The ISD; The Head


AKC Gazette Breed Column. Reprinted with Permission

The Head

 By Donna R. McDermott, MPPA, written in conjunction with breed experts Hans-Åke Sperne (Sweden) & Guðrún Ragnars Guðjohnsen

While the Icelandic Sheepdog (ISD) is not a “head breed”, the details of a correct head do combine to result in the typical ISD expression. Those details are, therefore, critically important when considering correct breed type. The expression presented in the standard is what makes the ISD different from any other Spitz breed.

The head is strongly built with close fitting skin. It is triangular when seen from above or from the side. The sides of the triangle are approximately equal. The skull is slightly rounded and rather broad. The stop is clearly defined but neither steep nor high.

The lines from skull to nose are quite straight and form two sides of an almost equilateral triangle. A line between the tips of the ears forms the third side of the almost equilateral triangle. The cheeks are flat and the muzzle is well developed, obviously shorter than the skull as measured from occipital bone to stop. This is a matter of function as the muzzle must be strong in order to withstand close contact with the legs of large animals, such as horses, that the Icelandic Sheepdog herds. The muzzle is well developed and full with a straight nasal bridge, tapering evenly toward the nose, and forms a blunt triangle when seen both from above and from the side.

Regardless of the primary coat color, the pigment of the muzzle, lips and around the eyes must always be black or dark brown. The eyes should be of medium size, almond shaped
and dark brown. Yellow eyes are a fault as it alters the typical expression of the ISD. Any eye color other than brown is not typical and completely alters the beautiful expression of the ISD. Big, round, protruding eyes are a fault and an issue of functionality because of the climate and weather in Iceland. Narrow, oblique eyes are not correct as they, too, change the expression. The typical expression is lively, intelligent and self confident. Dark eyes with correct size and shape are typical for the happy, lovely and gentle expression of the ISD.

“Collie heads”, long, narrow heads, with poorly defined stop, long thin muzzles, often combined with high set and high narrow ears, change the expression and are not typical. Such a head gives the impression of a light and weak head which is clearly undesirable. Wry mouths, and mouths that cannot be closed, must be considered abnormalities and judged as such.

The ears are erect and of medium size. They should be equilaterally triangular with firm edges and slightly rounded tips. They are very mobile, reacting sensitively to sounds and showing the dog’s attention and mood. As a watch/farm dog, the Icelandic Sheepdog is very attentive to what is going on in the surroundings and mobile ears are necessary. They can be turned independently in different directions, even backwards.

In an excellent ear set, the distance between the ears would be about the width of the base of one ear, when the ears are viewed in the most erect position. Judges are encouraged to get the dog’s full attention and interest so that the ears can be seen in the correct position and thereby underline the alert and beautiful expression.

Finally, the ISD head should always be a “one piece” head with all the parts in harmony. The head should never appear as muzzle, skull, ears or eyes as separate pieces.

Originally Published in the AKC Gazette, June, 2011, Pg. 73. For more information, visit the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America’s Illustrated Standard, created by Donna and Maggy Pease. The Illustrated Standard can be found at www.icelanddogs.com. To read the AKC Gazette on line: http://www.akc.org/pubs/gazette/digital_edition.cfm