Shetland Sheepdog

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Shetland Sheepdogs are affectionate and intelligent. See this guide for more Shetland Sheepdog facts and breed information.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 14 years
Size:

Small

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

High

Temperament:
Eager To PleaseEnergeticAffectionate
Coat Color:
Black And WhiteBlack And TanBlue Merle And WhiteBlue MerleWhite And TanSable And WhiteSable Merle And White

Best For

The Shetland Sheepdog breed is a great choice for first-time pet parents. Shelties are affectionate and thrive with a yard to run around in, but their herding instincts mean they can be very vocal, and bark to get everyone to fall in line. They are typically kid- and pet-friendly, but shy around strangers.

Shetland Sheepdog Traits

What makes the Shetland Sheepdog a Shetland Sheepdog? Let's find out how they stack up.

Shetland Sheepdog Temperament

The Sheltie dog is an affectionate, loving friend who just wants to play and make you happy. With a low prey drive, they’re great around cats or other pets, and they can be great with kids, especially their family’s young children. (Although you might catch them occasionally trying to affectionately “herd” the littles!) Some Shelties are less tolerant of strangers’ children, but this really varies from dog to dog.

Shelties can be cautious or shy around strangers, and a Sheltie who isn’t well-socialized as a puppy might nip or even bite at strangers if they feel overwhelmed, so early training is important. Remember that each dog is an individual. Some Shelties will be very tolerant and almost never nip at anyone. They do also have a tendency to sound the bark alarm to alert their family to anything that may be amiss, whether that’s an approaching stranger to the door or a rogue truck rolling down the street.

Shelties love to play and are quite intelligent, and the more time they have to burn off their high energy levels, the better. They love to have a home with yards or large spaces of land where they can run and play, but they can be just as happy in a smaller home too, as long as you take them on a walk or two every day.

How to Care for a Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs are a balance of low- and high-maintenance. On the one hand, while they require daily walks, they don’t require intense amounts of exercise every day like Border Collies do. But on the other hand, their grooming needs can be demanding, as their double coat needs regular brushing. Training is also necessary for the Shetland Sheepdog breed, to help them curb barking tendencies and meet strangers politely.

Shetland Sheepdog Health

Shetland Sheepdogs have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. To help them reach their full lifespan, you’ll want to watch for the following health issues and talk to a veterinarian if you think anything is wrong. When getting a Sheltie, look for breeders who screen for these health issues. Ask to see the parents’ test results, along with others in the lineage, when you’re considering a specific litter.

  • Genetic Eye Issues: Sheltie dogs can experience a variety of genetic eye issues, including Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), corneal dystrophy, progressive retinal atrophy or optic nerve hypoplasia. Your veterinarian can recommend the best approach if your dog develops any of these issues.
  • MDR1 Mutation: Like other herding breeds, Shelties can have a mutation on the MDR1 gene that makes certain medications toxic to them. This is a serious situation: a Sheltie with this mutation might die from being dewormed, for example. You can have your Sheltie tested for this mutation. Then you’ll need to let your veterinary know and keep a list of medications that should be avoided.
  • Dermatomyositis: Dermatomyositis (sometimes called Sheltie Skin Syndrome) is a genetic autoimmune disorder that affects Shelties Collies, and other related mix types. It usually affects younger dogs and can include skin lesions and muscle inflammation. Your veterinarian will recommend approaches to help manage the condition, such as avoiding activities that damage the skin and muscles, avoiding UV exposure or other measures.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Some Shelties may experience hip dysplasia, although the risk isn’t as high as it is for other breeds. While this issue, where the ball and socket joint of the hip aren’t aligned, can’t be prevented, your veterinarian may recommend losing weight or other modifications so it doesn’t affect your dog’s quality of life as much.
  • Elbow Luxation: This is a type of elbow dislocation that some dog breeds are more prone to experiencing. Look for signs like your dog hopping for a few strides when they’re walking. Treatment will depend on the severity and may include surgery.
  • Congenital Deafness: This genetic deafness may appear around 3 to 5 years of age as a result of degeneration in the inner ear. It’s more common in Shelties with white coats or blue eyes.
  • Hypothyroidism: Symptoms of this can include hair loss, a dry coat or skin, weight gain, personality changes or other skin diseases. A blood test can help screen for this issue and treatment may be as simple as taking a pill.
  • Lupus Erythematosus: Some Shelties can be prone to getting this immune disease where the immune system attacks a Sheltie’s own tissues. Symptoms may include fever, swollen joints or skin lesions. However, you’ll often need a blood test or skin biopsy to diagnose this disease, since the symptoms can be so wide-ranging. Chemotherapy and immunomodulating drugs may help, but there is no surefire treatment.
  • Transitional Cell Carcinoma: Shelties have an elevated risk of this bladder and urinary tract cancer. Increased urination or blood in the urine is often the first symptom. Sometimes surgery can cure this, but a veterinarian may recommend an alternative treatment if surgery would hurt the bladder.
  • Heart and Blood Disorders: Some Shelties can have patent ductus arteriosus, a congenital defect where a blood vessel near the heart doesn’t close. This is serious and can lead to heart failure within a few months of birth. A heart murmur can indicate a problem, and a cardiologist can confirm the issue. Surgery has a high success rate with this issue if caught early. Others may have von Willebrand disease, a bleeding disorder. Your veterinarian can test for this. While it doesn’t have a cure, your vet may advise that you make some lifestyle modifications or avoid certain medications that interfere with blood clotting.

Shetland Sheepdog History

The Shetland Sheepdog’s origins date back to the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom, where the breed was used as agile herding dogs to move sheep, poultry and ponies. Shelties were bred for a smaller size so they would eat less in a food-scarce, cold environment. Their history also included serving as a companion who warned their family of intruders.

Experts debate about whether or not Shelties are actually directly related to Rough Collies. Some think the Collie is just one of many breeds blended to create the Sheltie, which may account for why some Shetland Sheepdogs in the same litter can be such different sizes, weights and heights. However, others believe that Shelties are not directly descended from Collies at all, but both share a common ancestor in the Border Collie. Some believe the dog’s lineage includes a Northern Spitz from Scandinavia, a King Charles Spaniel, an original Pomeranian, a Scotch Collie and other indigenous island dogs. However, the breed’s complete lineage is not known and still a subject of debate.

Shelties were first recognized by the Kennel Club in England as the “Shetland Collie” in 1909, and the name was later changed that same year to Shetland Sheepdog. The first Shetland Sheepdog was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1911, after being imported from Shetland.

Where is the best place to find a Shetland Sheepdog puppy? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. The average Shetland Sheepdog puppy price can be anywhere from $850 to $2,000, with some even costing $6,000 or more, depending on the breeder, pedigree papers and health screenings. You can also find a purebred to adopt with the help of Shetland Sheepdog shelters or rescue groups.

FAQs

Are Shelties hypoallergenic?

No, Shelties are not hypoallergenic. In fact, their thick double coat and frequent shedding mean they are more likely to cause allergy issues.

How long do Shetland Sheepdogs live?

On average, Shetland Sheepdogs have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. And with the proper diet, exercise and care, you can help your pup live a long and happy life.

Do Shelties bark a lot?

Yes, Shelties were bred to be herding dogs and are known for barking a lot. They’ll not just bark at strangers, but also simply because they’re excited. Gentle, positive reinforcement training can help them bark less, but you won’t be able to teach a Sheltie to stop barking completely.

Do Shelties like water?

There’s no guarantee that your Sheltie will like water. Some Shelties take to swimming quickly and others never learn to like it. Their double-coat and small legs mean they aren’t typically great swimmers, so this can lead to many Shelties not enjoying the water as much.

What are the most popular Sheltie names?

The most popular Sheltie names are Alfie, Asha, Benji, Bambi, Bear, Bella, Coco, Daisy, Duke, Charlie, Penny, Sadie, Luna, Lexi, Toby, Bailey, Jasper, Honey, Ginger, Teddy, Winnie, Gigi, Oakley, Snickers, Fox, Jade and Neo. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Shetland Sheepdog mixes?

The most common Shetland Sheepdog mixes are:

  • Shetland Sheepdog Border Collie Mix (Border Sheepdogs or Sheltie Border)
  • Shetland Sheepdog Poodle Mix (Sheltie Poodle)
  • Shetland Sheepdog Corgi Mix (Pembroke Sheltie)
  • Shetland Sheepdog German Shepherd Mix (Sheltie Shepherd)
  • Shetland Sheepdog Husky Mix (Shepsky)
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Top Takeaways

Shetland Sheepdogs are an affectionate, playful, intelligent breed, always ready to go on an adventure with you. Very energetic and in need of plenty of exercise, they’ll love agility games, daily long walks or even just a romp in the yard. They may be shy around strangers and barking is in their nature, but a Sheltie is a lovable companion and is loyal to their family, whether of the human or furry variety.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM, who writes the Not a Bully website, and certified dog trainer Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CBCC-KA, CDBC, owner of The Sophisticated Dog.

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