Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

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tri-color, black & white, black & tan, blue merle, sable
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • beautiful
  • intelligent
  • devoted friend
  • very trainable
  • very friendly
  • needs to be groomed daily
  • needs a lot of daily physical and mental stimulation

The Shetland Sheepdog is a devoted and friendly creature with easy-going and sociable nature. It acquired its modern name from the place where it was developed, namely Shetland Islands. Originally it was bred to become a herding dog for sheep but nowadays it’s mainly kept as a popular home pet.

The descendants of the Shetland Sheepdog had already been living in the Shetland Islands between IX and the XIV centuries when this area was occupied by the Nordic tribes. It’s widely believed that these Scandinavian herding dogs were of a Spitz-type and included such breeds as the Norwegian Buhund or the Icelandic dog.

Gradually first Scottish settlers brought along with them their cattle and herding dogs, which were ancient versions of the Rough Collie and the Border Collie. The early form of the Shetland Sheepdog appeared as the result of crossing of the local Spitz-type breeds with newly arrived Scottish herding dogs. Later this early variety was imported to England where it passed through further transformation and was mixed with the King Charles Spaniel, the Pomeranian and the now extinct Greenland Yakki. The modern Shetland Sheepdog was fully developed by XVIII century.

Initially the Shetland Sheepdog was used as both an assistant on the farm and as a defender of the master’s property. The dog also thrived in its original assignment as a sheep herder in Scotland as well as in England. It was endowed with incomparable stamina and impressive viability, which made it a treasured companion in harsh terrains and hostile weather of Scotland.

In the beginning of the XX century the Shetland Sheepdog found its way to the dog shows on international level. The First World War caused a provisional pause in its promotion in England but it continued to gain more and more following in the United States. In this country the breeds’ sweet demeanour and appealing look earned it wide recognition as a show dog as well as a popular home pet. The Second World War brought a significant drop in its population in native countries but American breeders once again saved the breed from extinction.

The Shetland Sheepdog became a really trendy breed throughout 50’s and 60’s in European countries and America but the public interest in it as a show dog eventually subsided. Presently the breed is generally kept as pleasant and trustworthy companion dog and children’s favourite. The American Kennel Club (AKC) granted it complete recognition as early as in 1911.

The Shetland Sheepdog is praised for its good-naturedness, lively nature and extreme devotion. It’s a truly people-oriented dog and tends to be equally attached to all members of its family. This frisky dog will make an excellent buddy for a child but it should be taught to respect the dogs’ private space and treat it with due carefulness. This dog also has a tendency to herd things (including children) and that may lead to misunderstandings at times. But this primal behavioural pattern can be easily corrected with proper training.

The breed has developed a protecting instinct and therefore usually shows essential suspicion towards strange people. That’s way it can become an outstanding watchdog, which will never lose its natural alertness. However, the Shetland Sheepdog is going to avoid open conflicts as much as possible and will make a rather mediocre guard dog.

As universally amicable creature the Shetland Sheepdog gets along with other canines and can be relatively easy introduced to the household with other living dog. This breed is also quite patient with other pets including home cats. Nevertheless it should be correctly presented to the company of other species of animals from the puppyhood in order to guarantee their peaceful co-habituation in the future.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• hernia;
• sebaceous cysts;
• heart murmurs;
• idiopathic epilepsy;
• haemophilia;
• hypothyroidism;
• lupus erythematosus;
• dermatomyositis and ulcerative dermatosis;
• eyes problems;
• ears problems;
• patent ductus arteriosus (PDA);
• von Willebrand's Disease;
• colour dilution alopecia;
• cryptorchidism.


The double coat of the Shetland Sheepdog requires subnational investment of time and effort to be properly groomed. It consists of a top layer, which is rugged and long, and the bottom fur, which is much softer and thicker. The upper layer of its fur serves as protection from water and its undercoat allows it to withstand the caprices of the weather. The owner of the Shetland Sheepdog should avoid bathing it too frequent since water is going to wash off natural oil.

The hair of the Shetland Sheepdog is prone to matting and therefore needs to be brushed on a daily bases. Instruments, which are usually used in the grooming, include undercoat rake, a pin brush, a slicker brush, and thinning shears. The owner should apply usual brush to work out any tangles and mats in problem areas (behind the ears, around its collar, backsides of its legs) every day and more diligent brushing procedure should be carried out once a week.

The training of the Shetland Sheepdog is an easy and pleasant task. According to the book «The Intelligence of Dogs» written by Dr. Coren this dog ranks 6th among 132 breeds that he tested on the level of intelligence. This smart and docile animal learns with pleasure and it’s usually willing to follow the commands of its trainer.

The best way to train the Shetland Sheepdog is to resort only to gentle persuasion and verbal praise. Any amount of harshness in your voice will have an opposite effect and the dog will refuse to oblige your commands.

The Shetland Sheepdog is an active and playful breed, which demands considerable amount of the physical and mental stimulation. There are countless ways to exercise this dog since it likes all sorts of activities including classic Frisbee, hide and seek, flyball, etc. Anyway, the owner should take it for an hourly vigorous walk.

If the dog doesn’t receive enough physical outlets it usually tends to become unreasonably nervous, hyper active and destructive. The Shetland Sheepdog will make an incomparable pet for a moderately active family, which will happily incorporate its dog in outdoors hobbies.