Gudrún R. Guðjohnsen; Breed Expert & FCI Judge

ISIC Meeting in Geysir, Iceland, 2008. ISIC commitee (ISIC/c): Guðrún R. Guðjohnsen, Hans-Åke Sperne Secretary: Þorsteinn Thorsteinson at the Geysir meeting, Denmark: Islandsk Fårehundeklub - Svend Brandt Jensen, Chairman Sweden: Svenska Isländsk Fårhundklubben - Jan Eriksson, Chairman Norway: Norsk Islandshund Klubb - Liv Sydhagen, ChairwomanIceland: Hundaræktarfélag Íslands/ Deild íslenska fjárhundsins - Guðni Ágústsson, ChairmanHolland: Vereniging de IJslandse Hond in Nederland - Árni Eymundsson, Chairman, United States: Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America - Donna McDermott, President

Originally published in the AKC Gazette

Reprinted here with permission.

 A Living Piece of Icelandic Art

This is how beautifully an Icelander once described the Icelandic Sheepdog, and he’s so right: “The dog fits, in every way, perfectly into the nature of Iceland and naturally becomes a part of it.” This love and admiration for the breed spurred my call for cooperation in order to preserve the Icelandic Sheepdog in its original form.

Since the 1970s, I have tried to follow the breed’s development. … . There were quite a few types of dogs: big and small, strong and slender, long-haired and short-haired, and they covered almost the whole color spectrum. But the common feature was their gentle and friendly nature. I think the reason for the great variation in type was that the Icelandic farmers emphasized useful characteristics more than physical appearance. … .

There’s an interesting story about a farmer known for his excellent sheep dogs. Everyone wanted puppies from every litter he bred. But not everyone had good results using the dogs with their sheep. Someone asked him why it was that his own dogs always performed well. The farmer replied, “It’s not a secret that many of the owners don’t have the intelligence of their dog.”

At dog shows in the early days, many different types of dogs were on display, and many judges struggled to learn what type of dog was considered correct. Today, the hard work that has gone into defining the correct type of Icelandic Sheepdog has paid off. … . Over the years, it became obvious to me that we needed international cooperation to preserve the Icelandic Sheepdog. I felt this was necessary if we wanted to preserve the breed’s characteristics, health and appearance.

Bearing in mind the very limited gene pool available, I saw that breeding without a plan would result in different types and temperament, changing the original type and appearance of the breed — or, in the worst-case scenario, jeopardizing the existence of the breed as a whole. … [The] official Icelandic Sheepdog International Committee (ISIC) met for the first time in
1996 in Bjuv, Sweden. Since then we have successfully cooperated as friends, with respect for each other and as unified representatives of the breed across borders.

However, it is sad to see that some people still … don’t want to work in the best interests of the Icelandic Sheepdog. These breeders seem to want to follow their own direction with their dogs, resulting in the loss of genetic material … .

The Icelandic Sheepdog bonds very strongly to its “human flock” and flourishes when allowed to associate closely with human beings. The dogs are true members of the group, articipating in everything it does. It has always been my opinion that it is destructive for an Icelandic Sheepdog to live its life as a kennel dog. A living piece of art ought to live together freely with
its human flock.

Author and breed expert Gudrún R. Guðjohnsen lives in Iceland. This article was originally published in “Islandshunden,”. The article is translated from Danish by Jørgen Metzdorff and Linda Fraembs. Editor is Donna R. McDermott, MPPA.

To learn more about the Icelandic Sheepdog, please visit the AKC Parent Club for the Icelandic Sheepdog’s Illustrated Standard at www.icelanddogs.com, created by Donna R. McDermott and Maggy Pease.

To read the AKC Gazette on line: http://www.akc.org/pubs/gazette/digital_edition.cfm