Breed Type: Working
Country of Origin: Scotland
Popular Names: Sheltie, Shetland Collie, Toonie Dog, Peerie, Fairy Dog, and Dwarf Scotch Shepherd
Size: Small to medium
Height: (At the withers) Males 35-39 cm, Females 33-37 cm
Weight: 5-14 kg (males are usually heavier)
Best suited as: Pet or herding dog
Lifespan: 12-15 years

The Shetland Sheepdog, commonly called the Sheltie, is a rough-coated herding dog. This breed excels as a pet, in the show ring, in agility and obedience competitions, and as a working dog.

The Sheltie is a gorgeous breed with a long, dense, double-coat. The mane and frill of these dogs is plentiful. The guard hairs are long and rough – and waterproof, while the undercoat is thick and soft. This undercoat helps protect them from severe temperatures both hot and cold.

Shetland Sheepdogs have one of three coat colours: sable and white (most common), tricolour (black, white, and tan), or bicolour (black and white). Colour modification genes may affect any of the three colours, so the resulting modifications result in blue merle, bicolour blue, and sable merle. Shelties may have blue or brown eyes, depending on their genetics. In the show ring, only blue merles are allowed to have blue eyes.

The Shetland Sheepdog doesn’t have a recorded early history, so we can only guess at its origins – likely a Spitz-type dog and Collie-type sheepdogs were crossed for the first Shelties. Then Rough Collie genes got added to the mix, which made the breed what it is today. Ironically, the Sheltie is very uncommon on Shetland, the island for which it is named, and it has never been used there as a working dog.

The first Shetland Sheepdog registered with the English Kennel Club was a female named Badenock Rose, in 1909.

These small, hard-working herding dogs are well known for being hyperactive, excitable, and active. They are intelligent, playful, loving, loyal, and want nothing more than to please their owner. Shelties need a lot of socialization in many different situations to help them adjust and reduce the likelihood of aloofness. They are okay around older children as long as the children treat the dogs properly. Because of their herding background, many Shetland Sheepdogs have very strong herding instinct and will herd and chase after squirrels, ducks, children, and even cars – so an owner must be careful that no tragic accidents occur. If a Sheltie does not get the attention and exercise it requires, it may develop undesirable habits, such as nervousness, excessive barking, and phobias. This is reversible, as long as the dog receives enough exercise daily. This breed is highly trainable, and takes to new commands very quickly. Their strong desire to please makes praise and treats great motivation during training. Try some trick training on your beloved Sheltie to keep him mentally sharp and to prevent boredom.

A Sheltie treated harshly will become defensive and may snap.

A Sheltie’s bark is very high-pitched and loud. It is very important that all owners teach their Sheltie to obey “quiet” commands. Socialization to strangers will also help reduce barking when the mailman or friend approaches your door.

Care and Grooming
The Shetland Sheepdog’s beautiful long coat is fairly high maintenance. If not properly attended to, mats can form behind the dog’s ears, in the fur on the hind legs, around the collar, and on the front of each leg. These dogs should be brushed at least twice a week. Because Shetland Sheepdogs shed in clumps, it is easy to pull out the clumps and stay on top of the situation in shedding seasons.

You should never shave Shelties, because there is the chance that the hair will never grow back.

Shelties need lots of exercise, at least an hour a day. They also need something to keep them mentally occupied so that they do not get bored. This breed does well as a rollerblading, cycling, or jogging companion. They love to run, but do make sure this is within a fenced area if they are off-leash.

Most Shelties live 12 to 14 years. It is very important to note that this breed is very sensitive to milbemycin and ivermectin, which are used to treat parasites. This is caused by a mutation within the MDR1 gene, which increases the dog’s sensitivity to toxins and can be fatal. Shelties are susceptible to several inherited diseases and malformations of the eyes such as Collie eye anomaly (CEA), progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), corneal dystrophy, distichiasis, cataracts, and entropion. Other health concerns Shelties are prone to include congenital deafness, Transitional Cell Carcinoma, skin allergies, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, , hypothyroidism, seizures, carpal ligament weakening, von Willebrand’s disease, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, dermatomyositis, hip dysplasia, hemophilia, testicular neoplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, nasal cavity tumors, polyarthritis, MDR-1 gene mutation (as mentioned) and cryptorchidism.

When choosing a Shetland Sheepdog pup, always check out the bloodlines for that particular dog. A reputable breeder will never breed a dog with any of the aforementioned genetic disorders or predisposition, but you should always do your homework, too. Have a vet examine the pup for CEA and PRA and other eye defects as well as for signs of hip dysplasia.

When a blue merle is bred with another blue merle, the resulting offspring may be deaf and/or blind. These dogs will still make good pets if you have the time and devotion to learn how to deal with a blind and/or deaf dog, but a blind dog cannot, obviously, be used for herding. 

Suitability As A Pet
Shelties love to be included in all family activities. They love the interaction and activity of indoor and outdoor play. As such, they are great for families with children, but care should always be taken that very young children do not get the opportunity to mistreat the Sheltie, since it can act defensively in these situations.

A novice dog owner should have no trouble training a Sheltie, but should enroll it into obedience training as well as some other type of advanced training course like herding, agility, or trick courses. This keeps the dog sufficiently active both physically and mentally, and will help prevent undesirable behaviours.

Shetland Sheepdogs adapt well to all kinds of living environments, from small farms where it can work, to city apartments. As long as the small dog has enough exercise each day, it will be very happy wherever its owner chooses to live.

Shetland Sheepdog Organisations in Australia
National Shetland Sheepdog Council of Australia

Shetland Sheepdog Organisations in the UK
The English Shetland Sheepdog Club

Shetland Sheepdog Organisations in the US
The American Shetland Sheepdog Association – National Parent Club
Shetland Sheepdog Club of Queensland

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