Judging the Swedish Vallhund

(A version of this article appeared in the July 2014 edition of SHOWSIGHT.)
Swedish Vallhund

Featured photo courtesy by the American Kennel Club.


Judging the Swedish Vallhund

General Appearance

  • Small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog
  • Height to length of body is 2:3
  • Wedge-shaped head, prick ears
  • Close-fitting, hard double coat with characteristic “harness” markings
  • Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked
  • Balance, outline, temperament, and movement are of overriding importance.
Side photo of a Swedish Vallhund dog standing in front of a pond
The Swedish Vallhund: Small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built Spitz herding dog.


Size, Proportion & Substance

  • Height at withers 12-1/2 inches to 13-1/2 inches for dogs; 11-1/2 inches to 12-1/2 inches for bitches
  • Proportion height to length, as measured from prosternum to rear of buttocks, should be 2:3
  • Substance strong, well boned, well developed, muscular



  • Rather long and clean, when viewed from above, an even wedge from skull to nose tip, well filled-in under eyes
  • Eyes: medium size, oval, dark brown with black rims
  • Ears: medium size, pointed, prick, firm, smooth-haired, mobile and set at outer edge of skull above a line drawn from the corner of the eye
  • Skull: broad and almost flat; Stop well defined; top lines of the muzzle and skull parallel
  • Muzzle: rather square when viewed from side, slightly shorter than skull
  • Nose: black, on same line as muzzle and not extending beyond forepart of muzzle
  • Lips: black, tight with no noticeable flews
  • Teeth: strong, full dentition in a scissors bite. Any deviation is a serious fault.


Neck, Topline & Body

  • Neck long, strongly muscled with good reach
  • Topline level when standing or moving
  • Chest good depth, ribcage long and ribs fairly well sprung. From the front, chest is oval; from side, elliptical. In a mature dog it should reach down two-fifths of the length of the forelegs; lowest point of chest immediately behind back of foreleg. Prosternum visible and not excessively pronounced
  • Underline slightly tucked up; Back well muscled; Loin short; Croup broad and slightly sloping
  • Tail long, stub or bob; natural or docked; all equally acceptable



  • Shoulders strongly muscled; Shoulder blades long and well laid-back
  • Upper arms slightly shorter than the shoulder blades, set at an approximately 90-degree angle, close-fitting to ribs, but mobile. A line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from the tip of the shoulder blade through the elbow to the ground.
  • Elbows move parallel to the body, turning neither in nor out
  • Legs well boned; Pasterns slightly sloping, elastic; Dewclaws may be removed
  • Feet medium-sized, short, oval, pointing straight forward; Toes tightly knit and well knuckled; Pads thick and strong



  • Angulation: to balance the front, well angulated at stifle and hock
  • Legs: well boned, upper and lower thighs strongly muscled. Lower thigh is slightly longer than the distance from hock to ground.
  • Stifles: well bent; Hocks (Metatarsal bones): perpendicular to the ground, and viewed from the rear, parallel
  • Feet: toes and pads same as forefeet.



  • Medium length, harsh; topcoat close and tight; undercoat soft and dense.
  • Hair is short on head and foreparts of legs, slightly longer on neck, chest, and back parts of hind legs.
  • Dogs are to be shown in an untrimmed, natural state. Faults include wooly, curly, or open coats. Fluffy coats (longer hair on body and furnishings, with ear fringes) are a serious fault.



Sound with strong reach and drive. From the front, the legs do not move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward to compensate for shortness of leg and width of chest. The forelegs should reach forward in a free stride without too much lift. Hind legs should drive well under the body and move on a line with the forelegs, with hocks turning neither in nor out. Feet should travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over, or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement and overly close or wide movement is faulty.



The Swedish Vallhund is watchful, energetic, fearless, alert, intelligent, friendly, eager to please, active and steady; never vicious or shy.

Combined photo of Swedish Vallhund dogs, left: side photo of a Swedish Vallhund at a dog show, right: Swedish Vallhund head photo
Watchful, energetic, fearless, alert, intelligent, friendly, eager to please, active and steady; never vicious or shy.



A sable pattern in colors of grey through red and combinations of these colors in various shades. All are equally acceptable. Lighter shades on chest, belly, buttocks, lower legs, feet, and hocks, with darker hairs on back, neck, and sides of body. Light harness markings are essential. Although a dark muzzle is acceptable, a well-defined mask with lighter hair around eyes, on muzzle, and under throat, giving a distinct contrast to the head color, is highly desirable.

White is permitted as a narrow blaze, neck spot, slight necklace, and white markings on the legs and chest. White in excess of one third of the dog’s total color is a very serious fault. Any color other than described above is a very serious fault.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness of the fault should be in exact proportion to its degree.

The following faults are to be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate the dog from competition:

  • fluffy coat
  • any color other than described above
  • nose not predominantly black
  • more than one-third white
  • any bite other than scissors


Ring Presentation

For ease and proper perspective, the Swedish Vallhund is examined on a firm, solid table, permitting an accurate evaluation of the dog’s structure, balance, and outline. Expression and temperament are best judged when the dog is on the ground.

The Swedish Vallhund should be walked naturally into a four square stance with his attention focused on his handler. The dog should require a minimum of hand posing except when being stacked on the table for examination.

The Vallhund is best gaited at a moderate trot on a loose lead, as “stringing up” interferes with freedom of movement. A taut lead or racing the dog may actually cause choppy movement. A Vallhund should be shown in a natural, untrimmed state, but clean and with short nails and tidied pad hair. Excessive grooming is to be discouraged.


Procedure for Judging the Swedish Vallhund

Assess the outline and balance of the dog from at least 15 feet away from the dogs—both standing and gaiting.

Always examine a Vallhund on a table. Wait until the dog is set up on the table before examining him. Stand away from the table to assess balance and outline.

Evaluate true Vallhund expression on the ground, not on the table.

Should a reexamination be necessary, it is preferable to put the dog back on the table.

A Vallhund examined on the ground should be approached from the front, not because of fear or injury to the examiner, but because this breed reacts quickly to unexpected movements overhead. He should recover promptly and resume his self-confident attitude. This avoidance is not to be interpreted as shyness.

Smooth, sound movement with free reach and drive should be highly regarded.



Swedish Vallhund Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the energetic Swedish Vallhund dog breed with articles and information in our Swedish Vallhund Dog Breed Magazine.


Swedish Vallhund Breed Magazine - Showsight


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