Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Swedish Vallhund
Average Cost to keep/care for a Swedish Vallhund
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Swedish Vallhund could easily be mistaken for a Welsh Corgi with an unusual coat colour, but in fact, they are not related whatsoever. Also known as a Swedish Cattle Dog, they are highly prized in their native Sweden for being extremely good working dogs thanks to their tenacious dispositions. Since arriving in the UK, the Swedish Vallhund has found a big fan base and are known to be loyal, friendly companions and wonderful family pets and over the years their numbers are on the rise.
The history of Vallhunds dates back 1000 years and they are known as Vastotaspets in Sweden which translated means “small Spitz of the West Goths”, which is a region of the country. With this said, the actual origins of the Swedish Vallhund remain a bit of mystery although some people believe they could be descendants of dogs that owned by Vikings. They have always been highly prized in their native Sweden for being excellent herding dogs that would always let owners know when something was not right. They are also known to be very good at keeping vermin under control which is another reason why the Vallhund is often seen working alongside farmers in Sweden even today.
Their breed numbers fell dangerously low in the 1940s, but thanks to the efforts of Count Von Rose, the Swedish Vallhund was saved from extinction when he set up a breeding programme using four excellent examples of the breed, three were females and the other was a male. The Swedish Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1943, but it was not until the 1970s that these charming little dogs were introduced into the UK by a lady called Elizabeth Cartledge and they were granted recognition by The Kennel Club in 1984. Today, these affectionate and loyal dogs have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people outside of their native Sweden which includes in the UK thanks to their charming natures and the fact they make such wonderful companions and family pets.
Height at the withers: Males 33 - 35 cm, Females 31 - 33 cm
Average weight: Males 11.5 - 16.0 kg, Females 11.5 - 16.0 kg
The Swedish Vallhund does look very much like a Welsh Corgi because they have rather long, powerful, robust bodies. They have quite long, clean cut heads with well-defined stops that when viewed from above appears wedge-shaped. Their muzzles are rather square being a little shorter than a dog's skull. Vallhunds have strong, powerful lower jaws and well defined facial masks which adds to their unique appearance. They have tight lips and black noses. Eyes are oval shaped and medium in size being a very dark brown.
Their ears are moderately large and pointed with dogs having hard leathers from the base of their ears right to the tips. The Vallhund has a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth closely overlap their lower ones. Their necks are well muscled and long which allows dogs to have a good reach. Their forequarters are powerful with dogs having long, well laid-back shoulder blades with their upper arms being slightly shorter than their shoulder blades and set at an obvious angle. Upper arms lie close to their ribs. Their forearms when viewed from the front are slightly bent, but straight when seen from the side. The Vallhund boasts having strong legs that show a good amount of bone.
They have well-muscled, level backs with short and powerful loins. Chests are a good depth and long with dogs having well sprung ribs and clearly visible sternums. Croups slope slightly being nice and broad. A Vallhund's belly is slightly tucked up and they have clearly defined harness markings. Hindquarters are well angulated with dogs having nicely bent stifles and low hocks with thighs being well developed and muscled. Feet are oval shaped, short pointing straight forwards and having strong, firm pads and nicely knuckled up toes. Their tails are set as a continuation of a dog's croup line being moderately long.
When it comes to their coat, the Swedish Vallhund has a moderately long, harsh and close lying outer coats and a much softer, woollier undercoat. The accepted colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard which are as follows:
A Vallhund should have the same lighter which is the same colour shade mentioned in their breed standards on their muzzles, throats, chests, bellies, buttocks, feet and hocks. They can also have white markings instead of the lighter shades, but these must never cover more than one-third of a dog’s total coat colour.
It is also worth noting that white and blue or any other colour other than those set out in the breed standard are undesirable.
When a Vallhund moves they do so with a free and energetic action holding their elbows close to their sides with their front legs well extended without raising them too much and showing a tremendous amount of power in their hindquarters.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Swedish Vallhund is an intelligent, energetic dog and one that needs to be given the right amount of mental stimulation and daily exercise to be truly happy. They are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be trained and handled by people who are familiar with the needs of this type of hard working dog. They are extremely confident and outgoing by nature which is why they have always been so highly prized in their native Sweden for being such excellent herding and guarding dogs.
Vallhunds are best suited to people who live in the country or who have large, secure back gardens. They are also a great choice for families where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out of the house so they company throughout the day and are not left on their own for long periods of time. They are known to form strong bonds with their families and become extremely protective of the people they love. However, they are known to have a bit of an independent streak and being so intelligent, they need to be given the right amount of mental stimulation and daily exercise to be truly well-rounded dogs. Vallhunds have a sense of humour and like to keep their owners entertained and on their feet. They are extremely good at figuring things out and enjoy playing with complicated interactive toys.
It's important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation must include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. They are herding dogs and as such, rounding things up is deeply embedded in a Vallhund's psyche so it's essential for young dogs to be taught not to nip a child's ankle when they want to move them along. However, being so intelligent, a Vallhund soon understands what's allowed and what type of behaviour is not permitted.
It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it must be consistent throughout a dog's life. A Vallhund is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who the alpha dog is in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
Because a Vallhund is such a fast learner they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. As such, their training must begin early and it must be consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what's expected of them. Vallhunds are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things.
Vallhunds are not the best choice for first time dog owners because although they are so amenable and people-oriented, loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their families, they must be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such an intelligent, energetic dog.
Although Vallhunds are social by nature but they have working and hunting dogs in their lineage, and therefore they do have a high prey drive. As such, care should be taken as to where and when a dog can run off the lead more especially if there is livestock or wildlife close by.
Vallhunds have a playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, they quickly learn how to please their owners. They are super intelligent with more Vallhunds taking part in obedience and agility than ever before.
Vallhunds are better suited to people who live in the country who lead active, outdoor lives and who would like to have an active, quick-witted canine companion at their side.
Vallhunds form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out, so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
They can be quite vocal, especially if there are strangers about or when something they are not happy with is going on in their environment which is why they make such good watch dogs. However, Vallhunds can also be taught to "speak" on queue.
Most Vallhunds swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Vallhund off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Vallhunds are excellent watchdogs because they are always on the alert and ready to let their owners know when there are strangers about or when something they don’t like is going on in their surroundings.
Vallhunds are highly intelligent and as previously mentioned, they learn new things extremely fast. They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact when competing with their handlers. The key to successfully training a Vallhund is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions short which helps dogs stay more focussed on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored, bearing in mind they are extremely smart dogs.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved, making sure not to give too many food rewards as it could lead to a dog putting on weight which could seriously impact their overall health and well-being.
Like all puppies, Vallhunds are incredibly cute when young and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. As soon as a puppy is nicely settled owners must start out as they mean to go on by laying down ground rules and boundaries so that a Vallhund puppy understands what is expected of them. It helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in the household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Vallhunds are a good choice for families with older children, although they are generally good around younger kids too. The problem is they like to nip ankles which is their way of "moving things" along and this includes younger children. As such, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over or nipped.
When a Vallhund has been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Vallhund might decide to chase off any other cats they encounter in their environment. They also enjoy the company of another dog in a household, more especially if it's another Vallhund. Care must be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets just to be on the safe side.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Swedish Vallhund is between 12 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Vallhund is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these extraordinary dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Swedish Vallhund puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
As with other breeds, some Vallhunds gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Vallhunds are not known to suffer from allergies but it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Vallhund breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
As of 2008, the Kennel Club registers Vallhund puppies born with naturally bobbed tails which is added to their KC papers so that lines with the tailless gene can be easily identified. It is worth noting that the application must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate when registering a Vallhund puppy with a naturally occurring bobbed tail.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured breeders to use the following test on their stud dogs:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders use the following tests on their stud dogs:
As with any other breed, Vallhunds need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Vallhund puppies like all young dogs can be boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Vallhund puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Vallhund puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Vallhunds need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Vallhund in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Vallhunds need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Vallhunds don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Swedish Vallhunds boast having short, close lying coats and as such they are low maintenance on the grooming front. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats in good condition with a nice sheen on it. They shed steadily throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Swedish Vallhund is energetic, intelligent and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need at least 1 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Vallhund would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in a safe environment. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Vallhund puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious and painful problems later in their lives.
If you get a Swedish Vallhund puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Vallhund puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 13 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Vallhund should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Swedish Vallhund, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £400 for a well-bred puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Swedish Vallhund in northern England would be £22.98 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £44.55 a month (quote as of April 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Vallhund and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Swedish Vallhund would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred Kennel Club registered pedigree Swedish Vallhund puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Vallhunds are finding a big fanbase in the UK although puppies can be hard to find which means they can often command a lot of money. As such, with Vallhunds there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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