The Shetland Sheepdog: Your complete guide!

The Shetland Sheepdog, a picture of intelligence, unwavering loyalty, and boundless energy, has captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts and families alike. With its roots in the Shetland Islands, distinctive physical features, and a unique set of personality traits, this breed has earned its reputation as a delightful and agile companion with herding instincts.

Shetland Sheepdog portrait
Affectionate | Alert | Agile
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    Everything you need to know about the Shetland Sheepdog!

    Category (Explanation)Breed Information
    Year of Breed Conception19th century
    Country of OriginShetland Islands, Scotland
    Weight (lbs & kg) (Male)14-23 lbs (6-10.5 kg)
    Weight (lbs & kg) (Female)12-20 lbs (5.5-9 kg)
    Coat TypeDouble coat with a mane
    Color VariationsVarious colors, often sable and white
    Shedding Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Height (cm & in)13-16 inches (33-41 cm)
    Breed SizeSmall to medium
    Trainability (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Mental Needs (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Intelligence Level (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Energy Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Agility (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Loyalty (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Playfulness (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Exercise NeedsRegular exercise and mental stimulation
    Guarding Proficiency (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Sociability with Children (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Barking Level (Low, Moderate, High)Moderate
    Digging Tendency (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Destructive Behavior (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Drooling Level (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Obedience Level (Low, Moderate, High)High
    Apartment Friendly (Yes/No)Can adapt to apartment living with sufficient exercise
    Inherent Prey DriveLow to moderate
    Physical Risk to Others (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Travel Fatality Risk (Low, Moderate, High)Low
    Allergen PotentialLow
    Health Concerns (List of Common Health Concerns)Hip Dysplasia, Eye Issues, Collie Eye Anomaly
    Average Life Expectancy (Life Expectancy in Years)12-14 years
    Make sure to take care of your Shetland Sheepdog and

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    History of the Shetland Sheepdog

    The Shetland Sheepdog, often referred to as the Sheltie, hails from the Shetland Islands of Scotland. These dogs were originally bred for herding and working alongside farmers in the harsh climate of the Shetlands.

    Shelties share ancestry with Collies and other herding breeds, resulting in their herding instincts and intelligence. Despite their smaller size, they proved adept at herding and guarding livestock.

    Today, Shetland Sheepdogs are beloved for their agility, intelligence, and affectionate nature. They make wonderful companions and excel in various dog sports and obedience training.

    What makes the Shetland Sheepdog so special?

    Shetland Sheepdog standing on top of a snow covered road

    What makes the Shetland Sheepdog special is its endearing charm and agility. These dogs are known for their elegance and grace in herding and dog sports. Their gentle and affectionate nature makes them cherished family pets.

    Shetland Sheepdogs played a crucial role in herding and protecting livestock in the Shetland Islands and other regions. Their small size and intelligence made them adept herders, ensuring the safety of sheep and other animals. Today, they continue to exhibit their herding instincts in various dog sports and are cherished family companions, preserving their heritage as reliable working dogs.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their endearing and affectionate personalities. They are intelligent, agile, and have a strong desire to please their owners. These dogs are often described as gentle and loving companions.

    Their intelligence and trainability make them quick learners, and they form strong bonds with their human families. Shetland Sheepdogs are characterized by their elegance, grace, and a sweet nature, epitomizing the ideal blend of agility and affection.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are affectionate, intelligent, and gentle. They are known for their herding instincts but are typically good with children and other pets. They can be reserved with strangers.

    Early socialization is important for their well-rounded temperament. They enjoy mental stimulation and physical activity.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are small to medium-sized dogs with a well-proportioned and agile build. They have a refined head with expressive almond-shaped eyes. Ears are small and triangular, standing erect.

    They have a double coat with a dense, weather-resistant outer coat. Coat colors typically include sable, black and white, or blue merle with various shades and white markings. Their tail is often feathered and carried high.

    Males typically stand between 13 to 16 inches (33-41 cm) at the shoulder and weigh between 20 to 30 pounds (9-14 kg), while females are slightly smaller and lighter.

    Shetland Sheepdogs have an alert and graceful presence, reflecting their herding heritage.

    Shetland Sheepdogs come in various coat colors, including:

    1. Sable: A range of shades from light gold to mahogany with black tips.
    2. Black and White: Solid black with white markings.
    3. Blue Merle: A marbled pattern of gray, black, and white.

    Shetland Sheepdogs often have a sable coat pattern, which includes various shades of light gold to mahogany with black tips. Some may have black and white coat patterns.

    Shetland Sheepdogs have a moderate shedding level. They shed consistently with increased shedding during seasonal transitions. Regular grooming and brushing can help manage shedding and keep their coat in good condition.

    Shetland Sheepdogs have a double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it healthy and minimize shedding. Grooming habits for this breed include:

    1. Brushing: Regular brushing, about once or twice a week, is essential to prevent matting and remove loose fur. A slicker brush or an undercoat rake is useful for reaching the dense undercoat.

    2. Bathing: Shetland Sheepdogs do not require frequent baths, as their natural oils help maintain coat health. Bathing should only be done when necessary, using a dog-specific shampoo. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.

    3. Ears: Check and clean their ears regularly to prevent wax buildup or infections.

    4. Nails: Keep their nails trimmed to a comfortable length to prevent discomfort and maintain proper gait.

    5. Teeth: Dental hygiene is important. Brush their teeth regularly to prevent dental issues and bad breath. Dental chews or toys can also help.

    6. Tail and Paw Care: Pay attention to the tail and paw areas, where dirt and debris can accumulate. Keep them clean and inspect for any signs of irritation or injury.

    Shetland Sheepdogs have a moderate to high activity level and enjoy both physical and mental stimulation. Key points about their activity level include:

    1. Exercise Needs: Shetland Sheepdogs require regular exercise to stay fit and happy. Daily walks, playtime, and interactive activities are beneficial.

    2. Energy Level: They have moderate to high energy levels, especially when young. Regular exercise helps maintain their well-being.

    3. Herding Heritage: Historically, Shetland Sheepdogs were bred for herding livestock. They excel in activities like agility, obedience, and herding trials.

    4. Mental Stimulation: In addition to physical activity, mental challenges through training and puzzle toys are important to keep them engaged.

    5. Family Dogs: They are known to be excellent family pets and enjoy activities with their human companions, such as agility and obedience.

    Belgian Laekenois dogs are highly intelligent and known for their problem-solving abilities. Here are some key points about their intelligence:

    1. Trainability: Belgian Laekenois dogs are highly trainable and excel in obedience training. They quickly learn complex commands and tasks.
    2. Problem-Solving: They exhibit strong problem-solving skills, which is valuable in various working roles that require quick thinking and adaptability.
    3. Adaptability: Belgian Laekenois dogs are adaptable to different living environments, making them versatile companions.
    4. Work and Utility: Historically bred for herding and working, their intelligence serves them well in making rapid decisions and responding to commands.
    5. Social Intelligence: Belgian Laekenois dogs form strong bonds with their families and are attentive to human emotions. They are loyal and protective.

    Belgian Laekenois’ exceptional intelligence and versatility make them excel in a variety of roles. Training, socialization, and mental stimulation are essential for their development and well-being.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent and need mental stimulation. Engage them in obedience training, agility, and interactive games to keep their minds sharp.

    Social Interaction: They are social dogs and need regular interaction with their human family. Loneliness can lead to anxiety or destructive behavior, so provide companionship and attention.

    Exercise: Mental exercise is equally important. Offer them tasks that challenge their problem-solving skills.

    Training and Obedience: Shetland Sheepdogs benefit from obedience training, which not only stimulates their minds but also strengthens their bond with their owners. Consistent, positive-reinforcement training is effective in shaping their behavior.

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    What to look out for, before you get a Shetland Sheepdog!

    Shetland Sheepdog standing on top of a road

    If you’re thinking about a Shetland Sheepdog, consider these factors:

    1. Exercise Needs: Shelties are active and require regular exercise and mental stimulation.

    2. Training: They are intelligent and benefit from obedience training and socialization.

    3. Space: Shelties adapt well to smaller living spaces but need exercise and playtime.

    4. Coat Care: Regular grooming is necessary to maintain their double coat and prevent matting.

    5. Herding Instinct: Shelties may exhibit herding behaviors, which can include chasing or nipping at family members.

    Shetland Sheepdogs, while not as large as some breeds, may pose a physical risk to others if not properly socialized, trained, or managed. The risk assessment factors include:

    1. Protective Instinct: Shetland Sheepdogs may have a protective instinct, especially towards their family. Proper training is essential to manage this instinct.

    2. Socialization: Early and thorough socialization is crucial to ensure Shetland Sheepdogs are comfortable around people and other animals. Poor socialization can lead to fear or aggression.

    3. Training: Obedience training is essential to teach Shetland Sheepdogs appropriate behavior and ensure they respond to commands. Well-trained dogs are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior.

    4. Owner Responsibility: Responsible ownership involves being aware of the dog’s behavior and taking necessary precautions in public settings.

    5. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL): Shetland Sheepdogs may not be commonly subject to BSL, but owners should be aware of local regulations.

    6. Individual Variability: Each dog is unique, and behavior can vary. Responsible ownership, proper training, and socialization are key to minimizing the potential physical risk to others.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are often great with children. They are affectionate, intelligent, and enjoy playtime. Their herding instincts may lead to them trying to round up kids, but this behavior is generally manageable. Proper socialization is crucial for their interactions with kids.

    Shetland Sheepdogs can be good swimmers. Their medium-sized build and agility often allow them to enjoy swimming. Some may have a natural instinct for it, while others might be more cautious. As with any dog, individual comfort levels vary, so ensure proper supervision when introducing them to water.

    1. Early Training: Start training your Shetland Sheepdog puppy as early as possible to capitalize on their learning potential.
    2. Socialization: Expose your puppy to various people, animals, and environments to ensure they become well-adjusted adults.
    3. Positive Reinforcement: Use treats, praise, and toys to reward good behavior and strengthen your bond with your puppy.
    4. Consistency: Maintain consistency in your training methods and cues to prevent confusion.
    5. Basic Commands: Teach essential commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” for obedience and safety.
    6. House Training: Establish a regular routine for potty breaks and offer praise for outdoor elimination to housetrain your puppy.
    7. Crate Training: Use crate training to create a secure and comfortable space for your puppy, building positive associations with the crate.
    8. Social Skills: Promote positive interactions with other dogs and people to develop strong social skills.
    9. Exercise and Play: Ensure your Shetland Sheepdog puppy receives ample exercise and playtime to prevent restlessness.
    10. Chewing: Provide suitable chew toys to satisfy their need to chew and protect your belongings.
    11. Patience and Persistence: Training may take time; stay patient and avoid punitive methods.
    12. Professional Training: Consider professional training classes if you encounter challenges or need additional guidance.

    Positive training practices will assist your Shetland Sheepdog puppy in becoming a well-behaved and devoted companion.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are considered moderate in terms of noisiness. They may bark to alert their owners, especially when they detect unusual sounds or activities. However, they are not known to be excessively vocal.

    Shetland Sheepdogs thrive in homes that provide:

    • 1. Active Lifestyle: They do well in households with active individuals or families who can provide regular exercise and playtime.
    • 2. Space: A house with a yard where they can exercise and explore is ideal.
    • 3. Socialization: Early and consistent socialization is crucial to their well-adjusted behavior.
    • 4. Routine: Establishing a routine helps them feel secure and reduces anxiety. Predictable daily schedules are beneficial.
    • 5. Training: They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods and thrive in environments where training and mental stimulation are prioritized.


    • 1. Lack of Exercise: Without sufficient exercise and mental stimulation, Shetland Sheepdogs can become bored and may develop behavioral problems.
    • 2. Isolation: They are social dogs and may struggle in homes where they are frequently left alone for extended periods.
    • 3. Lack of Socialization: Poorly socialized Shetland Sheepdogs may exhibit fear or aggression towards strangers or other animals, which can lead to challenges in public settings.
    • 4. Owner Experience: Inexperienced owners who are not prepared for the breed’s specific needs and characteristics may face challenges in raising a well-behaved Shetland Sheepdog.

    Traveling with Shetland Sheepdogs involves these considerations:

    1. Exercise Needs: Shelties have moderate exercise requirements. Plan for breaks to allow them to stretch and relax during travel.
    2. Size: They are a small to medium-sized breed. Ensure their comfort and safety with suitable travel crates or seat belt harnesses.
    3. Anxiety: Some Shetland Sheepdogs may experience travel anxiety. Gradual introduction to travel and familiar items can help reduce stress.
    4. Air Travel: For air travel, choose pet-friendly airlines with appropriate crate requirements.
    5. Identification: Ensure proper identification for your Shetland Sheepdog while traveling.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are generally healthy, but they may be prone to certain health concerns, including:

    • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): An inherited eye condition that can affect vision.
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A group of inherited diseases that can lead to blindness.
    • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition that affects the hip joints and can lead to arthritis and lameness.
    • Hypothyroidism: A hormonal condition that affects the thyroid gland.

    Proper nutrition is vital for Shetland Sheepdogs. Follow these nutritional habits:

    1. High-Quality Dog Food: Choose dog food with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient.
    2. Age-Appropriate Food: Feed the appropriate life stage formula.
    3. Protein: Opt for a diet with moderate to high protein content.
    4. Balanced Diet: Ensure a balance of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals.
    5. Portion Control: Prevent overfeeding with proper portion sizes.
    6. Fresh Water: Always provide clean, fresh water.
    7. Avoid Table Scraps: Refrain from feeding human food.
    8. Treats: Use treats in moderation for training and rewards.
    9. Consult Your Veterinarian: Seek guidance from your vet for the best diet.
    10. Special Dietary Needs: Address dietary restrictions or allergies with your vet.
    11. Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight through exercise and portion control.
    12. Regular Check-Ups: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for monitoring.

    Proper nutrition is essential for the health and well-being of Shetland Sheepdogs.

    Breed-specific laws (BSL) may affect Shetland Sheepdogs in certain areas, and it’s important for owners to be aware of these regulations. BSL is typically enacted at the local or municipal level and can vary widely from one jurisdiction to another. Here are some types of restrictions that Shetland Sheepdogs may face under BSL:

    1. Mandatory Spaying/Neutering: Some areas may require owners of Shetland Sheepdogs to spay or neuter their dogs.
    2. Special Licensing: BSL may require special licensing for Shetland Sheepdog owners, often involving additional fees and regulations.
    3. Liability Insurance: Owners of Shetland Sheepdogs may be required to carry liability insurance as part of BSL.
    4. Muzzling in Public: In certain regions, BSL may mandate that Shetland Sheepdogs be muzzled when in public spaces.
    5. Ownership Bans: In extreme cases, BSL may ban the ownership of Shetland Sheepdogs altogether in certain areas.

    The rationale for BSL is often based on concerns about public safety and perceived risks associated with specific breeds. While Shetland Sheepdogs are not inherently aggressive, they can be affected by BSL due to their physical resemblance to breeds that are sometimes included in these laws.

    It’s important to note that BSL is a controversial topic, and many advocates argue that it unfairly targets breeds rather than addressing individual dog behavior. They emphasize that responsible ownership, training, and education should be emphasized instead of breed-specific restrictions.

    To determine if there are breed-specific laws or restrictions regarding Shetland Sheepdogs in your area, you should check with your local animal control or government authorities. Be aware of and comply with any local regulations to ensure that you are in compliance with the law while owning a Shetland Sheepdog.

    Woof Mastery is reader supported and our articles may contain affiliate links. 

    Instead of running third party ads that we have no control of we only use links from high-quality companies we are directly partnered with. Making use of these links come at no cost to you our reader, and in many cases have the extra benefit of discounted rates or sign up bonuses.

    If you’re interested you can read more about our affiliate policy here.

    We appreciate your support and always insure that the products and services we recommend are high-quality, helpful and relevant to the subject at hand!

    Fun Facts About The Shetland Sheepdog

    Myth 1: Shetland Sheepdogs are Miniature Rough Collies

    Truth: Shetland Sheepdogs are a distinct breed, not miniature Collies. They have their own history and characteristics.

    Myth 2: They are Only Suitable for Small Spaces

    Truth: While they adapt well to apartments, Shetland Sheepdogs still need exercise and mental stimulation. They thrive in various living environments.

    Shetland Sheepdogs, often referred to as Shelties, have made a name for themselves in various activities, and some famous examples include:

    1. Ch. (Champion) Ashbank A New Trick: Known as “Solo,” this Sheltie became one of the top-winning dogs in American Kennel Club (AKC) history, earning numerous show titles and championships.
    2. Ch. (Champion) Sheltland Black Diamond: “Diamond” achieved fame in the show ring, earning titles and championships in conformation events.
    3. Ch. (Champion) Canami Wildest Dreams: “Katie” gained recognition in the show world, earning conformation titles and contributing to the breed’s reputation in dog shows.
    4. Shetland Sheepdog Stars in Movies: Shelties have also made appearances in various movies and television shows, adding to their fame in the entertainment industry.

    These Shelties have showcased the breed’s elegance and grace, particularly in conformation and dog shows.

    • Herding and Agility: Shetland Sheepdogs are renowned for their herding and agility skills, participating in herding trials and agility competitions.
    • Companionship: Shetland Sheepdogs are beloved family pets, appreciated for their intelligence, loyalty, and gentle demeanor.
    • Art and Literature: They have been featured in art, literature, and media, enhancing their cultural presence.

    Shetland Sheepdogs are beloved by families and dog lovers. Their history as herding and companion dogs has made them cherished members of many households. Specific historical owners may not be widely documented.

    Shetland Sheepdogs, like all breeds, face certain challenges and dangers. Some of the greatest dangers and concerns for the breed include:

    1. Misunderstanding: Misconceptions about the breed’s herding instincts and exercise needs can lead to misunderstandings and potential challenges for owners who are not prepared for the breed’s requirements.
    2. Health Concerns: Shetland Sheepdogs are susceptible to specific health issues, including hip dysplasia, eye conditions, and thyroid problems. Responsible breeding and regular veterinary care are essential to address these concerns.
    3. Herding Instincts: Many Shetland Sheepdogs have strong herding instincts, which may lead to nipping or herding behaviors if not properly managed through training.
    4. Exercise Needs: These dogs require regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent restlessness and destructive behavior due to their high energy levels.
    5. Climate Sensitivity: Their double coat makes them sensitive to heat. Owners in warm climates must take precautions to prevent heat-related issues.
    6. Breed-Specific Legislation: Shetland Sheepdogs may be affected by breed-specific legislation (BSL) in certain areas, leading to restrictions or bans on ownership.
    7. Irresponsible Breeding: Irresponsible breeding practices can result in health and temperament issues. Ethical breeding is crucial for the breed’s well-being.
    8. Training Needs: Proper training is important to manage herding instincts and to provide mental stimulation for the breed.
    9. Socialization: Early and consistent socialization is necessary to ensure Shetland Sheepdogs are well-adjusted around strangers and other dogs.
    10. Coat Care: Their double coat requires regular grooming to prevent matting and maintain skin health.

    By understanding these challenges and providing responsible ownership and care, many of these dangers can be mitigated to ensure the well-being of Shetland Sheepdogs.

    The Shetland Sheepdog, often called the “Sheltie,” originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. It was developed by crossing small mainland collie-type dogs with Shetland’s local small herding breeds. These dogs were selectively bred for herding and working in the challenging environments of the Shetland Islands.

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    Why you're going to love the Shetland Sheepdog

    The Shetland Sheepdog, often called the “Sheltie,” is a breed celebrated for its intelligence, agility, and affectionate nature. Whether herding sheep or being a loving family pet, Shetland Sheepdogs have a special place in the hearts of many.

    Being a Shetland Sheepdog owner entails providing mental and physical activities, grooming, and regular veterinary care. Responsible ownership involves nurturing their herding instincts and addressing potential health concerns.

    With their charming appearance and quick wit, Shetland Sheepdogs continue to be cherished for their versatility and unwavering companionship.

    Be sure to check out the other Paw-some pups we have reviewed!

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