A small breed, the Shetland Sheepdog, also known as a Sheltie, stands from thirteen to sixteen inches high at the shoulder and weighs approximately twenty pounds. Resembling a Rough Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog is a beautiful, lightly built, nimble, strong dog that can run fast and jump high. It has a wedge-shaped, long head with dark, almond shaped eyes, except on blue merle dogs. Their eyes can be either merle or a blue color. Its small expressive, flexible ears have drooping tips and they have a black nose. Shelties have a magnificent frill and lion-like mane around their neck, and a gorgeous long double coat. The expression on the Shetland Sheepdogs face should be intelligent, questioning, gentle, and watchful.
The double-coated Shetland Sheepdogs have a long, harsh-textured, straight topcoat and a close, shorthaired, soft undercoat. The hair on the Shelties feet, ears, and head is smooth but the hair on their mane, fore-chest, tail, legs, and around the neck is long and abundant. With varying amounts of tan and/or white markings, the three basic colors of the Shetland Sheepdog include black; sable ranging from mahogany to golden; and blue merle, which is a black and blue-grey.
The Shetland Sheepdog comes from the rugged Shetland Islands, which are approximately fifty miles north of Scotland. Brought to Scotland and England in the early eighteen hundreds, people described them as miniature Collies. Although the popular Border collie has replaced the Shetland Sheepdog in the Shetland Islands, Shelties are popular throughout the world as show dogs, pets, and herding dogs working on farms.
The Shetland Sheepdogs are sensitive, gentle, and intensely loyal with a broad array of personalities from boisterous and outgoing to sedate, calm, or shy. They are a wonderful addition to any family, always willing to obey and please everyone. Considered one of the smartest of all dog breeds, they are highly trainable and seem to have almost human intelligence. These affectionate dogs get along wonderfully with children that are gentle with them, other dogs and pets in the family. Because of the Shelties herding instinct, they sometimes nip at people’s ankles and feet.
Often wary of strangers, they will bark to let you know if someone is on the property or at the door. Although they are always watchful, alert and make excellent watchdogs, they make poor guard dogs because they are just too friendly. Socialization and obedience training from a young age is important for Shetland Sheepdogs so they know how to behave in social situations, what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Some Shelties are a little too vocal but proper training controls this problem.
Of the one hundred and thirty-two dog breeds tested, the Shetland Sheepdog ranks number six in intelligence. Both the female and male dogs make terrific family pets, with a love for their family, kind temperament, and sweet disposition.
Shetland Sheepdogs are well suited for country or suburban life in small or large living quarters as long as they receive sufficient daily exercise such as regular walks, playing, and training.
Some of the inherited diseases and health concerns found in Shetland Sheepdogs include Progressive retinal atrophy, Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, Van Willebrand Disease, Collie eye anomaly, and Sheltie skin syndrome. Generally, a healthy breed, it is important to be aware of and watch for health problems because, catching problems early enough can make a big difference in the health outcome of the dog.
The beautiful coat of the Shetland Sheepdog requires a regular weekly brushing using a pin brush. Always lightly mist the Shelties coat with water first to tease out any tangles or mattes and this keeps from damaging the hair. Pay special attention to the hair beneath the shoulders, hindquarters, and behind the ears because these are the areas inclined to tangle. Use a small slicker brush to remove any tangles and mats found here but again, to prevent hair damage, mist the coat first.
During shedding season or in warmer climates, the Shetland Sheepdogs often require extra brushing to remove the dead or loose hair and dirt, helping prevent tangles and keeping the dogs coat cleaner. Dry shampoo or bath the Sheltie using a mild dog shampoo and conditioner when necessary.
Shetland Sheepdogs are loyal, active, affectionate, intelligent dogs that require both physical and mental challenges. This not only makes the dogs happy but also keeps them from becoming bored. Shelties require a fenced, safe, large outdoor yard or area to run, play, and release some of their natural energy. Because they are herding dog descendants, it is natural for them to love chasing animals, people, children or anything else that causes visual movement or stimulation. Shelties also love going on walks with their master or family members.
Shetland Sheepdogs are highly intelligent, obedient, can problem solve, are easy to train and love spending time in agility or obedience classes. They learn to fetch Frisbees or other items and are happy to jog or run with you. Using the correct training methods, teaching these dogs anything is normally a very easy, successful matter. Although obedience training and socialization should start at a very young age, Shelties are so trainable and intelligent that even training older dogs is just as successful. A great way to socialize and train your dog at the same time is taking it to professional training classes. Extremely intelligent, eager to learn, and quick to obey is part of the Shelties natural demeanor making them exceptionally easy to train.