The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, as it is affectionately called, is by all appearances a miniature Collie, and while it does share some genetic traits with the Collie, it is not considered to be of that breed class. The Sheltie is a member of the working class of herding dogs, and it continues to excel in that area. With the ability to learn commands in less then five repetitions, it is considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds. An alert watchdog and an affectionate companion, the Sheltie is an ideal breed for an active and youthful family.
Shelties are a breed of their own, with the personality to prove it. This loyal herding dog was bred to help farmers and protect homes and is known to vocalize its protective instincts by barking. Intelligent as can be, Shelties rank among the top performers in agility and obedience training.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed, with a face that always seems to be smiling, the Shetland Sheepdog, has long been a family favorite. Not a Miniature Collie but his own distinctive breed, the Sheltie is loyal, funny, and smart. He is also a barker.
Canines of the Shetland Sheepdog dog breed stood guard for farmers in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, keeping hungry birds and sheep out of the farmer’s garden, and they served as herding dogs as well. Today they’re excellent family companions and superstars in dog sports.
The Sheltie is an active, fun-loving dog who’s a little too big to be small but small enough to be cute. His gentle disposition, athleticism, and keen intelligence make him a dog who lives to please and loves to show off. Trick-training is a breeze with this breed.
Although his barking may make him difficult to tolerate in noisy city environs, he’s well-suited to a suburban lifestyle and (overall health permitting) is a wonderful walking, running, or hiking companion who can go for miles. Expect attention when out with a Sheltie; his cuteness always attracts a crowd and admiring comments.
Along with the Border Collie, this diminutive speed demon is tops at the canine sport of agility. Less competitively, he loves to learn tricks that require a degree of agility, such as jumping over a bar or through a hoop. Retrieving games are not in the breed’s contract, but some Shelties become tennis ball freaks and will fetch them for hours. Don’t toss the ball into water, however: Most Shelties seem to think they are made of sugar.
Though the “Lassie” markings are most common and popular, Shelties come in other varieties with varying degrees of white ruff and paws, including dogs with mottled gray-black coats (blue merles) or solid black coats. Blue merle dogs may have blue eyes and may be deaf in one or both ears.
- Many Shelties are very vocal, and they have a loud, piercing bark. To keep your relations with neighbors friendly, it’s important to train your Sheltie at an early age to stop barking on command.
- Expect your Sheltie to shed profusely in the spring, and sometimes at other times in the year.
- Shelties are extremely intelligent and like to have a job to do. They can be stubborn, however. Make training fun and allow them time to make up their own minds to do what you want them to do.
- Shelties have a lot of energy and need to be able to run. They thrive on activities such as agility and flyball, where they get both mental and physical exercise.
- Shelties have been popular family dogs for many years. Because there’s a big demand for puppies, there are many poorly bred Shelties for sale. If you’re looking for a puppy, make sure you find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments. To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn’t provide health clearances or guarantees.
- The Sheltie is among the top 20 breeds registered by the AKC.
- Shelties have strong herding instinct and do well in herding instinct tests and herding trials. They are also hotshots at agility, obedience, rally, and tracking.
AKC group: Herding
Unlike many miniature breeds that resemble their larger counterparts, this breed was not developed simply by selectively breeding the Rough Collie for smaller and smaller size. The original sheepdog of Shetland was a Spitz-type dog, probably similar to the modern Icelandic sheepdog. This dog was crossed with mainland working collies brought to the islands, and then after being brought to England, it was further extensively crossed with the Rough Collie, and other breeds including some or all of the extinct Greenland Yakki, the King Charles Spaniel (not the Cavalier), the Pomeranian, and possibly the Border Collie. The original Spitz-type working sheepdog of Shetland is now extinct, having been replaced for herding there by the Border Collie. The Shetland Sheepdog in its modern form has never been used as a working dog on Shetland, and ironically it is uncommon there.
The Sheltie’s reserved nature can slide into shyness, timidity, or nervousness, all of which are inappropriate for the breed. He should not be stubborn, snappy, or ill-tempered. To have a Sheltie as he’s meant to be, it’s essential to make sure he gets plenty of socialization, coupled with firm, consistent training with respect to his barking.
The Shetland has a questioning, intelligent, gentle and expression. Even though it appears like a miniature version of Rough Collie, it has some differences as well. This agile Sheepdog has a small body that is long in proportion to its height. Its gait is ground covering, smooth, effortless, and, imparts good speed, agility, and endurance necessary in a herding dog. Its double coat comprises a dense, soft, short undercoat that effectively keeps the Sheltie comfortable in both cold and warm environments, with a straight, long, harsh outer coat that repels rain and moisture. The mane, tail, and frill have abundant hair, with the mane growing to impressive sizes on the male Shelties especially. Colors are various. The two main colorations are sable colored – a mix of dark and light brown with white – or blue merle, with gray, white and black. The Sheltie can be as small as 12 inches, and as tall as 16 inches, but in either case is considered to be a small dog.
- Sable – Sable is dominant over other colors. May be pure for sable (two sable genes) or may be tri-factored or bi-factored (carrying one sable gene and one tricolor or bicolor gene). “Tri-factored” sable and “shaded” sable are NOT interchangeable terms. A shaded dog (one with a lot of black overlay on a sable coat) may or may not be tri-factored or bi-factored.
- Tricolor – black, white, and tan. Tricolor is dominant over bi-black. May be pure for tricolor (2 tri genes) or may be bi-factored (carrying one tricolor gene and one bicolor gene).
- Bi-black – black and white. Bi-black is recessive. A bi-black Sheltie carries 2 bi-black genes; thus, any dog of any other color with a bi-black parent is also bi-factored.
- Blue merle—blue, white, and tan. A tricolor with the merling gene. May have blue eyes.
- Bi-blue—blue and white. A bi-black with the merling gene. May have blue eyes.
- Sable merle—faded or mottled sable and white. Often born with a mottled coat of darker brown over lighter brown, they usually present as a faded or lighter sable or can appear as a washed out blue-merle. Sable merles are shown in the breed ring as sables; therefore, blue eyes are a major fault in AKC. Blue eyes are not faulted in sable merles in UKC.
- Ch Halstor’s Peter Pumpkin ROM – The Shetland sheepdog sire with the most Champions (160).
- Am/Can/Jpn/Int’l Ch.Golden Hylites the Phantom ROM – One of the most expensive and campaigned Shetland sheepdog sires, sold to a kennel in Japan for a large amount.
- Badenock Rose – the first Shetland sheepdog registered with the English Kennel Club.
- Pikku – Shigeru Miyamoto’s Shetland sheepdog
- Reveille II – a past official mascot of Texas A&M University
- Forrest as Grace O’Keefe’s dog Lady in Kill the Irishman
- Mickey – main character of Canadian children’s series Mickey’s Farm
- Sam – The Dog in the Lethal Weapon series, owned by Riggs.