Other names: Sheltie
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
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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
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog
Female : Between 13 and 15 in
Male : Between 14 and 15 in
Female : Between 15 and 22 lb
Male : Between 15 and 22 lb
A Shetlie’s coat can be coloured sable, black, blue or merle. Some of the breed will have a brindle coat and others may have up to half of their coat coloured white.
Type of coat
His hair is long.
Thick, double coat consisting of an outer layer of long, weatherproof fur and an undercoat of soft, smooth hair. Smooth hair mostly adorns the dog’s head, ears and feet and an abundance of long, thick hair is found on the mane and the frill of the animal.
The Sheltie’s eyes are usually coloured dark brown, but dogs with a merle coat may have eyes that are wholly blue or flecked with blue.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shetland Sheepdogs are not hunters; they are herding dogs. As such they do not have a high prey drive.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Tendency to run away
Consistent training will ensure that on most occasions your Sheltie will respond to your voice and not run away. This dog is keen to please its owner and it will remember that running off is not going to be met with praise. Reinforcing the ‘recall’ command is always worthwhile.
If it finds itself at home for long periods of time without human company the Shetland Sheepdog will inform you of its displeasure by destroying your furnishings and carpets.
Greedy / Gluttony
To own an active dog does not preclude someone from administering a strict dog food diet. Shelties require just two meals a day of high-quality dog food, ideally formulated for active dogs. Shelties are prone to obesity if fed too many treats or too much human food. Avoid dog foods that contain a lot of grain: Shelties are known to be intolerant to grain.
Shetland Sheepdogs are exceptionally alert to the arrival of new and unfamiliar scents and sounds. They will not hesitate to bark to let you know if someone is on the property or at the door. In that respect they are excellent guard dogs, but they are also prone to bark excessively (and their bark is very high-pitched).
A Shetland Sheepdog needs to be challenged physically and mentally in order to stay happy and out of trouble. If they are treated correctly, socialised from an early age and engaged with on a daily basis the Sheltie can get along with every member of the household.
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Shetland Sheepdog in a flat
The Shetland Sheepdog needs plenty of exercise. The breed requires a large and securely fenced garden in which to exercise. As long as it is given plenty of time outdoors, a Sheltie’s indoor living space does not have to be huge.
Need for exercise / Sporty
An energetic dog is the Sheltie. With a dog such as this you need to be fit, and willing to devote a fair amount of time to long walks. Shetland Sheepdogs are better suited to a life in the country rather than the city.
Travelling / easy to transport
Once trained, a Shetland Sheepdog is exceptionally obedient and comfortable with new experiences. The Sheltie is not a dog that prefers to stay in one place for a long period of time.
Shetland Sheepdog and cats
Although a Shetland Sheepdog is not known for its high prey drive it will still be interested in small scurrying animals, and will enjoy chasing anything that moves. However, its obedient and gentle nature is such that it is capable of building a friendship with a cat, if the cat is willing.
Shetland Sheepdog and dogs
Shetland Sheepdogs interact well with other dogs. Their nature is such that dominance over another dog is renounced in favour of collaboration.
Shetland Sheepdog and children
Young children that run around the house of a Sheltie may find themselves being herded like sheep. Shelties enjoy the chase, whether that is of animals or people. However, because the Sheltie is a nervous dog it will not tolerate being played with roughly, taunted or deliberately scared.
Shetland Sheepdog and the elderly
Because it is a dog that requires lots of exercise the Shetland Sheepdog may not be the perfect choice of dog for some of senior years. Grooming is also an essential part of Sheltie ownership.
The price for a Shetland Sheepdog can vary according to its origin, gender and age. For a dog registered at the Kennel Club, they will cost approximately £910.
Concerning your average monthly budget to satisfy your Shetland sheepdog’s needs, it will vary between £120 to £160.
The Shetland Sheepdog's coat should be brushed at least once a week to remove loose lint and dander, and to prevent the fur from becoming tangled. Brush all the way through the fur to the skin to ensure the best results. Always wet the Sheltie’s fur before brushing otherwise your grooming will damage the dog’s outer coat.
The long, dense and furry coat of the Sheltie sheds a lot. These dogs are not suitable for people who are allergic to dog hair and dander. The amount of moult produced by this dog must be taken into account before bringing a Sheltie into your home.
Nutrition of the Shetland Sheepdog
It is always worthwhile to feed a Sheltie a high-quality and specially formulated dog food rather than human food. The Sheltie’s diet should consist of good amounts of protein and fat.
Health of the Shetland Sheepdog
12 to 14 years.
Strong / robust
A Shetland Sheepdog outdoors will not care what the weather is like. Originating in the harsh climate of the Shetland Islands (north of Scotland) this breed is robust and not generally prone to illnesses, chills or sickness.
The Shetland Sheepdog does not tolerate hot weather overly well. A ‘thin and trim’ haircut will help the dog to get through the hottest time of the year.
The double coat of the Shetland Sheepdog keeps the dog warm even when walking in the snow.
Tendency to put on weight
Weight gain can be a feature of the Sheltie. If your Sheltie is not exercised as regularly as it should be and is fed too much human or substandard food it will become obese.