Sunday, November 9, 2014

Shake a Tail Feather

I know the phrase "Shake a tail feather" (from a song) dates me but it fits with our Icelandic Sheepdogs. Our Icelandics are supposed to have both good tails and good temperaments (personalities). They should be shaking their tail feathers when they meet new people or new dogs. Alas, some don't have both good tails and good temperaments yet but with continued good breeding practices, their descendants will!

In this country we are just beginning our journey with our Viking dogs. We have time. It's important NOT to lose the marvelous diversity we've been given in our Icelandics while we continue to show and breed our dogs. As long as we don't remove dogs from the gene pool for relatively less important traits until we have a very large gene pool, their differences will ensure their continued good genetic health for generations to come. Narrowing the gene pool at this early stage in our journey may increase the likelihood of inbreeding resulting in the kind of genetic bottlenecks that have stymied and virtually paralyzed some other breeds.

A man may smile and wish you hail
Yet wish you to the devil;
But when a good dog wags his tail,
You know he's on the level.
- author unknown

Our dogs' tails should be wagging virtually all the time - in my opinion. They should be friendly and happy!

When people get ready to breed Icelandics for the first time, if they have asked for my help, I try to encourage them to list, to actually write down on a piece of paper, the wide variety of the many traits, both biological and temperamental, found in all of our dogs and then to rank them by relative importance - in their own opinion - from more desirable to less desirable. Then I encourage them to look carefully at those traits in their own dogs and, when they are considering mates, to choose mates that complement their dogs matching up weaknesses in one partner with corresponding strengths in the prospective partner to try and have pups that are better than either parent individually. With the small gene pool we have here, that is not easy to do. I'm concerned that a few of us look narrowly when choosing mates. While it's nice to have conformation champions in a pedigree, that title doesn't necessarily ensure sound happy temperament. Using only champions for breeding can be a curse for any breed's genetic future. Does that make sense? It narrows the gene pool almost guaranteeing a future bottleneck. Enough!

Here are some of my favorite Icelandic Sheepdog tails: -


Clicking on the photos may enlarge them slightly. Our dogs' tails are interesting, aren't they? Some are long in length, some short. Some have longer fur; some shorter fur. (I do like a 'bottle brush' looking tail; I don't necessarily 'prefer' it.)  Some tails have a complete circle, others a more relaxed curl. Some have a double curl (which I believe might be good for helping to fix a non-curled tail).

I myself do not have a favorite as long as they fit the standard.

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