Shetland Sheepdog

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The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie for short, has the appearance of the Rough Haired Collie, but in miniature. As well as having Rough Collies as ancestors, it is thought that Spitz type dogs played a part in the development of this small breed.


Many breeds of dog that have similar physical appearances but are just smaller in size from its larger cousin are bred by selecting the smaller examples of the dog and breeding exclusively from them. This is not thought to be the case with the Sheltie as it is thought the original Sheltie type dog was a Spitz based breed which lived in the Scottish Islands. It was then crossed with Rough and Border Collies and the King Charles Spaniel from the mainland of the UK. The original Spitz type working sheepdog of Shetland is now extinct, having been replaced for working and herding by the successful Border Collie. When the dog was originally bred, they were named Shetland Collies, which upset Rough Collie breeders, so the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog.


Average height to withers: Male and female both between 13-16 inches.

Average weight: Both male and female can be up to 10kg.

The overall appearance of this dog is that of a miniature Rough Haired Collie with the same thick and lush double coat. It has a downy and soft under coat with a coarser over coat. It has the same ruff of hair around its neck as the Rough Collie, but perhaps not as much quantity or as thick on occasion. It displays feathers down its legs, underbelly and tail. There are 3 recognised colours for Shelties. These are tricolour, sable and white and blue merle which presents on the coat as a mottled grey colour. There are additional colours with this breed though called 'modified' colours, they present as merle patterns of the original tri and sable colours. All coats have a proportion of white hair present. Having the same elongated nose and head as the Rough Collie, the muzzle should never be square and blunt, but a rounded shape at the end of a tapered head and face. The eyes are almost always dark, but lighter eyes are sometimes seen in merle coloured Collies, (especially those with the 'modified' coat colours), and are an almond shaped with a medium size. The ears usually tip forwards.


Ranking amongst the top ten breeds for intelligence, the Sheltie is lively, clever, playful, trainable and willing to please. They are loving, loyal, and affectionate with their family, but can be quite stand offish with people they do not know. Shelties do well with children if they are socialised from a young age with them. An early routine of both training and socialisation will bring out the best in this breed. They excel at canine sports such as flyball and agility and as a little dog with quite a high level of energy and drive to work this is a positive route for the outlet of this. They love to chase and herd people and other animals and the owner can work with this instinct in a variety of ways including trailing. Otherwise this needs to be discouraged with a regular exercise routine and consistent, firm but positive training. If the owner neglects the Shelties need for physical and mental stimulation, it can result in a number of undesirable behaviours including pica (sucking and ingesting objects) and excessive barking. Shelties are vocal dogs, and are very alert to outside stimuli with the average Sheltie being a first class watch dog.


On average, Shelties live between 11-15 years of age. As per the Rough Haired Collie, they are prone to the series of eye disorders collectively known as Collie Eye Anomaly or CEA. CEA is an inherited and congenital disease of the eye which affects certain parts of the eye. It is usually a mild disease that does not affect them to any disadvantage, however, breeders of Border Collies can now utilise a DNA test to ensure their dogs do not produce any pups which carry the disease.

Shelties are also more susceptible to Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) than many other breeds. TCC is a cancer of the bladder, and can be diagnosed early by regular urinalysis from a normal veterinarian. With the high incidences within the breed it is advised the owner has this done at the earliest opportunity.

It is also thought that certain bloodlines of Shelties are more likely to develop Hip Dysplasia and Hyperthyroidism.

Caring for a Shetland Sheepdog

Like its larger counterpart, the Sheltie must have regular grooming, preferably once a day to make sure that seeds and burrs are not caught up in the hair. If left undetected in the hair, they can quickly become large and painful knots in the coat, which pull in the skin and will need cutting out. For a smaller dog, the Sheltie requires quite a lot of exercise and will do well with a couple of walks per day.

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