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.
Shetland Sheepdog Physical Characteristics
Although the Sheltie appears to be a miniature version of Rough Collie, it has some differences. This agile sheepdog has a small body that is long in proportion to its height. Its has a smooth, effortless gait and the speed, agility and endurance necessary in a herding dog. 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.
The two main colors are sable colored (a mix of dark and light brown with white) or blue merle, with gray, white and black.
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.
Shetland Sheepdog Personality and Temperament
The Sheltie is a tremendously bright, sensitive and willing to please breed that enjoys human company. Not only is this breed loyal, playful, gentle and amiable but it is also well-behaved with children, though it may sometimes nip at heels while playing if it has not been trained otherwise.
Things to Consider
Often, the Sheltie is timid and reserved towards strangers, and it will let its voice be heard on this when need be. Although the tendency to bark a lot is considered by some to be a fault, it is this characteristic that makes the Sheltie an excellent watch dog.
Shetland Sheepdog Care
Ideal Living Conditions
The Shetland Sheepdog can live outside in temperate climates but it does very well as a house dog. If it is not given daily exercise, the Sheltie can become anxious and nervous. It is essential for this breed to spend its energy so that it can relax at home with its family at the end of the day.
Its thick double coat requires combing or brushing at least every other day and a weekly shampooing.
Shetland Sheepdog Health
The Sheltie has a lifespan of 12 to 14 years and may be prone to concerns including:
- Patellar luxation
- Canine hip dysplasia
- Collie eye anomaly
- Progressive retinal atrophy
Eye, hip, DNA and thyroid tests are advised. Some vets may recommend a prescription drug called Ivermectin, which helps treats parasites in dogs. One merle should not be bred with another merle as homozygous merle (a dog with two merle genes) is harmful to health of the dog and can be lethal.
Shetland Sheepdog History and Background
The Shetland Sheepdog has its roots in the herding dogs of Scotland, which were the ancestors of the Border Collie and Collie. Some of these early Collie type dogs were very small, standing at about 18 inches tall. A mix of different breeds, which are still unknown to some extent, went into the makeup of the Sheltie. Some of the suggested breeds are the Spitz, the King Charles Spaniel and the Pomeranian, but as with any breed that is created for working in a harsh environment, and which must posses various traits that capture both assertiveness and a gentle touch, the Shetland Sheepdog came into its own over time as the ideal pups were bred further until he breed was made pure. Of course the Scotch Collie played a role in the making of this breed as well, and the Sheltie’s lovely appearance owes much to this crossing.
The Shetland had multiple duties on the Shetland Islands. As a herder and protector of livestock, guarding over crops, and as a watchdog for the home, warning the family of trespassers.
The Sheltie found some popularity off of the Islands when the naval fleet of Great Britain would take puppies home with them after their military exercises on the Islands. These early dogs were known as Toonie dogs (toon was the native Shetland word meaning farm), Lilliputian Collies, and Peerie Dogs. Around 1906 they were publicized as Shetland Collies, but Collie fanciers disapproved of the breed inclusion, since they Sheltie was made up of such a mix of breeds, and Shetland breeders instead took the more fitting Sheepdog moniker. The American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted the Shetland Sheepdog for registration in 1911.
In its early years in England, many breeders often discreetly interbred rough-coated Collies and Shelties to improve the characteristics of their breeds. However, oversized Shelties were produced as a result of this practice and it was stopped. After the enormous popularity of the Collie, the Shetland Sheepdog became popular among families who wanted a similar pet of smaller size.
By: Chewy Editorial