Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Tyri was born November 31, 1995 and passed away this morning July 31, 2012. 
He was almost 17 years old, owned Liz and Bob and will be greatly missed by them.
He was only a very few generations removed from the very earliest dogs that formed the foundation stock for our wonderful breed. 
He leaves many descendants here in North America.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Viking Litter

On July 9, 2012 another litter of Icelandic Sheepdogs was born to Viking Kennel owned by Liz Stacy-Hurley. I believe the first time Liz bred Icelandics was in 1997 which would make her one of the original owners and breeders of Icelandics in the US. She was one of the original founding members of the Icelandic Sheepdog club here in North America.

Viking Galdur and Viking Viska are the fifth generation of Icelandics with the Viking kennel name in their ancestry. From the oldest to the most recent: - Vikings Freyja - Vikings Bjork - Viking KoKo - Viking Feimin - and now the current litter - Viking Galdur and Viking Viska. Galdur and Viska are descendants of Virkis Tyri who is almost seventeen years old at the time of this post.
The parents of the current litter are Reykjadals Hrafn Dreki, a fairly recent tricolor (black, tan and white) male import from Iceland, and Viking Feimin (lower photo). Look at those Icelandic smiles!

The puppies may end up looking like their mother. (You never can tell for sure what a puppy will look like when it's an adult. That's one of their many charms.) They carry one at-gene for tricolor from their sire and possibly one b-gene for chocolate-brown from their maternal grand-sire Viking KoKo.

Above: Viking Viska - a striking looking female.

Here are two recent photos of the pups who are just starting to move around.
Below: Viking Galdur - a very interesting looking male

If you might be interested in adopting one of these puppies from one of the very oldest North American lines, Liz can be reached through her website - see above on the right - or via email: - squinter@aol.com

Pedigrees showing ancestry are available from Liz on request.

Liz breeds to the official breed standard, performs health checks on the parents before breeding, and is an ethical and responsible breeder.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Vinlands Saga, the Icelandic Sheepdog puppy belonging to Stacy and Brooks, just graduated from puppy kindergarden last night!! Yay!!!

She has learned all of the commands but is uncomfortable with "lay down". 

Using treats and loads of praise will get her over her reluctance to do the "down". The "down" position is hard for some Icelandic Sheepdogs because it puts them in a position of submissiveness. Our dogs have strong, but very nice, temperaments (personalities); they do not like, however, at first, being passive or submissive. 

For Saga, I would hold her treat between my fingers and place them immediately in front of her nose/mouth so she can smell, taste and even nibble the treat while she is in the down position on the floor. (What's the song from "The Sound of Music"? - A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?) Making the puppy work for the treat is better than just giving the treat to it. Be sure the reward is immediate. If you give the reward a few seconds after the dog performs the command, the dog will not know "why" it got the reward.
Saga loves to go up and down the rock walls on 'her' property!

Nevertheless, you and everyone else in your home, must be in a position of authority over your dog.You do NOT have to be mean. In fact, being mean will NOT work. A benevolent alpha is ideal. Using lots of treats and praise and toys will work wonders. They must "want" to do things for you. That's really easy to accomplish.

Saga has her own prong or pinch collar. It's very important to note that some trainers do not like prong collars, especially for puppies. Some trainers do not even like training collars, sometimes called choke collars. (I much prefer prong collars over choke collars because I believe that prongs are more humane.)  

Be nice to your trainers. Sugar works better than vinegar. However, your dog is YOURS. You get to decide everything relating to your dog. Politely smile at your trainer, thank him or her for their input and quietly and with as little fuss and notice as possible do what you want to do. If you're nice, they may choose to accept or at least ignore your position.

Trainers often think their way is the only way. It simply is not. The expression, "There's more than one way to skin a cat" - even though it's a terrible expression - is spot on. There are many ways to train dogs. What works for one dog may not work for another dog - - even if they are in the same breed. 

I teach classes with other instructors at Sportsmens, an all volunteer AKC affiliated dog training club in the metropolitan Detroit area. What I say is no better or worse than what the other instructors say. We all tell our students to keep and use the techniques that work for them and their dogs and discard the ones that don't work. It's that simple. My feelings are never hurt if a student does not use what I say. Honest. Period. Michelle often has better ideas, So does Jerry. And Steve. And Marcella. And Pippa.

Being nice to your trainer works better than being oppositional. They all like to think their way is the best and only way. It isn't. Their other suggestions may be great and you want to remain on their good side so you can find things that will work for you. (There is bound to be a good side.)


Vinlands Sunna is Wodin's litter-sister. She now weighs about 17 pounds (16.8# at 16 weeks) and like her brother is growing up fast! She lives with Debbi, Mike, Moose and a host of furry and feathered friends in the country. 

Debbi and Mike call her Squirrel when they want to talk about her without drawing her attention. Sunna is her actual call name. There are two more photos of Sunna at the end of this entry. Compare Sunna with some of her ancestors below.

Yeoman Farms Boti - above, Sunna's great-great uncle.

I think I can actually see the genetic influence of Ralphs Birna, above, Sunna's great grandmother, from TK Icelandics. 

Maybe the infliuence goes back even further to great-great grandmother Yeoman Farms Týra. (Unfortunately I do not have a photo of  Týra but the above standing photo is of Týra's full sibling Yeoman Farms Boti and he also resembles Sunna - in my opinion.)

Perhaps we can also see a resemblance in the great-great-grandfather of Sunna, Tryggur frá Flakkari, above.

As Christine says, Apple = Tree.

With luck my own furry family will also live on our own place in the country.

Here's Vinlands Sunna, below. Can you see the family resemblances? Fascinating.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Here are some recent photos of Wodin who lives with Imelda and Steve. At four months he is 15 inches tall at the shoulders, weighs 18 pounds and is solid and compact! He's getting better about being too excited when he greets people; he loves children, however, and still wants to jump up on them. Cars remain a strong attraction - they are for all Icelandics, please keep them tightly leashed around moving cars. He is a seasoned traveler and draws admiring crowds of people who often refer to him as 'Panda'.

It's fantastic to see how the siblings from this year's litter are doing. It's hard to let them go but seeing photos and hearing how they are doing really helps me cope. All of them ended up in terrific homes.

At four months they are coming along very, very nicely. Their 'teen months' are still in the future - but won't last long.

Friday, July 20, 2012

There once was - - - -

- - - - and when they are good, they are very very good. Kria, Kata, Korpur, Tryggur, Pila, Totty.
Click on photos to enlarge them. Click on X in the upper right corner to return to the post. I think this Clivia will be cream or pale yellow in color.

Someone wrote once that we seem to take photos of flowers only when they are at their peak of loveliness, often with the sunlight glinting on "dew" but there is a loveliness, a special kind of beauty in the fading blooms as well. I'd never thought about that - and it's true, of course. Of course one could expand on that kind of thinking - - - - - .

Sunday, July 15, 2012


(To enlarge photos, click on them. Clicking on the X in the upper right hand corner returns you to the screen.)

Technically the word 'neutering' refers to removing the reproductive organs, testes or ovaries, from a male or a female. However, most people use the word 'spay' to refer to removing the ovaries and reproductive organs from the female and reserve the word 'neuter' to refer to removing the male reproductive organs.

I am going to use 'neuter' for both sexes.

Scientifically controlled studies have shown that it is better to remove the reproductive organs of dogs after they have reached their full growth potential. For Icelandic Sheepdogs that usually happens between about the seventh and twelfth months which is after the end joints of their bones have calcified. The production of adult sex hormones like androgen and estrogen is what causes growth to slow and stop. If you remove the gonads, the reproductive organs, before they are mature growth continues which may possibly produce a heavier than normal dog. (Neutering after growth stops does NOT produce a heavier adult dog.)

There are numerous articles on the internet explaining the pros and cons regarding the optimum time for sterilization or neutering your pet. Google those articles before you make such an important decision. As I've said in the past, it is your decision, your choice, to neuter or to leave your dog intact, with its reproductive organs. If you decide to neuter, it is also your decision 'when' to do so. Please make an informed choice because once your pet is neutered, the process is obviously irreversible.

Our Icelandic Sheepdogs are, in my admittedly biased opinion, unique. 

First - They are still a rare breed and promoting their genetic diversity is extremely important for the long term continued genetic health of our breed. That means simply that we should strive to use many different males and females to produce a variety of puppies to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible. Using only a few dogs to produce future generations will possibly work against the long term genetic health of our breed - - in my opinion.

Second - I believe their intelligence and temperaments are unequaled in the canine world. They learn quickly and are friendly, outgoing dogs. They have many of their old instincts intact. Newer breeds seem to have bred some of those instincts out of them. That's a double-edged sword. 

It's amazing to watch those instincts at work in our dogs. However, keeping more than one or two Icies in a small household can be problematic simply because they still have those old instincts. In short, keeping Icelandic Sheepdogs successfully means that you have to be aware of their interactions with other dogs. They are extremely sociable - friendly - but they also have some territorial behaviors which necessitate that the owner/handler be proactive anticipating potential problems and nipping them in the bud. In other words, you have to watch what they are doing and stop actions before they become an issue. That's easy to do. You just need to know what they are up to all the time. It's like having a human toddler or perhaps a human teenager around.

All of my new owners are told to enroll their puppy in puppy kindergarten classes. That's extremely important for the canine to canine socialization and also for the human to canine socialization. If you are proactive when your Icelandic is young, that will obviate possible issues or problems when they are mature. In short, you are setting the ground rules while they are still young and at their most adaptable and they will follow those ground rules as adults.

Third - Once people have experienced first hand the amazing personalities and intelligence of Icelandics, many owners have been very sorry that they have neutered their dog. In North America, as opposed to Europe, we are in a hurry to neuter our dogs. I have no argument with neutering, per se. (In Europe neutering is not often done and intact dogs seem to be the norm. They also have considerably fewer dogs of mixed ancestry - one British friend, not liking the term 'mutt', calls her dog a "Bitser" - you know, she says, a bit of this and a bit of that.)

I do think we tend to neuter at too early an age - - - I totally understand "why". People are afraid of accidental pregnancies. When a female comes into season, she is fertile and receptive for a period of about three weeks. That means you must keep her away from intact males for almost a month - that is sometimes hard to do - even for experienced dog people - especially if there is also an intact male in the house. Most breeders I know have had at least one "Oops!" or accidental litter. It has happened to the best of us. Intact dogs are very much like human teenagers. You have to be very watchful; you have to chaperone your intact female during her season. The easiest thing is to keep males and females far apart during that three week period.

So, my recommendation to people is always to wait until your puppy has started to produce its adult hormones, has stopped growing before neutering - if you feel you must neuter. That is in the best interests of the future adult health of your puppy. That also gives you time to examine your reasons for neutering. Several first time owners of Icelandics have become breeders of Icelandics - like me. I NEVER thought I would become a breeder. I never thought that I would enter obedience, rally and agility competitions and qualify. NEVER. I never thought that I would write a book on Icelandics and do a blog on Icelandics.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Isla, the Icelandic Sheepdog, has a new call name: - Miss Timber - Her name comes from where she and her family live: - She is Queen of Timber Trails in the Poconos. She and her family spend quality time hiking in the Poconos. 

Timber's a tricolor Icelandic Sheepdog which means she is black and white and tan - I don't see much tan except on her cheeks; most likely that's because the white stockings go quite a ways up her legs where much of the tan would normally be. Normally tricolor dogs have the tan on their legs, as eyebrows, even sometimes as cheek patches or on the tail. The tan on the bodies of tricolor Icelandics can be any shade from very light cream through tan, yellow, gold, red, deep red.

Check out Wodin's tan stockings in a recent previous post. His right front leg has white stockings which hide the tan. The left front leg lacks the white so you can see some tan with the black. 

Timber's first boat ride. She looks like she's about to jump in!

Someone asked me to write about more advanced training. 

The more you train your dog, the easier it is for your dog and for you to learn new things. They learn the pattern and are more receptive to new tasks. There are many, many people out there who are experts at training. I'm a novice.  I love my dogs and we train together. We qualify at events but we are not in the top rank where the experts are.

I'm pretty good at elementary training but for the more advanced stuff, you really need experts. I don't mind answering questions people ask me - honest. And I will try to give a reasonable and understandable responses BUT, I know my limits. I also have some friends who are experts and I can ask them the questions I cannot answer. 

REMEMBER: - responses are only advice and suggestions. You have to, you must, find out what works for you and your dog. Even though most of our dogs are Icelandics, they are still all different. They have various temperaments and learning styles; what works for one team (handler and dog) does not necessarily work for another team.

If you have questions anytime about anything, please ask. Remember - the only stupid question is the unasked one!

Vinlands Soffia also has a relatively new call name: - Arya Grace. She is fitting in nicely with her family and has already been on a camping trip with more in the near future I believe. I've been promised photos soon.


This is Ice, an Icelandic Sheepdog that lives in Kentucky.
Remember - do not leave your dog in your car unattended.
The temperature rises quickly and serious problems and death can easily occur.

Recently someone asked me about feeding, especially puppies.

If you ask a dozen people about feeding dogs, you will get a dozen different answers - literally. Nothing evinces more controversy than how, when, how much, and what to feed. Fortunately our Icelandics are a tough breed having survived the vagaries of the Icelandic climate with its wild fluctuations and the resulting feast or famine periods for centuries.

While the puppies are still living with me I feed them three meals a day - breakfast, lunch and dinner. The portions are the same size for each meal and the portion size gradually increases as the pups get older and bigger. 

When they leave their birth home they are normally eating ABOUT 1/2 a cup at each meal. I feed them in a communal bowl so they learn to get along, to share. Because they all eat together, I'm not sure how much each one consumes. (My adults each have their own bowl; they never fight over their meals even though their bowls are within a few feet of one another.)

I have told new owners that they need to gradually increase the amount of food per meal as the pups get larger. (Puppies should be eating adult food soon after they leave their birth home to slow their growth - I've talked about that a lot in previous blog posts. Do not feed puppy food. Please. Do I need to add: - "In My Opinion"? Scientifically controlled studies have shown that slowing growth has a positive influence on future hip health.)

Puppies normally wean themselves from their noon meal after several months when their growth normally starts to slow. When they show less interest in the noon meal, stop it. Compensate by increasing the dinner meal. At around this time I personally would gradually decrease the size of the breakfast meal. It makes it easier, I believe, for the dog to "hold it" during the day if you're not at home and if they don't have a large meal in their stomachs.

As I have said many times, the bottom line is that everyone gets to decide for themselves how they are going to work with their dogs.

Each of my dogs has a slightly different protocol. Some are older; some younger.  Some are naturally thinner; others tend to put on weight easily. Some are more active; others are more sedentary. So I watch them closely and try to tailor their diet based on each one as an individual.

My dogs all weigh between about 24# and 34#.

I like the ease and convenience of kibble and regularly buy two brands. So far I've been fortunate that neither of them has had recalls. Isn't it a crying shame that we have to worry about that for our dogs and also for ourselves. I tend towards the 'senior' blends and the 'weight control' blends. I'm less active at my age which means my dogs are too.

* - My dogs wake me up rather early to go outside for the first time. They get a small breakfast of around 1/4 a cup of kibble each soon after they come back inside.

* - Around noon I scrape some raw carrots and cut them up into chunks or strips and feed them those. The carrot strips fill them up and don't add calories to their diets. If I have leftover broccoli or cauliflower stems, I also give them those - after washing them. They love them.

* - In the late afternoon they each get a scant cup of kibble - some get more, others less. I usually mix in a little water and a small spoonful of canned dog food - mostly for my benefit. I also give them a spoonful of an active culture yogurt mixed in with the evening meal about once or twice a week. I am sure they don't care. One of my dogs used to eat dirt so I put a little salt on his evening meal. Since I started doing that, he stopped eating dirt. I think. (At least I don't catch him doing it any more but the yard is a big one.)

I never give my dogs leftover food from my table. (Actually, I never have leftover food. Sigh!) I figure that the reputable dog food manufacturers have done a great deal of experimenting and adjusting ingredients to produce a balanced diet. The more human food you add to your dog's diet, the less of the balanced food they are getting. That's just my opinion.

When one of my females is pregnant or nursing their diet changes dramatically. But that's another story. I spoil them. 

My dogs also get a cookie when I leave the house to do some grocery shopping and occasionally during the day. I also use lots of treats when I train.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sans Souci

Sans Souci
Construction to start - - - soon?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy July Fourth!

Here's Isla in her Flag Bandana ready to celebrate the Fourth!
Thank you Daniel and Sally!
After several torrential downpours yesterday, it is extremely wet, humid, hot - it is in short, a perfect SUMMER day to celebrate whether it's Canada Day, Le Quatorze Juillet or our Fourth.

Took a nice drive yesterday to see "Sans Souci" (- or, as some of my friends call it, "Sun and Sea"!) Closing tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Brekkubrúns Edsson - Wet and Dry!

I'm often asked if Icelandics like the water. A picture is worth a thousand words!

Training and Treats-Toys-Praise

There are at least three good ways to reward your puppy for correctly responding to a command: Treats, Toy play, and Praise. Treats definitely work best while your puppy is young. I think that to begin with a treat should be offered every time a correct response is exhibited. Playing with them and their favorite toy(s) is a close second. Praise is a third way to reward for a job well done
As your puppy ages, you can use treats less frequently perhaps giving a treat every other time for a job well done, then every third or fourth time. Do not be in a hurry to switch to using treats less frequently as a reward. Perhaps by the time they are seven months old you could scale back to every other time. Only you can be the judge for 'when' to start decreasing frequency of treat reward. Vary the kinds of treats you use so it doesn't get boring or predictable.
It looks to me like Wodin may be a 'self stacker'. What do you think?

If responses to commands become slower, then you have to pique their interest more. You can do that by varying the kinds of treats within a training session, by not repeating the same old boring command every time, by changing the pitch of your voice to pique your dog's curiosity, by keeping training session short, by interspersing play time and training time within each session, by changing the location of your training sessions (don't always train in the same room or the same building or even inside/outside).
Try very hard NOT to repeat a command. If you repeat a command like, for example, the command "Sit!" by saying "Sit! Sit! Sit!", the dog hears the command as if it were one word - Sitsitsit - and will learn to sit only after the sequence is completed. It's better, especially to start with, to say the command once and then help them, physically help them.

By that what I mean is, say "Sit!" only once and be ready immediately to actually use your hand to apply light pressure on the butt pushing it down, while using the other hand with a treat in it to keep the head and forequarters up and then immediately rewarding with a treat from that other hand. 

To start with, I would always help them to sit. (Have I ever mentioned that you actually need three hands to do obedience work? Ha!) Over the succeeding weeks, try and help the dog less and less. After several months, you should be able just to move your hand towards his/her butt and maybe finally even just point with your finger to the butt, and your dog should sit. The final goal is to simply use the word "Sit!" without physical help or visual cues to get the correct response.

Or, as another example, when you call your puppy, you need a leash attached to his/her collar. Use your dog's name first (to get your dog's attention) and then say "Come" or "Front" or whatever command you are going to use to get your dog to come to you. At the same time you say "Rover, Come!", jerk slightly on the leash to get your dog started in the right direction moving towards you. (If your dog moves sluggishly towards you, turn away from him/her and run away from the dog. Remember? Dogs love to chase.)

The point is: you say, "Rover, Come!" ONCE. Tug on the leash and, if necessary run away from the dog. Always reward for correct responses especially for puppies and for many weeks to come. You have three ways to reward. As your puppy matures into an adult, the Praise will work almost as well as the Treat. However, as long as they are puppies it's FOOD first then Toys followed distantly by Praise!

I had a question about a puppy biting the trainer's hand when the trainer was trying to hold its mouth closed while trying to teach "No Bark!" and "Be Quiet!". I didn't observe what was happening so this is a guess. Merely a guess.

Some dogs do NOT like it when someone approaches their head from above. That puts the human in a position of too much dominance for some dogs. Approaching from below or from the side might work better. Be sure the dog knows your hand is coming, slowly coming. It might take the onus off the trick, "No Bark!" and "Be Quiet!" Gently but firmly hold the muzzle closed. Don't put pressure on the muzzle. You do not have to squeeze it shut. The idea is that you are reminding them that what you want is a closed mouth. It's hard to bark with a closed mouth.

Escape from the position. Don't keep your hand where the dog doesn't like it to be. Some dogs do not like being petted. Watch closely how your dog responds to being petted. Some simply don't want that. Scratching? Yes, maybe that's better. Often a dog that does not like being petted will love it when you gently touch, stroke, and soothe the chest area between the two front legs using a finger or two.  Watch your dog's body language, if it gives you a
sideways look as if it's saying, "I really love that", while you're doing it, then that's a thing you should keep in your bag of tricks for praise and reward.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Avoiding Contact with a Dog - Play Bows

This technique works for adults and children but is especially good for toddlers and senior citizens. Our dogs love people so much and greet humans with so much enthusiasm that they could easily knock someone over - literally - in spite of their small size - 20-35 #.

Practice this with your own dog - of any breed.

When a dog or puppy runs up to you and you do not want to play, do not want contact, or are afraid, fold your arms across your chest. 

In fairness to Kata, this photo was taken mid-bow and it makes her look a bit awkward and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, you can see her butt raised and her forefeet planted on the ground. Next she would be spinning around and jumping up on the person or the other dog.

This is Wodin in one of his play bows.

Raising your arms up shoulder high in alarm or above your head is actually an invitation, in dog body language, to play.

When two dogs meet each other and they want to play, they do a 'play bow' which means they lower the front part of their body in a 'bow' and keep their butt high. They may then raise both front legs and bounce around in excitement. The other dog usually responds in the same way and playing and chasing start. Raising your hands and arms and becoming excited closely mimics the body language of a 'play bow'.

To avoid contact, in addition to crossing your arms on your chest, turning away from the approaching dog and presenting your back to it indicate that you don't want to greet and play with the dog. Do not look over your shoulder back at the dog. Avoiding eye contact, averting your face and crossing your arms are ways using body language to say that you are just simply not interested in making contact. If you glance at the dog, it will take that as a sign that you want interaction.

I call this "playing that you are a tree" because that is easy for a child to learn. They must turn away, not look back and fold arms acting like a tree trunk.

Remember that dogs are experts at interpreting body language. That is how wolves maintain contact with one another over long distances and formulate plans for attacking prey or indicate in which directions they are going to travel. They watch one another closely.
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Incidentally, it is extremely interesting, at least to me, that humans are the only species of animal that has "whites" in their eyes. It has been suggested that having whites to the eye makes it easier for other humans and also to our closest non-human companions, dogs, to know which direction we are looking and, more specifically, exactly what we are looking at. Even Chimpanzees almost always lack "whites" in their eyes and cannot or do not communicate direction of gaze to one another. (They do follow head direction but not gaze direction.) Dogs are the only species that looks where we look. They follow our gaze and also will respond to us 'pointing a finger'. No other animal responds to finger pointing.

Related article: - 
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