Sunday, June 28, 2009



Hundaræktarfelag Islands - Icelandic Kennel Club
Homeland: Iceland

General appearance: The Icelandic Sheepdog is a typical Nordic Spitz, having pricked ears and curled tail. Seen from the side while standing the dog is rectangular, longer than high, the ratio depending on individual harmony.
There are two types of coat, but at all times thick and efficiently water-repellent.
The Icelandic Sheepdog is lively, friendly, inquisitive and courageous. The countenance is contented, frequently smiling, and the ears very mobile. Movement is brisk, free and easy, and the breed has very great endurance.
The dog has pronounced herding instincts, but is not very keen on hunting. It is thus a particularly good herding dog, and an excellent guard without being fierce. There is a marked difference in appearance between the sexes.
Head: Wide between the ears, and a somewhat domed skull. The stop is clearly defined, but should not be too pronounced. Cheeks are flat. The bridge of the nose and the skull should be, seen in profile, as parallel as possible. Muzzle is rather short, tapering evenly toward the nose seen both from the side and from above. The nostrils are well developed. Tight lips. The colour of the lips and muzzle shall be black except on chocolate brown and light fawn dogs where brown is permitted.
Eyes: The eyes shall be of medium size and almond shaped. The colour shall be dark, but may be lighter according to the colour of the dog. Yellow is not acceptable. The eyelids shall be black except in the case of chocolate brown and light-coloured dogs when they may be brown.
The expression is lively, intelligent and fearless.
Ears: Firm and erect, triangular, wide at the base, very mobile, reacting sensitively to sounds.
Bite: Scissors-bite
Neck: Of medium length, strong, arched, dry (without any loose skin). The head is to be carried high.
Body: The body shall be rectangular, strong but not coarse. The chest shall be deep with well sprung ribs. The croup is short and rounded, the loin muscular with a slight tuck-up.
Extremities: The forelegs shall be straight, muscular and dry. Well angulated to allow a free front movement. Dewclaws may occur. The hind legs shall be strong, muscular and well angulated to allow a good free and driving action. Dewclaws are mandatory, double dewclaws are desirable.
Feet: The feet shall be oval, with toes close together, and well developed pads.
Tail: Set high, well curled and thickly furred.
Gait: When moving, the dog presents a picture of stamina and endurance, agility and swiftness.
Coat: There are two variants:
a) Medium length. Outer coat of medium length with a thick and soft undercoat, short on ears and front of legs, but longer on neck, chest, withers, buttocks and tail.
b) Longer-haired: Outer coat of good length, whereas undercoat is thick and s0ft. On head and front of legs the coat is short, but long behind the ears and on neck, chest buttocks and hind side of forequarters. The fur on the tail is very bushy.
Color: All colours are permitted, but predominant single colour is preferred. White blaze and white markings on chest, tip of tail, legs and toes frequently occur, and must not be penalized.
Height: Dogs 42-48 cm. Bitches 38-44 cm. The length of the body is slightly greater than the height at the withers.
Faults: Any deviation from this standard is a fault, and shall be judged in relation to the overall impression. Deviations untypical of the breed, and abnormities are disqualifying.



The Icelandic Dog (also known as the Icelandic Sheepdog)

General Appearance: A Spitz type of slightly under middle size, lightly built, with a game temperament.
Head: Light, rather broad between the ears.
Skull: Broad and domed.
Muzzle: Rather shorter than long; stop marked but not sharp.
Nose: Black.
Lips: Short and tight.
Ears: Large at the base, triangular in shape, pointed and erect.
Eyes: Small and round; dark in color with a lively expression.
Neck: Short, strong and slightly arched, carrying the head high.
Shoulders: Straight, not sloping.
Chest: Large and deep.
Belly: Drawn up.
Body: Strong and rather short but light.
Legs: Clean, straight and muscular; stifles not too bent.
Feet: Oval, pads well-developed.
Tail: Of moderate length, very bushy and carried curled over the back.
Coat: Hard, of medium length, longer round the neck, on the thighs and at the underside of the tail. The coat is flat on the body and is short on the head and the legs; fore-legs without feather.
Color: White with fawn markings, golden, light fawn with black tips to long hairs, and occasionally all black.
Height: From 15 to 18 inches.
Weight: About 30 pounds

Revised Standard of Points 1956

BREED STANDARD 1905 - Iceland Dog

BREED STANDARD 1905 - Iceland Dog

General Appearance: A light built dog, with a game temperament.
Head: Rather large in proportion to the body.
Skull: Broad and domed.
Muzzle: Rather short and snippy; stop nearly not defined.
Nose: Black.
Lips: Short and well closed.
Ears: Large at the base, triangular in shape, pointed and erect.
Eyes: Small and round; dark in colour with a lively expression.
Neck: Short, strong and slightly arched, carrying the head high.
Shoulders: Straight, not sloping.
Chest: Large and deep.
Back: Rather short.
Belly: Drawn up.
Body: Rather shelly.
Legs: Clean, straight and muscular; stifles not too bent.
Feet: Long. Toes arched and longish, nails black or dark coloured; pades well-developed.
Tail: Of moderate length, very bushy and carried curled over the back.
Coat: Hard, of medium length, longer round the neck, on the thighs and at the underside of the tail. The coat is flat on the body and is short on the head and the legs; fore-legs without feather.
Colour: Brownish or grayish, sometimes dirty white or dirty yellow. A usual colour is: back black, underside of the body, feet, underside and tip of the tail and neck, dirty white.
Height at Shoulder (joint): From 10 to 14 inches.
Weight: About 45 pounds

Page 598, “Dogs of All Nations”, Count Henry De Bylandt, 1905, London

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Breed Standards

Some people who don't know me have suggested that I am not in favor of a breed standard for Icelandic Sheepdogs.

That is not true.

I did not vote for (or against) the recent standard that was sent out to members. I did not vote at all.

I did not voice my opinion regarding that standard. In point of fact I had/have no strong opinion for or against it or any other standard for Icelandics.

I am opposed to changing the breed, the actual dogs we call Icelandic Sheepdogs. I suspect that we all agree on that.

Yet I know they will change. I am a realist. It is inevitable. Change has happened to every registered breed of dog. In point of fact, the only constant in the universe is change. Nothing stays the same.

If we look at drawings and read written descriptions of our dogs from more than a hundred years ago, we can see changes. We even see changes in the appearance of our dogs from some early photographs to our dogs today.

Our current dogs are all descended from farm dogs, good all around generalist farm dogs, of Nordic Spitz ancestry. Yes, they do herd animals like sheep, horses, cattle, geese, etc. but they are also still generalists. Some well respected authorities have suggested that "farm dog" more aptly describes Icelandics than "herding dog". I honestly don't know. I do not live on a farm and do not use my dogs as herders.

There are currently in North America several people who still use them for herding and/or use them as general farm dogs. I honor, respect, admire and envy those hardy souls. I listen to them too.

I am guessing that most of us, however, do not use Icelandics for farm/herding work.

There are increasing numbers, slowly increasing numbers, of owners who use their dogs in dog sports like agility, obedience, rally, tracking, even therapy work, etc. They were not bred for those kinds of activities but because of their temperaments, agility, endurance, intelligence, they do very well in those sports/activities.

People who own working (i.e. herding or farm dog) Icelandics may or may not belong to one of the two major North American breed clubs. They may simply be too busy on their ranches or farms. They may be concerned that Icelandics could lose their herding instincts through careless breeding.

Those owners who do dog sports belong to an increasing variety of organized kennel clubs including but not limited to the AKC, the CKC and even the UKC. The activities of those dogs are recorded by their kennel clubs and sometimes not reported to the organized breed clubs for one reason or another. The two large North American Icelandic breed clubs are affiliated with the AKC and the CKC.

There are also owners who are involved in conformation shows with their dogs and making excellent progress in securing titles. (Currently it seems that the two organized kennel clubs awarding titles are the International Kennel Club, which apparently awards International Championships, and the United Kennel Club, which awards UKC championships.)

Very soon, perhaps as soon as next January (wouldn't that be wonderful!), the AKC will allow Icelandics to earn Championship points as well.

Dogs that earn the title of Champion are being judged on how well they "conform" to (please note the spelling) or match the written standard. (A dog earning a conformation title is called a conformation "Champion" - CH or Ch depending on the kennel club.)

There are also champions in dog sports. Agility Champions, e.g. MACH, and Obedience Champions, OTCH, as well as other titles are truly champions too.

There were several very early standards for Icelandic Sheepdogs. (At one time they were called Iceland Dogs.) There are records of those standards and subsequent standards that followed them. They have changed over time - for the better, in my opinion. I suspect there may be additional changes decreed by the parent club in Iceland. That's to be expected and is normal. If or when changes happen, it's a good thing. If the standard does not change, it's also good.

As time passes, smaller and smaller percentages of our dogs will actually 'work' as farm dogs and/or herding dogs. I am sure all of us will be saddened by this possible or probable inevitability.

A few of our dogs have been tested to see if they have retained some basic herding abilities or proclivities or instincts. People say their dogs "have passed their herding test". That means they still have the instincts. That does not mean they have been actually trained to herd or that they earn their living herding.

Even fewer of our dogs have actually capitalized on those retained instincts and are actually being trained as herders by people who really herd livestock daily. Some of the herding trained dogs participate in trials similar to agility or obedience trials and earn points towards herding titles.

Only a small minority of our dogs earn their actual living herding livestock 365 days a year. Often those dogs and their owners work completely outside the North American Icelandic Sheepdog breed clubs.

Thus, the genes of their working dogs are not being included in our gene pools and may be lost forever as far as the organized kennel clubs are concerned. If the parents are not registered with an organized kennel club, their descendants cannot be in the stud book or gene pool of that kennel club.

I have tried to convince our stalwart herding people to include their dogs and their progeny in our gene pool. That would benefit us. Many of them believe that organized kennel clubs and breed clubs "ruin" a breed by virtually ignoring the original purpose of that breed. I have been largely unsuccessful.

Will that have an affect on the 'shape' of our breed in the future ten, fifteen, twenty or more years in the future?

Maybe. Probably?

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, of course.

When a standard is written that emphasizes, out of need and necessity, certain areas and encourages but does not mandate other areas. the areas not emphasized will perhaps diminish further in importance and occurrence unless the breed club works to avoid that. Maybe. Possibly. Probably?

Could our dogs, or some or many of them, lose their herding instincts. Yes, they could.

One almost never sees some areas mentioned in a written standard.

Are healthy hips, per se, mentioned in a breed standard? Should they be? Probably not. Arguably, healthy hips may be more important than fur coloring, length or fur patterns. One area may not be mentioned. The other may be.

Even though some characteristics may not be included in a written standard, responsible breeders still try to include those traits in their breeding programs.

Thus, ethical individual single breeders can and should include traits that may not be written about or emphasized in a written breed standard.

For well over a thousand years there have been Icelandic Sheepdogs, even though they most likely were not called that, in Iceland. For the vast majority of that period of time there was no written breed standard. Farmers and sheep herders bred from their best dogs to produce the next generation of Icelandics. They included the dogs with the best temperaments, herding and farm-dog instincts, health, etc. in their breeding stock. They molded or changed the breed over hundreds of years to make it a better farm and herding dog. They kept the traits in the breed they liked and ignored or selected against the traits they did not like. Uppermost in their minds was breeding a good reliable working dog.

Like most things in life, we are individually ethically responsible for what we produce. We must rely on ourselves and not some authority that may or may not have things exactly 'right'.

Fortunately the standard as written is good. An ethical breeder, keeping in mind the whole dog, can choose things to emphasize in his/her own breeding program while still keeping in mind all of the traits our dogs possess.

Our breed will change. It has already changed in the past few decades. Some breeders still concentrate primarily on breeding a good working farm and herding dog. Others may be more interested in keeping the all around general good looking appearance of our dogs.

It won't be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is easy, but I believe that working together we can keep the good appearance without sacrificing the traits that farmers selected for during the more than ten centuries Icelandic Sheepdogs worked the fields of Iceland.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A picture is worth a thousand words! (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)