The Breed History
The Icelandic Sheepdog came to Iceland with the Vikings in AD 874-930 and was used to work sheep, cattle, and horses. The breed adapted its working style to Iceland's local terrain and farming techniques so well that it became indispensable to the Icelandic people. It is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world and happens to be Iceland's only native dog. A population genetic study of European Icelandic Sheepdogs shows low genetic diversity.1 AKC recognition occurred in 2010.
Breeding for Function
The Icelandic Sheepdog was used to work sheep, cattle and horses.
Height at withers: Dogs 18 inches (46 cm); Bitches 16.5 inches (42 cm).
Weight: 20-30 pounds (9-14 kg).
Coat: Double coat, thick and weatherproof. There are two types: shortвЂ“haired and long-haired. ShortвЂ“haired: The outer coat of medium length, fairly coarse, with a thick, soft undercoat. LongвЂ“haired: The outer coat is longer than the above, fairly coarse, with a thick, soft undercoat. In both lengths, the hair is shorter on the face, top of the head, ears and front of the legs; and longer on the neck, chest and back of the thighs. Several colors are permitted but a single color should always be predominant. The predominant colors are: various shades of tan, ranging from cream to reddish brown; chocolate brown, grey, and black. White always accompanies the predominant color. The most common white markings, which are often irregular, are a blaze or a part of the face, collar, chest, socks of varying lengths and tip of tail. On tan and grey dogs, a black mask, black tips to the outer hairs and even occasional black hairs often occur. Black (triвЂ“color) dogs have a black coat, white markings as mentioned above and traditional markings in any of the various tan colors on the cheeks, over the eyes (eyebrows) and on the legs.
Longevity: Around 12 years.
Points of Conformation: 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 head is triangular when seen from above or the side, with a defined stop. Scissors bite. Eyes are medium size and almond shaped. Level back, muscular and strong. Forelegs are straight, parallel and strong, with single or double dewclaws. Hindlegs are also straight, with double dewclaws being more desirable. The gait displays agility and endurance with good driving action covering the ground effortlessly.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Playful, friendly and inquisitive, the Icelandic Sheepdog is a hardy and agile dog. The breed is extremely social, loving, and patient with children, making them an ideal family dog. Intelligent and eager to please, Icelandic Sheepdogs are easily trained. The breed sheds its undercoat twice a year and needs to be brushed when it does.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 13.3% affected, but too few Icelandic Sheepdogs have been evaluated for statistical confidence.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Icelandic Sheepdogs have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Icelandic Sheepdogs have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 5.02% of Icelandic Sheepdogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Entropion: A rolling in of the eyelids that can cause corneal irritation and ulceration. Entropion is reported in 1.83% of Icelandic Sheepdogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Cortical and capsular cataracts predominate in the breed. Reported in 1.37% of Icelandic Sheepdogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported as a breed health issue on the ISAA website.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Can lead to blindness. Reported in 1.37% of Icelandic Sheepdogs CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Not enough samples have been submitted for thyroid auto-antibodies to Michigan State University to determine an accurate frequency. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cryptorchidism: Unilateral or bilateral undescended testicles. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance. Reported as a breed health issue on the ISAA website.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Reported as a breed health issue on the ISAA website.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported as a breed health issue on the Canadian Icelandic Sheepdog Club website.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for coat color are available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiograph, CERF eye examination and a blood donation to the CHIC DNA repository. Optional testing includes elbow radiographs, patella evaluation, cardiac evaluation (ECHO by a cardiologist preferred), thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and MDR1 genetic test for multidrug sensitivity (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
- Breed name synonyms: Iceland Sheepdog, Islandsk Farehond, Friaar Dog, Islenkur FjР±rhundur, Icelandic Dog
. - Registries: AKC, CKC, FCI
- AKC rank (none): Recognized June, 2010. Entire stud book entered.
- Internet resources: Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America: icelanddogs.com
Canadian Icelandic Sheepdog Club: canadianicelandicsheepdogclub.blogspot.com
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