Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Swedish Vallhund
Average Cost to keep/care for a Swedish Vallhund
The Swedish Vallhund could easily be mistaken for a Welsh Corgi with an unusual coat colour, but in actual 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 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.
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 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. They come in a variety of colours which are as follows:
The Swedish Vallhund is an intelligent, energetic dog and one that needs to be given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise on a daily basis 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 really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to 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 has to 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 is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
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. 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 has to begin early and it has to 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 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.
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 has to 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:
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.
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 is allowed to build 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 has to 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.
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 £20.65 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £42.70 a month (quote as of Sept 2016). 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 or not 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 all 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 pedigree puppy.
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