The Swedish Vallhund or Västgötaspets (Westerngothia Spitz Dog), as they call it in its native country, is a Spitz type herding dog that originated more than 1.000 years ago in the Västergötland county, Sweden. Like the Icelandic Sheepdog and the Norwegian Buhund, this dog was used by legendary Vikings for herding, watching and guarding. That is why it is often called a Viking Dog. The breed is believed to be a descendant of the much larger Spitz type dogs that were primarily used for hunting in the ancient Scandinavia. As a proof for this theory, scientists recently discovered incredible similarities between this dog’s skeleton and that of a Norwegian Elkhound. However, there is another theory about the origin of this breed that is based on incredible anatomical (but not genetic) similarities between the SV and the Welsh Corgi or the Lancashire Heeler. Supposedly, the breed was developed from Corgi dogs that were brought from Wales in the Scandinavia sometime around 8th or 9th century. But, this theory is very questionable since, according to the historian, Clifford Hubbard, this is the oldest of the three breeds. So, it is more likely that these two “younger” dog breeds were actually developed from Vallhunds left by Vikings in their Welsh settlements. Anyhow, the Swedish Vallhund is by the FCI included in the class of Spitz type and primitive dogs in the group 3: Nordic Watchdogs And Herding Dogs.
About Swedish Vallhund Temperament
So, what is a Swedish Vallhund like? It is a working farm dog that is usually very cheerful, agile, fun-loving, crazy, and restless. Imagine a jumping fur ball that is at the same time in several places and you’ll get the appropriate picture of this dog :) Apart from being a great herder, the Västgötaspets is also known as a lovely family companion and an excellent watchdog. He is literally hungry for human attention and will do anything to get it as much as possible. To put it simply – he must be a star of the show. So, don’t be surprised if your Vallhund tries to assemble his flock (your family) around the yard just to show you a few of his own tricks for the purpose of amusement. It is simply part of his nature. However, as much as he loves company, he even more hates being left alone for a longer period of time. So, you should spend as much time as possible with your dog. Remember, bored Swedish Vallhund means trouble! Indeed, when neglected this dog can become very destructive and annoying, and that is something you should definitely look to avoid of course.
The Swedish Vallhund is very devoted to its owner(s) and is always eager to please. He is equally affectionate and responsive to all family members and will gladly obey every one of them. On top of that, this dog is usually good and cheerful with children, especially, if they were raised together. He can be an ideal playmate and a lovely companion for every child, doesn’t matter how old it is. However, keep in mind that Vallhund won’t tolerate tail pulling, intimidation or some similar abuse! So, it would be wise to teach your child(ren) how to properly treat a dog. Also, you should know that a Västgötaspets, like many other herding dogs, can be prone to heel nipping. This habit is often prized and encouraged for dogs living and working on farms, but can be a real problem in dogs used as companions only. Just imagine how frightening would it be for a small child to have a dog around nipping its feet. So, yeah, this Swedish Vallhund behavior should be corrected as soon as you spot it. The best way to deal with is to teach your dog to lay down on command.
The Swedish Vallhund is very alert and watchful dog that will warn you if there is anything suspicious going on at or near your property. This dog is usually wary and suspicious of strangers, but is rarely aggressive toward them. Also, he can be very territorial and protective of his family and property. So, you can rest assured that an SV will definitely “announce” anybody that comes near your home with a long and high-pitched bark. However, the Westerngothia Spitz Dog‘s high sensitivity to all things strange can often cause him to exaggerate with this noisy habit. Indeed, Swedish Vallhund can be prone to excessive barking, so you will have to train your dog to control this annoying behavior. Early socialization in this case is particularly important. The dog should be exposed to many people of all ages (kids especially), various sounds, all kinds of domestic animals, different circumstances, and other things that might unnecessarily draw his attention. This way only you will be sure your SV won’t suddenly switch into some of his uber crazy modes.
Other Characteristics And Traits
Main Swedish Vallhund characteristics are high intelligence, agility, endurance, playfulness, cheerfulness, stubbornness, alertness, independence, resourcefulness, persistence, and curiosity. Looking at these characteristics, it is obvious this truly is a restless dog with high stamina that is able to work or run around a whole damn day :) Now, combine this with its habit to bark a lot and you will easily understand why this breed is best suited for farmers or owners living in rural areas with not many neighbors around. Of course, you can keep your SV indoors and in fact he can adapt and get used to such life quite easily. However, this is only possible with the appropriate amount of daily exercise. Speaking of exercise, the Västgötaspets is a dog that craves for any kind of activity. As such, he needs to be busy as much as possible to stay healthy both mentally and physically. So, yeah, you will have to take your dog for a long walk or hike, at least once a day. But, you should always combine this with challenging games or problem-solving tasks.
This constant need for activity is the main reason Swedish Vallhund is, in the first place, recommended companion for active and sporting people. Truly, this dog can bring a lot of positive energy and fun in their lives and can even inspire them to work harder with its moving spirit. Well, dear athletes reading this, looks like you’ve just found your favorite pet :) Anyway, being that active and relatively small it comes as no surprise that this dog can often live long and healthy life. The usual life expectancy of a Swedish Vallhund is around 12-15 years, but he can sometimes live up to 20 years. This is generally a healthy and hardy breed that is rarely susceptible to some common dog diseases, such as hip dysplasia, luxated patella, cleft palate, and certain eye conditions. However, Vallhunds can be affected by a hereditary eye disease known as progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause a complete loss of vision. Unfortunately, this disease is incurable, so you should definitely check with the breeder if a puppy’s parents have some problems with their eyes.
Living With Other Pets And Training
Considering how cheerful and playful a Swedish Vallhund really is, it might seem natural that he is usually not only friendly with humans, but with other animals too. Well, it is not a secret that this dog can get used to life with livestock quite easily, it is in his blood, but the question is, how good is he with cats or some other pets? I would say fairly good. It all depends on how well a Swedish Shepherd Dog has been socialized with them. If, for example, they’re raised together, you won’t have any problems. They will live peacefully in harmony and it will be a joy to watch them play. However, you have to know that the Västgötaspets is an expert in ratting and pest control. Indeed, hunting small rodents is his specialty and even though he isn’t considered a good hunting dog, he is still a predator after all. So, if you have hamsters or guinea pigs, it would be wise to keep’em out of his reach. When it comes to other dogs, things are fairly simple. Every Vallhund usually prefers the company of other dogs and can easily get friendly with them. He can rarely pick a fight with an unknown dog, but with a proper training in obedience you can easily correct this.
Speaking of training, let us see how easy, or hard, is to train a Swedish Vallhund. Being a herder, it is easy to guess that this is a smart and bright dog with good memory that can easily learn everything you want him to know. However, like many other primitive dogs, SV can prove hard to get invested into training. He is independent, hardheaded and manipulative, so it certainly won’t be an easy task. That is, after all, the main reason this breed is not recommended for novice owners. Anyhow, in the hands of an experienced owner who respects certain rules, Västgötaspets training can be a pure joy. First of all, an owner of this dog needs to have a pack leader mentality. Remember, only with dominant and confident approach you will be able to deal with its stubbornness. You should start with the training of your Vallhund at an early age. Positive reinforcement techniques work best with this dog, so make sure you prepare some tasty treats. Lessons should be short, but never repetitive. You should always bring something new to the table, like advanced obedience or trick training.
Swedish Cow Dog Physical Characteristics
The Swedish Vallhund is a small, lovely looking dog of rectangular shape – the height at shoulders is around 2/3 of the dog’s length. Some people like to say that SV is too big for its short legs. Indeed, he is low to the ground and has a muscular and elongated body covered with medium-length double coat. The undercoat is soft and dense and topcoat is harsh and stiff. The hair is slightly longer on the buttocks, neck, chest, and tail. This waterproof, weather-resistant coat is ideally suited for harsh Nordic weather conditions. The Westerngothia Spitz Dog can as well easily adapt to warmer climates. However, during hot summer days, he should be kept in a cooled and shaded space with lots of cold water. Normally, you should groom your Västgötaspets once every week, but during shedding periods daily brushing is required. Main Swedish Vallhund colors are grey, sable grey, brownish gray, greyish yellow, red-yellow, and red-brown. They can vary in shades, but the usual color pattern is almost always the same – the hair is lighter around eyes, on muzzle, chest, throat, shoulders, stomach, hocks, feet, and buttocks, while darker hair can be seen on neck, back, and sides of the body.
The Swedish Vallhund has a typical wedge-shaped head of a Spitz dog. The slightly tapered muzzle with black lips and well-defined stop is a bit shorter than the skull. The teeth meet in a scissor bite. The well-rounded nose is black. The oval-shaped eyes with black eye-rims are dark brown. The pointed, erect ears are wide apart. They are medium in size and are very mobile. You should inspect your Vallhund‘s eyes and ears at least once a month. The neck is long and very muscular with good reach. The chest with well-sprung ribs is fairly deep and long. The back is straight and well muscled. The tail is either long or a natural bobtail about 10 cm long. Both types are acceptable. The forelegs are well-boned and solid. The hind legs are very muscular and firm. Both pairs of legs are short, but very powerful. Dewclaws can be removed from the forelegs. The oval-shaped feet with knuckled toes and hard pads are rather short. With such physical characteristics, it is understandable that this is such a sturdy dog capable of crazy maneuvers and direction changes.
Swedish Vallhund Dog Size And Weight
– Height between 12,5 and 13,5 inches (32-34 cm)
– Weight between 29 and 35 pounds (13-16 kg)
– Height between 11,5 and 12,5 inches (29-32 cm)
– Weight between 22 and 29 pounds (10-13 kg)
Excellent Herder And Drover
The Swedish Vallhund is truly a lovely companion and a reliable watchdog, but above all he is a herder and drover. Even his name, Vallhund, when translated into English means “shepherd dog.” So, it is more than obvious that this is indeed a great herding dog that has all the qualities needed for this demanding job. Yep, he is noisy, flying, nippy – or to put it simply: he is annoying enough to put every sheep, cow or goat in its place. And what’s even more important, he is incredibly smart, attentive and eager to learn, all of which makes him highly versatile and very observant. Also, another highly prized quality of this dog is his incredible devotion to its master. Once properly trained, he will gladly and instantly obey every command, which is, of course, very important for herding. The Västgötaspets herds by running around the livestock and nipping them at the hocks. This way he can drive the herd over long distances with little to no human assistance. The only minor complaint is that a Vallhund can’t work in deep snow because of its short legs.
Great Sporting Dog
As I wrote above, the Westerngothia Spitz Dog is a recommended breed for active people and sportsmen, and with a good reason. This dog is literally an embodiment of agility, liveliness, playfulness, endurance, and persistence. He has huge stamina and sharp mind, can work all day long, and is always ready to give his best. Now, when you put all these qualities into perspective, it is perfectly clear that a Vallhund possesses everything needed for a top-class sporting dog. And he truly is such a dog! His skills are many and with adequate training, he can compete in plethora of dog sports, such as obedience, agility trails, rally obedience, flyball, tracking, showmanship, sheepdog trials, etc. So, in the end as you can clearly see this is a really special dog of many qualities that will surely bring a lot of fun into your lives. Unfortunately, the Swedish Vallhund is a relatively rare breed and is not that easy to find. However, if you are a shepherd or an active person looking for a crazy ass companion, then you should definitely do everything you can to get this little Viking :)