Shetland Sheepdog

A Quick Look at the Sheltie...

The Sheltie or Shetland Sheepdog, is a small canine that is native to the Scottish Shetland Islands. Shetlands are loyal, intelligent and eager to please their owners. They are affectionate, very trainable and have a pleasant temperament. Their docile and loveable nature makes them ideal pets, and their alertness allows them to be excellent guard and watchdogs.

Shelties have an appearance that often reminds many people of a Collie. They are confident dogs that are independent and ready to perform just about any task that is commanded of them. In fact, while they are a popular pet, some owners still use them as herders of small livestock. Nevertheless, despite what they are used for, this long furred and charming pooch is a devoted companion.

Here are some fast facts about the Sheltie:

Dog Group:
Herding (AKC)
Recognized By:
Dogs – 14-27 lbs. (6.4-12.3 kg)
Bitches – 14-27 lbs. (6.4-12.3 kg)
Dogs - 13-16 in. (33-40.6 cm)
Bitches – 13-16 in. (33-40.6 cm)
Average litter size:
4 to 6 puppies
Life expectancy:
12 – 15 years (average of 13 years)
Health problems:
Coat care:
Exercise needs:
Suitable for children:
Pet compatibility:
Barking frequency:

Brief History

Shetland Sheepdogs originated in Scotland in the 18th century, and were initially bred in the Scottish Shetland Islands for the purpose of herding and protecting livestock, particularly sheep flocks. Their main function was as working dogs, though they also made wonderful pets.

Shelties are related to the Rough Collie and are a descendant of Border Collies and Icelandic Yakkin, a small island dog that is now no longer in existence. Shelties were prized for their gentleness when herding small flocks, but could also command large cattle. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1911.

Today, Shetlands are one of the most popular companion dogs, and due to their sharp intelligence, they have many talents including, herding, watchdog, tracking, guarding, performing tricks and obedience competitions.

Sheltie Breed Appearance and Characteristics

General Appearance - The Shetland Sheepdog has a look that is not unlike the rough coated Collie. He has a muscular and arched neck, and his head has a blunt wedge appearance when viewed from the side. His muzzle tapers slightly from his erect ears with tips that fold slightly forward to his black nose, and features a slight stop. Shelties have almond shaped eyes that are generally dark, except in the blue merle coat variety, who sometimes have blue eyes.

Shelties have a long feathery tail that they carry in a small upward curve or straight down. Their double coat is long and full, but is shorter at the head and on the legs, and forms a mane around the chest and neck region. The undercoat is tight and soft, while the outer layer is harsh and straight. Shetland Sheepdogs are available in diverse coat colors including, sable and black with varying amounts of white and/or tan and blue merle.

Typical Temperament - Shetlands are a loyal breed who love their family and like to keep busy. He is a very alert companion who will guard and watch his property in an effort to protect his pack. He has a voice that he’s not afraid to use, and will bark frequently as part of both his watchful and herding instincts. Shetlands enjoy the company of humans and other canines and are good with children when they have been properly socialized with them.

Shelties are a highly trainable breed and are a type of dog that requires not only mental stimulation to ward off boredom and destructive behaviors, but also physical stimulation to release pent up energy. He is both a beautiful and brilliant canine whose kindness and affection is happily bestowed on owners who provide their dogs with socialization and firm yet gentle training.

Note: It is important to mention that Shelties have a natural herding instinct that motivates them to chase things including small animals and even cars. They should never be allowed to run freely off leash near roads.

Basic Sheltie Care Requirements

Grooming - Shelties like to be clean, and while they do have a long and full coat, caring for their fur isn’t as difficult as it first appears, especially when it is tended to on a daily basis. When brushed everyday, their coat usually stays mat free, dirt is removed, as well as excess hair. If there are mats, you can mist the coat lightly with water to help you detangle and tease out knot clumps with a comb. They should be bathed or dry shampooed only when necessary. In addition, Shelties shed all the time but are seasonally heavy shedders and shed their undercoat two times per year (spring and fall).

Aside from coat care, their nails should be trimmed monthly and their teeth brushed every few days.

Exercise - This breed is very active and has plenty of energy that needs to be exhausted in order for him to remain happy and healthy. Despite their small size, Shetland Sheepdogs actually require more exercise than the vast majority of breeds. You can provide them with the daily exercise they need in a variety of ways including a brisk daily walk (20-30 minutes), a jog, playing fetch, engaging them in activities such as herding, agility, tracking or other sports. It’s also a good idea to allow this dog to run free in a safe environment.

Approximate Food Cost - The average Sheltie eats approximately 1 ½ to 2 cups of dry food per day, at an estimated monthly cost of $10 - $15.

General Health Information

Shelties are a relatively healthy breed of dog, especially when they are produced from reputable breeders who have carefully selected the dogs used in their breeding program to carry on strong traits, reducing the risk of genetic health problems. That said, illnesses that are known to affect Shelties based on their heritage include malformation and eye disease, hypothyroidism and patella luxation (kneecap dislocation). Another common problem seen in these dogs is obesity, which is often the result of over-feeding and lack of exercise.

Common Illnesses include: Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Corneal Dystrophy, Collie Eye Anomaly (or Sheltie Eye Syndrome), Thyroid problems, hip dysplasia and von Willebrand’s Disease.

Are You the Right Sheltie Owner?

Living conditions - Shelties are small dogs that have a lot of energy and can be quite active indoors. However, they are only suitable for apartment dwellers if they are sufficiently exercised. They thrive in homes with decent sized yards that they have the freedom to run around in off lead.

Training - Shetland Sheepdogs are highly trainable and can be taught many tricks and sports, including agility trials, herding, tracking, etc. However, regardless of your advanced training intentions for your dog, it is absolutely essential that this canine is provided with proper, consistent and firm obedience training. He needs a strong leader, whose authority he can respect or he will choose to follow his own path.

Shelties are workers at heart and thrive when they are given tasks. They can be very stubborn and independent and are naturally inclined to take charge, as it is in their nature to heard and control livestock. Therefore, keep in mind when you train that this breed appreciates working environments and requires both adequate mental and physical stimulation. Furthermore, he needs to be well socialized with other people, children and dogs to reduce aggressive tendencies and to accept them.

Common Problems - Shelties can develop behavioral problems if they are not provided with consistent training and leadership. Owners who are not constant in their training and pack leader methods often discover their dog is difficult to control and displays negative behavioral issues including guarding, possessiveness, snapping and, in some cases, biting. These characteristics are often the signs of a condition known as Small Dog Syndrome, which is when the canine thinks he is in charge.

Another common problem that many Sheltie owners face is the dog’s frequent, persistent and noisy barking. It is important to find out the cause of your pet’s barks and to teach them a "Quiet" command to control their yapping, so it doesn’t become out of hand and increasingly annoying.

The bottom line...

Shetland Sheepdogs are very loving dogs that are well suited to families and single owners who are looking for a devoted, smart and active four-legged companion. They are happy to be part of just about any activity their owner is engaged in and are naturally eager to learn and take on challenges.

Shelties require daily grooming and shed frequently, so they may not be the best pet for allergy sufferers. They can adapt to just about any living environment but need the proper exercise to be happy and healthy.

Although they are tolerant of children, they need to be socialized with children at a young age to encourage the proper relationship, or the pooch may be inclined to herd or control a child. Additionally, though they can be friendly, they are often reserved with strangers at first. Moreover, they like to bark, and though this is a good watchdog quality they also enjoy making regular noise.

Shelties are the perfect pet for anyone who is dedicated to providing them with the love, care and dedication it takes to ensure their wellbeing for all the days of their lives.

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