The history of the Swedish Vallhund in New Zealand began in 1975 when Mrs Cartledge of the Ryslip kennel in England bred her Swedish imported dogs Valle of Ryslip to Snackans Isa. New Zealander Maree Cooper (16) was visiting England at the time and working as a kennel hand for Mrs Cartledge, who offered Maree a puppy from the litter. When Maree flew home to New Zealand, secure in the cargo hold of the plane in a travel crate was little Ryslip Fabian (Puffin), aged 5 months. Puffin was the very first Swedish Vallhund to arrive in New Zealand. Later a bitch was imported and Puffin was bred once, all puppies from this litter became de-sexed pets. This might have been the end of the introduction of the breed in New Zealand had Ian and Lesley Gray not stumbled upon them.
Mr Gray was due to retire from school teaching and was looking for a hobby. He and Lesley met Puffin and this sealed their decision to import two dogs from the U.K. Their subsequent involvement in showing, agility, obedience, and trialing did so much to promote Swedish Vallhunds.
For fifteen years, the Gray’s were the face of Vallhunds in New Zealand. Many people discovering Swedish Vallhunds for the first time did so as a result of seeing the Grays competing with their highly trained and capable little dogs in public settings. They impressed all who were fortunate enough to meet them.
However it is Rose Madsen who is credited with the establishment of the Swedish Vallhund breed in New Zealand making it possible for regular families to own the breed as companion pets, working farm dogs and competition show dogs.
Her story began in the early 1990's. Mrs Madsen discovered the breed in a little hand book of dogs written by Graham Meadows. Rose admired a photo of four grey Vallhunds in the photo and said
"It was like I had been struck she said. It was as though I had known these dogs my whole life, as though I had a connection to them. But of course I had never seen them before. From a detailed description and a photograph they captured my heart and were about to take over my life."
It was a while before Rose discovered the smiling dogs in the photos were Vancy, Santa, Alpha and Aster owned by Ian and Lesley of the Valdemar kennel. Rose's initial enquiries led her to a breeder in Australia named Alwyn Hopgood. Alwyn owned the Wynrik Kennels and was keen to find good homes for her dogs as she was waging a losing battle with cancer. Alwyn agreed to send Wynrik Christa, a 20-month-old Swedish Vallhund bitch to New Zealand much to the delight of Rose.
Rather than thriving today the breed is precariously holding its own. There are approximately six registered/active kennels but over half of these breeding very infrequently. The majority of competitive Championship dog shows held in New Zealand see no Swedish Vallhunds entered or exhibited. There are pockets of showing activity in central North Island and central to lower South Island where rarely there are more than five dogs entered and typically entries only total 1-3 on the day. It is certainly not unusual to see one little Swedish Vallhund trotting cheerfully around the show ring as the only exhibit in some of the larger shows in the country. The hope has been that this number of entries will increase, however dog showing as a sport is in decline across the country and across all breeds so it may be a vain hope.
Despite the small turn out at dog shows and following on from Rose Madsen’s efforts there is continued and ongoing importation of bloodlines from Sweden/Finland and Australia. A handful of enthusiastic supporters continue to promote Swedish Vallhunds at any opportunity and litters are bred to ensure good representation of the breed. Most prioritise health and temperament and the vast majority of Swedish Vallhunds become family companion pets rather than working dogs or competition dogs. In 2009 the Swedish Vallhund Club Inc was established and recognised by the New Zealand Kennel Club Inc. Currently club president Mr Andrew Lawrie reports that past patrons have been Mrs Rose Madsen, Mr Ian Gray and currently the club patron is Mrs Anita Whitmarsh (Swe) who visited in 2015 touring New Zealand and attending club events in the North and South Islands. The club has approximately 80 members, most of whom are not registered breeders.
A few Swedish Vallhunds compete regularly in agility and obedience, several in rally-O. Two Swedish Vallhunds are noted as having been trained and qualified officially as therapy dogs. Rosie from Murivall kennel (Bev Trowbridge) worked as a hearing dog for the deaf and Flicka from Barahwolfe kennel (Peta Dowle) is currently an active therapy dog with BARKNZ which run a dog bite prevention programme for children in schools.