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Shetland Sheepdog

Other names: Sheltie

Shetland Sheepdog

A long-haired and graceful working dog is the Sheltie. Its fur is soft and abundant, and flows elegantly across the entire body. Thicker fur around the neck of the dog gives the impression of a mane. A shapely head and a gently symmetrical body make the breed arguably one of the most pleasing to the human eye.

Key facts about the Shetland Sheepdog

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Affectionate Calm Intelligent

Size :

Origins and history

The Icelandic sheepdog is thought to be the ancestor of the Sheltie. This dog was crossed with working collies brought over from the Scottish mainland. By the early 1800s the dog that was to become the Sheltie had migrated south from the subarctic archipelago. It was further bred with rough collies and spaniels. The resulting ‘Sheltie’ quickly became a popular choice of herding dog for farmers all over the UK, and their prowess in the field has stuck ever since.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)


Section 1 : Sheepdogs

Physical characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog

    Adult size

    Female : Between 13 and 15 in

    Male : Between 14 and 15 in


    Female : Between 15 and 22 lb

    Male : Between 15 and 22 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    The width of the skull is in proportion to the length of the muzzle. The Sheltie’s profile is elegant and slender. Its tail is set low and long, and follows the line of the back leg. It has a longish body, and the body is slightly longer than it is tall.

    Good to know

    Shetland Sheepdogs learn very quickly. You may only have to reinforce a command a handful of times before the dog understands what is being asked of it. Research on the intelligence of the dog concludes that they are one of the top ten brightest dogs. Because they are intelligent they are also sensitive and become very introverted if they are not treated with respect and love.


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      The Shetland Sheepdog has a pleasant personality and if trained and treated correctly is affectionate and loyal. However, they are highly-strung dogs and their ancestry as an active and agile herding dog should be taken into account before choosing this breed as a pet.

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      An active dog that likes to play and interact, and will do so all day long if given the opportunity. This dog likes to please its owner and can be a bit of a show off. The dog’s intelligence should be put to use; games should involve a degree of problem solving.

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      A calm dog it generally is, but the Sheltie scares easily. It does not enjoy surprises, loud noises or sudden movements and can as a result of these things become overly timid and agitated. The dog is commonly thought of as highly strung but this could be better interpreted as ‘nervous’. Adults and young children should bear this in mind when playing with a Sheltie.

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      The intelligence of a Sheltie is well-documented. They are highly intelligent animals and can be trained relatively easily. However, training needs to be consistent, forthright and include a variety of training measures in order to get the most out of this dog. Shelties do not respond well to harsh commands or being pushed around.

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      Shetland Sheepdogs are not hunters; they are herding dogs. As such they do not have a high prey drive.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      Shelties tend to be reserved and timid around strangers. It takes one of these dogs quite a while to trust people who aren’t already in their ‘circle’. They require gentle encouragement and patience in order to finally make a connection.

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      Despite being a herding dog, Shelties are not as independent as owners first think. It is soon realised that the breed needs a lot of human contact and to feel part of the clan. They become very unhappy when deprived of the chance to be with people. They follow their owner everywhere the owner goes.

      Behaviour of the Shetland Sheepdog

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        Tolerates solitude

        Shetland Sheepdogs do not tolerate solitude. They thrive only with the company of humans. If left alone for long periods of time this dog becomes agitated, barks excessively and chews furniture and carpets. Such behaviour cannot easily be eliminated from such a needy breed. Leaving any dog for a long time on its own is not advisable. Doing so can cause behavioural issues in even the most mild-mannered animal.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Exceptionally easy to train is the Sheltie. Training however must be done right: a confident master who is consistent and varies their style of training is essential. Shetland Sheepdogs get bored easily of routine.

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        The Sheltie’s bark is perhaps the least desirable characteristic of such an elegant dog. However, it is worthwhile to say that the dog’s barking will probably be a fault of the owner: leaving a Shetland Sheepdog on its own for too long, and not giving the dog adequate training and exercise are all causes of excessive vocalisation.

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