Shetland Sheepdog

"Not a Miniature Collie!"

Photo of Shetland Sheepdog


The Shetland Sheepdog, or "Sheltie" to his friends, originated on – no surprise – the Shetland Islands of Scotland during the latter half of the nineteenth century. On these wild and windy islands, farmers eked out a precarious living raising sheep and growing crops. Their dogs' job was to keep the sheep away from the crops. For a while, these dogs, which were called “Toonies,” didn't even resemble one another, let alone the Sheltie of today. By the century's end, however, commercial sheep operations began to replace the small farming operations on the Shetland Islands, and brought their own, larger dogs with them. With those developments, the Toonies became unemployed. Enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the breed began to systematically add small-sized collies to their breeding programs. The result was the Shetland Sheepdog that we know today. The breed ranked 20th among the 155 breeds registered to the American Kennel Club in 2006.


Shelties tend to present two faces to the world. When interacting with the people in their households, they're cuddly, intuitive, responsive and utterly devoted. Strangers, however, draw a very different reaction. When confronted with a new person, place or event, the Sheltie often is reserved and hesitant. That said, the Sheltie doesn't hesitate to alert his people to any and all goings-on. The breed has a reputation, deservedly so, for barking in response to what would seem to be minor provocations: the incursion of a squirrel into the back yard, a person walking by the house, or the opening of the dishwasher. Training is needed to help the Sheltie differentiate between what you want him to bark at, and what you'd rather he keep quiet about. Children and Shelties often go well together. Both like to run around and make lots of noise. Don't be surprised, though, if you find your Sheltie attempting to herd your children into a tight little circle. When tapping into his heritage, the Sheltie does not distinguish between a herd of sheep and a herd of kids.


At first glance, the Sheltie appears to resemble a Collie in miniature, but there are subtle differences between the two breeds. The most notable difference is the face shape: a Sheltie's head and face shape are far more symmetrical looking than those of the long, narrow-faced Collie. The coats, however, are similar in texture and color variety. Sheltie coats come in several color varieties. The most common variety is sable, which is the familiar gold and white combination seen on most Shelties and Collies – including, Lassie. Other varieties include the tri-color (black, white and tan); blue merle (blueish tinge to a silver-and-white coat with black and tan markings); bi-black (black and white) and bi-blue (blue merle minus the tan markings).


With the exception of his tendency to bark more than most humans would like, the Shetland Sheepdog wants to be a model of good behavior. The typical Sheltie is highly intelligent, almost always cooperative, eager to please and very quick to learn whatever you want to teach him. The breed excels in competitive obedience, agility competition, canine freestyle and, of course, herding.

Grooming & Care

The Sheltie's long, double-coated tresses need a thorough brushing at least once a week with a pin brush. The brushing not only removes dead undercoat and prevents tangles and matting, but also helps to reduce the dog's abundant shedding. Monthly baths and weekly pedicures are also important.

Health Concerns

Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to a number of inherited health problems, including hypothyroidism, dermatomyositis (a disease that causes skin problems, and sometimes muscle atrophy), and Collie Eye Anomaly. Parents should have OFA certificates (hips) and yearly CERF's (for eyes).

Famous Shetland Sheepdog

The title character in the Disney made-for-TV movie "The Little Shepherd Dog of Catalina."

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 4
Schedule 34
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 60
Challenges Likes to bark.
Height 13 to 16 inches
Weight 20 to 30 pounds
Life 12 to 14 years
Home Alone 84
With Kids 90
With Strangers 106
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.