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My first Icelandic Sheepdog was Garða-Kara I got her in 1991. At that time I had been without a dog for almost a year. I had owned and bred Golden Retrievers for years, but after my last Golden died I wanted to get a smaller breed. I talked to my vet asking about few different breeds when she said “why not an Icelandic Sheepdog” I replied No, they bark too much.
She said it wasn't truth and told me to go and have a look at them. Well to make a long story short I got my first Icelandic Sheepdog in 1991 and today I live with seven of them. They do bark but not constantly. They will certainly let you know when someone comes to your door, but I think it is a good thing. Some will express themselves more than others and that is exactly how we humans are, some of us talk and talk and talk even if we do not have anything to talk about.
I just love Icelandic Sheepdogs. They are so gentle and good with children, they have a strong character, are curious, playful, cheerful and an energetic working dog. They are not only good at herding sheep, cows and horses, but they are also very good in agility and tracking. They are extremely intelligent and easily trained. The Icelandic Sheepdog is a trustworthy friend and a tireless companion in work or play.
Few years ago when I was a farmer we had a terrible blizzard. On the morning before the Blizzard hit we had to gather all the sheep and bring them down from the mountain. We went out with two dogs trying to call the sheep and the dogs did do most of the barking. We managed to bring most of our sheep home but some where stuck in the snow and some of them we would never have found if it hadn't been for the dogs. They have an excellent nose or maybe their ears but they told us where to dig for the sheep. That day we only lost 2 or 3 sheep. On our daily walk a few days later the dogs started digging in the mountain so I went after them and there were the rest of the lost sheep, dead under the snow.
The Icelandic Sheepdog matures quite slowly and is not full grown until 18 months of age.
All my dogs are family dogs, indoor animals or more to the point, they are wherever I am.
Brynhildur Inga, Iceland
We got Hnúks Breki at ten weeks old from Iceland, he was raised in home with a loving family and other animals. He has been my boy since I first held him at Sea-Tac Airport. He has been an extremely easy dog to raise. Quiet, loving and non barking. Non barking that is before we got a female Icie who has taught him to bark.
One night Breki did a very odd thing. He went into our guest bedroom and scooted under the bed. I could not find him. He had never done this before. When I did locate him I tried coaxing him out. He would not come, first time in his life he did not obey me. He just laid under that bed. After about 20 minutes out he came. He went to the front door to be let out to potty. This was about 11pm. He went outside, down the porch steps and sat on the walkway, looking around the heavens. He did NOT go potty. Sat there just moving his head, looking at the stars. This was very odd. He got up after about 10 minutes and walked up the stairs to be let inside the house. As we were headed to bed the phone rang, around 11:30pm. My young sister in law had passed away from cancer down in So. California.
I wrote Breki's breeder, Hörður in Iceland of Breki's behavior and Helena's passing. He wrote back that at some time Helena and my brother Karl had slept in that guest bedroom. I said yes, they were up to the Pacific Northwest to visit us the previous summer. He said Breki knew Helena was ready to go, and Breki felt her. He said Breki's outside ritual was Breki feeling her pass from our world into another.
Breki always has been aware of things that I am not.
We got Pine Plains Elska when Breki was almost a year old. She has been somewhat of a handful. She is alpha and bossy and vocal. She is also very loving and wants to please. We love both our Icie's! They are such an important part of our daily lives.
Jerry Lynn, WA
In the past I had a pair of rough collies. When my female died because of volvulus I decided I would have an Icie, I had often seen them when I went to equestrian competitions and I loved them. I found a litter when the puppies were just 3 weeks old, I met with the breeder and was able to chose a female. I wanted a long haired cream colored Icie, but I fell in love with a red medium haired girl. I named her Flipa. In Germany the name of a dog follows the number of litters. Meaning the first litter pups are all named with an A, second litter with B, third litter with C and so on. Flipa had to begin with F. since this was the sixth litter. I was so glad when I finally took her home and she was the greatest dog I have ever had and I think I will ever have. She could read my thoughts. She calmed me down, when I was angry, she cheered me up when I felt sad, and when I was happy she jumped and was happy too.
When she was 1 year old in spring I got our two calves out of the barn to let them eat grass. I myself laid on a blanket outside, reading a book with Flipa at my side. The calves didn't want to eat the grass, they wanted to go back inside the stable where there was hay and dried bread. I had to get up twice and chase the calves away from the door of the stable. The third and every time after Flipa would get up and do it for me so I had some peace.
Sometimes I went shopping with her. When I entered a shop where dogs were forbidden I just told her, please stay outside. I'll be back soon. And so she waited outside without being chained. She loved to visit Pet-Shops. There she was allowed to buy a bone or anything else. It needed some time for her to choose the right bone but when she found it she took it in her mouth carefully. Then I had to tell her not to eat it at once, because we had to pay for it first. So she carried this bone up to the cash register, showed it there, waited until we had paid and then carried it back to my car. Many stories like this happened during the twelve years we were allowed to spend together and while I'm writing them down, I remember so many things, but I mostly remember my sadness and mourning when I lost her in 1991 because of cancer.
Writing as a first time dog owner, I'd hate for people to get the impression Icies can't make good first dogs. I chose the breed largely because of how willing Lori Julius was to answer my "first time" questions in a timely, thorough, and encouraging manner. She never once suggested that I wouldn't be able to handle one of her dogs, and for this I'm very, very grateful. She also made sure that I knew what I was getting into, breed-wise. I don't know whether I'm strong-willed or not. I know reading _Culture Clash_, _How To Talk (Speak?) Dog_ and _The Other End of the Leash_ helped me anticipate where I would need to draw the line with Viva. It seems to me important for prospective owners/handlers to know that while Icies may be strong-willed, they also are soooo eager to please -- I write this thinking about fellow agility folks who run with shiba inus, huskies, and samoyeds. Icies seem much more likely to want to work for their people than the shiba inus are, for example. Yes, they're not the easy-going package one finds with a Labrador retriever. They're more affectionate, though, and easier in many respects to train. Yeah, they bark a lot, but can through positive training be taught to save copious barking for special occasions (like the pizza delivery guy).
I suspect one of the reasons I have had success as a first time dog owner with my Icie is that it was immediately obvious to me (for whatever reason -- beginner's luck?) that she needed plenty of exercise, both mentally and physically, and she needed a job. Agility is such a natural outlet for mental stimulation and "the job" part of a herding dog's package that I would strongly encourage urban and suburban Icie owners to consider agility training even if they never intend to compete. The more agility we did, the fewer socks lost their lives. : )
I agree with you completely about the importance of matching breed with person so Icies don't end up in the wrong hands. I would plead with you that some of us rookies do just fine by our dogs. It breaks my heart to think that there are breeders out there who might have placed Viva with someone else just because I had never raised a dog before.
When Knox agreed to let me have Kyssa, I resolved to give her the time needed to train her and give her the exercise and attention she needs. This is a commitment I was willing and able to make. She is still the number one priority in my life.
I have a small fenced yard, a large deck she can't fall off of, and I installed a doggy door so she has easy access to her yard (and a view of the neighborhood, where she greets everyone who passes by). The small beach town where I live is very dog friendly--after I acquired Kyssa, she introduced me to many dog neighbors. Eventually I learned the names of their owners and made friends with them too. We don't have much traffic, but I always walk Kyssa (twice a day) on a leash. In the first three months I had Kyssa, I lost 30 pounds from the exercise she gave me--and it hasn't come back!
Our favorite place to walk is the beach--a HUGE fenced yard. When the tides are right, we can go for miles, but Kyssa is on a retractable leash (unless she is playing with another dog friend) so that I can steer her away from temptations such as bird carcasses or seafood that may not agree with her.
I found the first puppy year to be the most demanding, the second year less so, and now that she is almost three, we have a fine understanding and get along with minimal disciplinary rebuffs. She is well liked in our town and welcome in the homes of friends. We have taken three obedience classes (one at six months and two at a year of age) and so far one agility class.
She goes with me everywhere--in our climate, it is okay to leave her in the car with windows cracked most of the year. She sleeps on my bed and has adapted to my sleep habits--she just hasn't learned to bring me coffee in bed! Yes, she barks--but she was bred to bark and she is generally forgiven when people see her wagging tail and smile. Of course I harp at her to be quiet and stop barking and she does restrain herself to a degree. She is very low maintenance--a few minutes of daily brushing before her evening treat (peas) is all I do and she takes care of the rest. People comment on what soft fur she has. And how sweet she is.
I have to say that I haven't seen another breed I would rather have. And I do believe it's okay to have an Icey as your first dog even if you are not young and do not have help in raising it--providing you can commit to spending the time required to do the job right, just as if the puppy were a child
Mary Auvil, Oregon
Yesterday, Saturday, March 11 2006 was a testament to how wonderful our dogs are.
When our household woke up we discovered that the water pipes from our well to our house had frozen and we had no water. We had company for the weekend and so it was imperative to restore water. I left the house to go out to the well house to work on the problem leaving my 11 yr old and her cousin in charge of watching my 3 year old. While they were "watching" him he managed put his winter boots on all by himself and slip out of the house without a coat on. He walked down our 1/4 mile long drive way and continued to walk another 1/4 mile down our road, passing 2 very mean dogs on the way. He was accompanied by our wonderful dog Sabrika who never left his side and who made sure the other dogs didn't come near him. A neighbor noticed him walking with the dog on the road and quickly picked them up and brought them home. He was very brave and didn't cry until he got home. I had NO idea he was gone and probably would not have noticed for another 1/2 hour or more. I cried when I realized the danger he had been in. We have a lot of snow and wind and cougars and cars and untrained dogs in our area. I cried even more when I realized what our precious Sabrika had given up for her little boy. Sabrika had puppies 3 weeks ago. She has not been more than 50 feet from the house since. She is a very conscientious and gracious mother. But, when her family needed her she was there and didn't leave her boys' side for one minute. I can never repay the kind of loyalty and love that she has shown us again and again. I am honored to have her in our family. Now you know 1 reason I love Icelandic Sheepdogs.