Ein Grinsen im Gesicht

Beim letztjährigen ISIC-Seminar in Schweden wurde über die (zu) straffe Oberlippe von Islandhunden diskutiert. Der folgende, lesenswerte Artikel ist das Resultat von diesen Diskussionen.

Smile or threat?

When you see the Icelandic Sheepdogs in the pictures, what do you think?

People have asked us about the short or stiff upper lip in our breed, and that is what you see in these pictures. These dogs do not close their mouth properly. Either because their upper lip is too short, or because the upper lip is not pliant enough to cover the incisors.

Recently we have seen several Icelandic Sheepdogs with this problem. Yes, we call this a problem. In this article we will explain why. It is not normal for an Icelandic Sheepdog to show its teeth constantly. As it seems, the short upper lip is becoming more common at the moment and we want to raise awareness amongst our breeders that these dogs do not have a very cute smile, as people have told us, but have an upper lip that is not functioning properly.

It is not a new phenomenon, an “old” breeder showed me a picture of one of the ancestors of her breeding stock. This male also had the short upper lip, that was many years ago. It is not a big problem either. We are talking about a minor imperfection. But when we want to preserve our breed, we should strive for the best.

The breed standard is very clear about the lips of our dogs: “close fitting” is required. Close fitting lips mean that the dog can close its mouth properly without showing any teeth. This influences the health. Close fitting lips are like a shelter for the teeth and the mouth. They will prevent the mouth from getting too dry and protect it against damage. This is one important reason to strive for proper close fitting lips in breeding.

The second reason has to do with dog behaviour. We people can think it’s cute when a dog shows its front teeth. Maybe we think he is laughing at us. But what does a dog think when he sees uncovered incisors? Other dogs will see a dog that is afraid/aggressive, and many people would think the same. In this way the short upper lip can cause a lot of social problems for a dog that has them.

The third reason why we should try to avoid this short upper lip in breeding is the philtrum. The philtrum or medial cleft is the vertical groove in the middle area of the upper lip. This groove carries moisture from the mouth to keep the nose wet. A wet nose is essential for the good sense of smell in our dogs. The stiff or short upper lip can influence the shape of the philtrum. When the upper lip is very short, a cleft lip can be the result. When a puppy is born with a cleft lip, it will have big troubles drinking. Some breeders have reported pups with this problem already. This is a serious health problem.

There is one remark we want to make about smiling in our breed. The current breed standard says that Icelandics should be happy. The former standard said “frequently smiling”. We hope it is clear that this has nothing to do with the short upper lip. What the old standard meant with smiling, is the raising of the corners of the mouth. Many Icelandics can do this and this is what makes them look happy.

The ISIC Breeding committee