Breed Type: Spitz/ratting dog.
Country of Origin: Sweden
Other Names: ‘Vasgotaspets’
Size: Medium, but dwarven
Males 33-36 cm High, weight to 16kg
Females 31-33cm, weight to 14kg
Care Requirements: Low
Exercise Needs: Medium to High
Best suited as: Family pet with a decent sized yard.
The Swedish Vallhund was initially bred as a rural all-rounder capable herding cattle, they were capable ratters, guard dogs, watchdogs and family pets. They are not naturally aggressive beasts or employed as a guard dog they will vocalise a warning as opposed to taking a threatening stance.
The exact nature of their genetic heritage is not clear. They are dwarf and hound like in appearance, with a Spitz type curved tail and there are obvious similarity to the corgi would lead anyone to the natural conclusion that breed also contributed some genetic material to their creation. Some people have put forward the idea that corgis were taken by the Vikings from Wales back to their home in Scandinavia and bred with global breeds to create the Swedish Vallhund.
Whatever the answer they remain popular in common farm dogs in their native Sweden and a much loved if somewhat uncommon as pets in many countries around the world.
They are quite similar to the Pembroke corgi in appearance they do not mention this to a Swedish Vallhund breeder who will save the similarities are small and only a novice would think the breeds have much in common. The Swedish Vallhund is taller or muscular and stands on longer legs with a shorter body. It has finer more pointed snout than the corgi.
The coat comes in various colours from shades of grey all the way through to red. Rather than being solid to have a sable like coat with dark guard hairs throughout. Typically a cold country breed dog the coat is a double coat with a thick and harsh outer coat covering a water resistant warm undercoat. The fur on their face is lighter than the rest of the body giving them a masked appearance. It is lighter marking extends over their shoulders.
The temperament of the Swedish Vallhund is best described as complex, likely because of their mixed breed type heritage. They are natural herders, though because of their short legs much of the herding involves use of their voice as their legs.
Their ratting heritage is evident they will happily go hunting for rats whether you have any or not. (Editor – my neighbour had one in Melbourne and though they had no rats they did have noisy crickets in the garden which were hunted without mercy, down from their burrows mercilessly)
They are fun loving and intelligent and loved be around their pack. Their Spitz heritage means their pack is important to them as is understanding their place in the pack so be sure they understand that you are the Alpha dog not them. They are intelligent and trainable but are somewhat easily offended so be even handed with them for best results as opposed to military. Once training becomes a chore rather than fun and an extension of their natural instincts you will achieve little.
Their desire to be with the pack will not diminish simply because you need to go to work so if you are concerned the Swedish Vallhund will pine, don’t get one get two.
Their coat needs infrequent brushing – weekly is fine – except in spring when it will need to be brushed daily as their thick winter coat sheds. They don’t need regular bathing as their coat is naturally water and dirt resistance. They lack a doggy smell so once a month should be fine.
They are a cold weather bred dwarfern dog so don’t expect them to be the best suited dog for going jogging with beside your bike if you live in Darwin.
As with all other aspects of this dog their health is also somewhat of a curiosity. Because of the small gene pool – especially within the Australian Swedish Vallhund breeding circles – you’d expect there to be many inherent genetic problems with this breed. This is not the case and they are extremely healthy breed with few health problems with individuals often living to 15 years or more.
Perhaps this was because as extreme cold weather working dogs natural selection insured at only the strongest survived and were included in breeding programs so that now even though there are only small numbers in breeding programs those contained therein are genetically excellent.
That said it’s important for any breed of their to be our good-sized gene pool to ensure genetic diversity and health so it remains to be seen whether the current excellent health attributable to this breed will be maintained.
They are working dog that they are also a dwarven dog so don’t run them as if they are a border Collie and don’t jump from height.
Best Suited for
With their strong pack sense they will do best in a family that has many individuals that will give them different types of attention. A family where someone is generally at home during the day would be best. The Swedish Vallhund is not a part-time dog and will seek to come with you wherever you go. If you are out working in the garden expect that you will have a “job dog” always at your side.