Two well known, respected breeders, one of them being an international judge as well, agreed in answering 2009 questions. I warmly welcome Sissel Tangnes from kennel Mellsjøhøgda in Norway and Michael Ewing from kennel Sommerville in Scotland and I thank them for their open-heartedness.
2608 Lillehammer, Norway
'Doonholm', Holm Farm Road
Dalrymple, KA6 6BB, Scotland
website under construction
How would you like to introduce yourself?
Sissel Tangnes, kennel Mellsjøhøgda.
I live together with my co-habitant Johs approx. 15 minutes from Lillehammer (the city which hosted the winter olympics in 1994). We have a house up in the mountains, where the winter lasts until mid summer. We have to fence in the roof of the house when the snow gets too deep (so that the dogs shall not fall off the roof).
I have been crazy about animals all my life. I came home with baby thrushes and frogs. I was promised a dog if my father won the lottery. And he did in 1970, when I was 12 years old.
It was just a small amount but yet my parents bought me a dog. That’s the way I got my first sheltie. Janka grew too big for the show ring but I tried some obedience with her. Then I started with dog sledging and German Shorthair Pointers. This was back in 1974 and I bred 6 litters of that breed. Janka lived till 1987. It’s a saying “Once a sheltie –always a sheltie” and in 1989 these lovely dogs came back into my life once again. In addition to my passion for shelties I have spoiled my family with home made Christmas presents so I do a lot of needlework the last 6 months of the year.
Michael Ewing, kennel Sommerville.
I live together with my wife Hannah. We have a daughter, Lynn, a son, Leslie, a daughter-in-law Amanda and we have four granddaughters, Tracie and Terri and Stacey and Shannon (twins). All our granddaughters are interested in the dogs so my hope is one day they will carry on my lines but still too early to be sure.
I live on the edge of a small village called Dalrymple in Ayrshire which is approx 40 miles from Glasgow, Scotland.
I was first owned by
a pet sheltie in 1973 but due to having a young family and working long hours it wasn’t till 1980 I really got interested in showing.
After having a bad accident at my work in 2000 I had to scale down my dogs till all were gone then went on a holiday to Florida with my wife, son, daughter-in-law plus my 2 twin granddaughters of which I really enjoyed seeing this was my 1st holiday with family outside of UK.
On returning it only took me a week to realize I would rather have my dogs back and going to shows again as my holidays even though I love my family and will do anything for them I still need another reason to make my life worth while, so I managed to call in one of my favours and got 2 of my bitches back a sable plus a tricolour which has saved me years of hard work to get my lines back.
Why did you decided on shelties?
A friend of my mother had a sheltie, and when I saw it – It was love at first sight.
As a young boy I liked bigger dogs especially long coated breeds but my wife liked the smaller breeds so we started talking about what breeds we liked and when we both agreed we liked shelties we decided to buy our first pet dog.
How many shelties are living with you nowadays and could you please describe your new hopefuls?
We have currently 22 shelties. The 2 youngest are males, the sable Copper, Mellsjøhøgda's Copper Zurprize, and the blue merle Lucas, Mellsjøhøgda's Exclusive Blue. Copper was best junior at our special show at Lundamo in August. Lucas will be shown for the first time as a junior in 14 days. He has won BOS puppy twice.
moment I only have 4 adult shelties as I’ve had to cut back after my accident in 2000 due to continuing health problems. My new hopeful which surprised many is a blue merle dog Sommerville Mr Nice
I am very proud of him because this is only the 2nd generation of my own breeding. I was over the moon at Leeds this year when he won the CC at 1 day short of 15 months old.
Can you please give us a report of an ordinary day with your shelties?
At present my husband is out of work so I’m lucky to have a 'kennel boy' J . We keep all our dogs in the house, but only the pregnant, the bitches in season and the really old ones are in the living room. The smart ones try to get in there too, we have some it’s impossible to keep inside or outside. The rest of the lot have a room where I have my computer so I spend a lot of time with them. The dogs wake us up about 8 in the morning and they are taken out in 2 big different runs. One run for the 'living room dogs' and one for the younger bitches and males. The latter walks in and out as they please. We try to brush a few of the dogs every day and do their nails. About 15.00 o’clock Tanner starts to tell us it’s time for his dinner and it doesn’t take long before they all are calling for their food. We feed them separately in cages or else I think someone would not get any food and someone would be rolling about. They decide for themselves it’s time to go to bed about 22.30.
When we have puppies they will also stay in the living room with us from they are 4 weeks old and we spend a lot of time in the puppy pen.
First thing I do is let my dogs out every
morning to run in my large garden weather permitting they stay out till I get my other jobs done.
Then after lunch again weather permitting I take them a long walk but if the weather is not good it’s just a short walk into the village to the shop then again after dinner but if again the weather is against us they love to lay beside me at the computer.
Of course you love all your shelties but is there one of them that means something special to you, that really is a once in a lifetime dog?
I have had a lot of dogs but I must say the most important to me is Int Nord Uch Marnham Montanner.
I try not to make any difference between my shelties but I’ll always have a soft touch in my heart for my 1st champion Allanvail Scarletta of Tegwel whom I believe was the nearest I’ve owned to the standard plus she was a joy to own and would do anything to please me.
I have been so lucky to own both Tanner
and his father S-A Fin Ch Milesend Dancing Major.
They have both done so much for the breed and they have both put a stamp in my kennel and I’m very grateful to be owned by two such special dogs.
From what lines do your shelties descend and what do you especially like in those lines?
A lot of my dogs decend from GB Ch Tegwel
Wild Ways of Sandwick and he has been a very important stud dog both in UK and in the rest of the world and his type is easily recognized. I have also had a lot of pleasure from Milesend
dogs behind several of my other dogs.
I started with a Snabswood brood bitch and still have these lines but only through the male side. I then bought in Allanvail Scarletta of
Tegwel at 5 years of age plus an 8 week old pup Allanvail Gold Gift at Sommerville which my sable line now descends from.
I then got a loan of a tri bitch from Mr H McGucken (Colroy) in 2003 and mated her to CH Hillhead Blue Shadow, I have a small tri bitch from this mating Sommerville Tri A Bit O Magic whom I then mated to CH Shenachie Starling to produce my CC winning dog Sommerville Mr Nice Guy. The funny thing about it all these lines come from family 8 which I’ve discovered after choosing these dogs. All the lines in my kennel I feel they excel in breed type, shape & overall balance plus seem to be consistent passing on these virtues.
Can you mention three of your favourite shelties early in those lines and tell us what qualities of them you would like to see back in the shelties you breed nowadays?
I have just seen these dogs from photographs and all of them look like they had lovely heads and where of very nice type and it seems like they passed on their quality to their puppies.
It’s hard to only mention 3 as I’ve had many more favourites but I’ll mention 4 and I’m sure you’ll see why as it will give you a better insight of me and my shelties. When I first started CH Snabswood Slainthe was my model for type, shape and overall balance you just couldn’t help falling in love with him.
I wasn’t very keen on tricolours till I saw CH Longdells Petrocelli which made me think one day yes I would like to be owned by a tricolour.
Then after seeing CH Myriehewe Rosa Bleu I knew one day I must be owned by a blue merle.
Who were your mentors when you entered the sheltie scene and what were the main lessons your learned from them?
I did not really have a mentor but had a lot of help from Ingrid Myklebostad (Tooniehill) and Reidun Monsholm (Chesslike).
Ron & Jean Fitzimmons of the Snabswood Shetland Sheepdogs. They both encouraged me to read the standard then paint a mental picture of what I was aiming for plus not to let anybody else push their ideas onto me.
How would you describe the sheltie scene in your country? Are there significant changes compared to the days when you started as a breeder?
The number of registered shelties is increasing year after year. The amount of breeders is also increasing. It’s a popular breed because shelties are easy to train and to keep. And it
adjusts very well to it’s owners needs. Thereby it's a breed with a coat that is easy to maintain.
In earlier years it was more fun and cosiness around the ring.
The popularity of our beloved breed has slightly declined from when I first came in which isn’t really a bad thing as we don’t want them to be too popular as this can ruin a breed when undesirables want to breed them due to their popularity hoping to make a vast profit.
When I first started I think overall sheltie people were more relaxed and treated it not too seriously just as a sport with plenty laughter, clapping when people won with their dogs and they never dreamed of leaving until end of judging, many even stayed for the group judging to support the BOB even though shelties never did much in the group then. I feel now many can time it to a tee arriving just in time for their class then leaving soon afterwards unless they win then they feel they must stay for the challenge. I even see BOB not staying for the groups now which was never heard of when I first came into the breed. We are never too old to learn more about our lovely shelties and the only way you’ll learn is by staying to watch.
What was your first show experience?
I was myself paralysed to enter the show
ring so I sent Johs in the ring. Let us say he’s not the best handler in the world, but Mia got the second prize she deserved.
I was over the moon getting 3rd out of 6 dogs that really helped me get the show bug.
How about your first litter?
We had 5 litters of German Shorthair Pointers before we had our first litter of shelties. We were used to births who took several hours and litters of 7-11 puppies. Our first litter of shelties contained 2 puppies and the birth took 30 minutes. I felt cheated. I remember I thought it very difficult to sell the 2 puppies.
My first litter was great I got 3 dogs and 2 bitches but sadly all were bigger than my own ideal. I kept the 2 bitches that made 37 cm then through Ron and Jean I sold one to Norway. The bitch I kept then produced Sommerville Dusty Boy who helped bring size down to the ideal in most his offspring and is still behind my sable bitch line.
Who was your first own bred champion and was she/he already the type you aimed for?
I like Ylva very much because in my opinion she’s got a beautiful head and expression, is very well angulated in the rear and moves really well.
In one word yes.
What is the best sheltie you have ever bred?
Mellsjøhøgda’s Fancy Me. She had a wonderful personality and was a showdog to the extreme. She loved showing and Fancy got 9 what we in Norway call “small” CC’s but unfortunately she lacked the Kennel Klub CC to make her a champion.
Hopefully that is still to come but I
believe Ch Sommerville Sunrise was my best.
Please give us your breeders vision with respect to your present stock and what would be the best compliment people can give you where it comes to your contribution to the breed?
To find a male suitable to the bitch and
not to double up faults. All combinations are done with a wish to improve what I have. As everyone else I also wish to make the perfect sheltie.
The best complement I could get was if someone recognized a dog as a typical Mellsjøhøgda.
My vision must be to keep trying to breed the perfect sheltie. When starting to breed you need a good bitch line that‘s consistent for producing correct breed TYPE! Then you are also looking for a dog that also good at throwing offspring correct for breed type with no know serious health problems behind them. When selecting a puppy my first consideration is always do I think it will be good enough for breeding then if it turns out good enough for the show ring that’s an added bonus. When selecting I look at the whole dog to see if I can double up on any virtues which is a plus then I try not to double up on any of the faults, it also helps if you can remember ancestors virtues plus faults. I also like to make a trial pedigree for the mating to see what dogs I’m doubling up on plus what dogs I think are compatible to my own lines. With health problems I again treat them with respect to the degree I hold them like a missing tooth or cea clear wouldn’t stop me using a dog if I think it has more to give me with his virtues then it’s worth taking the chance none of the pups will have these minor faults.
That I have bred consistently as near possible to the standard plus consistently bringing out shelties of excellent breed type with lovely shape and overall balance.
When I say ‘sheltie’, what are the first three words/virtues that cross your mind? Ans each sheltie has virtues and faults. Of course you consider the sheltie as a whole, but what are important points for you that disturb the ideal picture?
Beautiful, agile and intelligent.
I hate bad angulations, full eyes and cow hooked. I can live with a lighter eye and a little light ears.
Loyalty, Brains and Beauty.
When I judge or choose my future show dog I put good breed type first because without breed type you don’t have a sheltie which is then closely followed by construction, shape and over all balance.
To Michael: As an international judge you judge in several countries. Can you see slight differences between shelties in different countries? To Sissel: Have you ever considered becoming a sheltie judge?
Judging had never tempted me. I find more interest in breeding and showing, and since I work full time the time does not allow for more interests.
Yes only slight with the countries that have been importing regular from UK but with some of the other countries especially ones that have imported many American then kept doubling up on these imports I feel they have lost the sweetness.
Do you think judges can have influence on the breed and if so, in what way(s)?
We have very many all-rounders and very few special judges in Norway. Most all-rounders look like they don’t care about a beautiful head and care mostly about movements. I really wish that judges had more understanding about the importancy of type and alertness.
A definite yes on this question, we all have our own opinions on what fits the standard which is only correct but surely our interpretation shouldn’t be that far apart. You ask in what way, my answer must be to criticize my fellow judges that don’t judge to the standard but put up dogs that they think will do better in the groups.
If one would like to learn more about the breed, what would you like to advise and what would be important to you personally to pass on?
One has to get hold of the Breed Compendium (the Standard in visualized form made by the NSSK) and read all and everything about the breed. One has to try to understand the standard and talk to more experienced breeders, go to shows and look at the dogs.
The only way to truly learn about our breed is by being owned by a sheltie, I would then encourage them to read the standard over and over again so they can paint a mental picture of their ideal. Also to go to as many shows as possible to watch and listen to more experience breeders also go to as many seminars as possible even for other breeds because I think we appreciate our own breed even more after studying other breeds. After being in the breed several years then reassess what your ideal sheltie should look like and not to wear blinkers then to be honest with one self about their own shelties.
In what way do you think internet has influenced the breed and the sheltie scene?
People do not always think about what they write and mails are being misunderstood and forwarded. It was easier before when we talked more face to face and on the phone.
On the positive side is if you have a problem it could be sent to breeders worldwide and get immediate response. Most of the puppies are sold via the net and a lot of information are available.
I only wish the internet had come sooner when we were all a lot younger then I think we would’ve been even more wiser on our lovely breed. Through the internet we are now seeing more photos, pedigrees plus show results which all paint a picture for me, firstly the photos are giving you a better idea of what other countries qualities are in their dogs and not just left to hearsay from the few lucky people that manage to see these dogs in the flesh. From the pedigrees which is one of my other hobbies trying to find every sheltie ancestors it then tells me about the history of their breeding program then I can relate to how they got that type from the ones I liked in the photos. From the results I can then paint a picture in my mind of what type seem to do best in that country show ring plus what judges I would respect more for their interpretation of our breed standard.
Importing American shelties as well as outcrossing them with shelties of UK type has become more and more popular. Please give us your opinion on this development.
As a board member of the Norwegean Shetland Sheepdog Club I am not allowed to give an opinion on this. I will not break this rule. So I trust you to respect me not answering this question.
Our old time breeders experimented with their breeding to get our beautiful shelties that we have today, by passing on what they learnt, I feel we are still improving and learning. Yes I can believe we could get our UK type shelties from early crosses of UK type with the American type but I would advise not to put all their eggs in the one basket because most people that are experimenting with our lovely breed don’t know enough about the American shelties and it could then be too late to get back the lovely type we have managed to achieve in this present day. I personally think the gene pool for shelties is too small but I still wouldn’t be tempted to use the American type as I’m lucky enough to stay in the UK and feel there is still plenty lovely stud dogs with the virtues I want in UK so no need to take chances with stud dogs that I know little or nothing about but I will watch with a open mind to see what develops from these crosses.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Do you think the beholder adjusts his definition of beauty according to what he or she sees? In other words, will people not get used to and get to like the shelties they see, even if they are not quite the type that the old time breeders aimed for?
The breed varies constantly. What worries me most, it looks like the sheltie is getting coarser. It looks like more and more breeders produce a type who’s winning in the ring on the expense of type and alertness. I’m not willing to give up my principles just to win in the ring.
I must answer yes to this question. Also I recommend we all read as much as possible about our breed plus listen to others views then take from that only which we believe to be correct and never let others force their views on us.
Talking about shelties is a never ending passion. What’s interesting you most and is your favourite subject to talk about?
My favourite theme is type, and breeding for the correct type. The standard describes it quite well, and it is important to follow the standard. We have different opinions on how to reach the goal of making a perfect sheltie, but it is important to stay on the track you have made for yourself and not take short cuts.
Anything relating to shelties I’m always willing to talk but also willing to listen as you are never to old to learn and always learning new ideas even from the novices.
What’s your motto for life?
When you are at the bottom there’s just one way to go – upwards.
Life is too short so make the most of it while you’re still fit to do so with your family plus of course I class my shelties just like one of my family.
This question is yours. What question I didn’t ask would you like to answer and please do so.
I don’t think there’s much more to answer at this point – I think my answers covers everything I think and aim for so I can’t think of any other question.
I think you’ve done an excellent job of thinking up these questions and only hope the readers can get something positive from my answers. To be honest writing isn’t my best subject, I think I’m more suited to a open discussion were I can air my views plus listen to others. At the seminars I really enjoy because you’ll always get someone saying they’re only novice and hope we don’t think this is a silly question, all questions whether people think are silly or not always have a positive side as they will make us think and usually help us gain more knowledge.