The Swedish Vallhund dog breed, at one time known as the Vikingarnas Dog and also called the Svensk Vallhund, the Vastgotaspet, the Swedish Cattle Dog, the Swedish Herder Spitz, the Vasgota-Spitz, the Westgotenspitz, the Schwedischer Schaferspitz, or simply the Vallhund, is an authentic Swedish dog bred to work on farms and ranches and to herd cattle. It also has been used to catch rats and other rodents and as a watchdog. It is an extremely energetic, even-tempered breed that likes having a job to do. The Swedish Vallhund was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2007, as a member of the Herding Group.
Mature male Vallhunds stand from 12 ½ to 13 ¾ inches at the withers; bitches stand 11 ½ to 12 ¾ inches in height. Adult Vallhunds typically weigh between 20 and 35 pounds. They have a sable-colored, thick coat that is described as being "wolf-like." Their bobtail is normally naturally short; docking is illegal in Sweden.
The Swedish Vallhund dates back more than 1,000 years to the time of the Vikings. Most historians believe that at some point during the 8th or 9th century, either the Vallhund was taken to Wales or the Welsh Corgi was brought to Sweden, given the striking similarity in the appearance of the two breeds. Today's Vallhund is longer in leg, shorter in back and less stocky than today's Corgi, although they still look similar. The Vallhund developed as a working dog, especially adept at rounding up and herding cattle by nipping at their heels.
The Vallhund was common and popular in Sweden before World War I. By 1942, the breed was nearly extinct. That year, Count Bjorn von Rosen and K. G. Zettersen took steps to save the breed. Through newspaper ads and other efforts, they found a few of the remaining Vallhunds and started the slow process of reviving the breed. In the 1940s, the Swedish Kennel Club officially recognized the breed as the Svensk Vallhund (vallhund means "herding dog"). The Swedish standard was revised in 1964, and the breed was renamed as the Vastgotaspet, after the Swedish province Vastergotland. The first Vallhund reportedly was taken to England in 1974. The Swedish Vallhund Breed Society was formed in 1980, and The Kennel Club (England) recognized the breed in 1985. Two Vallhunds were brought to America by Marilyn Thell of Rhode Island in 1985. The Swedish Vallhund Club of America was founded in 1987. The American Kennel Club admitted the Vallhund as a member of the Herding Group in 2007.
Today's Swedish Vallhund is alert, active, athletic and adaptable. In addition to his herding skills, this breed excels in obedience, conformation, agility, tracking and flyball events and makes a wonderful companion.
The average life span of the Swedish Vallhund is 13 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include cryptorchidism, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and renal dysplasia.
The Swedish Vallhund dates back to the Vikings who used these short, sturdy animals to herd cattle. Like their Viking friends, Vallhunds are strong and fearless, and their owners believe these dogs have no idea they are so small. They are friendly, spirited and eager to please, they get along well with children and can be trusted around other household pets, though they won't hesitate to chase strange dogs and cats. Vallhunds can be used as farm dogs and are truly in their element around livestock. Vallhunds individual personalities vary from dog to dog – some are more outgoing while others are more introverted, but all Vallhunds are loyal companions who make an excellent addition to families with active lifestyles.
Despite their high energy level, Swedish Vallhunds only need a moderate amount of exercise to maintain health and happiness. They are adaptable dogs who can thrive on a ranch, in a home with a yard, in an apartment or condominium. They should be walked daily, and if they don't have a yard to play in at home, should be allowed to run in a park at least once a week.
Vallhunds need a lot of mental stimulation so that they don't get bored. As with other breeds who have roots as farm dogs, they like to stay busy. They excel in agility training and advanced obedience. If not properly exercised physically and mentally, Vallhunds can become anxious and destructive when left alone.
As herding dogs, Swedish Vallhunds are independent thinkers and can be a tad bossy. They prefer to do things on their own time, so a lot of patience is required when training this breed. Positive reinforcement and lots of treats will ensure a responsive Vallhund. Once consistent leadership is established, they take well to training and enjoy learning new tasks.
After beginning obedience training is complete, Swedish Vallhunds should graduate to advanced training and if possible, involved in tracking and agility classes. This is one "old dog" that likes to learn new tricks, and training should continue throughout their lives.
Vallhunds, like other farm dogs, are excellent watchdogs. They sound the alarm that uninvited people or animals are on the horizon, which can get out of hand if not nipped in the bud at an early age. Proper socialization is important, so that the Vallhund doesn't become mistrustful of all strangers. They will also bark if left alone for long periods of time, so apartment and condo dwellers should take this into consideration before adopting a Swedish Vallhund.
While they get along fine with children, Vallhunds can exhibit dominance over small children, and they have been known to attempt to herd groups of kids. Because their herding behavior involves the nipping of heels, playtime should always be supervised.
Vallhunds also love to chase anything that moves, no matter the size. It can be a bird, squirrel, cat, dog, bike or even a car. Vallhunds should not be left off leash unless they are in a fenced in area, both to protect other animals and to protect the dog from running into traffic or otherwise getting injured.
The Swedish Vallhund (SV) is a very old Spitz-type breed known since the time of the Vikings. For centuries the SV has been kept as a farm dog and used for herding cattle. The SV is a small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog. The correct relationship of height to length of body is 2:3. The SV has a wedge-shaped head, prick ears, and a close-fitting hard coat of medium length and sable coloring. The double coat and the characteristic "harness markings" are essential features of this breed. Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked. The appearance of the Swedish Vallhund conveys intelligence, alertness and energy. Balance, outline, temperament and movement are of overriding importance. The SV is a thoroughly sound animal, versatile in its desire to do traditional herding or with proper training compete in companion events such as obedience, tracking and agility, and/or serve as a family companion.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Height-- Height at the withers for dogs ranges from 12.5 - 13.5 inches and bitches 11.5 - 12.5 inches. Minor variations may be seen; however, more important is the proportion. Proportion--The relationship of height to length of body, as measured from the prosternum to the rearmost portion of the buttocks, should be 2:3. Substance-- Strong, well boned, well developed, neither refined nor coarse, and a solidly built, muscular body.
Rather long and clean. Viewed from above, the head forms an even wedge from skull to tip of nose and is well filled-in under the eyes. Eyes-- Medium size, oval in shape and dark brown with black eye rims. Ears-- Medium size, pointed, prick. Set at the outer edge of the skull above a line drawn from the corner of the eye. Ear leather should be firm from base to tip, smooth-haired and mobile. The dog should make good use of them. Skull-- Broad and almost flat. Stop-- Well defined. Muzzle-- Viewed from the side, the muzzle should look rather square, slightly shorter than the skull. Planes-- The top lines of the muzzle and skull are parallel to each other. Nose-- In profile, the nose is on the same line as the muzzle and does not extend beyond the forepart of the muzzle. Pigmentation-- Black. Lips-- Black and tight with no noticeable flews. Teeth-- Strong, well developed, with full dentition in a scissors bite. Any deviation is a serious fault.
Neck, Topline & Body
Neck-- Long, strongly muscled with good reach. Topline-- Level when standing or moving. Chest-- Good depth. The ribcage is long with fairly well sprung ribs. Viewed from the front, the chest should be oval; from the side, elliptical. In a mature dog it should reach down two-fifths of the length of the forelegs and, when viewed from the side, the lowest point of the chest is immediately behind the back part of the foreleg. The prosternum is visible and not excessively pronounced. Underline-- Slightly tucked up. Back-- Well muscled. Loin-- Short and strong. Croup-- Broad and slightly sloping. Tails-- Tails may be long, stub, or bob. May be shown natural or docked. All tail types are equally acceptable.
Shoulders-- Strongly-muscled. Shoulder blades-- Long and well laid back. Upper arms-- Slightly shorter than the shoulder blades, set at an approximate 90 degree angle, close fitting to ribs, but still very mobile. A line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from the tip of the shoulder blade through the elbow to the ground. Elbows-- Move parallel to the body, turning neither in nor out. Forearms-- When viewed from the front, slightly curved to give free action against the lower part of the chest; the pasterns and feet are parallel. Viewed from the side the forearms are straight. The height from ground to elbow is almost half the height from ground to withers. Legs-- Well boned. Pasterns-- Slightly sloping, elastic. Dewclaws-- May be removed. Feet-- Medium sized, short, oval, pointing straight forward. Toes-- Tightly knit and well knuckled. Pads-- Thick and strong.
Angulation-- To balance the front. Well angulated at stifle and hock. Legs-- Well boned. Upper and lower thighs are strongly muscled. Lower thigh is slightly longer than the distance from hock to ground. Stifles-- Well bent. Hocks (Metatarsal bones)-- Perpendicular to the ground and viewed from the rear, parallel. Feet, toes and pads-- Same as forefeet.
Medium length hair, harsh; topcoat close and tight. Undercoat is soft and dense. Hair is short on the head and the foreparts of the legs and slightly longer on neck, chest and back parts of the hind legs. Dogs are to be shown in an untrimmed, natural state. Faults include wooly, curly, or open coats. Fluffy coats (longer hair on body and furnishings, with ear fringes) are a serious fault.
A sable pattern seen in colors of grey through red and combinations of these colors in various shades. All are equally acceptable. Lighter shades of these colors are desirable on the chest, belly, buttocks, lower legs, feet and hocks, with darker hairs on back, neck, and sides of the body. Lighter harness markings are essential. Although a dark muzzle is acceptable, a well-defined mask with lighter hair around eyes, on muzzle and under the throat, giving a distinct contrast to the head color is highly desirable. White is permitted as a narrow blaze, neck spot, slight necklace, and white markings on the legs, and chest. White in excess of one third of the dog's total color is a very serious fault. Any color other than described above is a very serious fault.
Sound with strong reach and drive. The Swedish Vallhund is a herding dog requiring agility and endurance. Viewed from the front, the legs do not move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward to compensate for shortness of leg and width of chest. The forelegs should reach forward in a free stride without too much lift. Hind legs should drive well under the body and move on a line with the forelegs, with hocks turning neither in nor out. Feet should travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement and overly close or wide movement is faulty.