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Group Pastoral Dogs (KC)
History The Swedish Vallhund is a pastoral dog believed to be related to the Welsh Corgi and the Skye terrier of Scotland, although it is unclear which breed came first. Its name literally means “herding dog,” a reference to its original role as cattle herder. It was particularly favored by the Vikings for its hardy nature and usefulness on the road. They were so attached to the dogs, in fact, that the breed came to be known as “the little cattle dog of the Vikings.”
The Vall proved very versatile on the Swedish farms, working as vermin hunters and house guardians in addition to herding. However, changes in livelihood caused a great decline in the Vallhund population, and the breed neared extinction in the early forties. The Vall was revived by Count Björn von Rosen and his friend Karl-Gustaf Zettersten, both native Swedes, who gathered the remaining Valls and started a breeding program. The breed was successfully revived and the Vall was officially recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1948.
Appearance The Swedish Vallhund has a harsh, medium-length double coat consisting of a soft, dense undercoat and a tight topcoat. Its hair is usually longer on the chest, neck, and hind legs. The ears are relatively small, and the head slightly more wedge-shaped than that of the Corgi. The dark oval eyes give it a curious expression, and its straight, well-boned legs give it a lively gait.
Colours The coat can be grayish yellow, grayish brown, steel gray, reddish yellow, or reddish brown. The hair can be a lighter shade (but not a different color) on the feet, buttocks, belly, chest, throat, and muzzle, and darker on the neck, back, and sides. White markings are allowed as long as they don’t dominate the coat colour.
Temperament The Vallhund has a very spitz-like personality: lively but watchful, alert and highly intelligent. They are very affectionate and protective of their families, a result of their centuries of watching over herds. They love attention and can be a bit of a show-off—they’ll go great lengths just to be noticed. They can be a bit wary around strangers, though, and will often bark to warn the family of someone’s presence.
Weight Its frame is small but powerful, measuring 12 ½ to 13 ½ inches for males and 11 ½ to 12 ½ for females.
Problems The Vallhund is a genetically sound breed with no major health risks. However, because of their long backs, they are susceptible to spine injury and bone disorders. This can be avoided by keeping the dog’s weight in check. Ear infections are also fairly common, so owners should check them regularly.
Living Conditions Vallhunds are outdoor dogs by nature; they’ll survive as indoor dogs but will be happiest in a house with a large yard. They aren’t very active indoors, but will spring into action the minute they step out of the house. They can stay outdoors provided they have somewhere warm to sleep, but they’d much rather be with the family. They are built for cold climates and should not be left out for long on hot days.
Requirements They are a very active breed and they need a lot of exercise to let out all that energy. Otherwise, they’ll get restless and may become destructive indoors. Exercise will also keep their weight under control, as these dogs can gain weight quite easily. Long daily walks are encouraged, along with lots of playing and running off the leash in a yard.
Training Requirements Vallhunds can be trained for all sorts of work, from pulling carts to herding cattle. They are very intelligent and will pick up new ideas fast. Obedience training should be started early, as these dogs can grow up rather self-minded. Gentle but consistent methods usually work best. They should also be socialized early to prevent excessive wariness as adults.
Life Expectancy Vallhunds live an average of 9 to 15 years.
Grooming This is a fairly low-maintenance breed and regular brushing should be enough to keep the coat clean. They shed lightly once a year; during this time the loose hairs should be brushed off to prevent tangling. Baths can be given only when necessary.
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More Swedish Vallhund Information: Check out our Swedish Vallhund Clubs and links to more informative websites dedicated to the breed.
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Photo with thanks to Photocall