Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog has long been considered an excellent family companion. They are known for their gentle and sensitive nature as well as their intelligence. Their intelligence and energy also makes them a popular choice for sports like agility and flyball. With a history as a herding dog, they perform particularly well in various herding trials. However, Shelties have a stubborn streak and require a firm, consistent trainer. Shetland Sheepdogs have been a popular breed for many years, which means there has been a high number of breeders. Large breeding numbers have resulted in Shelties with a wide variety of personalities, and unfortunately, some poor breeding practices. Special care should be taken when choosing a puppy. Keep in mind what type of temperament you would like in a dog - some Shelties are active and exuberant while others are quiet, shy, and reserved. Observe the parents and watch the puppies interact with their siblings. Be practical about which type of dog will fit in best in your household. In addition, early, positive, and proper socialization for any dog is an absolute necessity. It may because of their sensitive nature, but many people report that their Shelties do not like other dogs (anything from ignoring them, to actual aggression), unless the other dogs are Shelties. They tend to recognize and socialize well with their own kind. Of course, all dogs are individuals, and many Shelties exist happily with other breeds, as well.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Shetland Sheepdog breed is also commonly known by the names Miniature Collie,Shetland Collie (obsolete),Dwarf Scotch Shepherd (obsolete),Toonie Dog (obsolete),Sheltie.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 14 years

Breed group: Herding Dogs (AKC), Pastoral Dogs (KC)

Size: Tiny

Male Female
Height 13 - 18 in 13 - 18 in
Weight 9 - 22 lbs 9 - 22 lbs

Coat: Long

Colors: Black and Tan, Brindle, Tricolor, Brown, White, Blue, Merle, Sable

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Very heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: High

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: High

Tolerates being alone: Not really

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Average

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Rare

General health: Good

Cost to keep: Low


Though their appearance is similar to that of a full-size Rough Coated Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog is its own breed - it is not a result of simply breeding the larger dog down into a smaller size.

The Shetland Sheepdog, or "Sheltie" originates from the Shetland Islands, which lie between Scotland and Norway, about 50 miles north of Scotland and a bit south of the Arctic Circle. The rugged landscape brought about a tough, but small herding dog, which was used to tend the small sheep that reside on the islands. The original Shetland Sheepdog was a Spitz-type dog, probably resembling the 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.

Originally called Shetland Collies, the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog to appease Rough Collie breeders, who did not like the name. However, the breed was often crossed with Rough Collies to maintain the signature Rough Collie appearance.

In 1909, Shetland Sheepdogs were first recognized by the English Kennel Club and the first Sheltie was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1911.


Shetland Sheepdogs are kind, energetic, and affectionate dogs, resembling a smaller version of the rough-coated collie.
Typical characteristics are:

  • Refined, tapering head, dark, medium-sized eyes, and small ears that stand mostly erect.

  • 13-16 inches at the shoulder, .

  • Relatively long tail carried straight down or in a slight upward curve.

  • Thick, dense, medium length double coat.

  • Colors: black, blue merle, and sable (ranging from golden tomahogany) with varying amounts of white and/or tan.



Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent dogs that are somewhat easy to train. Their stubborn streak requires a firm, kind, steady, and consistent hand. In addition to being good pets, Shelties excel in activities like agility, flyball, and herding trials. They can be appropriate for novice owners, but assistance with a professional trainer is recommended.

As with all intelligent breeds, Shelties require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job.


Shetland Sheepdogs are somewhat energetic dogs with a working background and therefore require a fair amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of exercise twice daily is enough, and they enjoy many outdoor activities. Bored dogs with too much excess energy can develop and undesirable and destructive habits.

Exercising your Sheltie puppy requires a few special considerations. Shelties have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Avoid exercising on slippery surfaces and climbing stairs under the age of 3 months. Exercise is needed, however, as strong muscles will increase the stability of the hip joint. Outdoor exercise on soft, uneven grounds seems to have a lower risk. Try to avoid exercise that involves running, jumping and playing on hard surfaces until the age of two.


Shelties are people-oriented dogs and will want to be around their owners as much as possible. They will not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. Loneliness and lack of attention/exercise may result in undesirable and destructive behaviors.


Though they are too small to be considered guard dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs can be wary of strangers. They will usually bark, making them decent "alarm dogs".

Living Conditions

Shetland Sheepdogs are very people-oriented and do best in a situation where they can spend a lot of time with their owners. They may be relatively small in size but are not necessarily good apartment dogs. They are sensitive to outside noises, often shy with strangers, and are prone to barking.

Children and Other Pets

Shetland Sheepdogs are kind, gentle dogs who make wonderful companions for families with kids who know how to treat dogs respectfully. However, special consideration should be taken with small children (under the age of 6).

  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Strangely, Shelties are not necessarily friendly with other dogs, unless they are Shelties. Proper socialization with other dogs is especially important. A Sheltie may attempt to herd small, furry animals like cats.


The average life expectancy of a Shetland Sheepdog is between 12 - 14 years. Like all breeds, the Shetland Sheepdog is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Shetland Sheepdog is prone to these diseases:
  • Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
  • Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD) (hereditary)
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) (hereditary)
  • Dermatomyositis (hereditary)


The Shetland Sheepdog has a beautiful double coat that requires a fair amount of grooming. At a very minimum, they require weekly brushing with a pin brush - be sure to get all the way down to the skin. Pay special attention to the hair behind the ears which can tangle and mat. Shelties need extra brushing during shedding season. Males and spayed females generally shed once a year, while unspayed females shed twice a year, a couple of months after each estrus period.

A Sheltie's coat sheds dirt and repels water, so Shelties need baths only when they get really dirty, which varies from dog to dog.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.


3/4 to 2 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Shelties are prone to obesity and over-eating, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.