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Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) Breed Information

General Information:

Average Height: 13-16 in
Average Weight: 16-30 lbs
Average Life Span: 12-13 yrs
Coloring: Tri-color (black, white and tan), blue merle, sable (with white markings)
Area of Origin: Shetland Island, Scotland
Similar Breeds: Rough Collie, Smooth Collie, Bearded Collie, Border Collie, Briard, Australian Cattle Dog

History and Origin:

Closely related to the Rough and Smooth Collies, the Shetland Sheepdog is a descendent of an early Border Collie type dog. Crossbreeding the Border Collie with a now-extinct Icelandic herding dog known as the Icelandic Yakkin produced a small, hardy breed that was exceptionally well-skilled for herding young and smaller sheep. It is a fairly old breed, with the breed standard remaining consistent since the early eighteenth century. The isolation of the Shetland Islands allowed for the Shetland Sheepdog to develop with little to no outside influence. The British Navy visited the Shetland Islands occasionally, and brought “Sheltie” puppies back to England, where the breed began building in popularity. It quickly became a beloved family companion, a miniature and more manageable version of the Rough Collie. The Sheltie was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1909, and the American Kennel Club in 1911.

Personality and Temperament:

The Shetland Sheepdog is a spunky, loyal, and loving dog that craves human companionship. It is eager to please and intelligent, making it a good candidate for obedience trials. It is good with respectful children, with whom it will play for hours on end. The Sheltie is a highly trainable dog that must be socialized from a young age; while warm and inviting with its family, it tends to be wary of strangers. It is a barker, and makes a good watch dog. While the Shetland Sheepdog may not be an ideal companion for a nervous owner (it is extremely sensitive to tone of voice) it can make a great first dog for an owner who is committed to its training.

Exercise & Training:

Highly spirited, the Shetland Sheepdog needs daily walks or runs to keep it happy and healthy. As a herding dog, it can get bored if not stimulated both physically and mentally, and excels in activities such as agility, flyball, and herding trials. Highly intelligent and trainable, the Sheltie is extremely perceptive and can recognize tone of voice. Maintaining calm but firm leadership will help build a trusting relationship.


The Shetland Sheepdog has a thick double coat that needs daily brushing to prevent tangles and matting. The undercoat sheds out in the spring and fall, and will need additional brushing to help remove dead hair. Overall, the coat is dirt-proof and the Sheltie is a very clean dog.  Bathe only when necessary to avoid drying out the skin.

Similar Breeds:

The only surviving ancestor of the Shetland Sheepdog is the Border Collie; due to this, the Sheltie shares characteristics with other herding dogs influenced by the Border Collie such as the Rough and Smooth Collies, Australian Cattle Dog, Bearded Collie, and the Briard. It most closely resembles the Rough Collie, and grew in popularity in England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries because of this fact.

Interesting Facts about the Shetland Sheepdog:

1. There was a line of Shelties in Sweden which possessed a Black and Tan coat coloring.

2. A nickname for the Shetland Sheepdog is the “Toonie” which is Norwegian for “Small Farm”.  It is thought to have garnered the nickname because the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands were of Norwegian descent.

3. You can test your Shetland Sheepdog knowledge with this short quiz on PopSugar.com!

Organizations dedicated to the Shetland Sheepdog:

American Shetland Sheepdog Association
United Shetland Sheepdog Association
Tri-State Shetland Sheepdog Rescue
Northern California Sheltie Rescue
Dallas/Forth Worth Sheltie Rescue

Breeds Similar to Shetland Sheepdogs:

Breed Information Shetland Sheepdog

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • October 2, 2014, 1:07 pm

    Pretty good article.That sums up a sheltie pretty well. I would have mentioned something about how they like to herd children and anything that they can. Like the nipping at the heals even.

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