Shetland Sheepdog – Everything You Need To Know

Shetland Sheepdogs are purebred dogs developed to guard the farmers’ gardens in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. Otherwise known as Shelties, they are small working dogs known for their herding abilities, affection, and intelligence. Shetland Sheepdogs were originally called Shetland Collie, but they had to be renamed because of the controversy among the Rough Collie breeders. This small herd dog is diligent, vocal, willing to please, and always excited over things. In his studies, they are highly intelligent and have been ranked the 6th most intelligent dogs by an animal intelligence expert, Dr. Stanley Coren. They are naturally made to protect their families and excel in performance events, including agility. Shetland Sheepdogs are known to be the sweet Shelties that weigh equally in being protective and unconditionally loving toward their families.

Shetland Sheepdog Pros and Cons

Smart and quick learnerHighly vocal
AdaptableHigh shedding
Bond well with familiesFood sensitive

Shetland Sheepdog Basic Information

  • Name: Shetland Sheepdog
  • Origin: Scotland
  • Group: Herding dog
  • Size: Small
  • Height: Male: 13-16 inches,  Female: 13-16 inches
  • Weight: Male: 11-24 pounds, Female: 11-24 pounds
  • Coat: Long double-coated, water-resistant
  • Color: Sable, mahogany sable, shaded sable, tri-colored, bi-black, bi-blue, blue merle, bi-blue merle, sable merle, double merle, black and tan
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Herding, agility, obedience, flyball, tracking
  • Barking Level: High
  • Shedding Level: High
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 4 – 6 puppies
  • Other Names: Shetland Collie (obsolete), Dwarf Scotch Shepherd (obsolete)
  • Original Passtime: Herding, guarding
  • Life Span: 12 – 18 years

History of Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog comes from the Shetland Islands, which is located between Scotland and Norway. These dogs were bred to guard the farms and were called Toonie, which means “farm” in Norwegian. They were bred to protect the sheep from the birds. Shelties love to chase birds and try to chase airplanes and helicopters. This breed’s origin is uncertain and largely resembles the Rough Collie. They are the descendants of a smaller Scottish Collie and King Charles Spaniel. Like the Shetland sheep, Shetland Ponies, and Shetland cattle of Shetland, these dogs were also bred to thrive in the harsh conditions of the Shetland Islands. It was believed that they were small mixed breed dogs, and the original Shetland Sheepdog belonged to the Spitz group. 

In the early 20th century, the Collies from mainland Britain were crossed with the original Shetland herding dogs, resulting in the modern-day Shetland Sheepdog. It is also rumored that the natives crossbred the native sheepdogs with Prince Charles Spaniel and some Pomeranian dogs that the tourists left behind. The English Kennel Club first registered a female Sheltie called Badenoch Rosein in 1909. The AKC registered its first Sheltie named “Lord Scott” in 1911. 

England imported the Shetland Sheepdogs to the U.S until the 1950s, and all the dogs of this breed are the descendants of the dogs imported from England during World War I and II. Eventually, Shetland Sheepdogs began to increase in number around the 1970s and started to gain popularity by the early 1990s. Shetland Sheepdogs are ranked the 20th most popular breed out of 155 registered by the American Kennel Club. Sadly, Shelties are not pretty much found in the native islands today as the Border Collies have replaced them.

Shetland Sheepdog Highlights

  • Shelties are highly vocal and have a loud, piercing bark. Train your Shelties to stop barking on command.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs are heavy shedders, and they shed a lot during the springtime.
  • They are highly intelligent and stubborn and always love to be engaged in a job.
  • They are athletic and love to run. They thrive greatly on physical activities like agility and flyball.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs are the best obedience breeds.
  • The American Shetland Sheepdog Association, organized at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1929, held its first-ever specialty show in 1933.
  • They are double-coated, and the coat serves its purpose in the cold, wet, and windy weather of the Shetland Islands.

Shetland Sheepdog Personality

Shetland Sheepdogs are small-sized dogs that grow up to 13-16 inches and weigh about 11-24 pounds. Shelties are strong, compact yet agile, have a double coat that is water-resistant and hypoallergenic. The double helps these dogs withstand the harsh cold climate of the Shetland Islands. The undercoat is short while the dense topcoat is harsher. The hair on the ears, head, and feet is smooth. While the hair around the neck and forechest is smooth and abundant. 

The legs and tail are also furry and smooth. The coat colors include sable, mahogany sable, shaded sable, tri-colored, bi-black, bi-blue, blue merle, bi-blue merle, sable merle, color headed white, double merle, black and tan. The head is wedge-shaped, long, and slender. The ears are small, erect, and set high. They have almond-shaped eyes and a striking resemblance to the Rough Collie. They look bright, and sweet and carry the “Sheltie smile” around just as referred to by the Sheltie owners.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow
Good for new ownersMedium
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneLow 
Cold toleranceHigh
Heat toleranceMedium

Shetland Sheepdog Physical Features

Head: The head is wedge-shaped, slender long, and proportional to the body. The eyes are almond-shaped, medium-sized, with intelligent, alert expressions. The ears are small, erect, and flexible, with tips breaking forward. The muzzle and skull are equal in size and blend smoothly; the cheeks are round, well developed, and blend smoothly with the well-rounded muzzle. The nose and lips are black.

Neck: The neck is muscular, arched, and carries the head promptly.

Topline: The backline is level, strongly muscled, and firm. They have a deep and muscular chest. The abdomen is moderately tucked up, and the ribs are well-sprung.

Body: The body is broad and strongly built. The abdomen is moderately tucked up, and the ribs are well-sprung. 

Tail: Tail bones are long that they reach the hock. The tail is plumed and long. Finally, the tail is long enough and reaches the hock joint laid-back position. The tail is lifted when the dog is alert.

Forequarters: The shoulders are laid back, muscled, and close to the body. The forelegs have sufficient bones and muscles to provide balance. Each foreleg carries a dewclaw. The front feet are well padded, round, and close cupped, and the toes are well arched.

Hindquarters: The hindquarters are well balanced and powerful. The hips and thighs are muscular. The feet are firm, round, well-padded, and close cupped with arched toes. The declaws should be removed.

Coat: They have thick double coats that are weather-resistant. The outer coat is long, straight, and harsh with a flurry undercoat. The forelegs and rear legs have featherings called a pantaloon effect. The hair on the face, tips of the ear, and feet are smooth.

Color: Sable, mahogany sable, shaded sable, tri-colored, bi-black, bi-blue, blue merle, bi-blue merle, sable merle, color headed white, double merle, black and tan.

Gait: The gait is smooth and elegant, exhibiting power and effortless speed. Well-balanced with good reach and strong drive.

Shetland Sheepdog  Temperament

Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their sweet “Sheltie smile” and are gentle and eager to please intelligent dogs. They have an intelligence that is above average and excel in herding. They make a good watchdog and are highly vocal. Shelties are affectionate and protective towards their families. They are bred to chase birds from the farm and to herd sheep. They carry this instinct to this day and love to chase helicopters and airplanes, interpreting them as birds. They herd cars and children with their herding traits. They do so well with kids and other animals with proper training and early socialization. They are active and working dogs by nature and bark a lot. They develop strong bonds with humans and love to follow them from room to room, referred to as their owner’s shadow. Their overall temperament includes

  • Loyal
  • Gentle
  • Sensitive
  • Intelligent
  • Watchdog
  • Protective
  • Affectionate
  • Athletic

Shetland Sheepdog Training

The Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent and stubborn and make training quite difficult. Like any other dog, they need early socialization and puppy training classes. The training requires patience and consistency during the period. They are sensitive to any adverse reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They are active, can be used as service dogs, medical alert dogs, therapy dogs and look forward to the training sessions. Playing fetch, which helps in training regarding behavioral corrections. They do not respond to harsh commands, and lots of praises, cuddles, and treats work wonders during the training. Obedience training and socialization help in behavioral correction and bring out the best in any dog. Shelties become bored easily, and hence it is necessary to keep the training interesting. Their training can include the following:

Shetland Sheepdog Exercise Needs

Shetland Sheepdogs are highly active and energetic and need ample exercise. A daily routine of 30-60 minutes of exercise is ideal for keeping the dog’s mental and physical stimulation intact. Walking 2 – 3 times a day with a bit of running and play keeps the dog happy and healthy. They thrive on activities like agility and flyball. Shetland Sheepdogs are happy with indoor games and love playing ball, frisbee, fetch and excel in agility. They enjoy running, walking, hiking, agility, and indoor games. They are active working dogs and love to be engaged. A proper exercise routine helps the dog with the following benefits.

  • Social interaction
  • Weight Control
  • Stress Relief
  • Behavioral Corrections like excessive chewing, persistent barking
  • Brain stimulation
  • Strengthening Muscles
  • Routine Toileting
  • Mental health and happiness

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh
IntensityHigh to medium

Shetland Sheepdog Grooming

Shetland Sheepdogs are double-coated with high levels of shedding. They are easy to groom, and the coat needs to be brushed 2-3 times per week. They may need extra brushing during their shedding season. Brushing helps remove matted hair and pull out the loose fur during shedding. One of the essential parts of grooming is bathing which keeps the dog clean. However, frequent bathing causes dry skin and itches. Bathing your dog using shampoos with pH. balanced for dogs, pet wipes will keep your dog’s coat fresh, clean, and shiny. They can also be bathed once a week. However, daily brushing helps to keep the fur from knots and tangles. 

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They are prone to collect ear wax quickly. Hence, Ears should be cleaned and regularly checked as they are prone to ear problems. Brush their teeth daily to prevent plaque and other dental problems. Never brush the teeth with a stiff brush as it will harm the gums and teeth. Also, make sure to use dog-friendly toothpaste. 

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Also, clean their eyes and trim their nails as a part of everyday grooming needs. Their toenails need to be checked once a week as longer nails may harm and injure the dog. You can trim the toenails with a commercial dog nail trimmer or with the help of a vet or professional groomer.

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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomLow
Drooling tendenciesLow 
Amount of sheddingHigh

Shetland Sheepdog Health

Shetland Sheepdog is a healthy and active dog. Yet, it’s always wise to be aware of the health conditions they are prone to. 

Health Overview

General healthHigh
Weight gain tendenciesHigh to medium

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is outwardly a painful disease that occurs when the bones of the back legs do not fit properly in the joints. While some dogs will exhibit symptoms, the majority of canines will not. Hip dysplasia is primarily genetic, although other causes such as accidents, excessive weight gain, and inappropriate training can also cause it. Even though this disease is fatal, therapies range from medicine to hip replacement surgery. Unfortunately, this condition causes defects or damage to the hip bones and joints and worsens without treatment. To avoid this problem, avoid breeding dogs with hip dysplasia parentage and get annual examinations.

Other Causes of Hip Dysplasia:

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Reduced activity and movements
  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run or climb
  • Lameness in the hind limbs
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass
  • Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
  • Grating in the joint during movement
  • Enlarging shoulders
  • Pain
  • Stiffness

Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which a dog’s metabolism is slowed due to the lack of thyroid hormone production. Among the signs and symptoms are 

  • Lethargy 
  • Gaining weight 
  • Reluctance to work out 
  • Hair Loss. 

Collie Eye Anomaly: CEA is an inherited developmental condition usually seen in breeds like Australian shepherds, Border Collies, Shetland sheepdogs, etc. This disorder can lead a dog to blindness. 

Von Willebrand’s Disease: This genetic blood disorder impairs the blood’s ability to clot. The primary symptom is excessive bleeding after surgery. Nosebleeds, bleeding jaws, and intestinal or bowel bleeding are some of the signs and consequences. There is still no cure, and the only option is a transfusion from healthy canines. New treatments, including medicine, are being investigated. Most dogs with Von Willebrand’s syndrome can lead everyday lives. You must take your dog to the vet for diagnosis. 

Obesity: Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to obesity, exacerbating hip and elbow dysplasia. This disorder negatively hits a dog’s health and durability. Obese canines exhibit an increased risk of heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes, joint problems, and hypertension. 

Dental Issues: Dental issues like bleeding gums, gum inflammation, tartar buildup, bad breath, and cavities are common in Shetland Sheepdogs. Regularly brushing their teeth can prevent oral infections, gum diseases, and other dental problems. 

Epilepsy: This is the most prevalent neurological disease in canines, concerning about 0.75 percent of the population. Epilepsy is a broad name for disorders characterized by repeated, uncontrollable seizures caused by a brain defect. 

Eye Defects  

  • Deformed Eyes (Small Microphthalmia): Animals suffering from this deformation develop smaller eyes as the nictitating membranes cover their eyes sockets or sockets. For this reason, they may be confined to an eye or both.   
  • Missing Eye or Eyes (Anophthalmia): This congenital disability occurs when one or both eyes are missing. At times, the eyes may have been formed but exist very deep inside the eye socket that the nictitating membrane covers them.   
  • Wandering Eye: This condition is characterized by eye degeneration which causes the lens to be liquefied.  
  • Cataracts: The condition causes cloudiness on the eye lens, which can lead to blindness.  
  • Starburst Pupil (Coloboma): This deformation may be associated with deafness and blindness. It is similar to an eye cleft. This condition may also lead to cataracts in dogs.   
  • Jagged Pupils: Dogs suffering from this defect are sensitive to light as their pupils have irregular edges.   
  • Blindness: Lack of eyesight in one or both eyes  
  • Corectopia: This condition doesn’t affect the dogs severely but may get associated with other issues. In this condition, the pupils of the eye droop below their normal position.   
  • Cherry Eye: When the glands under your canine’s eyelid protrude, it appears like cherry and has to be removed surgically. 
  • Dry Eye:  This painful condition dries the affected eye or creates a blue haze due to the insufficient production of tears. It can be treated with proper medication or teardrops. 
  • Entropion: Entropion is when the eyelids are positioned inwards, disturbing the eye and causing eye irritation. Treatment involves correcting the eyelids surgically. 

Spay or Neuter: In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended tests for Shetland Sheepdog

  • X-Rays 
  • CT Scan 
  • Eye Examination 
  • Physical Examination 
  • Blood Work
  • Vet-certified proof of genetic testing

Shetland Sheepdog Diet and Nutrition

Shetland Sheepdogs need a large quantity of high-quality food, and they should eat ¾ to 2 cups of meal every day. Each puppy is distinctive, and the correct amount and quality of food depend on their age, weight, activity level, health, and more. The meals can also be split into two 2 cups daily. They are prone to obesity, and hence overfeeding must be avoided. Shetland Sheepdog pups can be given dry food, wet food, or a combination of both. Make sure the diet contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, chondroitin, and glucosamine. They can also be fed with fruits, and vegetables that give carbohydrate energy. Never hesitate to consult a vet to meet your pup’s dietary requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

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Shetland Sheepdog Living Condition

Shetland Sheepdog loves to be around their humans, follows them all day and night, is adaptable, and can live in apartments with sufficient exercise or homes with bigger yards. They love outdoor activities like walking, running, playing, and hunting, and visiting dog parks. When allowed in a backyard, the place should be adequately fenced. They love the attention of their owners and develop strong bonds. They suit well homes with smaller kids and other pets of the family. The Shetland Sheepdog is sensitive yet can stay at home alone quite contently. They are highly adaptable to cold weather conditions and moderately tolerate both hot temperatures. They thrive on companionship, playtime, training, praises, and cuddles.

Adding a Shetland Sheepdog to Your Family

Things to remember before adding a Shetland Sheepdog to your family

It is best to get a Shetland Sheepdog from a reputable breeder to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health disorders and provide you with vaccination certificates. In addition, it is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure his health and happiness. Always remember the following red flags to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills.

  • Puppies are available around the year.
  • You can choose from a variety of litter that is always available.
  • One will be promised any puppy they want.

Cost of a Shetland Sheepdog Puppy

The cost of a Shetland Sheepdog puppy ranges from $500 and $1500.

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