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The Swedish Vallhund: The Viking’s Little Helper Dog - PawSafe

The Swedish Vallhund: The Viking’s Little Helper Dog

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Swedish Vallhund

The Welsh Corgi’s distant relation, the Swedish Vallhund, is a short-legged, jolly working and companion dog. Their stocky frames, high energy level and tenacious attitudes make them great at herding cattle as they were once the herding dog of choice for the Vikings.

A key personality trait of Swedish Vallhunds include a zesty personality and an overall friendly demeanor. The breed is also known for its unique vocalizations. Should you come across Swedish Vallhund puppies for sale, it is worth noting that they are well suited to both urban and rural lifestyles.

They are an energetic breed and crave ‘work.’ Instead of cattle herding, you may choose to adopt a form of play that fulfills their sense of purpose. Being energetic, the Swedish Vallhund does need a structured exercise routine and is ill-suited to a sedentary lifestyle.

History of the Swedish Vallhund: Where Do They Come From?

The Swedish Vallhund’s origins date back to around the 8th or 9th century, so they are an ancient breed. At over a thousand years old, they may once have been known as the Vikingarnas Dog and even ridden Viking ships’ prows as beloved pets.

Although Swedish Vallhunds may look like wolves crossed with Corgis, they are a spitz breed like the Malamute or Siberian Husky. They likely came to the British Isles with their Viking masters. They may have shared a common ancestor with the Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

Their exact relationship to Corgis is unclear, but Swedish Vallhunds do share several characteristics, aside from the short legs. They are both excellent watchdogs, devoted to their owners with jaunty personalities.

A Swedish Vallhund Dog can also act like a heeler, meaning they can nip the hocks of the cows like most herding dogs. This also is possible because this breed sits so low to the ground.

Despite the uncanny similarities, new genetic testing shows that the breeds shared ancestry branched over a millennia ago.

Swedish Vallhunds were prized in their native homeland of Sweden, where their Viking owners relied on them for help around their farms.

The breed was first recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1943, with the American kennel club following in 1996.

Despite its kennel club recognition, this dog breed nearly fell to extinction in the 1940s. Bjorn von Rosen, a Swedish man who had played an active role in saving and preserving other Nordic breeds, stepped in to help turn the tide on the fate of the Swedish Vallhund.

A Mr. Zetterson responded to a newspaper ad in which Bjorn von Rosen had sought the assistance of those willing to help save the breed. Peterson and von Rosen partnered up, scouring the country for breed specimens. The Swedish Vallhund breed population today is mostly rooted in the bloodlines stemming from their efforts.

What are the Physical Features of the Swedish Vallhund?

 Physical Features of the Swedish Vallhund
HeightBitches a minimum 12.2 Inches
Dogs a minimum of 12.9 inches
WeightBitches a minimum of 22 pounds
Dogs a minimum of 24 pounds
Lifespan12 – 15 years
ColorVariations of shades of Sable, ranging from black to red.
NoseGenerally black with rare cases of dark brown.
EyesDark Brown

The Swedish Vallhund male should stand 12.5 to 13.75 inches tall, while the female should stand between 11.5 and 12.75 inches tall. They should weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.

The Swedish Vallhund is a smaller dog with a stocky frame and a slightly longer body-to-leg ratio than most other breeds.

It is an agile dog with seemingly limitless energy stretching well into its later years which means it can do well in dog sports.

Colors range from black to red sable, with a black nose. Their eyes are generally dark brown.

Unlike many other Nordic breeds, the Vallhund has a short to medium-length coat with a fine undercoat which acts as insulation against the cold temperatures of their native Sweden.

The undercoat consists of densely packed, fine hair. This soft undercoat makes certain areas of their coat, such as the chest fur, stand on end.

General Care of the Swedish Vallhund

Swedish Vallhund’s General Care
SheddingModerate to heavy shedding when molting.
ExerciseHigh energy dog. Minimum of one to two hours of daily exercise
HousingNeeds a secure yard. Prefers a cold climate.
TemperamentIntelligent, easily bored. Herding drive. Protective of family and wary of strangers. Highly energetic.
TrainabilityEasily trained with the right motivators.


The Swedish Vallhund falls within the category of high-energy working dogs. They require plenty of exercise and enjoy play as an outlet and training method.

This dog will not do well in sedentary families or left unsupervised for an extended period.

Because Swedish Vallhunds seek purpose and validation, it is vital to their development that they receive additional exercise and stimulation.

Should these facets of their development be neglected, you may end up with a problematic behavior disorder such as separation anxiety.

But be warned, the Swedish Vallhund may suffer injury more easily from jumping from high places. Due to their comparatively short legs and their torso’s length, they may suffer severe and irreparable spinal damage.


The Vallhund may be prone to wandering and should be kept in a securely fenced yard. They are better suited to a home with a larger yard; however, they can adapt to small spaces with sufficient exercise, including townhouses and apartments.

As mentioned, a lack of stimulation could easily lead to behavioral problems. This means that the Swedish Vallhund is not suited to prospective owners who do not find the time for outdoor activities. Being left home alone for extended periods may lead to similar problems.

The Swedish Vallhund is more tolerant of warmer climates than many of its fellow Nordic breeds, but they do prefer cooler weather.

Food & Dietary Requirements

The Swedish Vallhund requires a well-balanced diet suitable for a high-energy small to medium-sized breed. As with many active breeds, Swedish Vallhunds tend to do well on a high protein diet.

This makes a correctly balanced raw diet a good option for this breed.

The Swedish Vallhund is known to easily pick up weight, particularly if they are not getting enough exercise.

Nevertheless, the dietary requirements of Swedish Vallhunds may vary significantly according to age and other factors, as with any dog. It is always recommended that one consult your vet should you struggle to balance nutrition and weight gain.


Grooming should take place regularly. The Swedish Vallhund should receive a weekly brushing. Because of their medium length coat and the fact that they shed twice a year, the occasional wash should more than suffice.

They are not an odorless dog breed but do have less of a doggy smell than most.

It is essential to keep in mind that their nails grow quite quickly and frequently need trimming. This will help avoid splitting and cracking.

One should also check their ears frequently and try to keep them free from excessive wax buildup.

As with all dogs, dental health is a priority. The Swedish Vallhund may be particularly sensitive to dental problems that may lead to organ failure.



The Swedish Vallhund requires a lot of exercise. This is best achieved by long walks or runs. Should you have your Vallhund trained for park play, playing fetch allows the Vallhund to tire itself out.

They also excel at dog sports like agility.

Severe Health Problemship dysplasia, patellar luxation and eye diseases (including Swedish Vallhund Retinopathy, persistent pupillary membranes, corneal dystrophy, vitreous degeneration)
Mild to Moderate Health problemsElbow dysplasia
Rare Health ProblemsHip dysplasia and heart problems.

The Swedish Vallhund is generally considered to be a healthy breed.

But, the Vallhund often suffers from hereditary eye conditions, much like many other Nordic breeds.

A condition common to them is Swedish Vallhund Retinopathy. This is a condition where the cones and rods deteriorate in the dogs’ eyes, often causing blindness.

Corneal dystrophy is the degeneration of the cornea, the front part of the eye, with a severe impact on the dog’s eyesight.

Another concern is persistent pupillary membranes that are a frequently encountered congenital condition. In short, it is a conglomeration of membranes left in the eye during prenatal development.

Vitreous degeneration may also occur. This is a condition whereby the gel-like substance in the eye starts to become more liquid. This not only warps the dog’s eyesight but may lead to complete blindness. The vitreous humor, or gel in the eye, is no longer capable of maintaining the eye’s shape and recedes from the optical nerve, severing its connection with the retina.

Breeding dogs should also be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia.

Patellar Luxation is a condition where the a dogs knee cap rides outside the femoral groove when the knee is bent. The symptom of this condition is an inability to fully extend or flex the leg. It is also recognizable in the way it affects the dog’s gait.

What is the Swedish Vallhund’s Life Expectancy?

The average life expectancy of the Swedish Vallhund is around 12-15 years, although there have been cases where they have reached 16-17.

The Trainability of a Swedish Vallhund: Temperament and Intelligence

The Swedish Vallhund is quite easily trained. This is particularly true for training activities that involve physical exercise and work. The Vallhund is exceptionally eager to please and can be motivated without the use of much in the way of training aids, although they do love treats.

Swedish Vallhunds are friendly with other dogs and are generally easy to incorporate into your dog pack. Furthermore, this dog breed also possesses less of a hunter instinct than most other Nordic breeds. They should still be well socialized from a young age to avoid any potential problems.

Sociability With Other Pets

The breed lack’s the hunting instinct associated with many Nordic breeds. This means that the Swedish Vallhund is far easier to integrate them into the family, particularly when it comes to other dogs or smaller animals. There is less of a threat of them displaying hostility with other animals on the whole.

However, other dogs may be frustrated by their in-your-face feisty personalities. Should you own a particularly aggressive breed, it may not make for a good match. The Swedish Vallhund can have an excited, playful nature that will make them unappealing housemates to a breed who prefers to nap on the couch.

The Vallhund is inclined to be protective of their household and well other other dog. This makes this breed really good watch dogs.

Suitable Home: Are Swedish Vallhunds Good Pets?

A breed best suited to an active household, the high-energy Swedish Vallhund will make for the perfect companion for those looking for a jogging mate. They can adapt to smaller homes given they receive sufficient stimulation.

A Swedish Vallhund dog will most certainly benefit from a large yard, as well as a farm environment. Their distinctive bark may cause complaints amongst neighbors, but this can be counteracted by implementing appropriate training.

The Swedish Vallhund has a fast metabolism, and their diet may depend on their level of activity, which may be increased above normal requirements if kept in large open spaces.

How Much Does a Swedish Vallhund Cost?

The Swedish Vallhund is a popular breed in the US, and some breeders may ask as little as $500 per Vallhund puppy. One should always inquire about their bloodline and any potential genetic disorders that may lie in their family tree.

The more expensive end of the spectrum will see pups sold at around $1500, with rare bloodlines fetching upward of $2300.


The Swedish Vallhund is a fantastic pet for those looking for an active dog to match their lifestyle. The fact that they adapt so well to smaller homes is a big draw for many prospective owners.

Their amicable attitude towards other pets, particularly dogs, means that their tolerance for small yards is all the more of a benefit.

Their personable nature extends to children, and they make for excellent pets for younger children.

Should you be interested in a pet to raise alongside your children, they will surely benefit from the Swedish Vallhund’s playful and energetic character.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.