Swedish Vallhund

Swedish Vallhund dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

In its native country of Sweden, the Swedish Vallhund is pronounced as “vastgotaspets”, which translates to “herding dog”. This extremely rare breed was nearly extinct in the 1940s and now thrives more today than back then, but is still hard to find! Officially recognized in 2007 by the AKC, it’s 160th most popular breed, this dog breed is friendly, energetic, and a will make the perfect guard dog! They also love other animals, so they will get along with other dogs, or cats, or even your pet lizard!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Herding
Height:11 to 12 inches tall
Weight:22 to 35 pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

The Swedish Vallhund is a rare dog breed that originated in Sweden over 1,000 years ago, that was used for herding cows and has the nickname of “Swedish Cow Dog”. The National Dog Breed of Sweden, this dog may have ancestors that go back to the 8th century! It is believed that the breed came from an area south of Vanern, Sweden, and were alive during the time of the vikings! Some of its ancestors include moose hunting dogs and big spitz dogs, which are large herding dogs.

While this beautiful companion makes a great herding and rat catching dog, they love their owners and are big on getting attention and love. Occasionally, they like to show off and goof around, which can be hilarious! Due to their herding nature of keeping everything together, they may feel out of sorts if their family is spread apart too far from them. They need a large amount of exercise, as they have tons of energy and love to be outside, especially with their family or other animals!

Overall healthy, the Swedish Vallhund does great in hotter temperatures due to its big coat, but does not thrive in the colder temperatures. This breed is great when they can track, hike, herd, and be in nature. This is one reason why they make such great agility dogs! They can be trained easily in obedience, fly ball, herding, and showmanship. Dog agility trials would be right up this breed’s alley!

The characteristics of this breed include its short stature and double coat of fur that comes in various shades of gray and red, with lighter hair near the eye area, throat, chest, legs, feet, and more. Easy to maintain, their coat never needs to be trimmed, which is a great time saver for some owners, but they do need to be brushed weekly, as well as have their nails trimmed and ears checked.

The Swedish Vallhund may be right for you if you are looking for a dog that is short but very lovable, a great watch dog, is generally easy to care for, and has a great spirit. It is great on the farm or at home with a big yard or an apartment complex, and they are great with guests in the home, but always keeping an eye on what is happening.

Main Highlights
  • Generally, there are 3 types of tails seen on this dog; bobbed, long or stubby. They can also be docked.
  • While they are good family dogs, due to their inherited need to herd, they may nip at children when they are running or walking. This behavior can be stopped with proper training.
  • This breed is not recommended as someone’s first dog. They require a lot of work, including training and socializing. Someone who has had dogs in this past and know how to properly train them is a must for this breed.
  • Dating back to the 8th century, this breed is thought to have originated in an area south of Vanern, Sweden, during the time of the vikings.
  • These “spitz” dogs were commonly buried with their masters in Scandinavia during the Stone Age.
  • Their coat is easy to groom, with no trimming needed, but including weekly brushes to keep the coat healthy and allowing the oil glands to work.
  • The top words to describe this breed include friendly, sociable, alert, watchful, smart, and energetic. Sounds like a great dog just by the description!
Breed History

The Swedish Vallhund has genetics that date back to the 8th century in the area of Vastergotland, Sweden, south of Vanern. During that time, people discovered that they made great herding and ratting dogs and the dogs were put to work on farms, not only herding but watching and guarding everything. Related to other “spitz” type of dogs, they were often buried with their owners, which was found out to be true in the Stone Age era of Scandinavia.

The breed that we know now was founded over 1,000 years ago and was then used primarily as cow herders. Ironically, the word Vallhund translates into “herding dog” in Swedish and they are nicknamed as “Swedish Cow Dog”. During the 1940s, it is unknown why, but the breed nearly went extinct. It was revived and later recognized by the AKC and is now ranked as the 160th most popular breed.


This breed is short, lovable, and don’t grow over a foot tall. Generally, they come in from 11 inches to a foot tall, and weight 22 to 35 pounds. This makes them perfect for working on farms as herders because they can nip at the feet of cows or other animals to get the moving! Careful, however, as they may nip at children’s feet or ankles, as they are genetically predisposed to herding. For being so small, they are intense dogs and have a great amount of energy to burn off each day! That’s why this breed is perfect for people who likes to be active and on the move!

Personality and Character

The Swedish Vallhund is known for being loyal to their family, a great watch dog, and very adaptable to situations and places. They can get a bit of independence in them, which can be tamed with proper training. As long as they get enough exercise, they can live anywhere from a big home with a farm to an apartment, though they can bark a lot if the habit is not curbed. Most of the time they are “talking” to you! They want to know you are happy, that they are happy, and they want to have a conversation with you! Who doesn’t want to tell their dog how their day went?!

If you love to laugh, then this is the dog for you! They are big clowns, love to show off, and will entertain you for hours! They can invent new ways to play with toys because they love to learn! It could be helpful to train your pup in creative ways since they are so clever and smart. Teach them what you expect from them and they will not disappoint!

Socializing your dog is very important and they need a firm leader to teach them what NOT to do, like nip at children or other animals. You also do not want them chasing cars, cyclists, or motorcycle! Generally, they do not like to be left alone for too long and will fill with anxiety. Some dogs in this breed can be anxious and shy as puppies but if nurtured, they will thrive. These dogs learn by having you as their leader, so they will know what to do and what to expect once they are trained and older.

Health and Potential Problems

Overall, the Swedish Vallhund is a healthy dog, but just like with any dog breed, you should watch out for certain health issues. Learn the most common health issues with your dog breed so you can always make informed decisions for your pet. All dogs need to be cleared for eye disease and hip dysplasia before a good breeder can sell the puppies.

  • Retinopathy is the one main disease to look out for with this breed. This is an eye disease that is genetic and can lead to blindness because of the lessening of photo receptor cells in the retina.
  • Lyme Disease is a common disease found in dogs that comes from ticks that leave behind a bacteria that spreads in the dog’s body. This can cause inflammation and lack of use of the affected area. Some dogs lose their appetite and subsequently lose weight, and may become depressed. If the disease is very serious, the kidneys and nervous system can be affected.
  • Parvo Virus is a viral and very contagious disease that is either defined as the intestinal form, which is most common, or the cardiac form. The intestinal form has symptoms of weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea. The cardiac form will affect the muscles in the heart. Parvo can lead to death and the dog should have shots to prevent this from happening.
  • Ear infections are common in all dogs and can be prevented by proper and regular checking of the ears. Using cotton swabs and ear cleaner can be beneficial. The most common ear issues are from allergies, mites, yeast and deep hair growth. If the dog keeps messing with their ears and you see redness, smell an odor, and see swelling, then your dog may have an infection.
  • These dogs can have Von Willebrand disease which also can affect human beings. It affects the blood stream and is genetic. They can get brusing on the body from this disease as well as bleeding gums and nosebleeds. A vet needs to be seen to prevent further blood issues.
Care Features

Short and fast, the Swedish Vallhund can run like nobody’s business, tearing around corners and running stealthily! This is because he is of a herding breed and likes to run for long periods and bringing herds of cows from one area to another. While most dogs of this breed won’t be herding cows, they still can exercise and enter into agility trials.

Agility trials are great for this breed not only because of their skill of running and herding, but for showmanship, obedience, tracking, and fly ball. Since they are easy to train and so smart, they will quickly pick up what you teach them and excel!

Their coat of fur is perfect for nearly all weather, as it is weather resistant. They can take the heat like a champion, but do not prefer cold weather, though they are used to it because they come from an area that experiences harsh winters.

Always give love to your Swedish Vallhund as they get anxious if left alone too long or if their family is spread out too far in the home. They crave love, interaction, and attention. Giving them cuddles and talking to them will make them feel special and happy. This will lessen the chances of anxiety and depression, which will allow them to live emotionally stable lives.

Feeding Schedule

When feeding your dog, be sure to take into account his age, metabolism and the amount of activity and exercise your dog gets. It is recommended to give 1 to 1.5 cups of dry food per day to this breed and split it between 2 meals in a day. It is also recommended that you not leave food out for your dog to graze, as this will ensure your dog does not over eat and begin to gain weight.

Choosing the correct dog food for your dog will ensure maximum performance and longer life, and is packed with protein. If you are unsure of which dog food brand to use, or if you are unsure if your dog has any food allergies, take him to the vet for advice and possible testing for allergies.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The great thing about the coat for your Vallhund is that it is double coated, with the under coat being dense and very soft. Their medium length hair needs to be brushed once per week to keep well groomed and stimulate oil glands, but the fur does not need to be trimmed as it helps them stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Their coat comes in colors of gray and red, in various hues, with lighter shades near the eyes, muzzle, throat, belly, feet and legs. You can easily recognize this breed because of their “harness markings” on their backs.

Their teeth should be brushed two or three times each week to prevent bacteria and tartar. Some owners will brush the dog’s teeth each day, which is helpful in reducing gum disease, and halitosis. His nails should be trimmed up to twice a month, being careful not to cut the blood vessels in the nails. Also, their ears need to be checked each week in order to reduce chances of infection. They can be cleaned with a cotton swab and ear cleaner and gently cleaning the ear area without going inside of the ear.

As always, check for any redness or tenderness on your dog’s body. Be sure to look at the skin, mouth and eyes, as well as the feet to ensure your pup is healthy. If there are any problems, contact your vet for assistance.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

While the Swedish Vallhund is a great family pet, they can nip at children due to their nature to herd animals. With proper training, this problem can be solved. While you’re at it, teach children how to act around your dog, to never pull on their fur or tail and to be gentle when petting. It is recommended that small children be supervised around this breed. Be sure your child knows that most dogs do not like their food messed with, or to be bothered while they are sleeping as the dog can get confused and possibly hurt the child.

This Vallhund is great with other dogs in the house, and even cats. As long as owners socialize their dog as a puppy, there should be no issues with other animals in the home, and most Swedish Vallhunds prefer to have other animals around.

Overall, the Swedish Vallhund is a wonderful dog that is lovable, funny, energetic and loves to be outdoors or in bed cuddling. This breed has an ancient history and is very noble, polite, and makes a perfect watch dog. They love to exercise by playing with their family, running, or going to the park to play catch or Frisbee! As long as they are part of the action, they are happy and eager to please or entertain! You can’t ask for a better friend and companion in the Swedish Vallhund!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.