Shetland Sheepdog

  • Temperament Lively, Playful, Reserved, Alert, Gentle, Loyal, Responsive, Active, Intelligent, Affectionate, Trainable
  • Family Friendly Yes
  • Trainability Difficult to Train
  • Shedding Average
  • Group Herding
  • Color Sable, Mahogany Sable, Shaded Sable, Tri-Color, Mix of White & Tan
  • Origin Scotland (1800s)
  • Height 13-16 inches
  • Weight 11-24 lbs
  • Original Function Sheep Herding
  • Current Function Sheep Herding, Herding Trials
  • Lifespan 12-15 years

Origin of the Breed

The Shetland Sheepdog is a descendent of the beloved Border Collie and the Icelandic Yakkin, a small breed which is now extinct. "Shelties" were fully developed in Scotland in the 18th century, though it was not recognized as an official dog breed in England until 1909. They were originally bred to be smaller herding dogs, guarding flocks of sheep and geese, etc. Today they are regarded as companionable, gentle trackers and reliable watch dogs.

Coloring and Size Variations

While there are many color variations, Shetland Sheepdog most often are sable, reddish, tricolor (black, tan, and white), or bi-black (black and white); there are also Shelties with merle coats, such as sable colored merle and grayish blue merle, etc.

Behavioral Tendencies

The cheerful and hard working Shetland Sheepdogs are delightful companions. They are eager to please their owners, are loyal, affectionate, and exuberant. They tend to be a sensitive breed, picking up on vocal cues and authoritative hierarchy. They need to understand that the human is boss, and that the children fall under this category as well. They require firm and diligent leadership to learn how to submit to authority or the enthusiastic communicators may bark incessantly or even get snippy and peevish, biting if not taught obedience.

Training Needs

Shelties are highly intelligent, and wonderfully responsive when well-trained. Teaching the Sheltie to heel, stay, and sit are imperative, as chasing animals, children, or moving vehicles could prove dangerous to them. It is also important to train a Sheltie on acceptable behavior without coddling them, or letting them develop "small dog syndrome," and this will make them unpleasant for the humans to be around.

Health Complications

This breed's eager disposition also applies to food. Shetland Sheepdogs can tend to over-eat and will gain weight if meal size is not limited. They also tend to struggle with eye ailments, genetic diseases resulting in sensitivity to certain drugs, and displacement of the kneecap, or patella.


Walking or running this natural herder should be part of a daily routine for your Sheltie. They love chasing animals in parks, and enjoy a playful romp with their owners or new friends in an open area.

Living Condistions

Shetland Sheepdogs are used to running around outdoors, and will require consistent exercise to remain comfortable in a smaller living space or apartment. A yard would be ideal for the wellbeing of these peppy and curious creatures.


Though they have thick long coats, Shelties are easy to care for. They require daily brushing, with dampened hair to work out any knots. This breed tends to be aware of their coat, and takes pains to clean it relatively often, making frequently bathing unnecessary.

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