Saturday, December 26, 2009


I was able to spend Christmas with Taefa who lives not very far from me. What a nice treat. Taefa lives in an obedience home, will turn six this winter, is intact and has never had puppies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Brekkubrun Icelandics

Gleðileg jól From my very clever artist friend Christine at Brekkubrun's Icelandics. (Please click on photo to enlarge it.)

(Copy and paste the website below into your browser or look for Christine's kennel in the upper right hand corner of my blog and click. )

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Response to a question -

I received an email from someone asking about the inbreeding coefficient scores. I'm paraphrasing and removing names because being open has been proven to be politically dangerous.

If I remember correctly what I read, it has been stated that the percentage of inbreeding at the five generation level should be kept to less than 5%, but 6% was still acceptable. So several recent breedings listed on the *** site don't fall into that range according to ******. Is this a case of do as I say and not as I do?

I think you hit the nail on the head - "Is this a case of do as I say and not as I do?"

I'd like to add two things.

1. At this point in our Icelandic Saga it is virtually impossible for every cross to avoid repeating some background ancestors. It would be nice to double up or triple up on the so called "good" ancestors but that's not easy to do.

Also, as experienced breeders of all kinds of domesticated animals know, all animals have several hidden recessive 'bad' genes.

Every dog in every breed is believed to have about eight hidden recessive deleterious genes. Doubling up on any ancestor increases the risk that a pair of those harmful genes will combine in the homozygous condition producing the bad characteristic.

All of our Icelandic dogs today in every country go back to the very few original ancestors that managed to survive through the 1960s in Iceland. Some of those ancestors appear in our pedigrees more; some appear less. That may be a function of their age at that time, their fertility, the geographical proximity to other intact mature animals, etc. It could also have been a function of some bad trait(s) those animals themselves showed that we are unaware of today.

2. Having a low IC score or a high IC score is not in and of itself a 'bad' thing, is it? There are legitimate reasons perhaps for having a high score, i.e. having several repeated recent ancestors in the pedigree. Some people want to breed for a look. Having a repeated ancestor in a pedigree that exemplifies that look increases the probability that the puppies produced will also have that desired look. It also increases the risk of genetic issues or problems, doesn't it?

Another possible reason to have some animals more often represented in the pedigree of a dog is to increase the genetic influence of an under utilized ancestor, i.e. to correct a possible past problem of under using a male or a female ancestor.

There seems to be a gender bias in talking about our animals. Males are discussed; females are almost always ignored except in a few rare cases. Both parents contribute virtually equally to the traits in their offspring.

For as long as there have been people breeding domesticated animals, farmers have accepted the double edged sword of increasing the number of good traits in progeny but risking the appearance of bad traits in those same offspring.

In my opinion, the majority of breeders are not at this point in time exclusively breeding conformation show dogs that conform to a written breed standard. Most of us are trying to breed physically active dogs with great Icelandic Sheepdog temperaments, good genetic backgrounds as far as we know, and as few recently repeated ancestors as possible. Locating appropriate mates in the sparse and widely scattered population of North America is really hard.

I know of people who have sought help in locating a good mate from the powers that be and have not received it.

Removing possible mates from view because their owners are not members is counterproductive to establishing a viable population of Icelandics, in my opinion.

Not publishing a contact list with contact information and a list of intact dogs with statistics is also counterproductive, in my opinion.

Speaking with one voice and not allowing for the invigorating exchange of diverse views which allows people to make up their own minds about issues is also harmful, in my opinion.

Taking advice from novice breeders or non-breeders would be ill advised, in my opinion. Can I say that in a more pc way? I doubt it. I want the most experienced people around to counsel me when I have difficulty.

Putting all of our eggs in one basket - the conformation basket - is also not a good idea. I realize that in Iceland probably there is only the one game - the conformation show game. Although there may be rally, obedience, agility, herding, and flyball trials, etc. in Iceland, I have never heard of them and I don't see any of those titles after their dogs' names.

Perhaps allowing anyone to dictate to us how we must do Icelandics as we are become involved with our dogs in a wide variety of activities including conformation (in pirate clubs by the way) but not limited only to conformation, may not be the way to go, in my opinion.

We know the Swiss do other activities besides conformation. We've seen photos of agility shows. Do any other countries also do other dog stuff? Most of what we hear is about conformation - and there is nothing per se at all wrong with that, in my opinion.

My question is simply, if we say we are breeding for the whole dog, then perhaps we have given the dog sport enthusiasts and people who still use them as farm dogs short shrift. They should at least have an equal seat at the table if we want to save the breed. I think I've been saying that for ten years or more.

Remember, Icelandics had no breed standard for almost the entire thousand years they have been in Iceland and they did just fine. For approximately the last 50 years there has been a written enforceable breed standard. If conforming to that standard reduces the diversity in our population, then the result, in my opinion, could be an inevitable decline in the breed's long term viability.

The people involved with other breeds envy the health and diversity of our breed.

I have experienced first hand many times the shock that people owning other breeds have when they first see several examples of our breed. To a person, they say things like; "Well, what is your breed standard?" "How can all these dogs belong to the same breed?" "They look so different." "What health issues does your breed have?"

It's true.

Every Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Labrador, Collie, Border Collie, Cairn Terrier, Rhodesian Ridgeback, etc. looks like every other one with minor variations.

I see that conformity in other breeds as a possible negative.

I see the diversity in our Icelandics as a possible positive.

Having the great variety in our breed makes us totally unique in the dog world. Capitalizing on that variety may be what makes our breed more successful as far as genetic health problems are concerned. Wouldn't that be a kick?

I think I'm somewhat of an expert on Americans.

There are dozens of kennel clubs in the US. Our dogs will inevitably eventually find their way into most of them.

Chasing people away is counterproductive, in my opinion. That could speed the migration. The damage already done may be irreversible. People who have been lost may never come back.

Continuing to register all Icelandics in the three major kennel clubs (AKC, CKC and UKC) should be a priority. If people also want to register those AKC/UKC/CKC Icelandics in one or more of the dozens of other kennel clubs because they have good trials in agility, conformation, weight pulling, flyball, etc. then that, at least in my opinion, is a good thing.

So there is no confusion: I believe all of our US dogs should belong to the AKC. All of the Canadian dogs should belong to the CKC. Dogs that live in the border areas could belong to both clubs (AKC and CKC) so that they could enters trials in both clubs.

Many of our dogs are already registered in other kennel clubs like the UKC and the International Kennel Club, IKC. Many have been registered in ARBA and FORB. As time goes by, more of our AKC/CKC dogs will be registered in one or more of the many other kennel clubs so that they can participate in other trials. That is a good thing, in my opinion.

For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would call any kennel club besides the AKC and the CKC a 'pirate club'.

Are the UKC, the IKC, ARBA, FORB, NADAC, etc. pirate clubs? I'm asking. If so then why do so many owners of Icelandics have titles in those clubs and others. Something about glass houses and stones comes to mind!

I think that should those other clubs find out that they are being called 'pirate clubs', they might feel a need to pursue litigation.

Not having an organization that is open to differences ensures a loss of vitality in that organization.

Diversity, not only in dogs but in opinions, is a strength not a weakness, in my opinion.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This is my cousin Rachel's dog Lloyd. Isn't he handsome?