Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie): Dog Breed Info

Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the “Sheltie,” is a popular and successful dog breed known for its high energy and desire to please. With its intelligence, physical attractiveness, and strength, the Sheltie excels in various activities such as competitions, therapy work, and herding. Originally bred for livestock herding, these dogs possess remarkable intelligence and athletic abilities. They have a sleek coat with long, straight fur, featuring a lavish mane, frill, and feathering on the legs and tail. Their beautiful eyes are captivating. The Sheltie is always eager to join in on the fun, whether it’s in the backyard or on a camping adventure. They are also loving and sensitive towards their family members. With their well-rounded disposition and compact size, the Sheltie is a cherished addition to any household.

Appearance of Shelton Sheepdog

The Shetland sheepdog, also called the Sheltie, is similar to the rough collie but has its distinct characteristics. They have an average height of 13 to 16 inches, and their weight is proportionate to their height. Their refined head is in proportion to their body, which is slightly longer than tall. They have a strong and level back, with curved ribs forming a deep body. Their double coat is thick, consisting of a dense undercoat and long outer hair that comes in colors such as sable, blue merle, black, tan, and white. They have a wedge-shaped skull and muzzle, medium-sized almond-shaped eyes set at a slant, and their ears and tail placement are important for their expression. The Shetland sheepdog, known for its intelligence, needs regular grooming to preserve its gorgeous fur.

History of Shelton Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, originated from the Shetland Islands between Scotland and Norway. Farmers bred them by crossing Border Collies with smaller dogs to help herd and guard their sheep. It is believed that they were also trained to protect the sheep from birds.

The breed was introduced to England and Scotland in the 1800s and selectively bred to meet visitors’ demands for smaller and fluffier dogs. However, there were disputes on how to recreate the Sheltie, with some breeders advocating for Collie crosses and others favoring existing Shelties that resembled the original. Different types of Shelties were showcased at dog shows until World War I.

The breed faced controversies and disagreements about desirable traits, leading to the establishment of clubs with different perspectives. Eventually, in 1930, a consensus was reached that the Sheltie should resemble a miniature Collie. Shelties in the US and UK have diverged over time, with most US Shelties tracing back to dogs imported from England between the two World Wars. While popular in the US in the 1990s, the breed remains relatively uncommon in the Shetland Islands today.


The Shetland Sheepdog is an intelligent and trainable companion dog that thrives with proper socialization and a confident owner. They have a pleasant temperament, being docile, alert, and eager to please. This breed requires mental stimulation and enjoys playtime, aiming to bring joy to its owner. They tend to get along well with cats and other pets and are generally good with young children, although they may try to “herd” them occasionally. However, they can sometimes be wary of strangers’ children. Shelties have a strong instinct to chase and should be taught not to chase cars.

If not properly trained and led, they may develop behavior problems, such as suspicion towards strangers or guarding behaviors. They can also be reserved or shy around unfamiliar people, potentially nipping or biting when overwhelmed. To prevent negative behaviors, owners should establish themselves as pack leaders and provide daily exercise. When properly trained and guided, the Shetland Sheepdog is an affectionate and loving breed, making them an excellent family pet.

Grooming of Shelton Sheepdog

Pet owners should be ready to consistently groom their Shelties, as they have a dense double coat that requires frequent brushing. This regular maintenance prevents their fur from matting and also aids in managing their substantial shedding.

Coat Care

Shelties have a dense undercoat and shed a lot. To prevent matting and collect loose hair, they should be brushed twice a week. Occasionally bathe them and seek professional grooming for mat trimming.

Skin Care

Skin care for the Sheltie dog can differ, as the breed generally does not possess overly sensitive skin. However, if they happen to develop Sheltie skin syndrome, specific and attentive care will be necessary.

Ear Care

Regularly cleaning your Sheltie’s ears with a veterinarian-approved ear cleanser will aid in preserving their ear canals in good health.

Eye Care

To keep your Sheltie’s eyes clean, regularly wipe them gently with a soft cloth or pet-friendly face wipe. Keep an eye out for any changes or vision problems and seek veterinary care if necessary.

Training a Shelton Sheepdog

Shelties, or Shetland Sheepdogs, are intelligent, energetic, and loving dogs that can be easy to train. However, their intelligence can sometimes make them stubborn and too smart for their own good. To train your sheltie, you can start with crate training. This involves purchasing a crate that is the right size for your sheltie and making it comfortable with toys and blankets. Introduce your sheltie to the crate gradually and feed him inside to create positive associations. You can then begin leaving him in the crate for increasing periods.

Furthermore, house training is also important, and you can confine your sheltie to a small area of your home with puppy pads until he is fully house-trained. Taking him outside regularly and praising him when he goes outside will help reinforce proper bathroom habits. Finally, you can teach your sheltie basic commands like sit, stay, and come, as well as manage his barking and consider enrolling him in agility or herding training.

Diet & Nutrition for Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs, also known as Shelties, are energetic dogs that need a high-protein, nutrient-rich diet. It is recommended to feed them reputable Canine dog food with hydrolyzed protein to meet their protein requirements. Monitoring their weight is essential, and adjusting food intake accordingly is necessary. Dry dog food can provide nutrients as long as it has specific meat ingredients, not just generic ones.

Home-cooked meals with fish, chicken, or beef, along with rice, yams, and vegetables, can also be suitable. It is important to avoid toxic foods like chocolate, alcohol, avocados, onions, and grapes. Dry food with a crunchy texture helps maintain dental health, and the main ingredient should be chicken or fish. Brown rice, sweet potatoes, and fish oils are beneficial for coat and overall health. Ensuring proper weight management is crucial to prevent joint issues.

Health Issues of Shetland Sheepdog

While Shetland Sheepdogs are usually robust and have a long lifespan, it is important to note that health problems can occur, as is the case with any living being. Certain conditions may have a genetic basis. Responsible Shetland Sheepdog breeders are committed to producing healthy dogs and reducing the occurrence of inherited diseases within the breed.

Patellar Luxation in Shelties

Patellar Luxation, commonly seen in small purebred dogs like Shelties, occurs when the knee cap moves out of position, causing pain and difficulty in leg straightening. It is often caused by genetic factors affecting bone and muscle development in the knee joint. Symptoms include limping and holding up the hind leg, and diagnosis involves physical examination and imaging. Treatment ranges from massage to surgery, with a recovery period of 30-60 days. The prognosis is generally positive, with many cases manageable at home and surgery providing significant symptom relief.

Hip Dysplasia in Shelties

Hip Dysplasia is a condition in which the thighbone partially or fully detaches from the hip joint. While it commonly affects large dog breeds, it may also occur in Shelties due to genetic mutations. Symptoms include limping, hesitance when rising or climbing stairs, and lameness. Diagnosis involves physical exams, blood analysis, and x-rays. Treatment options range from medication and lifestyle changes to surgical interventions. Early treatment is crucial to prevent further joint deterioration.

Dermatomyositis in Shelties

Dermatomyositis is a skin, muscle, and blood vessel disease that mainly affects Shelties and Collies. It causes inflammation and symptoms such as redness, scaling, and hair loss. It is not contagious and is linked to genetic mutations triggered by viral infection. Treatment involves shampoo, supplements, antibiotics, and other medications. Severe cases may require euthanasia.

Collie Eye Anomaly in Shelties

Collie Eye is a developmental disease that affects the eyes, leading to various complications and potentially causing blindness. Symptoms may not be initially noticeable but can include underdeveloped choroid, bulging inside the eye, and detached retina. Collie Eye is diagnosed in puppies and can be treated through surgery, but prevention through genetic screening and selective breeding is the best approach. The prognosis varies, with some dogs losing their vision while others do not.

Von Willebrande’s Disease in Shelties

Von Willebrande’s Disease in Shelties is caused by a lack of a blood clotting protein, resulting in symptoms such as nosebleeds and excessive bleeding. It can be diagnosed through physical exams and blood tests. Treatment involves monitoring for bleeding episodes and providing blood transfusions if necessary. Despite the condition, affected dogs can still have a normal quality of life with proper veterinary care.

Final Thoughts

The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is a popular and successful dog breed known for its high energy and desire to please. Originally bred for livestock herding, these dogs possess remarkable intelligence and athletic abilities. They have a sleek coat with long, straight fur and beautiful eyes. The Sheltie is a well-rounded breed that excels in various activities such as competitions, therapy work, and herding. They are loving and sensitive towards their family members and make great family pets. However, they can be reserved or shy around strangers if not properly trained and socialized. Shelties require regular grooming to maintain their gorgeous fur. Despite being generally healthy, certain genetic health conditions such as patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, dermatomyositis, collie eye anomaly, and von Willebrande’s disease can affect them. Overall, Shelties are intelligent, trainable, and affectionate dogs that make wonderful companions.

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