You may recognize the Shetland Sheepdog by his nickname – “Sheltie” – or by his appearance. The Sheltie is, essentially, a smaller version of the famous Collie, Lassie. In fact, the Shetland Sheepdog is the Collie's cousin.
Other names for the Shetland Sheepdog include Dwarf Scotch, Shepherd, Toonie Dog, and Peerie.
Shetland Sheepdog Temperament and Personality
Shetland Sheepdogs have a diva-like appearance – and a personality to match! They're intelligent dogs, but they can also be a bit stubborn when they want to be.
They also have a lot of energy. This makes them one of those breeds that you need to run, not walk, to help them expend their energy.
The Shetland Collie looks so graceful when he moves, in part, because he is so agile. He can run and jump with the best of them, and his coat means he looks fantastic while doing it.
The Sheltie loves a good challenge, as his mind is always active. He loves when you play games with him that involve a challenge, like hiding a toy and making him find it. Even just playing fetch is fulfilling, as he loves trying to find the ball or Frisbee.
Shelties are alert dogs – perhaps too alert at times. They can jump at a loud noise or even if you touch them before they have a chance to realize you’re there.
Many Shelties are what you would describe as “high-strung,” which makes them less than ideal for families with young children, who are prone to being loud and making sudden noise.
Heck, these dogs may even do poorly in homes where there is frequent arguing. The more peaceful the home, the better for the Sheltie.
Shelties excel at paying close attention when you’re trying to train them. You just need to maintain a calm voice and demeanor and rely on verbal corrections, rather than harsh scolding. These are sensitive dogs, and so you must train them accordingly.
As part of their sensitive demeanor, the Sheltie is also a very sweet dog. They tend to be polite toward people and other animals alike, though they may shrink back at first from those they don’t know.
You know those dogs you can’t leave alone, else they will tear your house apart? That’s the Sheltie.
If you know you’ll be away for long periods of time, then this is probably not the right dog for you. In addition to destructive chewing, you can also undo all the work you’ve done by encouraging him to become a barker to deal with his grief over your being gone.
Long story short: don’t leave this dog alone for long, or he’ll make you regret it.
A Brief History of the Shetland Sheepdog Breed
The Shetland Sheepdog has a long history of enjoying serving his master. This is because his ancestors worked with farmers in Scotland. There, they would chase hungry animals out of their masters' gardens and herd farm animals when necessary.
Today, people know the Shetland Sheepdog just as well for his wonderful temperament as for his high-pitched bark.
How Do You Groom a Shetland Sheepdog?
One look at this dog tells you all you need to know how often you should groom him: regularly.
The Shetland Sheepdog has a double coat, and it sheds. A lot.
You must brush the Sheltie's coat weekly, at a minimum. During shedding season, you'll want to brush him more regularly. This will save your carpet from becoming littered with hair and clogging up the vacuum cleaner.
You will also want to check for “mats”, or clumped-up hair, in the areas where he may often put pressure. Such areas include his elbows, behind the ears, and under the tail.
While he doesn't need a bath unless he's truly dirty, you should regularly trim the Sheltie’s nails, same as any other breed. Once a month should do, or whenever you notice them getting long.
As you may have guessed from all this shedding, Shelties are not what you would call “hypoallergenic.” So, if you have an allergic reaction to dogs, you should probably refrain from bringing this one home.
Training a Shetland Sheepdog
The numero uno rule when it comes to training your Shetland Sheepdog is to get his bark under control before you start getting calls from the neighbors.
Not only is a Sheltie's bark high-pitched, but he once he gets going, it takes a while for him to finally let up.
This can be great when he's trying to protect you from a perceived threat. Not so great is when you're trying to have a conversation with no threats present, and he just won't stop barking.
Teach him the difference between good barking and bad barking. A bark can be a valuable tool, so long as he uses out only when he really needs to.
What's good about the Sheltie is that he has a long history of working alongside his master. This makes him eager to please, as well as intelligent and a good listener.
However, he can be a bit stubborn, so you must remain firm and consistent in your training to keep his focus.
Helpful Dog Training Resource:
For help with training your Sheltie dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.
The Shetland Sheepdog Appearance
Sheltie Coat Colors
The stunning coat of the Shetland Sheepdog is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It can come in a variety of colors, including sable, blue merle, and black.
Shetland Sheepdog Weight and Height
He is typically between 13 and 16 inches tall when full-grown and weighs between 14 and 27 lbs.
The health of a Shetland Sheepdog
Of course, like all dogs, most Shetland Sheepdogs are healthy. However, also like all dogs, they can suffer from illnesses specific to their breed.
Some issues to keep an eye out for include:
- Hypothyroidism – This condition occurs when your dog isn't secreting enough thyroid hormones, and it can lead to a plethora of problems.
- Von Willebrand's disease– a blood clotting disorder.
- Hip dysplasia– Hip dysplasia is an abnormality with the dog’s hip socket which, if not addressed, can cripple your canine friend.
- Dermatomyositis– This is a hereditary disease that causes inflamed muscles, skin, etc.
Additionally, Shelties can succumb to a condition known as “Shetland Sheepdog eye anomaly.” This is a congenital condition that has the potential to cause blindness.
Shetland Sheepdog eye anomaly usually presents by the time the dog is two years of age. In most cases, the condition affects both eyes, but not always with the same severity.
There is no treatment for Shetland Sheepdog eye anomaly, and most dogs will not go completely blind. However, those who do learn to rely more on their other senses and can still get around just fine.
The lifespan of a healthy Shetland Sheepdog averages between 12 and 14 years.
Helpful Dog Health Resource:
Note: Our Health is #1 Priority. It should be no different for your dog. But you need to help him. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is the answer. This handy guide will help you recognize the symptoms of the health problems above. Get the knowledge to stay ahead of these terrible issues that can rob your lovely Sheltie dog from vigor and life. Help your friend make it to 14 yrs+ without pain and suffering.
As I mentioned before, Shetland Sheepdogs are very active dogs. However, despite needing a decent amount of exercise, they’re also great at adapting to your lifestyle.
What this means is that they can do just as well being apartment dogs as they can in homes with big yards, provided you give them the exercise they need. They love to spend time out of the house, so long as they’re with their family.
Bonus points for if you’re also challenging their minds and bodies while you’re out there!
Top Shetland Sheepdog Mixes
If a Shetland Sheepdog mix is what you’re looking for, check out some of these cuties:
- Border Sheepdog (Border Collie mix)
- Cosheltie (Collie mix)
- Sheltie Pin (Miniature Pinscher mix)
- Sheltie-Kee (Keeshond mix)
- Golden Sheltie (Golden Retriever mix)
Shetland Sheepdog vs Rough Collie (Collie vs Sheltie)
When you see a Rough Collie and a Shetland Sheepdog standing near each other, it might seem like you’re looking into a mirror – though one mirror is smaller than the other!
A key difference between these two breeds is that while the Collie has tamped down on his herding instincts, they are as strong in the Sheltie as they were in his relatives before him. In other words, small children are more likely to run away from a herding Shetland Collie as they are a Rough Collie.
The Collie is more like a Golden Retriever in his calm demeanor and his gentle love for his family. The Sheltie, on the other hand, is more like his more active, watchdog cousin.
Finding the Perfect Shetland Sheepdog
If you’ve decided to bring a Shetland Sheepdog puppy into your home, you can do so in one of two ways.
You can either find Shetland Sheepdog puppies for sale from a breeder, or you can adopt one through a local rescue or adoption agency.
How Much is a Shetland Sheepdog?
On average, you can expect to spend between $800 and $1,000 for a Shetland Sheepdog puppy for sale.
Because of their popularity as both a wonderful family dog and one of the more “beautiful” breeds out there, Shelties have unfortunately become an overbred breed.
It is therefore even more important that you make sure the dog you bring home is free of genetic issues and has his proper health clearances.
Shetland Sheepdog Adoption and Rescue
It is rare to see a Shetland Sheepdog at a shelter, but it is not impossible. If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Ask the shelter if you can put yourself on a list so that when a Sheltie comes in, you’ll be one of the first they notify. If you’re okay with a Sheltie mix, let them know that too. You may be able to bring a dog home sooner!
You can also try a Shetland Sheepdog rescue group, as they specialize in helping this breed in particular find homes. A good one to check is the American Shetland Sheepdog Association. In addition to rescue options, they also provide a list of reputable breeders you can reference.
One of the major cons to adopting is that you can’t always know the history of the dog you’re adopting. Often, the shelter doesn’t even know. As Shelties already suffer from inbreeding, the likelihood is strong that you could bring home a dog with problems.
If you’re okay with this, though, and you have the patience and fortitude to cope with any potential problems that may crop up, then all the power to you! After all, dogs with health issues need homes too. It just takes strong willpower (and a deeper wallet) to give the dog the life he deserves.
Shetland Sheepdog Breeders
If you decide to buy a Shetland Sheepdog puppy from a breeder, then you want to make sure the breeder you use is reputable. Else, you could end up shelling out thousands of dollars for a puppy who has issues due to inbreeding.
One of the things you must confirm with the breeder is that she has tested the puppy, as required by the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA), and that he has passed all his tests. The breeder should be able to provide you with a certificate confirming the puppy's results.
It’s also a good idea to observe the dog’s behavior with his parents while at the breeder’s house. Are his parents aggressive or loving? Do they ignore him?
Better still, how are his living conditions? Is the breeder providing him with a clean living space that gives him plenty of room to spread his wings? Or is he coming from the kind of environment where you could understand if he grows up to be aggressive or sick?
A Final Word about the Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog temperament makes him an ideal family pet. And, if you are a sucker for “beautiful” dogs, then this is the one for you.
What's nice about a Sheltie is that he has all of the mannerisms of a Collie, only in a smaller size. While you may prefer a smaller dog, just note that the Shetland Sheepdog can a be more high-strung than his mellower cousin.
If you're interested in purchasing a Shetland Sheepdog, make sure you vet the breeder first. Shelties are an in-demand breed, and a lot of breeders crank them out for money, rather than take the time to produce a quality dog.
Shelties are great with kids and they are good listeners, though you'll have to work with him to get his bark under control.