Shetland Sheepdog

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Shetland Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Shetland Sheepdog

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #115 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Shetland Sheepdog breed is also commonly known by the names Sheltie, Miniature Collie.
12 - 13 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Pastoral Group
Males 33.0 - 44.6 cm
Females 33 - 44.6 cm at the withers
Males 33.0 - 44.6 cm
Females 33 - 44.6 cm at the withers
Average Price (More Info)
£806 for KC Registered
£549 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


The Shetland Sheepdog looks very much like a smaller version of a Rough Haired Collie and has the same luxuriously thick double coat. Over the years, these charming small dogs have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world thanks to their delightful and loyal natures. Shelties are also very popular whenever they are exhibited in the show-ring both with judges and spectators thanks to their glorious coats and charming looks.


The Shetland Sheepdog was developed in the Shetland Islands situated off the northeast coast of Scotland and the breed is a relative newcomer to the dog world. The first dogs were registered in 1908 and a year later in 1909, the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed. However, similar dogs were reported to have existed as far back as 1844 being referred to as Lilliputian Collies, the Toonie Dog, Peerie Dog, Miniature Collies and Fairy Dogs.

There is some belief these charming dog's history can be traced back to when Northern Spitz type dogs were bought over to northern England from Scandinavia. However, the breed's actual ancestry remains a bit of a mystery and is often hotly debated. What is known is that when first officially registered, the breed was called the Shetland Collie, but this was later changed to Shetland Sheepdog following objections from enthusiasts of the Collie breed. A breed standard was established by a Shetlander when the breed was exhibited at Crufts in 1906 although at the time, these lovely little dogs were referred to as Miniature Collies.

Today, the Shetland Sheepdog remains a popular choice both as a family pet and companion dog throughout the world thanks to their charming looks, their small stature and their loyal, affection natures.


Height at the withers: Males 33.0 - 44.6 cm, Females 33 - 44.6 cm at the withers

Average weight: Males 6.4 - 12.3 kg, Females 6.4 - 12.3 kg

The Shetland Sheepdog resembles a Rough Coated Collie, only in miniature. They have a very refined, elegant head which tapers nicely to the nose. Their heads are flat between a dog's ears and there's no obvious occipital bone although there is a definite albeit not too obvious stop. Their noses, lips and eye rims are black with dogs having a kind, alert and intelligent look about them. Eyes are moderate in size and set obliquely being round in shape and a nice dark brown in colour with the exception of merle dogs where one or both of their eyes can be flecked with blue or a solid blue colour.

Their ears are small and set moderately wide apart with dogs carrying them back when relaxed, but forward when excited or alert with the very tips falling forwards. The Shetland Sheepdog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are nicely arched, muscular and sufficiently long so it allows a dog a proud head carriage.

Shoulders are nicely laid back and ribs well sprung with dogs having nice, straight and well-muscled front legs. Their chests are deep reaching down to the point of a dog's elbows and their backs are level, gently sweeping over their loins. Croups slope gently to a dog's backend adding to their graceful appearance.

Hindquarters are strong with dogs having strong, well-muscled back legs and nicely padded oval feet with well arched, tight toes. Their tails are set low and taper to the tip with a profuse amount of hair growing its full length. Dogs carry their tails slightly raised when excited, but they never carry them any higher or over their backs.

When it comes to their coat, the Shetland Sheepdog has a thick dense coat that consists of a harsher, straight top coat and a much softer, short undercoat. The hair around a dog's neck is longer and more profuse forming a mane and their front legs are nicely feathered. Back legs have an abundance of hair above the hocks, but it's smoother on their lower back legs. The accepted breed colours are as follows:

  • Black and tan
  • Black and white
  • Blue merle
  • Merle
  • Sable
  • Sable and white
  • Shaded sable
  • Shaded sable and white
  • Tricolour


The Shetland Sheepdog is an energetic, highly intelligent dog and one that boasts having a bit of a glamorous look about them. They are busy dogs and like nothing more than to be out and about with an owner. They form very strong bonds with their families and once this bond is formed, it is often unbreakable. However, they can be a little wary and aloof around strangers although rarely would a Sheltie show any sort of aggression to anyone they did not already know, preferring to just keep their distance until they got to know them.

Shelties are cheerful by nature and they thrive on human company which can have its downside with dogs forming such strong attachments with an owner that they suffer from separation anxiety when they are not around. As such, they are a great choice for families where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house, but such a good choice in households where everyone is out of the house during the day.

They are incredibly intelligent, being ranked sixth out of seventy-nine other breeds and because they love to please, in the right hands these charming dogs are easy to train and revel in the one-to-one attention they are given during a training session. It's really important for Shelties to be well socialised from a young age so they mature into more confident adult dogs. If a dog is not socialised well enough, they can often be a little timid and shy when they are put in unfamiliar situations or when they meet new people and other dogs.

They are a good choice for first time owners as long as they have the time to dedicate to their grooming and exercise needs. Shelties need to know their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household or they may start to show a more dominant side to their nature. They are never happier or more well balanced when they know who they can look to for direction and guidance. They form the strongest bond with one person which is usually the person who takes the most care of them although they are always loving towards everyone in a household.

Shelties do not like being left on their own for long periods of time which can lead to a dog developing all sorts of behavioural issues. This can include excessive barking and being destructive around the home. They like the sound of their own voices and because they are always very alert, a Sheltie enjoys letting an owner know when there are any strangers about.

Intelligence / Trainability

Because Shelties are so intelligent and quick to learn new things, in the right hands and in the right environment, they are easy to train and excel at all sorts of canine sports which includes things like flyball, agility and obedience. Shelties are high energy dogs and as such they really enjoy taking part in any sort activity that keeps them moving and focussed. However, they also boast having a strong herding instinct which if left unchecked when these dogs are young, can turn into a real problem. They are known to have a bit of a stubborn streak and as such they need to be handled with a firm, always fair and gentle hand to get the best out of these lovely little dogs.

They are very sensitive by nature and do not respond well to any sort of heavy handed training nor do they answer well to harsh correction when they get something wrong. However, Shelties respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which achieves the best results bringing out the natural talents of these highly intelligent dogs. It's important to reward a Sheltie with fewer good quality treats rather than too many lower quality ones because they are known to put on weight far too easily. Fewer high quality rewards are therefore much better than lots of low quality ones.

Children and Other Pets

Shelties are known to have very loyal and affectionate natures and they thrive being in a family environment. However, they can be a little nervous when they are around very young children as such any interaction between a Sheltie and toddler needs to be well supervised by an adult just in case they get a bit snappy. With this said, the Sheltie is a good choice of family pet in households where the children are older and therefore know how to behave around dogs.

Because they boast having a very strong herding instinct, some Shelties cannot resist chasing other dogs which is why it's so important for them to be well socialised and introduced to other dogs from a young enough age. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together although a Sheltie would think nothing of chasing any other cats they come across. Care should be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets, just in case.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Shetland Sheepdog Health

The average life expectancy of a Shetland Sheepdog is between 12 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Like so many other breeds, the Sheltie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these charming, active dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Hip dysplasia - Breeders should have their stud dogs hip scored
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) - Breeders should have their stud dogs eye tested
  • Cancer of the bladder
  • von Willebrand's disease (vWD) - Test available
  • A sensitivity to certain drugs and sedatives 
  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)
  • Obesity

Caring for a Shetland Sheepdog

As with any other breed, Shelties need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Shelties have profuse long, dense coats that consist of a harsher top coat and a much softer and thicker undercoat. The hair around their neck is thicker forming a charming mane. As such, they are high maintenance in the grooming department and ideally, their coats need to be brushed every single day to prevent any matts or tangles from forming.

They are heavy shedders and shed even more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is typically necessary to keep on top of things and to remove dead and loose hair. Shelties also need to be taken to be professionally groomed several times a year which makes keeping their coats tidy and in good condition that much easier between visits to a grooming parlour.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Shelties are intelligent, energetic little dogs and therefore they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and as much mental stimulation as possible for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. These dogs need to be given as much "off the lead" time as possible so they can really express themselves. However, care has to be taken as to where and when they are allowed to run free and they need to have been taught a strong recall command.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.

With this said, Sheltie puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.


If you get a Sheltie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go bearing in mind that Shelties are prone to ploughing on the pounds far too easily.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Shetland Sheepdog

If you are looking to buy a Sheltie, you would need to pay anything from £800 to  over £100 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Sheltie in northern England would be £19.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Shetland Sheepdog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Shetland Sheepdog would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.

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