The Shetland Sheepdog (or Sheltie) is an old breed, probably derived from the ancestors of the rough Collie. These dogs were brought to the Shetland Islands of Great Britain, where the tough conditions favored smaller livestock (smaller sheep and ponies instead of horses). Smaller herding dogs just made sense, too, both to work the smaller livestock and because smaller dogs required less food. Because the dogs on the islands were isolated, they were able to breed true quickly, and the breed came to be.
Shetland Sheepdogs bark a lot!
Shelties today are very much a smaller version of the rough Collie. They stand between 13 and 16 inches tall and weigh 18 to 25 pounds (many pets are larger). The Sheltie’s head is wedge-shaped, with dark almond-shaped eyes and small ears that are three-quarters erect, with just the tips folded over. The body is longer than tall, the chest deep, and the legs strong. The undercoat is short and dense, while the outer coat is long and straight, standing out from the body. The mane is full, the legs are feathered, and the tail is plumed.
Colors include sable in all its shades, blue merle, and black. White and tan markings are acceptable. The Sheltie’s profuse coat can shed, and shed quite impressively. Although the worst of shedding is usually in the spring and fall, there is some hair loss year-round. The coat should be brushed at least twice a week normally and daily during the shedding seasons.
Shetland Sheepdogs can get along with limited exercise, but do best when walked and played with daily. If they get the exercise they need, they seem less likely to develop habits you won’t like. Shetland Sheepdogs thrive in many canine sports, including agility, obedience competitions, herding trials, and flying disc competitions. Socialization is very important for all Shelties. They are naturally wary of strangers and quite reserved to everyone except their families. Early socialization can help them recognize that not everyone is a danger. Training is also very important, not just to teach household rules but because the breed is very intelligent and thrives with training.
Shetland Sheepdogs love training, are quick to catch on, and are quite proud of themselves when they learn something. Of course, Shelties are also smart enough to figure out when they can get away with bad behavior, too! Shetland Sheepdogs are very much people dogs. They thrive when allowed to live with people, underfoot, and are able to shadow their people. They can be quite good with children, although the kids need to be taught to respect the dog and be gentle. Many children get frustrated when the dog tries to herd (circle) them. Shetland Sheepdogs are also good with other pets, but again, many cats detest being herded! Shelties are prone to one behavior that can cause problems with neighbors: Shetland Sheepdogs bark a lot! Don’t get one if you have neighbors who detest barking dogs. Health concerns include autoimmune disorders, allergies, and knee, skin, and eye problems. Many are sensitive to ivermectin, a heartworm preventative.