About the Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, active, and agile herding dog standing between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder. The long coat is harsh and straight, with a dense undercoat, and comes in black, blue merle, and sable, with white markings. The coat, along with a long, wedge-shaped head; small, three-quarter erect ears; and deep-chested, level-backed torso, give Shelties the look of a rough-coated Collie in miniature.
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Bright and eager Shelties are easy trainers and world-class competitors in obedience, agility, and herding trials. They are sensitive and affectionate family dogs, highly in tune with the mood of the household. They like to bark and tend to be reserved toward strangers—two qualifications of an excellent watchdog.
- Temperament:Playful, Energetic, Bright
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 25 of 195
- Height: 13-16 inches
- Weight: 15-25 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
- Group: Herding Group
Shetland Sheepdogs were originally bred on the rocky Shetland Islands, the United Kingdom’s northernmost point. They were employed by farmers to herd sheep, ponies, and poultry. (“Toonie dog” was an old slang name for Shelties, “toon” being a Shetland word for farm.)
There’s a reason why the Sheltie was bred smaller than his close cousin, the rough-coat Collie. Thanks to their compact size, the Sheltie eats less than the Collie and other large herding dogs. This is an important consideration in the harsh, cold climate of the breed’s homeland, where food can be scarce. This also explains the diminutive size of Shetland ponies.
Exactly when Collies were imported to the island from the Scottish mainland and bred down to Sheltie size is a detail lost to history, as the islands’ breeders left behind no written records. And, because the islands were so inaccessible, Shelties lived in virtual isolation from other breeds and were nearly unknown in the rest of Britain until the early 20th century.
The Sheltie was first recognized by the Kennel Club (England), as the Shetland Collie, in 1909. Under pressure from Collie fanciers, the breed name was changed soon after to Shetland Sheepdog. The AKC registered its first dog of this remarkably bright and obedient breed in 1911.
Care and Training
The Shetland Sheepdog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, active, and agile herding dog standing between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder. Click To Tweet
The Sheltie has a profuse double coat that sheds considerably. The outer coat consists of long, straight, harsh hair, while the undercoat is short, furry, and very dense. Owners must be prepared to brush the coat weekly, and more often during shedding season, to help in removing at least some of the loose hair before it drifts all over the house. Be sure to check for mats behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the “pants” under the tail. Shaving the dog is not recommended, because the coat protects against sunburn and heat as well as cold. The Sheltie needs a bath only occasionally. The nails should be trimmed regularly.
As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Very intelligent, trainable, and willing to please, the Sheltie will reach his full potential as a companion when taught at least basic obedience—and they are superstars at canine sports such as agility. Shelties can be quite vocal and express their happiness with barking, so owners must be prepared to teach the dog to stop barking when desired. As is common with other herding breeds, Shelties like to chase moving things, including cars, so they should have a well-fenced yard and be walked on a leash.