Thursday, June 28, 2012


 These statements below in small type are not, I repeat, NOT, about my dogs or the puppies I have bred.
So even though these comments are not about my dogs and puppies; they could just as easily have been about them. 
When I have people who might be interested in adopting an Icelandic Sheepdog contact me about purchasing a puppy, I like to have an informal talk with them over a few weeks.
Before I would consider selling people a puppy, I want to know if they have had dogs before and if so, what kinds. That's simply because these dogs are not for the first time dog owner. These dogs are also not for people who are used to soft breeds. 
I tell people that Icelandics are very smart and that you have to be smarter than they are if you want to be successful with them. They may think I'm joking; I'm not. 
People who have had a challenging breed before and loved the dog, did well with the dog, and miss the dog move up to the top of my list. People who have had German Shepherds, Dobermans, any of the Nordic breeds (Huskies, Akitas, etc.), any of the terrier breeds and who have done well with them, get high marks.
People who are going to be away from home at work all day should not have an Icelandic, in my opinion. Our dogs have a very strong 'need' to be with their humans. It's virtually torture for them to be left alone unless you gradually prepare them for it starting when they are puppies. See below. (When they escape, they are trying to find you. They miss you.)
People who have done some kind of dog sports like agility, flyball, herding, obedience, rally, therapy dog work, etc. with their dogs have an edge when I try and find a good home.
People who have an unfenced backyard should not have an Icelandic. The most frequent cause of premature deaths in Icelandics is vehicular accidents. They chase vehicles - and lose.
I'm paraphrasing and hiding identities. This family has two Icelandics; a male who is almost ten months old and a female who will be two years old in August and another older mixed breed dog.

My male escapes through a 5 inch iron fence covered with 24" of chicken wire.  Neighbors have brought him home on several occasions; I crated him when we went to dinner the other night.  First with the gravity latch; he escaped and chewed a pair of shoes.  The next time I crated him again using the regular lock latch (which I previously removed because he jingled it all night).  This time he escaped and tore our bathroom trash containers and 2 magazines.  The next time, gravity latch, locking mechanism, and a carabiner; he undid the two and forced enough space out of the bottom to escape. Yesterday he crawled under a 5" gap under a doggy gate, took a pair of UGGS from our closet upstairs, brought them downstairs; they were still wet with minimal damage.

 He has a bark collar but hates it and runs from me when I want to put it on. They both hate it; me too. His has never been over 2 setting, She is always at 4. She starts the barking.

Saw him a few days ago digging up a sprinkler head, if he busts one of those, we are all in trouble....  Again, these dogs are walked and or taken to a dog park daily.  They aren't ever left alone for more than 4 hours.

She is just as mischievous as the male, but way more sneaky.  she chewed some speaker wires, and then puked some plastic up.

 So, in order to not worry about these VERY PRIVILEGED dogs, I have to:
* - Put chicken wire 5 feet high on a iron fence

* - Put three latches and two carabiners on his crate when we leave for a few hours

* - If they aren't crated I have to install a new doggy gate that is both taller and close to the ground

* - Spray outside furniture and fabric outside with doggy deterrent

* - Pour cayenne and tabasco on our outdoor BURIED wires.

* - Put shock collars on both dogs before I leave

* - I still have to buy the shock pads for the couch as I know they are still getting up on those when we leave.  Again, if they chew on the couch, they will be gone the next day.

* - Triple check everything, every time we leave, no matter for how long so that we don't leave something for them to chew on in their HUGE confined area 

All of this after they get a walk and/or a ton of doggy park time.  btw, the doggy park is a huge other story.  The others cringe when they see and hear us pull up.  I am talking ear piercing high pitched, in your face, uncontrollable barking.

I am still on the fence with these guys, love them to death, but I am at wits end.

I don't know where to start. Seriously. I feel very bad for all the canines and humans involved. This sounds like the situation may have entered the crisis stage. I'm going to shoot from the hip and address some of the issues. Pardon.
 When you have a human child that abuses privileges, then you start taking away some of those privileges until that child gets the message. If you do that while they are very young, it's a lot easier to get along with them when they get older. If you wait until they are older to start taking away their privileges, then you are going to have a much more resistant teenager. Most of us know that almost instinctively, don't we?
 Maybe those very privileged dogs need a wake-up call. That does NOT mean you have to start being mean to them. It means you have to let them know that in your pack, in your home, you are in charge, you are the alpha. Everyone, every human in your home must be alpha over your dogs. Again, you don't need to be excessively, aggressively physical to get that message across.
Those of you who read my blog know that I have said several times that most dogs, regardless of what breed, that are given up to shelter or rescue groups, left by the side of the road in the country, returned to the breeder, etc. are given up at about the age of ten months. This male turns ten soon. Between the ages of 7-12 months (+/-) dogs are in their teenage "months". Fortunately this does not last as long as adolescence in humans! That's the good news. The rush of adult hormones renders them just slightly insane. Even neutered dogs go through this period because even with their reproductive organs removed, their bodies still produce some hormones.
However, this problem is bigger than just the teenage issue, in my opinion. By the way, all my writings are just my opinions. Accept them or reject them. I am just trying to help and am not an expert.
 Stop, STOP taking these dogs to the doggy park. It's not working, is it? Why keep doing it. These dogs need to have more control. In the doggy park you have less control. I've mentioned before that doggy parks are a great place to pick up diseases from other dogs, perhaps un-vaccinated dogs. Doggy parks are frequented by people who let their dogs loose and don't monitor or are totally unable to monitor the activities of their dogs. They are a good place for dog fights to happen resulting in very expensive vet bills and lawsuits. Just my opinion. A better idea might be to arrange play dates with friends who have dogs.
I think I've talked about "separation anxiety" before, haven't I?
 Our dogs are genetically programmed to want companionship; they crave contact with other living beings - dogs, sheep, cattle, geese, horses, humans, etc. Herding dogs need to be with the herd they are protecting and controlling. Any ancestors of our dogs that wandered off from the herd or the shepherds, would not have been used for breeding the next generation. In fact, they probably would have been eliminated as an unnecessary expense draining resources.
When you leave a herding dog alone in the house or yard, they are going to do whatever is necessary to escape and find you. If they cannot find you, finding something that smells like you (shoes, clothes, newspapers, books, etc.) is second best. Their anxiety is so high that they are going to react. A human forced into isolation has the same, or similar, response. That's why putting someone in solitary confinement is such a horrific thing to do. People who are alone for long periods of time may resort to compulsive behaviors, eating, drinking, smoking, etc. It's not a stretch to see that our closest non-human companions do the same thing.
So. How to fix that (if it's not too late)? Some suggestions: Always feed your dog/puppy in its crate until it feels secure in a larger area. (If it likes its crate, it may be less likely to try and escape from it.) If you give your dog a bone or something else acceptable to chew on, do that in its crate - with the door closed and locked while you are there to observe what happens. At first, be with or near the crated dog while it's eating or chewing.
After weeks, or possibly months, of doing things to make the crate its home, its cave, its safe place, but with you nearby, leave the dog alone in its secured crate with food or a bone and go outside or into the garage or into another room for a short time - maybe 30 seconds. Return to the crated dog and give it a treat and say soothing things like, "Good Rover", Good Quiet", "Good Crate", "Good Relax", etc. Do that a few times and then quit. Later repeat it.
Then repeat it and leave for a slightly longer time. Always returning before the dog barks and always with a reward and calming words. If the dog barks and makes noise, return without praise and treats. Calm the dog, leave again but for a shorter amount of time than the last attempt. Reward and treat for appropriate behavior only. Ignore inappropriate behaviors. Dogs are problem solvers (like humans). Our dogs are extremely smart. They will figure out what's happening. Really.
Crate training may take weeks or even months. When my puppies leave they are aware of crates. They know they are safe places. They realize that sometimes the door is closed and that as long as they are quiet, things will be OK, they even may get a reward. They are not 'perfectly' crate trained. How could they be at only eight weeks old? But they know what crates are and they are ready to have more positive experiences because, they are very smart dogs, they are problem solvers, they know the routine of command, reward-praise.
I have two dogs that I would never leave un-crated when I leave the house - even if it's only for a short trip. In my case I am concerned about confrontations. They haven't fought yet but they growl at one another when I am home and that tells me that they could, that they might, go after one another if I'm not here to stop them before they start. I read my dogs' minds very well and am very proactive instead of reactive. 
 Most of my dogs are just fine now. Did it take a long time to crate train some of my dogs? Yes. Absolutely. Months in some cases. But now even the most destructive of my puppies/young adults is the most reliable adult dog I have and she has been for years. She is never left in a crate when I leave.
 When you return to your dog after you've gone to the store, have you noticed that it greets you like you've been gone for a very long time even if you've only been gone five or ten minutes? That's because they 'need' to be with their humans and they are afraid that their human might not come back. So - - - greet them the same way they greet you. That will go a long way towards reassuring them that you will return every time and that you miss them as much as they miss you. Really.
I know the desire to punish your dog for a misdeed (that's putting it mildly sometimes) that happened while you were gone is strong. Don't. They will not know what they are being punished for especially if they left some poop on the floor hours ago or the magazine was torn up right after you left.
What I do is greet my dogs enthusiastically and then later when I'm cleaning up the mess, I say in my calm adult voice words like "Oh, I am so disappointed in you.", "How could you do that?", "Did you make this mess?". Etc. They will get it. They will. 
Sometimes it really is an accident. Have you ever tried NOT to throw up when you're sick to your stomach? When you have diarrhea, - - - well, you get the idea. You might be able to get to the bathroom in time. They are locked up inside the house or the crate. 
Sometimes things just happen and they feel as bad about it after as you would. Be enthusiastic when you get home in your greeting. Let them know later when you're cleaning things up how unhappy you are.
 However, once a bad pattern (habit) has already been established, it's much harder to 'fix'. It's easier to prevent a problem in the first place by good training early on.
Over the years I've had two dogs that thought they were better than me. I attached leashes to their collars and tied the end around my waist. Everywhere I went, they went. I didn't use my hands; they just came with me when I walked. It was hard for me but I could watch everything they did and they began to feel comfortable being close to me and uncomfortable when I wasn't near. Knowing what an uncooperative dog is doing can prevent problems before they happen.
I have also had to feed one of my dogs its food, piece by piece, so that it learned that all of its food comes from me. I am the boss. Yes, that is time consuming but it firmly and clearly establishes who is in control. Me. It is not mean. It is not physical.
To discourage dogs from digging, I've found that putting poop (yes doggy poop) in the holes they've dug and covering the poop with a thin layer of dirt is much more successful than using sprays. And it's cheaper and readily available. Try that with underground wires, underground watering pipes, etc.
I've addressed barking in some previous posts. Look for them. Maybe bark collars exacerbate the problem. I don't know. I do know some people have de-barked their dogs, not just Icelandics, of course, and they are happier and their neighbors are also. I make no judgments about that. 
I always, always say it's your dog, you get to decide what to do with it.My thoughts or suggestions are only that. You're adults and you get to decide what to do or not do. Enough said.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lady Bug

I'd been watching a Lady Bug pupa on the underside of a Bay leaf in my yard for a few days and then noticed it had just emerged from its pupa and was still white and with unfolded new wings. I know Lady Bugs eat harmful insects and there have been some scale insects on this plant lately. There have been several pupae of about the same age. Nature has its own balancing systems. Cool!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Isla - puzzled

Isla - puzzled - but apparently not for long.
"You put a treat under a puzzle piece and she has to figure out (which she did in about two seconds) how to slide the piece--basically a sliding cover---to get the treat. Not crazy about the wood--she tried to chew it. They make similar puzzles in hard rubber/plastic which I'm going to try next. A nice brief mental exercise."

Sunna and Erik

Squirrel and Moose (Sunna and Erik), they both have their call names now, are really hitting it off together. How wonderful to see them playing "Chase" with such reckless abandon. 
(Remember: clicking on the photos enlarges them. To return, click on the X in the upper right hand corner of the screen.)

Chase or Hide and Go Seek are games you can play in your home or yard. It's good to let your own hair down once in a while!
Those games bond you and your dog and also teach some basic skills. Running free-style is great exercise for our Icelandics. 

Puppies should not be encouraged to run and jump until their bones are finished growing. It's OK for them to do those activities on their own but if their human partners direct them to run longer than they should or jump more than they should, possible long term damage to their bones could result. To be more clear. Do not run or jog at length with your puppy. Do not ride a bike and have your puppy accompany you. Do not train your puppy over obedience or agility jumps until they are mature. 

Our puppies normally stop growing in height at between seven and twelve months. (Larger breeds take longer to mature; smaller breeds mature earlier.) Icelandics may continue to put on weight and muscle mass for many months after the age of one year. Females mature a little sooner than males - just like humans again. (Although I've been told from a reliable source that human males may not mature until they are in their forties if - - -  ever.)

Have you switched to adult food now? It's probably time to do so.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Saga says, "So, please tell me again. What's so hard about this step aerobics thing? I don't get it."
(Look at that wonderful tail curl.)
"They told me that I was Toy Icelandic! So I guess that means I belong in my toy box, doesn't it?" The black on Saga's right eye rim is increasing. I was told that black pigment is also beginning to appear around Wodin's eye too. 

They look so very sweet - - - - - in photos, don't they?

Here's an update on her progress: - "She is doing good with the housebreaking. She rings the bell on the door when she needs to poop. - - - - -  She knows take it, release, leave it, sit, and come. The release and leave it have come in so handy with everything she needs to explore! She does cuddle some. Every once in awhile she will take a nap next to or on a lap. We love the puppy kisses. We also have worked on the biting with the loud squeals and it is much better!"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wodin and Ruffi

Here's Wodin, on the right, and a new friend, another Icelandic Sheepdog named Ruffi.

Saga - June 21, 2012

Here are some recent photos of Vinlands Saga and some excellent questions.
The above two photos show show black hairs, sable, coming in on her back. I wonder if the amount of black will increase as she matures.
She looks a tad possessive here! What are her toys doing in that basket?! I love how she's holding onto the edge of the basket.
I've heard people say that sometimes the eye rim on the white half of Odin-faced dogs develops color around the eye. Because I have never produced Odin-faces before, I don't know what to expect. If you look closely at the eye rim around her right eye, it looks like some black pigment is starting to form. It was not there before now. (Remember, clicking on photos enlarges them.)

I'm going to post the questions and my responses below. As always, you get to decide what to do with your puppy. My suggestions are only that: suggestions. Find what works for you.

Question: - "Can you blog again about controlling the barking (command name, process)? We went to the first puppy class last night (humans only last week). She barked almost the whole time. I think she was the only herder there. She had a fantastic time but was hard to hear the instructor. I tried the calming tech but she was having none of that. I love to hear her bark when we are playing, etc. We just need to figure out when is a good time to bark and when it isn't."
The first few classes are very exciting for puppies, all puppies. Herding dogs do bark more that most other breeds. 

Last things first. I would discourage her from barking at anytime. (She will still bark. But I think you should want to reduce it. Always. In all situations.) I use, "No Bark!" and "Be Quiet!" I gently hold the muzzle closed when I say those words. I treat them when they "do" those things (not barking, that is).

I believe that when she barks in class she is trying to get your attention. She is used to being a primary focus of your attention. In your situation (Trust me, I have been there and done that, as they say.) I believe her bark may be partly be due to boredom. The instructor is talking and Saga is used to being the center of your attention AND you are ignoring her and listening to the instructor. She is drawing your attention back to her and away from the instructor. She wants to be the center of your attention again. So? Let her be the center of attention for you. I would sit on the floor with her. Yes, really. 

While you are on the floor, do stuff with her. Does she have a favorite toy that would fit in your back pocket? A small version of her dinosaur, perhaps. You can purchase smaller, pocket-sized toys at all kinds of stores now. Use that toy (or those toys) for classes only (so they don't get destroyed back at home). Always have one with you in your pocket and when she gets bored, play with it and with her. She will LOVE being the center of your attention again and the barking will (hopefully) lessen or even stop. To prepare her for the next class, do that over the next few days at home. Sit on the floor with her and play with the toy with her. 

In addition, have her react to some of the commands she has learned - also on the floor with her. If she knows sit, down, stand, roll over, shake, etc., give her those commands and, of course, as always, reward her with praise and treats and playtime with her toy each time she responds correctly. Do that at home for practice, and also in the next class if the instructor is talking. It's your puppy. You're an adult. You can do what you want!!!

Remember puppies are like toddlers. They want your attention all the time. At her age, give in. (Remember when you had a toddler at home? It was probably always, "Mommy, watch this." and "Look, Mommy." and lots of "Whys?" Puppies are the same.)

Question: - "Also, another thing she was doing was pulling at her collar so much she was choking. Is it okay to buy the "back harness" collar or will that hamper the training?"

I do not like harnesses and would not use one - - - but she's your puppy. You get to decide what to do and not do. I MUCH prefer pinch collars (sometimes called prong collars). See photos below.

This prong collar has a safety clasp that opens and closes like a safety pin or a clothes-pin. They are much easier to put on and take off and are not much more expensive than the ordinary type of prong collar. (To put on and take off those collars you have to squeeze the links which may weaken them making them more likely to come off.) You would want to find a pinch collar with medium-sized teeth.

Mom and Pop pet stores are more likely to have safety clasp prong collars. Chain stores are less likely to have them.

Now I know they look fierce but I believe they are much more humane for exactly the reason your cited above ("pulling at her collar so much she was choking"). Prong collars don't cause that choking or gagging reflex that happens when the collar puts pressure on the dog's trachea. Regular collars like leather and nylon and even the older choke collars (now called training collars because that word - training - sounds so much better than - choke) put a lot of pressure on the trachea, the tube that leads from the mouth and nose to the lungs. By contrast, prong collars distribute the pressure evenly around the entire neck and the dog does not choke or gag. In addition, the 'teeth' of the prong collar mimic mom's teeth. Mother dogs may discipline their puppies by gently grabbing them around the neck. I saw Totty do that this spring when her puppies were playing too rough. That action on her part instantly quieted the puppy down.

A word of caution: - NEVER leave a training collar on a puppy or dog. When you are finished training, remove the collar. If a choke collar or a prong collar is left on, the puppy could get it caught on something and choke to death. It does not happen often but a word to the wise - - - -, remove the training collar when you are not training.

Speaking of which, dogs quickly learn to recognize their "outfits". If you do training for what's called the "breed ring" by which I mean the conformation ring, there are certain kinds of collars that are acceptable. Conformation is the competition where dogs are judged by how close they come to looking like the official description of what an ideal dog for a particular breed should look like. When you see dogs "shows" on TV where the dogs move around the ring with a well-dressed handler while a judge is looking at them critically, they are being judged by how well they "conform" (please note the spelling - not confirm or confirmation) to the written standard. There are other kinds of shows also for agility, obedience, tracking, herding, hunting, etc.) Each kind of contest or show often requires a different kind of collar and dogs that do more than one kind of show, quickly learn what they will be expected to do based on the kind of collar they are wearing. I know that may sound strange but dogs are very smart. They are problem solvers and it's pretty easy for them to know what to do based on what they are wearing.

I just talked with Jim who told me that when his dog puts on his "service dog" outfit or vest, he behaves different from when he is wearing his obedience collar. Jim has an Icelandic that came from Michigan but not from my breedings.

Puppies or untrained adult dogs will often pull on the leash (and collar) when you are walking. It seems they never learn NOT to pull. They pull even though they are choking themselves. (So this must be one problem that they are unable to solve!!)
Prong collars are like power steering. Once a puppy or dog has experienced a prong collar, it is much easier to work with them, to walk with them as long as they are wearing it. After many months, when you have established control, when your puppy has learned the rules, you can switch to another kind of collar. In other words, you do not have to always use a prong collar once they have figured out how to behave.
Prong collar open - note safety clasp near top right.

Most trainers will tell you that if you use a prong collar, you should have a second collar on also. It can be the dog's regular collar (but without tags). Both collars should be attached to the leash. The reason they want you to do that is that sometimes the links on a prong collar separate. (See above.) That is more likely to happen if the links are weakened by repeatedly using them. With a safety clasp the links shouldn't weaken.
Prong collar closed.

When training with a prong collar, a slight tug on the leash by the handler reminds the puppy that it is wearing a prong collar. The first few times you jerk slightly the puppy may be surprised and emit a yelp. If that happens, jerk with less force. Do not exert a constant pull. A slight jerk is better, more effective. 

Question: - "Also, also, please blog on water/baths. She doesn't like her baths. Right now I am taking her to the bath tub and letting her play in it without water to get her used to it. Wasn't sure if they liked to swim or play in a small pool. It sure did get hot last week here!"

Because I was getting older, I wanted a breed that was smaller and easier to bathe whether it was in the bathtub, the kitchen sink, outside with a hose, etc. So I started looking for a smaller breed that would be easier to lift and to bathe.

The truth? I don't bathe my dogs. Well, I very rarely bathe my dogs. I have found that even if they roll in really stinky opossum or raccoon scat (poop), or a dead toad, the smell and the scat just seem to drop off on their own. Within a very short time the dirt and the smell are gone.

If you think about that, it makes sense. For hundreds of years the ancestors of Icelandic Sheepdogs lived outside on the farms and in the fields of Iceland with the sheep, cattle, horses, etc. Lots of muck there! Water and dirt repellent fur were essential for their survival. If the fur got wet and/or dirty and stayed wet and dirty, the dogs would have been prone to sickness and died. Only the dogs who had thick double coats that were dirt and moisture repellent would have survived to produce the next generations.

The huge majority of our dogs have double coats, a thick inner coat and an outer coat of either longer or shorter hairs that repel dirt and water. As an experiment, the next time your puppy gets dirty, don't bathe her right away. If possible, stay outside with her for an hour or so and see what happens to the dirt or water or stink. I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Of course bathing is OK to do but if you do it, don't do it often. It washes off essential oils that protect them and help make their fur water repellant.

One person writes: - "(my dog) - did not like a bath the first couple of times. I bathe him in a shower stall. On the second or third bathing I just sat in the shower floor with him and got wet and now he licks and I give him "sugar kisses" and he could care less. He just needed to be comfortable.  Also he likes the water cooler. Really warm water was uncomfortable to him."

Yes, our dogs do love a kiddee pool with water in it on a hot day. And if you have access to a beach, let them explore it on their own with your supervision, especially as a puppy. In Iceland our dogs swim in the icy streams coming from the glaciers and snow run-off and are not bothered either by the water or the cold. I've discovered that if puppies are not exposed to lakes, rivers, streams as puppies, then they are less likely to like them as adults. All puppies should be encouraged to explore as much as possible as a way of expanding their minds.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012