Shetland Sheepdog

Breed At A Glance


Lively, gentle and easy to train, suspicious of strangers

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
13-16 inches

Average Weight
14-27 lbs

Coat Color
Sable, black or blue merle with white and/or tan markings

Coat Length/Texture
Long, rough, water-repellent outer coat with soft, dense undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy (twice per year)

Also known as Sheltie, Miniature Collie, Dwarf Scotch Shepherd, Shetland Collie, Toonie Dog, Mini Lassie

General Temperament

The Shetland Sheepdog is an immensely loyal breed. They are lively, intelligent and eager to please, making them easily trainable. They are loving family companions and can be particularly devoted to children they are raised with from puppyhood, although they can sometimes be aloof with strangers, both adult and child. As a result of it’s popularity, but overbreeding has lead to some specimens tending toward timidity, especially if not properly socialized from an early age. But in general, a well-bred Sheltie is a wonderful family companion that craves attention. If not given enough activity, they can sometimes find their own ways to keep busy, with destructive results.

Shelties have a strong herding instinct and love to work, often chasing a variety of animals and objects. This unfortunately can lead to disastrous consequences if they decide to chase a car or follow something across the street. It’s best to keep a Sheltie on a leash or within a fenced area to minimize such accidents. They are very active and need plenty of room to run; they do best in a home with at least a medium-sized fenced yard, although they can be fine in an apartment if they are sufficiently exercised.

The Shetland Sheepdog will instinctually announce the arrival of visitors, making them excellent watch dogs, although they will not attack unless repeatedly provoked and as such are not well suited for true guarding. Like most herding breeds, they are happiest if they have a job to do, and can excel in obedience and agility trials.

Breed History

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as a Sheltie, was originally bred for herding on the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Although it appears to be simply a miniature version of the Collie, the Sheltie is actually most likely a mix of the Rough Collie and several other smaller breeds. By 1700, the breed was fully developed, but since the Shetland Islands were isolated from the travel trend, the breed was not fully introduced to the rest of the world until the 20th century. The Sheltie have since been largely replaced by the Border Collie in it’s native land.

The first Shetland Sheepdog was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1911.

Body Structure and Composition

In some ways the Sheltie appears to be a perfect miniature of the Collie, but they are structurally different from the Collie. They have a long wedge-shaped head that is narrow than a Collie, and the top line of the muzzle is parallel to the top line of the skull. The eyes are bigger in a Collie, as the skull is proportionately larger. The ears are small and expressive, generally carried erect with drooping corners. The Sheltie is also stockier and not as refined-looking as a Collie. Sexual dimorphism is obvious in this breed, with males looking distinctly masculine and females distinctly feminine. The legs and the long tail are feathered, and the fur on the face and feet is soft and smooth.

Medical Information

Due to it’s popularity as a family dog, the Shetland Sheepdog has unfortunately been subject to overbreeding for profit, leading to various inherited diseases. They are particularly prone to various eye malformations and diseases, including Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which is characterized by degeneration of cells of the retina leading to eventual loss of sight. They are also prone to Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), a syndrome that involves retinal degeneration, cataracts, and/or retinal detachment. CEA can be detected in young puppies by a veterinary opthamologist, and although it cannot be cured, it does not generally progress. The double blue merle version of the Sheltie (when two merles are bred together) has a higher incidence of deafness, blindness and retardation than the other coat colors.

Shelties can also experience Hypothyroidism, or underactivity of the thyroid gland resulting in lethargy, weight gain, skin infection and hair loss, cold intolerance, chronic ear infections or severe behavioral changes. Hypothyroid dogs who receive proper treatment, including a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, can have a normal life span and are able to maintain good health well into their golden years. The Shetland Sheepdog is also prone to heart disease and epilepsy (recurrent seizures).

The Shetland Sheepdog can also be prone to some bone-related diseases, including Hip or Elbow Dysplasia (when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms) and Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle,” a condition where the kneelike joint above the hock tends to slide out of position, sometimes requiring surgery).

The coat of the Shetland Sheepdog requires regular brushing to prevent matting and remove shedding hair. Shedding will be particularly heavy in Spring and Fall.

Anecdotal Information

Details Coming Soon

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