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Swedish Vallhunds: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Swedish Vallhund temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Molly Polglase, Swedish Vallhund

Molly, dearly loved by the Polglase family. Photo © Tony Polglase.

The FCI Standard calls the Swedish Vallhund "watchful, alert, and energetic."

Vallhund  is Swedish for shepherd dog. Yes, despite his short legs, this breed is a herding dog and his spunkiness and intelligence prove it.

Spirited and athletic, yet steady and dependable, the Swedish Vallhund is a true "big dog with short legs."

Hiking, herding, obedience, agility, or chasing balls (with surprising speed) are enjoyable outlets for the Vallhund's enthusiasm and desire to work.

Swedish Vallhunds love to be challenged with new tasks. If his days include such moderate exercise, along with the loving companionship of his family, he is adaptable and easy to live with.

Badger Polglase, Swedish Vallhund

Badger.... happy smile! Beloved companion of the Polglase family. Photo © Tony Polglase.

Most Swedish Vallhunds are friendly (or at least polite) with everyone and make sensible watchdogs. Most are fine with other animals and especially wonderful with livestock, including horses.

This attentive breed learns quickly and responds well to obedience training, but he does combine the independent judgment of a herding breed with the persistent, sometimes manipulative nature of the spitz family. You must have the confidence to establish and consistently enforce rules, or he may make up his own.

Swedish Vallhunds prefer their flock (family members and other pets) to be gathered together and may try to accomplish this by poking or nipping.

Barking is the main behavior issue to control.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is a "big dog" with short legs, i.e. built long and low to the ground, but with a robust body, heavy bone, and a working dog temperament
  • Has a short easy-care coat
  • Is spirited and athletic, but needs only moderate exercise to maintain his muscle tone
  • Combines the working intelligence of a herding breed with the playful nature of a spitz
  • Is less "bossy" than a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, but less "mellow" than a Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Is polite with guests and makes a sensible watchdog
  • Is usually fine with other family pets, and especially good with livestock

A Swedish Vallhund may be right for you.

Swedish Vallhund dog breed

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Providing lots of mental stimulation that fulfills his desire to work and gives him something productive to do
  • Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
  • Territorial aggression toward dogs and cats he doesn't know
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
  • Barking
  • Heavy shedding
  • Waiting lists (hard to find) and a high price tag

A Swedish Vallhund may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Swedish Vallhund

If I was considering a Swedish Vallhund, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. With their short legs and long body, Swedish Vallhunds don't need or want miles of running exercise. But they are active herding dogs, so they need regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. Otherwise they will become bored, which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing.

    I recommend that you get your Swedish Vallhund involved in obedience classes at the intermediate or advanced level, agility (an obstacle course for dogs), tracking, or herding. Otherwise, trying to suppress their "hardwired" working instincts, without providing alternate outlets for their energy, can be difficult and is really not fair to the dog.

  2. Chasing other animals. One of the Swedish Vallhund's responsibilities was to drive away strange dogs from their owner's farm and flock. Thus, many Swedish Vallhunds are dominant or aggressive toward dogs and cats they don't know.
  3. Barking. Swedish Vallhunds bark quite a bit, first because they have keen and watchful senses, and second, because they used sharp barks to help control livestock. This is not a good breed choice if you have close neighbors. To make matters worse, some Vallhunds have intense, high-pitched barks that can set your teeth on edge.
  4. Heavy shedding. Swedish Vallhunds shed a lot, be aware.
  5. Mind of their own. Swedish Vallhunds are highly intelligent. But like most herding dogs, they do have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative or willful. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.

    In other words, you must teach your Swedish Vallhund to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Read more about Swedish Vallhund Training.

  6. Finding one. In the United States, Swedish Vallhunds are very hard to find and expensive.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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