Shetland Sheepdog Breed Guide

Breed Group:
Herding Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Shetland Sheepdog Info & History

Originating from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, the Shetland Sheepdog’s characteristics are hardworking, intelligent, and loyal. Once used for herding and protecting flocks of sheep, the Shetland Sheepdog was a necessary addition for farmers and cattlemen. Later believed to be a cross between a Collie and some type of smaller dog, the Shelties shared many similar traits with their popular cousin.

During the 1800’s, Shetland Sheepdogs made their way to Scotland and England where they continued their work as a herding breed. During this time, they quickly gained popularity due to their petite size and skillful qualities.

Even though this was a beloved breed by many, the Shetland Sheepdog caused a great deal of controversy in both England and America. Many breeders and owners could not agree on how the Shetland Sheepdog should look like. This sparked an increase in clubs and organizations that vocalized their personal opinions of the breed. Finally in 1930, these groups were able to join together to agree upon the desired Sheltie appearance.

Beginning in 1970, the Shetland Sheepdog experienced a swift increase in popularity, finding themselves on the top ten list of most popular breeds in America. Even to this day, Shelties are a family favorite due to their loyalty and athleticism.

Shetland Sheepdog Temperament & Behavior

Active, strong, and gentle- the Sheltie has many admirable qualities in the eyes of pet owners. Depending on their genetics, the Shetland Sheepdog personality traits can range from hyper and outgoing to reserved and timid. This will also vary if they have been socialized from a young age.

In order to have a loyal and friendly companion, make sure to introduce them to new people, places, and experiences as early on as possible. This will make them more comfortable and approachable when it comes time to meeting strangers and unfamiliar dogs.

Instinctively protective of their family and loved ones, Shelties are known to be great watchdogs when called to action. Their defensive qualities run through their veins- ready to alert their family of an intruder in any instant. This in part is due to their skeptic tendencies, making them very hesitant around anyone outside of their immediate family.

Training a Shetland Sheepdog

Showcasing a strong desire to please their owners and a deep willingness to learn, the Shetland Sheepdog can be an excellent dog to train. Their high level of intelligence needs to be continuously challenged. This can be done through a game of fetch or obedience training.

Although it is fairly easy to train a Sheltie, they still require persistent practice and attention. This breed tends to be stubborn when it comes to learning new tricks, so make sure to start the process as early on as possible. Once you establish yourself as their owner, they will have the respect to obey you.

When training your Shetland Sheepdog, use positive reinforcement to promote good behavior. Shelties are a sensitive breed, and may become depressed or anxious if treated poorly. In order to avoid any anxiety issues from occurring in your furry friend, use calm voices, treat incentives, and positive praise to support good behavior.

Exercise Requirements for Shetland Sheepdogs

Even though a Sheltie does not need hours of physical activity on a daily basis, they do require moderate exercise for optimal health. At times, a Shetland Sheepdog will appear content with just lounging around the house. However, when given the chance, they love to run and play with their owners and other dogs.

Since this is an intelligent breed, you have to keep their mental state stimulated. Try incorporating engaging games such as lure coursing, herding competitions, tracking, or flyball which will challenge them both mentally and physically. Keeping them entertained is very important to prevent boredom from settling in. Once your Sheltie starts looking for their own source of amusement, you can expect them to chew up your sofa or dig up your beautifully planted flowers in the backyard.

Shetland Sheepdog Life Span & Longevity

A Shetland Sheepdog has a typical lifespan of 12 to 14 years.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs a Breed Popularity?

Known for their playful and loyal personality, the Shetland Sheepdog has always been a beloved dog. In 1911, the AKC recognized Shelties as its own breed, which helped to increase their popularity throughout the country. Today, they rank as the 24th most popular breed in the United States. This in part is due to the fact that they are great for all types of households and have a very even temperament.

Feeding Requirements for a Shetland Sheepdog

What you feed your Shetland Sheepdog directly affects their overall health. That’s why it’s critical to provide them with foods that are high-quality and made with all natural ingredients. Check their food labels for natural sources of proteins and vegetables. Many companies try to use corn and soy as fillers in their products. These ingredients can be detrimental to your pets digestive system since they are harder to digest.

Professionals suggest feeding your dog ¾ to 2 cups of nutritious food each day, split into two separate meals. To avoid obesity and other health complications, measure out your pet’s food and monitor their consumption. Just like with humans, no two dogs are made the same. That’s why you should consider their age, weight, activity level, and metabolism when creating their feeding regimen. For a more specific feeding plan for your pet, consult with your veterinarian for professional guidance.

Along with their food, always provide your dog with fresh water at all times. Their bowl should be cleaned once a day to prevent bacteria from growing. Providing clean drinking water is especially important after physical activity or in hotter climates.

Shetland Sheepdog Grooming

The thick, double coat of a Shetland Sheepdog comes in sable, black, or blue merle. To maintain the health, look, and feel of their coat, weekly brushing is highly recommended. Use a pin brush to detangle and rid their coat of any dead hair that may be lingering. This breed will also shed at least once a year, so additional brushing during this time is highly recommended.

Along with basic Shetland Sheepdog grooming tactics, Shelties need their teeth brushed once a week to avoid tartar and bacteria to build up. Gum and dental disease are highly common in canines and can be avoided with weekly brushing. During this weekly cleaning, check your dog’s ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and skin for any irritation or inflammation.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Good with Kids?

When properly trained and socialized, Shelties can be a great companion for children. Introduce your dog to your child at a young age so they can learn appropriate behavior early on. It’s important to note that these dogs are still apart of the herding group. This means they are used to chasing and nipping small, moving objects, including children.

This Shetland Sheepdog behavior needs to be immediately stopped if a child lives in the same household. Training your dog to interact with a child is definitely needed, however, it is also important to teach your kids how to treat your pet as well. Both parties need to establish trust and respect in order for the relationship to function properly. No matter how well-behaved your Sheltie and child may be, always make sure to have a parent supervise all interactions.

Shetland Sheepdog Health Problems

For the most part, Shelties are fairly healthy breeds. However, this does not exclude them from all health complications. Below is a list of several Shetland Sheepdog health problems that they are prone to developing.

Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism occurs when the body is unable to supply sufficient levels of thyroid hormones. Dry skin, thinning of the coat, change in weight, and sensitivity to cold temperatures are all common symptoms of hypothyroidism. Once this condition is properly diagnosed, it can easily be cured with a synthetic hormone pill.

Patellar Luxation: Patellar Luxation occurs when the kneecap dislocates from the groove of the femur. This genetic malformation causes lameness or abnormal movement in the affected dog. Once patellar luxation has developed, degenerative arthritis usually follows.

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia occurs when there is a deformity within the hip socket. Over time, this will decrease the movement and functionality of the hip joint. Dogs that are diagnosed with hip dysplasia have difficulty walking, lack mobility in either one or both of their back legs, and have deterioration of the ball and socket within the hip. Once hip dysplasia worsens, the joint cartilage will begin to deteriorate.

Collie eye anomaly: This inherited disease affects the retina, choroid, and sclera of a dog’s eye. Collie eye anomaly occurs when the choroid of the eye becomes underdeveloped, leading to several complications within the eye. Collie eye anomaly ranges in severity and can cause complete blindness in serious cases.

Von Willebrand’s disease: VWD is a serious blood clotting disorder that commonly affects dogs. This disease occurs when a dog is lacking Von Willebrand factor, which is a protein that causes blood to properly clot. Symptoms include excessive bleeding, nosebleeds, blood in the urine, and anemia.

Other Resources

National breed website: American Shetland Sheepdog Association 
Rescues: Sheltie Nation