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.
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 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.
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.
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.