This is a general breed description of the Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie). Individual dogs within a breed may vary in physical appearance, behavior and temperament.
The beautiful Shetland Sheepdog is characteristically gentle, intelligent and eager to please, all qualities which have made this breed a popular family companion dog. Also known as the Sheltie, the Shetland Sheepdog traces its ancestry to the Shetland Islands located between Scotland and Norway.
Shetland Sheepdog History
It is believed that Scottish collies were crossed with small Icelandic dogs brought to the island by fishermen. By the 1700’s, Shelties were popular sheep herding dogs that were capable of guarding their flocks without human supervision, since much of the island was uninhabited grazing land. The Shetland Sheepdog we know now was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1911.
Shetland Sheepdog Appearance
Adult dogs of this breed are 13″ to 16″ tall, and weigh 14 to 27 pounds. Life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. With a lion-type ruff around the neck, the Sheltie resembles a miniature version of the Collie, but a bit stockier in proportion.
The Shetland Sheepdog has a moderately long body with a deep chest, muscular neck and long, wedge-shaped head. The shoulders slope toward wide hindquarters. The tail is long and carried low at rest, sometimes with a slight curve at the tip.
The weather-resistant coat is usually straight, long and rough, with a wooly undercoat. The face and feet are covered with short, smooth hair, and the legs and tail are feathered. Common colors are merle, sable, and black with varying amounts of white markings.
Shetland Sheepdog Temperament
Shelties are typically good-natured dogs, intelligent, energetic, and easy to train. Herding behavior and independence are still strong traits in some individual dogs of this breed. They may try to herd family members, which should not be allowed. Active working breed dogs, they require mental stimulation as well as physical exercise to keep them content. This versatile breed excels in hunting, tracking, herding and guarding, and is often in the winners’ circle at obedience and agility trials.
Poorly socialized Shelties may become nervous and distrustful. Early, extensive socialization is necessary to give these dogs confidence when they are confronted by new people, sights, and sounds. These are vocal dogs, and may bark persistently unless this behavior is trained out of them.
Shetland Sheepdog Exercise Info
Shelties are active indoors, and will do fine in an apartment if they have one long, brisk daily walk or a trip to the dog park for exercise and mental stimulation. They don’t do well left alone all day, and may become nervous when bored. Being a working dog breed, they need activity to keep them content. The Shetland Sheepdog may be the best choice for an owner who wants an award-winning dog for obedience and agility trials who is also a superb family companion.
Shetland Sheepdog Grooming Info
Shelties require a moderate amount of grooming. The long hair can become quickly matted and should be brushed daily to keep it in optimum weather- and dirt-repelling condition. Mats should be misted with water and carefully combed out. Shelties tend to be fastidious, and bathing is seldom necessary. The coat will shed heavily twice a year, but regular grooming can greatly reduce the amount of dog hair in your home.
Shetland Sheepdog Training Info
Shetland Sheepdog Health Info
Some breed lines may have a genetic predisposition to epilepsy, which may not appear until the dog is mature. Other health concerns include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, heart disease, congenital eye disorders and other eye conditions. Buy your Sheltie from a reputable breeder who is known to produce dogs of sound health and even temperament.
Shetland Sheepdog Right Breed Info
Shelties lean toward independence, but are fond of their people and eager to please them. They need an owner who will keep a firm, but gentle, upper hand while training his dog. A poorly socialized and untrained Shetland Sheepdog may exhibit ‘small dog syndrome’. This syndrome is not exclusive to Shelties, but is possible with any dog who is overindulged by his owner and treated like a person instead of a dog.
Lively, gentle and fun-loving, they make great playmates for kids and may learn to do tricks for them. Shelties are quite affectionate with their families and get along with other household pets, but are often wary of strangers. Their tendency to bark at strangers makes them excellent family watch dogs who will surely let you know when someone is approaching.
More Information about the Shetland Sheepdog Dog Breed