Shetland Sheepdog

Loving and Unafraid, An Excellent Watchdog and Playful

Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog or "Sheltie": Loving and Unafraid, An Excellent Watchdog and Playful Addition to the Family

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is a beautiful, smaller look-alike of the Rough Coated Collie. Loving, loyal, intelligent, eager to please and playful with immediate family members, the Sheltie can be aloof with strangers. This means that you will need to begin exposing your pet as a young puppy to as many outside variables as possible to nurture a more sociable dog. Considered the ultimate "people" dog, the Shetland Sheepdog serves as an excellent companion, guard dog, and watchdog.


A "cousin" to the Rough Collie, the Sheltie and the Rough Collie both have their roots in the Border Collies of Scotland. As a miniature working Collie, the modern show Collie evolved from this breed.

Originating in the Shetland Islands, the Shetland Sheepdog was first registered in 1908, in Lerwick, and then with the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club, in 1909. The breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club, the UKC, in March of 1909, when it was called the Shetland Collie. With collie fanciers protesting that name, the breed's name was quickly changed to the Shetland Sheepdog in October of 1909. However, as early as 1844, the breed had been described by a visitor to the Islands.

Although the origins of the breed are not known, it is surmised that it had its beginnings in the development of a variety of breeds indigenous to the Shetland Islands including the King Charles Spaniel, the Scotch Collie, as well as the original Pomeranian and a northern Spitz-like dog brought from Scandinavia by early inhabitants.

Visitors to the Islands wanted small dogs as companions, and the Sheltie became a favorite. James Loggie of the Lerwick Kennel was the first breeder to take advantage of this interest but later breeders used Standard Collies in developing these smaller dogs so that the Sheltie would be more uniform in size and type. The Collie crosses were only sporadically recorded, and to this day the breed’s colors of bi-blue, blue merle with tan, or blue remain a mystery. Puppies from the same litter still can be of different sizes, which confirms ancestry from both larger Collies as well as smaller dogs. In the UK today, the parentage of purebreds is still accepted as long as the Shetland Sheepdog's ancestry can be verified three generations back. After three generations, the puppies are registered as purebred Shelties. The breed arrived in the U.S. in 1908 and was recognized by the AKC in 1911.

Originally intended to be a small working dog, the Sheltie has evolved from the role of excellent home protector, herder, watchdog and guard dog to today’s ideal companion dog, who is exceedingly loyal, intelligent, and obedient.


This beautiful little dog looks like a rough Collie in miniature. It has a double coat and is a sturdy, agile, working dog. The expression is alert but gentle and can be reserved. The expressive eyes are usually dark, although blue Merle Shelties can have one blue eye and one brown eye, or two blue eyes.

Although small, the Shetland Sheepdog is exceptionally strong. In adulthood, your pet will stand 13 to 16 inches at the shoulder and be 14 to 27 pounds in weight.

Active and graceful, the Sheltie carries its tail low unless on alert. Muscular and athletic, the Sheltie has sculpted and refined build without carrying excess weight. This sculpting is not visible, of course, because the Sheltie also has a thick, luxurious double coat: the top coat is water repellent, and the undercoat is thick and soft, providing protection from extreme temperatures, both high and low.

Although the coat is relatively short on most of the body, the Sheltie sports a luxurious mane around the chest and neck. Colors can be sable, black, and blue merle, with or without tan and/or white patches and markings.


Affectionate, devoted, extremely smart and eager to please, the Shetland Sheepdog is a wonderful choice for a pet. This adorable and loving companion is both relaxed and alert all at once, pleasant and very dedicated. Shelties bond with their owners very closely, but can be reserved with strangers, which is why it's important to socialize your pet from a very early age.

If you have small children, you may find it amusing that your little dog will want to "herd" you or your small children. You may find your little "guardian dog" gently nudging your small children along, to get them where they need to go. The herding instinct is very strong in your pet, and you'll see it used to great effect if you let it happen.

Although amusing, this intelligent dog breed can also develop what's called "small dog syndrome."

That is, if you let your very smart, diligent pet take over from you, you'll find yourself with a difficult problem on your hands. Shelties can be willful if they think you're not doing the job right, so you'll have to establish yourself firmly as alpha dog, the “pack leader” who is always in charge.

Importantly, though, keep in mind that the Sheltie is very sensitive. This little dog can have its feelings hurt very easily which can cause behavioral problems – but perhaps of greater importance is that this sweet little family member never needs severe scolding. Sharp discipline is never advised and should be avoided with this type of dog. A firm, calm air and hand will be plenty to keep your Sheltie in control. In fact, you really don't have to control a Sheltie; it just needs to know what you want. Provide boundaries and a little bit of gentle discipline, and you'll have no problems.

Proper Environment

The Sheltie has a lot of energy and must have at least a brisk walk every day. But be careful, because your Sheltie's herding instincts can get this dog in trouble. Although it may look cute or funny to have your Sheltie herd your children, Shelties also seem to think that they need to herd cars – with all too often disastrous results. Keep your pet on a leash at all times when you're not in a safe environment that is fenced and inescapable. Regular use of a leash also fulfills the added benefit of showing your dog that you are in charge.


As long as you've gotten your pet from a reputable breeder, the Sheltie tends to be a very athletic, healthy little dog. A few conditions are seen in the Sheltie, but relatively rarely. Common problems include patellar luxation (knee dislocation), hip dysplasia, and a condition called dermatomyositis, a skin problem specific to the Sheltie and other Collie-related breeds. Known as "Collie nose," symptoms are scaling, crusting, hair loss, or redness on the face. The condition is usually treated by medication and a diet that's rich in fatty acids, including vitamin E; only rarely, the lesions can be cancerous, and ultimately possibly fatal.

Another condition, called scleral ectasia, is also known as "Collie eye," or "Sheltie eye syndrome." This is a genetic condition where the eyes don't develop properly while the puppy is still in the womb. Dogs born with this condition have poor vision because of optic nerve abnormalities, detached redness, or a lack of retinal cells. Approximately 90% of modern American collies are thought to have this condition to at least some degree, although reputable breeders carefully screen for this condition so that puppies won't be born with this condition in the first place. There is no treatment.

Von Willebrand disease (similar to hemophilia in humans) is also sometimes seen in the Shetland Sheepdog, on rare occasion. With proper veterinary care, the Sheltie can live 12 to 15 years.


Unfortunately, the Sheltie is prone to matting, so regular brushing is very important. The Sheltie also sheds heavily twice a year, when it loses its undercoat in the spring and the fall. Brushing is especially important during these times, at least daily. Bathe or shampoo your pet only when necessary, because the waterproof topcoat generally keeps the fur clean and bright naturally.


AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Shetland Sheepdog.

Retrieved May 11, 2013.

Common Sheltie Health Problems.

Retrieved May11, 2013.

Shetland Sheepdog - Appearance & Grooming.

Retrieved May 11, 2013.

Shetland Sheepdog.

Retrieved May 11, 2013.

Shetland Sheepdog.

Retrieved May 11, 2013.

Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie).

Retrieved May11, 2013.

The American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Shetland Sheepdog History.

Retrieved May 11, 2013.

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