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Back to The Basics

Icelandic Sheepdogs

Originally published in AKC Gazette, Sept. 2012 edition,   Used with Permission

As more Icelandic Sheepdogs (ISD) enter the conformation rings, judges are recognizing a need to concentrate on type. Judges ask what to do when there is not an ISD in the ring that looks like the breed standard. Our response is: help us set correct ISD type in the USA by focusing on type and general impression as described in the standard.

Therefore, ISDs who remind one of another breed; be it Buhund (square, oval eyes, one or two colors, very tight tail), Lundehund (small breed, yellow to yellow brown eyes and thin boned), or Lapphund (larger size breed, ears can be tipped), Border Collie (larger breed, ears set well apart, oval blue eye or lighter brown eye okay, can be black and white, etc.) should not be rewarded in the conformation ring.

If the outline of the ISD is not correct, if the dog is not rectangular, if you cannot see the dog surviving in the harsh clime of Iceland during the winter, moving gracefully over lava fields, independently bringing in sheep during a blizzard, climbing steep, rocky mountains with ease, and is not athletic, fit and muscled while demonstrating a happy, lively and confident expression, it is not a good example of the breed. Certainly any dog demonstrating aggression in the ring or biting a handler should be removed from the ring. That said, the ISD is a barking breed and can use voice when in the ring.  

When asked what specific traits cause judges concern, they report severe cow hocking, pig or double curled tails, dogs lacking a thick, double coat, "Collie" heads, dogs with round and sometimes bulging eyes, dogs that lack pigment on the nose and around the eyes, dogs with tails that do not touch the back when moving and dogs with fine bones and/or lacking muscle. Incorrect heads is a serious issue. While the ISD is not a head breed, having a typical ISD expression is paramount.  

There is a reason for the standard's call for specific attributes. For example, yellow/yellowish eyes completely change the expression of the ISD. Dogs with tails that are so tightly wound that they cannot come loose are unable to cover their noses in a winter storm. Conversely, tails that don't touch the back when moving paint a picture other than Spitz. When resting, the tail can come down. "If black is the predominant color, the color is described as tricolored. ... [The] standard defines black dogs as tricolored with traditional white markings and tan markings." [Breed Expert and FCI Judge Hans-Ake Sperne] "All white, merle, roan, ticking, blue or brindle colors are not acceptable ... . " [Breed Expert and FCI Judge Guðrún Ragnars Guðjohnsen]

A return to the most basic ideas rather than a focus on breed details will be a great help. Sperne notes: "Type and general impression as described in the breed standard, always comes first and thereafter, details." The standard says, "The Icelandic Sheepdog is a Nordic herding Spitz, slightly under medium sized with prick ears and a curled tail. Seen from the side the dog is rectangular. The expression is gentle, intelligent and happy. ..." Please help us in this regard.

Judges education disks are available from isaabod@gmail.com.

Donna R. McDermott, MPPA