Swedish Vallhunds are best for active, busy households. They are friendly dogs who generally can pal around with other pets—even cats!—and children.
Swedish Vallhund Traits
What makes the Swedish Vallhund a Swedish Vallhund? Let's find out how they stack up.
Swedish Vallhund Temperament
Remember your classmate who always got yelled at by the teacher for talking in class? (Maybe it was you.) The Swedish Vallhund is that classmate, albeit in dog form. Whether announcing guests at the door or simply telling you about their day, one of their most charming traits is their need to communicate whatever is on their mind using their outside voice. (In addition to barking, they’ll “talk” with silly whines and groans.) A bit of training can easily help teach them to curb their endless canine chatter.
Properly socialized Vallhound dogs are happy to introduce you to new friends wherever you go (whether you were looking for new friends or not). And while these pups aren’t aggressive, their guarding instincts (they are a herding breed) will go up if they sense you may be in danger. (At least you know they’re not getting friendly with shady characters.)
Friendliness is one of their best qualities, but know that Swedish Vallhunds will not hesitate tell you if they feel you’re stepping out of line. Some might call it being a bit bossy, but the Vallhund prefers to see it as their duty as your loyal pal … and maybe a little shout out to their deeply ingrained herding instinct from their cattle dog days.
Swedish Vallhunds and kids are a natural fit, as long as the two-legged little ones are taught how to gently play with their new four-legged sibling. Vallhunds also do well with cats and other pets in the home. But while family pets get the Vallhund’s love, Vallhunds take their duties as head of the neighborhood watch group seriously, and animals outside the home—whether the neighborhood cat or your neighbor’s dog—may not be as welcomed. Best to stick to pre-arranged puppy playdates rather than impromptu trips to the dog park to make new four-legged friends.
How to Care for a Swedish Vallhund
With their hearty Viking genes, Swedish Vallhunds are generally healthy, muscular dogs who are eager to make you their new BFF. That doesn’t mean everything will be a walk in the park with your new four-legged family member (though expect lots of those) because this is a high-energy breed who needs lots of playtime, training and activity.
Swedish Vallhund Health
Vallhunds live fairly long lives, with a life expectancy averaging between 12 to 15 years. While they are a healthy breed, there are some health issues for you to be aware of. This way you can look for signs of them early on and get them treated quickly.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Vallhunds suffer from a unique form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) known as Swedish Vallhund Retinopathy. One study found that up to 10 percent of Vallhunds were found to have this hereditary eye condition. Retinopathy can cause night-blindness in dogs and other vision issues, usually starting around the age of 10. Fortunately, researchers have identified the genetic markers behind this disease, and most reputable breeders now screen each Swedish Vallhund puppy for retinopathy. If you notice your dog is a bit reluctant to go out at night, a visit to a veterinary ophthalmologist can determine whether your dog has this condition and the best ways to mitigate it.
- Cataracts: Another eye issue the Vallhund breed may develop in their later years is cataracts, sometimes as a result of retinopathy. When proteins clump together within the lenses of the Vallhund’s eyes, it can block out the light and eventually cause blindness. Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts.
- Other Eye Issues: The Swedish Vallhund breed can suffer from a number of eye conditions besides retinopathy and cataracts, including distichiasis, corneal dystrophy, Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM), vitreous degeneration and retinal dysplasia. These conditions can affect your dog’s vision or cause their eyes to become irritated, but may not cause any symptoms at all. A veterinary ophthalmologist can give you the best treatment options for these conditions after an exam.
- Hip Dysplasia: Although hip dysplasia typically affects larger breeds, it can affect the Vallhund breed, too. This is a genetic condition that is caused by the malformation of the hip sockets and can lead to trouble walking and arthritis over time. Treatments include surgery, joint supplements and even lifestyle changes if caught early enough, so speak with your vet if your pup is having issues with mobility.
Swedish Vallhund History
A quick Swedish Vallhund 101 History: The Swedish Vallhund origin story starts between 1,000 and 1,200 years ago when the Vikings were exploring the world with their Spitz dogs. At some point, these dogs mixed with the Welsh Corgis in Britain and the Swedish Vallhund breed or “Vikingarnas Dog” was born.
Originally bred for herding cattle and other livestock, these hardy working dogs were favorites on Swedish farms until 1942, when the breed almost disappeared. It was then that Bjorn von Rosen and K. G. Zettersten started the breeding program that would bring this dog back from the brink of extinction. Soon after, in 1943, the breed was officially recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club.
It wouldn’t be long before the little Viking dogs or Vastgotaspets (as they were called in Sweden) came to the United States. In 1983, the first of several Vallhunds was brought to the US, and soon after, the first litter of Swedish Vallhund puppies was whelped by Marilyn Thell at the Jonricker Kennel in 1986. Later, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Swedish Vallhund (literally translated to Swedish herding dog) in 2007 as its 157th breed.
Although the Swedish Vallhund breed is rarer than most, you can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What’s the average price of a Swedish Vallhund? Depending on the breeder, expect to spend anywhere from $1,400 to $2,400 for a pup. Breeders approved by the AKC typically screen their dogs for health and temperament issues; your dog will likely come with pedigree papers, too. You can also reach out to the Swedish Vallhund Club of America’s rescue coordinator to adopt a Vallhund or check the listings of your local animal shelter.
How do you pronounce Swedish Vallhund?
Swedish Vallhund is pronounced Swee-dish val-HUND. This unique name is based on the breed’s Swedish background, and the word vallhund is Swedish for “herding dog.” The dog was previously known as the Vikingarnas Hund—which is quite the mouthful (and one of the many cool Swedish Vallhund facts). This phrase translated to “Viking Dog.”
Are Swedish Vallhunds Corgis?
Swedish Vallhunds aren’t Corgis. They have some very similar characteristics to Welsh Corgis, but they are not the same breed. The Vallhund is thought to have originally been a cross between Scandinavian spitz dogs and Welsh Corgis. Their interbreeding occurred sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, when the Vikings raided and settled into many parts of Britain. So, Swedish Vallhunds are distant cousins to Corgis.
Do Swedish Vallhunds shed?
Yes, Swedish Vallhunds do tend to shed a lot. You’ll find that Swedish Vallhund shedding is at its worst twice a year (fall and spring). These dogs have a thick double coat, and when the weather changes, these dogs fully shed their fluffy undercoat and will need more frequent brushing during this time. Otherwise, expect large tufts of fur to cover your couch.
Are Swedish Vallhund good family dogs?
Yes, Swedish Vallhund dogs are good family dogs. They get along with kids and other pets, including cats, who are part of the family. They do have some guarding instincts which means they aren’t the friendliest to dogs or cats outside of the family. And because they are herding dogs, expect a bit of nipping and nudging at your heels by your pup to keep you and your family within sight (though this can be discouraged with training).
Do Swedish Vallhunds bark a lot?
Yes, Swedish Vallhunds do bark a lot. This Viking herding dog is also known for its fearsome guarding instincts, which they will use to alert you to everything from suspicious activity outside to the neighborhood cat waltzing by.
What are the most popular Swedish Vallhund names?
The most popular Swedish Vallhund dog names usually allude to their Scandinavian heritage (and possibly your favorite Disney/Marvel movie), including Elsa, Anna, Astrid, Wilma, Signe, Sophie, Kristoff, Hans, Olaf, Bjorn, Thor, Odin, Loki and Axel. Get more dog names here.
Swedish Vallhunds are friendly, loyal dogs with big Viking personalities in a small package. Their booming barks make them great guard dogs, and their high-energy nature makes them a perfect companion for active pet parents. These quick learners with a fearless spirit are eager to please and love nothing more than to be by your side, taking on any adventure with you.
Expert input provided by veterinarian Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa of the Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital, Rebekah James, AKC Breeder of Merit, dog trainer, and Regional East Contact for the Swedish Vallhund Club of America (whose Vallhund Grayson won Best of Breed at the 2020 AKC National Championship), and Joan Hunter Mayer, MBA, CTC, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, CNWI, CSAT, certified professional dog trainer of The Inquisitive Canine.