Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog has come a long way since its herding days off the coast of Scotland. Moreover, the Sheltie has become a household name — both in popularity and their intelligence. But that didn’t happen over night.

A close relative of the Collie, this high energymedium size breed — remains a household name. For good reason: They are smart, sweet, and require little to no supervision.

Additionally, the breed has become a favorite choice for families around the world. Perhaps, those who are looking for something smaller than a Collie.

So what’s the story behind this breed? Is the Sheltie right for your family?

Here is what you need to know about the Shetland Sheepdog.

History

At first glance, you may think you’re looking at mini-Lassie, but the Sheltie is its own distinct breed. They descend from an ancestry that historians believe date back to 900 A.D. around the coast of Scotland. How did the breed get there?

Historians believe that the Norse People brought with them the relatives of the Shetland Sheepdog to the islands off of Scotland. Those islands being Shetland. Shetland was its own distinctive land until the 15th century. Those islanders had bred a small herding dog that could withstand the rugged conditions of Shetland. According to the United Kennel Club, these farmers chose to cross native Shetland dogs with Scottish Collies to produce what we know today as the Shetland Sheepdog.

After Shetland became a part of Scotland, there was a spike in sheep imports. Of course, these farmers would need a dog capable of working the conditions. They had just the breed for the job.

What made the Shetland Sheepdog so great for centuries was their small size. Additionally, these dogs would eat less and could work independently with little to no supervision.

However, outside of Shetland or Scotland, the breed was a mystery. That was all going to change in the 19th and 20th century. 

Tourist season is great for certain local municipal governments who have starving economies. Shetland was no different. People really took to the dogs these farmers bred. There are whisperings that breeders chose to bred the original Pomeranian and King Charles Spaniel to make the dog appear more dashing. Word was getting out by the 20th century about the Shetland Sheepdog.

In 1909, UK’s Kennel Club gave the breed recognition as the Shetland Collie. However, the ever so vociferous Collie lobby put a stop to the Shetland Sheepdog taking the Collie name. Meanwhile, in the United States, the breed began arriving in 1908. It wouldn’t take long for the Shetland Sheepdog to gain recognition and in 1911, the American Kennel Club would follow through. The United Kennel Club did the same, but in 1948.

Although the breed has never had the same popularity as the Collie, they have become one of the more popular dogs in America. The American Kennel Club claims the Shetland Sheepdog to be the 24th most popular breed in America. Today, the breed is still capable of herding and driving livestock to market. However, they are more of a family dog than anything and represent one of the most loyal breeds around.

Size

The ever so graceful Shetland Sheepdog can weigh between 15 to 25 pounds. 

According to the standard, both male and female Shelties can both stand between 13 to 16 inches.

Personality and Temperament

One of the most prolific traits pertaining to the Shetland Sheepdog is their devotion to family. By far, this has to be one of the more loyal breeds around. This breed feeds off love and affection from their master. They aren’t afraid to dish it back either. Aside from their faithfulness, the breed is also quite obedient, which usually is the case for herding breeds.

Their instincts to sniff out threats and their alert abilities make them quite a candidate for being a guard dog. The Shetland Sheepdog also has no problem telling you all about it. They are very vocal and will certainly alert you to any intrusion or threat.

Indoors, they are bright and enjoyable. The Sheltie is quite the performer as well and is always eager to serve their people. Feel free to mix it  up the trick bag, because Shetland Sheepdogs are very intelligent and enjoy learning new tricks to keep learning refreshing. Following orders or new commands won’t be a problem for the Shetland Sheepdog.

As workers, they are resilient, smart and can work independently. Additionally, this breed can serve as tracking dogs and therapy animals. Their intelligence and versatility makes them capable of being really whatever you need them to be. 

All in all, this is the complete picture when it comes to family dogs. The Shetland Sheepdog will play great with others as well. They may be a bit wary of strangers but Shelties are typically friendly with most they don’t consider a threat. A multi-purpose dog that can pretty much do it all and come home at the end of the day and relax happily with their hand.

Health

Enthusiasts and Kennel Club experts claim the Shetland Sheepdog to be a hardy breed that can live between 12 to 14 years if all goes well. Of course, just because certain diseases and disorders make the list doesn’t mean your Sheltie will acquire any of these isssues.

In addition to preventative care and using good judgement to keep your dog as healthy as possible, you can cut down on the possibility of a sick dog by purchasing only from a reputable breeder. This breeder should be able to provide you with the proper documents you’ll need to ensure your dog’s good health. Documents like Health Clearances are necessary to make the best decision possible. Also, you’ll want to schedule a regular visit with your local veterinarian to maintain your Sheltie’s good health.

Dermatomyositis or Collie Nose is rather common for the Sheltie. This is a skin disorder, that can be brought on by sun light or even trauma. However, this condition is typically genetic and will result in irritation, scaling or crusty skin and hair loss. This is information is according to the website, Sheltie Planet.

A lack of hormonal production or Hypothyroidism can lead to weight loss, hair loss, among other issues that results when the metabolism slows. For the Shetland Sheepdog, the OFA ranks the breed sixth worst in the thyroid department behind the Dalmatian and Spanish Water Dog. The breed only has a 79.4% normal rating with a 11.5 rating for autoimmune thyroiditis.

Abnormal growth in the elbow joints and cells, which can lead to pain, lameness and inflammation of the joints is Elbow Dysplasia. The OFA ranks the Sheltie 80th in this department among the Irish Setter with a 2.8 dysplastic rating out of 1,184 evaluations.

Hip Dysplasia is a common ailment found in dog and is sometimes a problem for this breed. However, the OFA ranks the breed at the lower end of the pile at 157th worst among the Irish Wolfhound and Belgian Malinois. This gives them a 4.7 dysplastic rating out of 22,000 evaluations.

When the kneecaps slips out of place causing rubbing and irritation , your dog may be suffering from Patella Luxation. The Shetland Sheepdog does suffer from this disorder with a 2.1 dysplastic rating out of only 285 evaluations That puts them 67th worst on the OFA’s findings along with the Beagle, Miniature Pinscher and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Finally, the breed may suffer from a bleeding disorder experts call Von Willebrands, Collie Eye and have sensitivity issues with certain medications due to their MDR1 mutation.

Care

So what will it take to keep a Shetland Sheepdog happy? The breed requires a moderate amount of exercise, although the Sheltie is highly energetic. That said, the breed is happiest when they are around their people. And wherever their family goes, that’s where the Sheltie wants to be. Suppose you exercise them enough, provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation, you can even keep a Shetland Sheepdog in a condo or apartment. Of course, they do enjoy running , which is typically harder to do in apartment units.

The breed is at their best when they have a role or purpose. A job to keep them busy and tire them out will lessen the chances of boredom, which can lead to destructive habits. Strive to walk them at least thirty minutes a day.

Even though the breed is good with children, you’ll need to watch those encounters. That is because this is a herding breed. Herding breeds still have traits that are natural to their behavior. When they play with children they may try to herd them along or play too rough. Early socialization and training can help prevent that from happening.

Prey drive is a problem for this breed. You will want secure your yard with a fence or walk them with a leash. Also, you’ll want to watch your smaller animals like birds, mice, and even cats when it comes to the Shetland Sheepdog.

Trim their nails regularly, a monthly bath or as you deem necessary, and check their ears routinely.

Feeding

A Shetland Sheepdog may be prone to issues with obesity or putting on too much weight. This is more of a problem from the owner than the dog. Portion their feeding arrangements and you can reduce that from happening as well as Bloat. Bloat is gastric torsion, which is fatal and painful.

How much your Sheltie eats will depend on their age, metabolism and activity rate. A high quality diet with meat as the first ingredient will go a long way in keeping your Sheltie happy and healthy. Chicken, turkey, fish, and a mix of fruits and vegetables is a perfect blend of healthy choices.

Most owners report good results feeding their Shetland Sheepdog 3/4 cups to 2 cups per day. you can break those up into two smaller meals per day. 

As always, you should provide your Shetland Sheepdog with fresh drinking water.

Coat

The Shetland Sheepdog has a double coat. Their topcoat is long, hard and straight, while their undercoat is short and dense. There is heavy feathering on their legs, and their ears and face should feel smooth.

The breed does require occasional grooming as they do shed frequently and heavier at certain points in the year. Most experts suggest brushing their coats 2 to 3 times per week.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are six acceptable color option for the coat: Black and white, black, white and tan, blue merle and white, blue merle, white and tan, sable and white, sable merle and white.

There are no acceptable markings for this breed’s coat.

Fun Shetland Sheepdog Facts

  • According to Stanley Coren’s “Intelligence of Dogs,” the Sheltie is the sixth most intelligent breed in the study. This means the breed will obey the first command 95% of the time or better.
  • The American Shetland Sheepdog Association claims the earliest mentioning of the breed is from an article dating back in 1844.
  • Riggs, a cop in the movie, Lethal Weapon, had a Sheltie by the name of Sam. The movie, Kill the Irishmen, also features a Sheltie by the name of Forest.
  • The main character of a popular children’s show in Canada, Mickey’s Farm, features a Shetland Sheepdog.

Closing Words

Obedient and loyal, along with their hard work ethic and ability to work alone is part of what made this breed such a popular choice for farmers and dog lovers everywhere.

Although the breed may not be herding as much as they once did, they are still a great choice for a family. That is, a family that has time for a dog that will love you to the end of the time and not take up too much space in doing so.