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Shetland Sheepdog Breed: What You Have To Know

Shetland Sheepdog Breed: What You Have To Know

The lively Shetland Sheepdog was once a Scottish farmer’s best friend. Sounding the alarm when someone approached the property, chasing birds and other animals out of the garden, and keeping the sheep flocks. This breed was everything a farmer could ask for!

Shelties are devoted friends for all family members, particularly children, although they can be reserved or even shy among strangers. They bark quickly if they suspect something is wrong in their home because of their protective nature. On the plus side, they’re fantastic watchdogs.

Any Sheltie owner will tell you how intelligent their dog is. Shelties excel at performance events because of their intelligence, willingness to please, and athletic abilities. Shelties often dominate the agility field in their size category. They excel in competitive obedience, flyball, tracking, and herding as well.

Shelties, in fact, have a reputation for being a little too intelligent. This is a breed in desperate need of employment. Shelties easily become bored if they are not given enough mental stimulation, and they can become a bit destructive in those moments. 


The Sheltie is a breed of dog native to the Shetland Islands, which are located between Scotland and Norway, roughly 50 miles north of Scotland and just south of the Arctic Circle. Other tiny breeds of animals, such as Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep, can also be found on these islands.

The Toonie, derived from the Norwegian word for farm, was the name given to the Shetland Sheepdog for many years. Farmers crossed Border Collies with smaller dogs to create the dogs, which were used to herd and protect their flocks of Shetland Sheep. One of the functions of Shetland Sheepdogs, according to some, was to defend little sheep from birds. Many modern Shelties appear to have a propensity for pursuing birds, with some even attempting to chase planes and helicopters flying overhead.

Shetland Sheepdog in England

The Sheltie was introduced to England and Scotland in the early 1800s, when he was described as a little Collie. Farmers on the Shetland Islands began breeding their small Shelties to make them even smaller and fluffier so they could sell them to visitors. It’s been suggested that the native sheepdogs were crossed with a Prince Charles Spaniel (a type of English Toy Spaniel) and several Pomeranian dogs left on the island by tourists.

Crossbreeding was so widespread that islanders understood by the end of the nineteenth century that the native breed of dog was vanishing. However, there was a lot of disagreement regarding what the original dog looked like and how to get back to it. Some breeders believed they needed to crossbreed with Collies to get back to the original type, while others believed they should breed only the existing Shelties that were the closest to the original type, and still others continued to crossbreed with other breeds indiscriminately to create small, pretty pets.

Shelties of all three breeds were exhibited in dog shows up until World War I in the early twentieth century. The Kennel Club of England recognized the breed in 1909. In total, 28 Shelties were registered as Shetland Collies in that year (rough). Two boys named Lerwick Tim and Trim, and two girls named Inverness Topsy and Inga, still feature in the pedigrees of many present champion Shelties. Lord Scott was the first Sheltie to be registered with the American Kennel Club in 1911.

Collie breeders in England, on the other hand, were dissatisfied with the breed’s name and complained to the Kennel Club. As a result, the breed’s name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog.

Shetland Sheepdog in the United States

For many years, the Shetland Sheepdog sparked debate in both the United Kingdom and the United States, with rumors of crossbreeding and long-standing arguments about what the breed should look like. As a result, multiple Shetland Sheepdog clubs sprang up to support the various points of view. In 1930, the Scottish and English Clubs agreed that the dog “should resemble a collie (rough) in miniature.”

Until the 1950s, American breeders imported Shelties from England, but by that time, the types and sizes of American and British Shelties had begun to diverge significantly. Almost all Shetland Sheepdogs in the United States today are descendants of dogs imported from England between World Wars I and II.

As the breed gained popularity in the United States, its numbers grew. Shelties’ popularity skyrocketed in the 1970s, and they appeared on the American Kennel Club’s top 10 most popular dogs list for 12 of the next 15 years, peaking in the early 1990s. Among the 155 breeds and varieties registered with the American Kennel Club, the Sheltie is now ranked 20th in popularity.

Shetland Sheepdog breed overview

The Shetland Sheepdog, proud and lively, is a quick, light-footed runner and an agile, beautiful jumper. Don’t be deceived by his size; this breed comes from a herding background and requires more exercise than many other little dogs.

Shelties, moreover, require “brain activity.” These intelligent canines can’t just lounge around in the backyard doing nothing. They need cerebral stimulation, such as advanced obedience, agility, herding, or demanding activities you play with them, even if it’s only fetching balls and discovering hidden toys, to be happy and well-behaved.

Shetland Sheepdogs are incredibly attentive and responsive, and they’re simple to teach if you use a calm voice and a light hand on the leash. One of this breed’s distinguishing characteristics is its sensitivity. They often simply require verbal corrections, and if you jerk them around, they will wilt or become defensive. Shelties respond well to praise, gentle instruction with your hands or leash, and food rewards.

These dogs have rapid reactions, which might cause them to overreact to loud noises and unexpected touches. Indeed, many people are high-strung, quickly startled, and do not perform well in situations where there is a lot of tension, loud voices, or roughhousing. The herky-jerky characteristics of little children can overwhelm them.

The majority of Shelties have a gentle, kind demeanor. They’re gentle with other animals and courteous to everyone, however they’re usually reserved and cautious with strangers. The Shetland Sheepdog requires more extensive socializing than many other breeds to develop a confident temperament.


Shelties have a strong sense of loyalty, they are gentle, and are sensitive dogs. From enthusiastic and rowdy to calm and submissive to shy and quiet, the breed’s personality can be described as diverse.

It is natural for Shelties to be wary of strangers. It is acceptable if your puppy does not normally approach strangers, but he or she should be eager to make friends with anyone who sits down on the floor with them.

Shelties prefer to be with their owners at all times and will follow them from room to room throughout the day, regardless of their disposition.

Dogs of all breeds, including shelties, benefit from early socialization, which involves socializing them with a diverse group of people as well as a diversity of sights, sounds, and experiences. Socialization is essential in the growth of your Sheltie puppy into a well-rounded canine.

Shelties have a loud, piercing bark, and many of them are highly noisy. It’s critical to teach your Sheltie to quit barking on command at a young age in order to maintain pleasant connections with your neighbors.

For many years, Shelties have been a popular family dog. If you’re looking for a puppy, look for a reputable breeder that screens their breeding dogs for genetic illnesses that could be passed on to the puppies and breeds for sound temperaments. Never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who does not give health clearances or assurances.

Shelties are a fantastic choice for a working person because they can happily stay home alone if they get their fair share of attention while their owners are present. Companionship, playfulness, training, and calm patting are all beneficial in their habitat. They will return your affection tenfold.

Children and other pets

Shelties make great family pets, especially if they’re raised by children who know how to treat dogs with respect.

Always teach youngsters how to approach dogs gently, just as you would with any other animal. To avoid biting or ear pulling from either party, keep an eye on all encounters between dogs and young children. Dogs and little children should never be left alone together.

Even if they don’t live with other Shelties, Shelties have a strong preference for their own kind when it comes to other dogs. They tend to sense other Shelties as kindred souls upon first meeting and are usually amiable and eager to play. Dogs of other breeds, on the other hand, tend to be wary of them. They get along with cats once the cat scolds the Sheltie for trying to herd him.

Before you considering getting a Sheltie

Just like with any other breed, there are certain things that you need to be aware of before getting a Shetland Sheepdog. Here are the things that I would be concerned about before getting a Sheltie.

Unstable temperaments

Because there are so many Shelties, the majority of them are bred and sold by persons who have no understanding how to breed well-behaved dogs. Many high-strung Shelties with neurotic habits, including as skittishness, hyperactivity, and mindless yapping, are seen by obedience instructors and behavioral consultants.

Ensuring that they get enough exercise

Shetland Sheepdogs are herding dogs who require regular opportunities to vent their energy and do fascinating things, even if they don’t require miles of running exercise. Otherwise, they’ll become bored, which they’ll show by barking and chewing destructively. In most households, this breed’s intelligence and passion are wasted. You should enroll your Sheltie in advanced obedience training and agility classes.


Shetland Sheepdogs are naturally shy and require a lot of socialization as well as exposure to new sights and sounds. Otherwise, their natural trepidation can turn into utter shyness, which can be difficult to deal with. It’s critical to teach your Sheltie how to be self-assured in public.


Is there a lot of stress in your house? Shetland Sheepdogs are highly sensitive to stress and may exhibit neurotic behavior if their owners are experiencing marital troubles. Shelties are calm canines who require a serene environment.


Shetland Sheepdogs are herding dogs with excellent senses who helped control sheep with their sharp voice. Unfortunately, this means they are typically overly concerned with every new sight or sound. To stop them, you must be similarly quick.


Shetland Sheepdogs shed a lot twice a year and a little the rest of the time. Make certain that everyone in your household is OK with hair on their clothes and furniture.

Health issues

The list of health issues that Shelties face on a regular basis is depressingly long. Epilepsy, blood disorders, heart illness, joint disorders, eye diseases, endocrine system abnormalities, and skin problems are only some of the conditions.


Despite the fact that Shelties were developed to survive harsh weather, they adore their owners and should be kept indoors with them as members of the family.

Shelties were meant to be working farm dogs and require a lot of activity, even if they are rather sedentary inside. They like to go walks, play catch with the youngsters, and gallop around the dining room table. They’ll then assist you in keeping the sofa in place.

Shelties may live in apartments because of their small size if their owners are devoted to giving them daily walks and playtime, as well as training them not to bark excessively.

Shelties’ feelings can be readily damaged by severe treatment. Rather than scolding at your Sheltie for barking, recognize his alarm and only administer a verbal punishment if he continues to bark. Positive reinforcement, including as praise, play, and food rewards, works best for Shelties in general.

Maintain your dog’s interest in training. Shelties are easily bored, and they don’t understand the value in repeating an exercise if it was done well the first time.


The Shetland sheepdog can live on either commercially made or home-made high-quality dog food that is good for them (under veterinary supervision). Because the breed is prone to getting overweight, a veterinarian should continually keep an eye on calorie consumption and weight. It’s also important that these dogs have access to clean, fresh water at all times.

Dogs should eat 3/4 to 2 cups of high-quality food each day, split into two meals.

The amount of food your adult dog eats is based on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs, like people, are unique and need different amounts of food. It’s almost a given that a dog who is very active will need more food and water than a dog who isn’t very active. It also makes a difference what kind of dog food you buy. The better the food, the more your dog will be fed and the less you’ll have to shake into his bowl.

Coat and grooming

Shelties have two coats, one on the outside and one on the inside. Because the undercoat is dense and short, the longer, harsher topcoat stands out against the body. The hair on the head, ears, and feet is smooth, but there is a lot of mane and frill (hair around the neck and on the forechest). The legs and tail are also hairy.

The breed comes in three main colors, each with various amounts of white and/or tan markings:

1. Black
2. Blue Merle
3. Sable

A Sheltie that is more than 50% white or has a brindle coat isn’t suitable for the show ring, but his color has no bearing on his potential to be a wonderful companion.


A thorough weekly brushing with a pin brush is required for the Shetland Sheepdog’s lovely coat. Always get as close to the skin as possible, and never brush a dried coat. To avoid hair breakage, spritz it with a spray bottle as you go.

Pay careful attention to the delicate hair that tangles behind the ears. A little slicker brush can usually be used to remove a mat found in this area early on.

During shedding season, your Sheltie will require more brushing. Males and spayed females shed once a year on average, but unspayed females shed twice a year, a few months after each estrus season.

Shelties only need baths when they get really dirty, which varies from dog to dog. A proper Sheltie coat — a harsh outer coat and a soft undercoat — sheds dirt and repels water, so Shelties only need baths when they get really dirty, which varies from dog to dog.

Once or twice a month, trim their nails. They’re too lengthy if you can hear them clicking on the floor. Short, cleanly trimmed nails keep your Sheltie’s feet in good shape and protect your shins from being scratched as he jumps up to welcome you.

It’s also crucial to keep their teeth clean. Brush your Sheltie’s teeth at least twice or three times a week to prevent tartar buildup and periodontal disease. Brushing on a daily basis is even better.

To get your Sheltie used to grooming, start when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently – dogs’ feet are sensitive — and inspect his lips and ears. Make grooming a pleasurable experience for him, complete with praise and rewards.


Shelties are typically healthy, however they are susceptible to some health problems, much like any other breed. Although not all Shelties may contract one or more of these illnesses, it’s vital to be aware of them if you’re thinking about getting one.

Find a good breeder who can show you health clearances for both your dog’s parents if you’re buying a puppy. Health clearances demonstrate that a dog has been checked for and cleared of a certain illness.

Many diseases and health problems in pets are genetic, which means they are linked to the breed. The diseases we’ve mentioned here have a considerable rate of incidence and/or influence in this breed, according to canine genetic experts and veterinarians. That isn’t to say your dog will develop these issues; it simply implies she is more vulnerable than other dogs.

The most common health issues 

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

In some dogs, this is an inherited condition that can cause blindness. A veterinary ophthalmologist can diagnose it by the time the dog is two years old. Both eyes are usually afflicted, but to varying degrees. Minorly abnormal dogs make excellent pets and rarely lose their vision. Those who are badly affected may lose their vision within a few years after being diagnosed. It’s crucial to note that this is a genetic issue, and if your puppy has it, you should notify your breeder. Spaying or neutering your dog is also necessary to prevent the gene from being passed down to future generations of puppies.

von Willebrand’s Disease

A deficit in clotting factor VIII antigen causes VWD, an inherited blood condition (von Willebrand factor). Excessive bleeding following an injury or surgery is the most common symptom. Other symptoms could include nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or stomach or intestine bleeding. The majority of dogs with von Willebrand disease, on the other hand, lead normal lives. If you’re concerned, your veterinarian can conduct testing to identify whether or not your dog has it.

Hip dysplasia

The femur does not fit tightly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint in dogs with canine hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia can manifest itself clinically or without it. On one or both back legs, some dogs develop pain and lameness. Arthritis might occur as your dog aged. Hip dysplasia can be fatal to a dog’s health, thus it’s best to avoid breeding them. Request documentation from the breeder that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and have been determined to be healthy. Consult your veterinarian if your dog shows symptoms of hip dysplasia. Medication or surgery may be used to alleviate the problem.

Gastroenteritis Hemorrhagic

Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, or HGE, is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that causes bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and severe dehydration in dogs. It is most commonly seen in small and toy breeds like your Sheltie. Dogs with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis may require extensive therapy, and some dogs may succumb to the disease if not treated quickly. Gastrointestinal sickness in dogs can have a variety of reasons, but any dog exhibiting these symptoms should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


In Shetland Sheepdogs, obesity can be a serious health issue. It’s a dangerous disease that can lead to or exacerbate joint pain, metabolic and digestive difficulties, back discomfort, and heart disease. When your pet looks at you with those adoring eyes, it’s tempting to offer her food, but you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie goodies. Instead, hug her, clean her hair or teeth, play a game with her, or take a stroll with her. She’ll be happier, and you’ll be happier as well!


Pollen, mold, and dust allergies cause people to sneeze in humans. Allergies in dogs cause itching rather than sneezing. Atopy is a term used to describe a skin allergy that is common in Shelties. Most typically affected areas include the feet, tummy, skin creases, and ears. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of one and three, and they can become more severe with each passing year. The most common symptoms of allergies are licking the paws, stroking the face, and recurrent ear infections. The good news is that these illnesses can be treated in a variety of ways.


Dermatomyositis affects young Shetland Sheepdogs and causes inflammation of the skin and muscles. It appears to be caused by an immune system abnormality that is passed down through the generations as an autosomal dominant characteristic, which means that if one parent is diseased, all puppies are prone to the disorder, though some may be more affected than others. Medications can help with symptoms, but affected dogs should not be bred.


In senior dogs, cancer is the most common cause of death. Your Sheltie, on the other hand, is more likely to develop cancer at an earlier age. Many cancers can be cured with surgery, and some can be treated with chemotherapy, but early detection is essential for all sorts! At each appointment, we’ll do routine blood tests and examine your pet for lumps and bumps.

Thyroid Issues

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Shelties are prone to this condition. Dry skin and hair, susceptibility to various skin illnesses, weight gain, fearfulness, anger, and other behavioral changes are some of the symptoms. Replacing hormones in the form of a pill is generally all that is required.

Resistance to a number of drugs

A genetic deficiency in the MDR1 gene causes multidrug resistance. This mutation can alter how your Shetland Sheepdog’s body processes many drugs, including those used to treat parasites, diarrhea, and potentially cancer. For years, vets just avoided administering ivermectin in herding breeds, but now there is a DNA test that can identify dogs who are at risk for pharmaceutical adverse effects. Drug-related toxicity can be avoided if you test your pet early on.

Heart Problems

Shelties are prone to a disorder known as patent ductus arteriosus, or PDA, in which a small blood artery connecting two sections of the heart fails to seal properly soon after birth. This causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and puts a pressure on the heart. Coughing, exhaustion during activity, weight loss, shortness of breath, and weakness in the hind limbs are some of the visible symptoms that might be moderate or severe. During your pet’s checkups, we listen for a certain sort of cardiac murmur to diagnose this condition. We may recommend surgery to seal the troublesome vessel if your friend has this disease.

How much Shetland Sheepdog puppies cost?

The Shetland Sheepdog is renowned for its herding and working ability, as well as its stunning coat and prize-winning agility and athletic abilities. Individuals and families will find it to be a devoted and caring companion. As a result, a respectable breeder should charge between $1,000 and $2,000 for a puppy. Some puppies with a prize-winning pedigree could cost considerably more.

Make certain you select a trustworthy breeder. They’ll have had the parent dogs’ health assessed and screened for hip dysplasia and other disorders. They’ll also make sure the parents and puppies are cared for properly, and they’ll have started socializing and maybe training the dog before you pick him up.

Because the Sheltie breed can be apprehensive around strangers, early socialization is very vital. They learn that new settings and individuals do not have to be scared as a result of healthy socializing. Parents teach these talents to their puppies as well. They learn how to respond in new settings and around people from their mother, so attempt to meet your puppy’s parents to watch how they react. Both the puppy and the parents should approach you without being alarmed.

Final thoughts on the Shetland Sheepdog

The Sheltie may look like a show dog, and many of them are these days. But beneath the shiny coat is a powerful, athletic working breed with a bright mind and a lot of energy. It can take a long time for Shetland Sheepdogs to get used to meeting new people. They are also always ready to alert their owners to anything that they see.

This dog is best for a mature family with older kids or a family that doesn’t have any kids. There are good things about the way they have busy, active minds and quick learning abilities, but they can get overwhelmed and learn the wrong things, especially when they’re with little kids.

While many dogs have a reputation for being wonderful with children, all dogs and children must be taught to get along and stay safe together. It’s still not safe for dogs and small children to be alone together, and people should always watch their interactions.

My name is Katy and I am 27. I love to travel and you would be surprised how good I am at karaoke. 🙂 Passionate dog lover and a "mother" to a beautiful toy puddle named Zara. I work as a volunteer in a local shelter and I am a veterinary assistant helping our four-legged friends every day.