Bred for generations as hardy and solitary herding dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs are still tough dogs with protective instincts. Though great with families, “Shelties” tend to be one-person dogs, focusing on their masters with an intense love and devotion. However, when surrounded by a family that offers positive training and attention (and most of all activity), Shetland Sheepdogs will come out of their shells in a typically reserved way.
Shetland Sheepdog Pictures
- 12 - 18 pounds
- 12 - 15 inches
Ideal Human Companions
- Active, sporty types
Shetland Sheepdogs on Dogster
4,760 dogs | see profile pages
- Sharp as tacks
- Loyal companions
- Love to chase and herd
What They Are Like to Live With
Shetland Sheepdogs have a keen, almost-human intelligence. This not only manifests itself in the field, on the farm and during competitions, but also around the house: Shelties are very good at reading human moods. They have an uncanny ability to know what you’re thinking the moment you think it.
With superb herding instincts, excellent quickness and docile natures, Shelties are the perfect farm worker, guard dog or hiking pal.
Things You Should Know
Shetland Sheepdogs can be timid and suspicious around strangers, often shrinking away when people try to pet them. In public, they will fixate on their masters, waiting for a command or a telling move. They also tend to bark… a lot. Proper training and socialization (from puppy age, if possible) can help: These dogs are quick learners and are eager to follow commands.
Apartment/city living may not appeal to Shelties. They need loads of exercise and “tasks” to satisfy their curiosity. A fenced in yard is ideal, especially since they have a tendency to chase cars, but if you can get them a hilly field or forest to explore—even better.
Shetland Sheepdogs need daily brushing and regular grooming. During their shedding seasons (spring and fall) they release their undercoats, creating tons of excess fur.
A healthy Shetland Sheepdog can live as long as 15 years. Common health issues include overheating, eye problems and hyperthyroidism.
Shetland Sheepdog History
The Shetland Sheepdog most likely derived from the small, working Collies in Scotland, used for many years as herders of cows and sheep. Long isolated on remote Scottish islands, the “Shetland Collie” did not become officially recognized by the English Kennel Club until 1909. Five years later, after protests from Collie fanciers, they were classified as Shetland Sheepdogs.
The Look of a Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdogs have small, sturdy and light frames with rough, long coats—you could say they resemble a miniature version of the longhaired Collie. Their heads have a long, noble shape with tapered muzzles, raised ears and watchful, almond-shaped eyes. Their long hair creates a mane down the sides of the head and neck. They have a double coat—long and rough on the outside, short and dense on the inside—that comes in blue merle, sable, black, and gold marked white & tan. Their bushy tails hang down. Overall, Shetland Sheepdogs have a well-proportioned, symmetrical shape.
Talk About Shetland Sheepdogs
Smart, energetic and mild mannered
I have two purebred Shetland Sheep Dogs, a male named Rascal and a female rescue Sheltie named Chloe. They are smart, energetic and mild tempered, good with children too. They have been best friends since they met - they play together very well and are company to each other. Before Chloe came, Rascal thought mom and dad should be his playmates, but now he and Chloe wrestle and run together. I highly recommend this breed to anyone who has children or even a retired person. They are wonderful companions. We call them our "fur kids."
~Sue R., owner of two Shetland Sheepdogs
A scarily smart dog
This is my first Sheltie after having other breeds, and I can't imagine living without one. She is so intelligent and willing to please. She is so smart that it is almost scary how she can convey what she means without using words.
People are a bit afraid that the lovely coat is hard to maintain, but it just needs regular brushing. I take mine for a hair cut grooming every six weeks or so.
They do like to bark -- that is their nature as an alert herding dog. This is a great dog for training and agility. I understand the breed has minimal genetic health issues. My little gal does suffer from the underactive thyroid, but she just takes a pill a day for that.
I would totally recommend this breed for anyone that wants a faithful, loving companion. We have converted several of our neighbors and people who have seen our Sheltie to having one of their own. They are also a stunning and eye catching breed that will also work fine for apartment living as well as country.
The breed is not overly bred, so it appears that the bloodlines are still pretty sound. Get a Sheltie and you will be hooked for life!
~Ellen W-P, owner of a Shetland Sheepdog
They like a firm routine
I am a lover of Shetland sheepdogs. What I love about them is their intelligence, curiosity, and yes, that they are vocal.
Shelties like to know what is going on all the time. This breed does not like to be left alone a great deal and they do not do well in kennels. They are high-maintenance in that they like routine very much, and they need a lot of brushing.
If you are interested in a Sheltie but travel a lot, this is not the dog for you. Nor is it a dog for someone who does not like to go on regular and long walks in all weather.
~Nancy T., owner of a Shetland Sheepdog
Sticks with you like white on rice
These dogs are like white on rice with their favorite human! I cannot do anything without having Scarlett right by my side. She is our second sheltie (we had Sheba for 13 years before Scarlett) and we won't have any other breed.
Once you own one, you know: There's nothing like a Sheltie! They are sweet, gentle, sensitive, intuitive, whip-smart, curious, and playful. What more could you want?
The barking goes with the territory, so don't get a sheltie if you can't tolerate it, or live where it will be bothersome to others. They are literally hardwired to bark, and when they do so, they are just doing their jobs.
Their herding/chasing instinct is also strong, so lots of ball playing is a must. Scarlett's favorite pastime is playing soccer with a vinyl playball. She is very adept at kicking it with her legs and steering it around corners with her nose. She also likes to "bop" it off her nose when you throw it in the air.
Shelties are very active and need lots of exercise and face time. Because of their sensitivity, they cannot be left alone for long periods. Happy and full of joy, these are amazing little creatures!
~Helene L., owner of a Shetland Sheepdog
Great with kids and other dogs
My Shetland Sheepdog, Gizmo, is just a sweet little teddy bear. He's been in my family for 15 years, yet he still has the same amount of energy as he did when he was a puppy.
What I love most about this breed is that they'll always be there for you if you treat them good. When I was little and had nightmares, my dog somehow knew that I was scared. So everytime I woke up feeling scared and alone, he would just look up at me from the side of my bed as if asking me if I'm okay, then jumped up on my bed and cuddled up next to me until I went back to sleep.
So if you have kids and you're interested in getting a Sheltie but afraid that it might hurt them, trust me, it won't. Just make sure your kids aren't hitting or pulling them and you shouldn't have any problems.
And if you already have a dog and scared that the Sheltie might attack it, I honestly doubt it will from my experience with a Shetland Sheepdog. But as the dog gets older it might begin to get a little grumpy toward another dog if it starts jumping on it or taking its food. So just be careful with it as it gets older.
~Susan T., owner of a Shetland Sheepdog