- Height: 11.5 to 13.5 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 20 to 30 pounds
The low-slung dog may resemble his Corgi cousins, but the Swedish Valhund is a distinct breed that has existed for some thousand years. In his homeland of Sweden, the Vallhund was a valued farm dog used to herd livestock by nipping at their heels. He has many good qualities, including his size and easy-care coat, but he’s not the right breed for everyone.
The Swedish Valhund is an energetic, playful dog with a loving personality. He’s always looking for pats, hugs, or treats from everyone he meets, and he tends to get along with children and other animals. The Vallhund enjoys creating games to entertain himself and his people.
Because of his herding background, he has a watchful nature and will bark to ward off varmints or alert you to the presence of someone at the door. Teach him when it’s okay to bark so that he doesn’t become a nuisance.
Be prepared to keep the Vallhund busy. He’s active and (overall health permitting) can excel in dog sports, especially agility, herding, flyball, obedience, rally, and tracking. If you’re not into organized activities, he’ll enjoy going for long walks or hikes.
Early, frequent socialization is essential to help prevent a Vallhund from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase an Vallhund puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people. Once your vet gives the go-ahead, continue socializing your Vallhund by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, on visits to friends and neighbors, and on outings to local shops and businesses.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Vallhund puppy home. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. He learns quickly and will respond to kind, firm, consistent training.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. A Swedish Vallhund should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them.
Other Quick Facts:
- The Swedish Vallhund’s coat has harness markings, bands of light color running down the sides from the shoulders. Some nicely marked Vallhunds have a mask of lighter hair around the eyes, on the muzzle, and under the throat, contrasting with the head color.
- Within a single Swedish Vallhund litter, puppies can have natural bobtails or the traditional long Spitz tail.
The History of the Swedish Vallhund
The Vallhund resemblance to the Corgi raises an interesting but rhetorical question since it can never be answered with any authority: Did the Vikings bring the dogs with them on their coastal raids of England and leave some behind to become the Corgi, or did they bring back canine booty in the form of the Corgi, which then became the Vallhund? One clue is that Viking bowsprits found on the Irish coast were decorated with dogs that look an awful lot like the Vallhund. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s fun to speculate.
However he came into existence, the Swedish Vallhund, also known as the Vastgotaspets or Swedish Cattle Dog in Sweden, was a farm dog for centuries, herding cattle, driving off critters, and acting as a watchdog. It wasn’t until he had almost disappeared that anyone took much notice of him.
The Swedish Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943, making the Valhund a popular pet in both Sweden and Britain. The dogs were first brought to the United States in 1983, and the American Kennel Club recognized the Vallhund in 2007. Today he ranks 142nd among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Swedish Vallhund Temperament and Personality
Meet the classic “big dog in a small body.” The Swedish Vallhund is smart, alert, and energetic, all in a compact, agile package that makes him a good choice for the family who will enjoy his lively spirit, sense of humor, and versatile abilities.
If the SV were a Swedish sports car, he’d be renowned for his speed and turning radius, as well as his all-terrain capabilities. He’s equally at home on a hiking trail or agility course, in a herding field, at a flyball competition or obedience trial, or just out and about with his people. He is a nice dog that enjoys meeting other people and animals.
At home, the Swedish Vallhund is an alert but not aggressive watchdog. He is vocal and will chatter to you about his day and bark to let you know that someone is at the door, a cat is crossing the yard, or the neighbor’s garage door is open. Teach him early how to moderate the use of his voice.
With children and other pets, the Swedish Vallhund is inclined to be playful and friendly. He’s sturdy enough to stand up to a clumsy toddler — although he should be protected from being poked or pulled — but not so big and rowdy that he could accidentally hurt a child.
In some respects, the SV is an independent thinker — he is a herding dog, after all, bred to think for himself — but he takes well to training if he has a firm, consistent owner who rewards his successes with praise, play, or treats. Work with the SV’s creative mind and problem-solving ability, and you’ll find that he welcomes the challenge of learning lots of tricks and behaviors.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a headstrong adult dog to deal with.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Swedish Vallhund, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
What You Need to Know About Swedish Vallhund Health
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Avoid any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
That said, Swedish Vallhunds are a pretty healthy breed in general. Some health conditions that have been seen in the breed are hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and eye diseases.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Swedish Vallhund Club of America participates in a health database called the Canine Health Information Center. Before an individual Vallhund can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases, the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and the causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Vallhund at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Basics of Swedish Vallhund Grooming
The Vallhund has a medium-length double coat. Double-coated dogs shed, so expect to find hair on your clothing and furniture. Brush the coat once or twice a week to remove dead hair and reduce the amount of loose hair floating around your house. The only other kind of grooming you need to do is to trim the hair on the footpads.
The rest is basic care: Trim his nails as needed, usually every week or two, and brush his teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpastefor good overall health and fresh breath.
Finding a Swedish Vallhund
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choosing a Swedish Vallhund Breeder
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all of the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She should be more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and will come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Look for more information about the Swedish Vallhund and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Swedish Vallhund Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the SVCA’s guidelines, which prohibit the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and encourage the breeder to obtain certain health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Swedish Vallhund puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment and come from parents with health clearances, conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Swedish Vallhund might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Swedish Vallhund may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health, and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below.
Adopting a Dog From a Swedish Vallhund Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Swedish Vallhund in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all the Swedish Vallhunds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Some local newspapers also have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Swedish Vallhund. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Swedish Vallhunds love all Swedish Vallhunds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Swedish Vallhund Club of America can help you find a dog that could be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Swedish Vallhund rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be up front about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource. They also often offer fostering opportunities so that with training, you could bring a Swedish Vallhund home to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he house-trained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Swedish Vallhund, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or a rescue, your Swedish Valhound should visit your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your vet will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.