Shetland Sheepdog: A Look Into The Traits Of The “”Sheltie””

The Shetland Sheepdog, often affectionately called the “Sheltie,” originated as a herding dog on the Shetland Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. According to the American Kennel Club, this hardy breed was used to herd the small, wool-bearing sheep of the Shetland Islands [1]. The Shetland Sheepdog was formally recognized by The Kennel Club in 1909.

This small breed typically stands between 13-16 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 15-25 pounds. Shelties have a long, dense, double-layer coat suited for harsh weather. Common coat colors are black, blue merle, and sable. The Shetland Sheepdog has a gentle, intelligent expression. They are known for being very loyal and affectionate family companions with a devoted, sensitive nature. Shelties are highly intelligent and excel at agility, obedience training, and herding trials.

Herding Instincts

The Shetland Sheepdog was originally bred as a herding dog in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. According to the American Shetland Sheepdog Association, Shelties have strong natural herding abilities and instincts (American Shetland Sheepdog Association). Their intelligence, trainability, and herding instincts make them excellent at herding sheep, cattle, ducks, chickens, and other livestock.

Shelties use their keen senses of sight and hearing to control the movement of livestock. They exhibit an intense stare, referred to as “eye,” while stalking and gathering animals. Their small size allows them to swiftly dodge kicks from larger animals. Shelties are vocal dogs that use barking to move livestock where the shepherd desires.

While Shelties have strong natural herding abilities, they still require proper socialization and training to refine their skills. Their high intelligence and eagerness to please make Shelties highly responsive to training. With the right training and exposure, Shelties excel at herding trials and working as active herding dogs on farms.


The Shetland Sheepdog is a small herding dog that bears a strong resemblance to the Rough Collie in miniature. They have a similar elegant, agile build and proudly carried head. According to the AKC breed standard, Shelties should stand between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 15 and 25 pounds.

Shelties have a long double coat that comes in a variety of colors. Common coat colors include black, blue merle, and sable, often accompanied by white markings. The outer coat is long, straight, and harsh, while the undercoat is soft, short, and dense. This double coat protects Shelties from cold and wet weather.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Sheltie is its sweet, gentle facial expression. They have a refined, wedge-shaped head with medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes. Their mobile ears are small and carried erect. The overall impression is of a dog with graceful beauty and keen intelligence.


The Shetland Sheepdog has a beautiful double coat that requires regular grooming and maintenance. Shelties shed seasonally, with heavier shedding in the spring and fall. During shedding seasons, daily brushing is recommended to remove loose hair and prevent mats and tangles.

Aim to brush your Sheltie at least 2-3 times per week year round. Use a slicker brush like the Chris Christensen Big Slicker and a metal comb to brush all the way down to the skin. Pay extra attention to areas that are prone to tangles, like behind the ears, under the legs, and around the tail.

Bathe your Sheltie every 4-6 weeks using a mild dog shampoo. Bathing and blow drying will help loosen and remove excess shedding fur. You can also have your Sheltie professionally groomed every 6-8 weeks for a bath, trim, nail clipping, and sanitary trim if needed.

Proper grooming keeps your Sheltie’s coat healthy and looking its best. It also minimizes shedding around the house and prevents painful mats from forming.

a sheltie getting brushed by its owner

Exercise Needs

Shetland Sheepdogs have moderate exercise needs and require approximately 1 hour of exercise per day. They enjoy daily walks, interactive play and thrive on canine activities that allow them to use their intelligence and herding instincts. According to BorrowMyDoggy, Shelties should get a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exercise per day.

In addition to walks, Shelties love activities that engage their minds and allow them to herd, such as playing fetch or participating in agility training. As one Sheltie owner commented on Reddit, “I’ve found mental stimulation is more important than just physical exercise.” Agility training is an excellent way to meet a Sheltie’s needs for both mental and physical activity.

Daily walks and playtime that combines physical and mental engagement are ideal for meeting a Sheltie’s exercise requirements. Activities like agility that tap into their herding background are especially enriching.

Ideal Home

The ideal home for a Shetland Sheepdog should have adequate space, a fenced yard, and owners who can provide lots of attention.

Shetland Sheepdogs need more space than their small size would indicate (Source). They are energetic dogs who love to run and play. Having a medium to large fenced yard provides plenty of room for exercise. The fence prevents them from roaming and getting into trouble.

Shelties do not do well when left alone for long periods of time. They are prone to separation anxiety and can become destructive if bored or lonely (Source). Shelties thrive on human companionship and plenty of attention. Owners who can spend a good amount of time at home and interacting with their Sheltie make ideal homes.

In summary, Shetland Sheepdogs need space to run and play, containment provided by a fenced yard, and attentive owners who are frequently at home. With these key elements provided, a Sheltie will feel right at home.

Health Issues

Shelties are predisposed to certain health conditions. Some of the most common issues include eye disorders, allergies, and hip dysplasia.

Eye disorders like collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, and cataracts can affect Shelties. Regular eye exams by a vet are important to monitor eye health.

Allergies are another common problem for the breed. Symptoms include itchy skin, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues. Keeping the coat clean and avoiding allergy triggers can help manage allergic reactions.

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition where the hip joint doesn’t form properly, leading to arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercise routine can help avoid issues. X-rays screenings by a vet can diagnose the condition.

Training Tips

Shetland Sheepdogs are highly intelligent and trainable dogs, but they require positive reinforcement techniques to bring out their best behaviors. Consistency and socialization are key to successfully training a Sheltie.

Use praise, treats, and play as rewards when your Sheltie demonstrates good behavior. Never use punishment or negative reinforcement like scolding or yelling. This will damage your bond with your Sheltie. Always maintain a positive attitude during training sessions. For best results, keep training sessions short, fun and end on a positive note so your Sheltie is left wanting more (source).

Establish a regular routine for feeding, walking, play time, and training. Shelties thrive on consistency. Set house rules and stick to them. If your rules vary day to day, your Sheltie may get confused. Make sure all family members enforce the same rules for your pup (source).

Socialize your Sheltie extensively. Introduce them to new people, places, pets, and experiences starting at a young age. Well-socialized Shelties will be more confident and adaptable to change. Seek out puppy socialization classes. Take your Sheltie on car rides, to dog-friendly stores, and let them meet neighbor dogs. Supervise all interactions until you’re certain your Sheltie will behave appropriately.


Shetland Sheepdogs are active dogs with relatively high metabolism and therefore require a high-quality diet that provides complete and balanced nutrition (Source). Look for a dog food formulated specifically for small/medium breed dogs with 20-25% protein and 12-15% fat from quality animal sources as the first 2-3 ingredients.

Be careful not to overfeed treats and table scraps as Shelties can gain weight easily. Follow the recommended feeding guidelines based on your dog’s weight and activity level and adjust as needed to maintain an ideal weight (Source). Shelties that are overweight are prone to joint problems and other health issues.

Some health issues to watch for include hypothyroidism, allergies, dental disease, and collapsing trachea which may require dietary adjustments under veterinary advice. Provide fresh water at all times and monitor intake for signs of illness.

Finding a Sheltie

There are two main options for finding a Sheltie to bring home: going through a breeder or adopting from a rescue organization or shelter. Both have their pros and cons.

Purchasing a Sheltie from a breeder allows you to get a purebred puppy and have more control over things like color and sex. Breeders also often socialize the puppies and start house and crate training. However, Sheltie puppies from breeders can be expensive, often ranging from $1,000-$2,000. Reputable breeders also have a thorough screening process and waiting lists.

Adopting an adult Sheltie from a rescue group or shelter is typically more affordable, often between $50-$400. Adoption fees help cover the rescue’s expenses. The adoption process is quicker than going through a breeder. However, adopted Shelties may come with some unknown history or challenges to overcome. Do your research to find a reputable shelter or rescue group, such as Houston Sheltie Sanctuary.

Whether purchasing from a breeder or adopting, make sure to do your homework. Ask questions about the dog’s health, temperament and needs. Be prepared for the time commitment and costs of properly caring for a Sheltie before bringing one home.

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