Penny Kelley of Sandusky, Ohio, has had Icelandic Sheepdogs for 11 years. The dam of her first litter, Ch. Valhalla’s Heart O’ Gold, is the first Icelandic Sheepdog to earn an AKC championship (shown by Kelley) and is the mother of nine AKC champions, and six of those are Grand Champions
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Kelley: I got started in breeding Icelandic Sheepdogs nine years ago after my first girl, Ch. Valhalla’s Heart O’ Gold (Stella), became a champion and passed the required health requirements.
What is the most important thing to know about the Icelandic Sheepdog?
The most important thing to know about this breed is that they bark a lot and have tons of energy! They require an active, involved owner and family who has the time for training and fun activities with them. Positive training and bonding are musts. They enjoy all kinds of dog sports and are good at them. Icelandic Sheepdogs don’t know a stranger, and they think everyone is their friend.
How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
The AKC Marketplace helps get your information into the hands of people who are interested in the breed so breeders can chat with potential owners to see if the breed will fit their lifestyle.
What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?
My favorite question to ask puppy buyers is, “how did you hear about this breed and what qualities of the breed drew you to admire it?”
What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
I look for people who I feel have a good understanding of all the qualities of the breed. I want my pet people to know that conformation isn’t the only AKC sport they can do with their dog. I want them to know about the fun they can have together that you just can’t put into words.
What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
The best advice I can give novice breeders is to find a good mentor who can guide you along the way. Breeders need to ask questions and listen. Your mentor wants you to succeed because when you do, the breed succeeds.
Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
My dogs do participate in sports. I personally do conformation and I have received a silver medal from the AKC for showing and finishing five dogs from the bred–by–exhibitor class. This was a great honor. I have bred many Champions and Grand Champions, and my puppies are involved in AKC Rally, dock diving, Barn Hunt, Fast CAT, and CGC. A few of them have earned Farm Dog and Herding certificates.
What do you like best about breeding dogs?
I love the puppies of course! I love seeing them grow and how their new families become a part of my Icelandic Sheepdog family. I have made new friends all over the world. The Icelandic family is a group of people who love this breed, and we all rally together when needed. Breeding puppies doesn’t end when they go to their new homes, it just begins.
Do you have a favorite breeding story?
I don’t have a breeding story, but I do have an awesome rescue: National Icelandic Sheepdog Rescue Alliance (NISRA). Our volunteers, board and Icelandic community really do step up and get things done. We have even helped other Nordic breeds and also helped Icie look-alikes find good homes. I am proud of NISRA and all the good work they do.