

Here is what you need to know about the Swedish Vallhund.

History

If you’re a fan of mystery, then the history of the Swedish Vallhund is sure to spoil you. There is a debate, whether the Vikings brought the breed to Wales or took Corgis to Sweden. It is the Swedish people who believe that the Vallhund became the ancestor of the Corgi after the Viking invasion in Wales. Now, according to the Swedish Vallhund Club of America, the breed is an ancient spits dog that traces back to over a thousand years ago. Furthermore, it is their opinion, that Vikings brought the dog to Wales around the 8th or 9th century. Or, it could be more plausible, that the Corgi was already in Wales, and immigrants or invaders brought that breed to Sweden. Either way, the American Kennel Club attests that the breed’s bloodstock is a mixture of Spitz and Corgi.

There is no debate of the job the Swedish Vallhund was to perform. Many!  The Vallhund could chase off or kill vermin and other lurking critters. They could lend a hand in driving livestock or herding. For centuries, the breed was dependable, hard working and versatile working breed. Their intelligence and persistence is what made them local legends as farm dogs in Western Sweden.

Yet, even legends fall and empires crumble. The Swedish Vallhund nearly came to blows in the 20th century. By 1942, the breed was facing a near extinction. However, two men realizing the breed’s importance had other plans. Count Bjorn Von Rosen and K.G. Zettersten made earnest efforts to revive the breed back to its original folklore. It is said, that the two would scour the whole country, carefully selecting the best candidates to help further the Swedish Vallhund legacy. And that they did. 

Von Rosen, himself, was responsible for writing the breed’s standard in 1943, the Swedish Kennel Club gave the breed recognition. 

But the breed was still scarce outside of Sweden. That would change in the 1970’s, when the breed began appearing in England and in 1983, imports of Swedish Vallhund began appearing in the United States. The United Kennel Club was the first to grant recognition in 1996. The  American Kennel Club would follow suit in 2007 — granting the breed recognition.

Today, the breed is slowly become more common to the dog lover’s universe. In the United States, the American Kennel Club reports the breed as the 149th most popular. That is, up 14 spots from the year 2016. The breed still works on farms and is happiest doing so.

Size

A male Swedish Vallhund should stand between 12.5 inches to 13.75 inches. The standard height for a female is 11.5 to 12.75 inches.

With regards to weight, both male and female Vallhund’s should weigh between 20 to 35 pounds. This puts the breed is the medium size class.

Personality and Temperament

The Swedish Vallhund is a hardworking breed. That is their mission in life. Herding, ratting and serving faithfully as a watchdog. Eager to please their people, a Swedish Vallhund is a willing and able participant when it comes to work. When they aren’t busy herding livestock, they prefer to keep busy with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. They love exercise. This breed thrives in events like obedience, agility and tracking. They can be very playful but also know how to turn it off.

When they are at home with their people, the breed is calm, enjoys cuddling and loves to be affectionate. Aside from their herding traits, this is a breed that is wonderful with children,. They usually get along fine with other dogs as well. Most experts consider them more wolf life than anything.

The breed has an even keel temperament. They can be very social and may bark more commonly than others. Yet, they continue to be joyful and cheerful with plenty of spirit. The breed will mature slower than most and typically comes of their puppy phase around 3 or 4 years old.

Curious and watchful, the breed is instinctive, keen and alert making them ideal for keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.

All in all, this is a friendly breed, even with strangers. They love space and love to get their work in. And if they don’t get their workout on, they are fine playing, or learning new tricks. 

Health

Considerably healthy, this is a breed that should earn about 12 to 15 years of life expectancy. Of course, you can increase those chances when you buy from a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder should be able to provide you with the proper health clearances. Ask around, do your due diligence and ask the questions, so you can avoid a dog from a puppy mill. In addition, you should schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to ensure your Swedish Vallhund stays healthy.

Experts have found that the breed may inherit a form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy, that they are calling, Swedish Vallhund Retinopathy. In the end, this condition causes retinal degeneration and has the same effects as Progressive Retinal Atrophy. That is, at first, your Swedish Vallhund may experience night blindness and as the condition progresses, complete and permanent blindness. SVR does occur, on average, to Vallhund’s between 2 to 4 years of age.

A concern most breeds deal with, Hip Dysplasia, which is a malformation of the hip joint, that can lead to arthritis, has been found to occur in the breed. A leading authority on the issue, Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, has the breed 107th on their list with a 10.9 dysplastic rating out of 340 evaluations. This puts the breed in the ranks among the Airedale Terrier and Finnish Lapphund.

Elbow Dysplasia is abnormal growth in the elbow that causes pain and discomfort. The OFA ranks the breed 81st worst with a 2.6 dysplastic rating out 117 evaluations. This puts the breed among the Basenji, Irish Setter and Norwich Terrier.

Cloudiness of the crystalline lens is seen with the breed. Cataracts can lead to vision impairment to blindness.

Staying with the eyes, the breed suffers from the condition, Persistent Pupillary Membrane. Essentially, this is an excess of strands of tissue in the eye, that usually disappears in dogs around the ages of 4 to 5 weeks. Since it doesn’t, it can interfere with the breed’s vision. Typically, it depends on where the stands are left. If the strands attach themselves to the cornea or the lens, then opacities will form and cause vision issues. This isn’t unique to the breed, the Chow Chow, Mastiff and Corgis also suffer from PPM.

There is also a chance that the breed may deal with Patella Luxation, which is when the kneecap slips out of place. Also, there is a possibility that the breed encounters Distichiasis, which is an extra eye hair that grows around the lid causing  irritation.

Care

The Swedish Vallhund is not a hermit. That is, they shouldn’t be left to their own vices all day alone inside without being active. This is a historical working breed. Meaning, they are ardent herding dogs that need to remain active in order to be the best that they can be. That said, most people recommend someone with experience with a high energy — herding breed like the Vallhund. If not, count on providing them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. A daily stroll in the neighborhood or two short ones should do the trick. When they really need to engage, activities like agility and tracking are things they can thrive in. 

Because the Vallhund is a vocal dog, with plenty of talk in them, it may be best to keep them out of apartments or busy living corridors. Of course, each breed is different, but your Swedish Vallhund is likely to be more happy with more space as it is.

They can do okay alone but it is always best to entertain them or provide some form of companionship.

Although the breed is good with children, they will need some supervision due to their  herding history. Dogs will as well. Strangers usually have nothing to worry about.

Regarding training, the breed doesn’t do well with harsh treatment. Training should be rewarding through treats and verbal praise. You should also be consistent and offer positive reinforcement.

You’ll want to inspect their ears for any type of bacterial buildup or infections. Trimming their nails will help reduce the chances of overgrowth, cracks and splits.

Feeding

The rumor is, the Swedish Vallhund is easy going and easy to please. That is, they aren’t very picky and they don’t eat as much as most high energy dogs do. That said, every dog is different. How much your Swedish Vallhund eats will depend upon age, metabolism and energy requirements.

A high quality diet, with meat as the first ingredient and a balance of fruits, veggies, minerals and quality protein, crude fat and caloric sources. 

Experts recommend feeding your Swedish Vallhund between 1 to 1.5 cups of high quality dry kibble per day. To help reduce the opportunity of obesity, which the breed is prone to, consider feeding them twice a day instead of once. It also reduces the chances of a deadly condition, Bloat.

As always, you should provide your Swedish Vallhund with fresh drinking water.

Coat

Because the Swedish Vallhund is so easy to get along with, that means they are easy to care for. While the breed does require occasional grooming as seasonal shedders, they are rather simple to manage. A once a week go through should do the trick follow with an occasional bath.

The breed’s double coat has a soft and dense undercoat, and a medium length with harsh to the touch outercoat. The AKC claims the breed sheds their undercoat twice a year, presumably in the fall and spring.

According to the standards, there are only two acceptable coat color options: Gray and red.

There are two acceptable markings: Sable, white markings.

Fun Swedish Vallhund Facts

  • In the 1960’s, the breed’s name would change to Vastgotaspet, which was after the Swedish province the breed came from, Vastergotland. In English speaking countries, the name became the Swedish Vallhund for “herding dog.”
  • Some experts believe that the breed is partly responsible for the creation of the Lancanshire Heeler.
  • According to the Outside Online website, the Vallhund is the 19th most rare breed in the world.

Closing  Words

Although the breed is relatively new to the world of recognition — they’ve been around likely for a thousand years. While the Vallhund is still rare, clubs like the UKC and AKC are doing a great job in promoting them into prominence.

And it shows. The breed continues to rise in popularity and will do so. With their joyful demeanor, friendly spirit, and ardent work ethic — count on the Swedish Vallhund and their stock to grow for years to come.