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Shetland Sheepdog

 Photo of Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog Books

Group: Pastoral - Breed Standard


The Sheltie came from the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. Unlike many miniature breeds that resemble their larger counterparts, this breed was not developed by selectively breeding the Rough Collie for smaller and smaller sizes. Rather, it is the result of the intermingling of Border Collies and possibly several other herding breeds over the past several centuries.

Its exact origins are not known, but the most-often cited ancestors of the breed include the Border Collie (or its ancestors), the Yakki (also Yakkie or Yakkin) dog (a dog kept and bred by Greenland whalers), and the Icelandic sheepdog. During the 19th century, the appeal of small, fluffy dogs became clear, and there are mentions of cross-breedings with Pomeranians (which were larger then than they are today) and with the now-extinct (?) Prince Charles Spaniel or possibly a King Charles Spaniel. Some Shelties in the early 20th century had brindle coats, which could have come from a terrier or Corgi breed. Note: the "mentions" of cross-breedings with Pomeranians is largely seen as a myth by most Sheltie experts. The year 1909 marked the initial recognition of the Sheltie by the English Kennel Club .


Ideal height at withers: dogs: 37 cms (14½ ins); bitches: 36 cms (14 ins).


The Shetland Sheepdog is an outstanding companion dog and is intensely loyal, with a pleasant temperament. It is lively, intelligent, trainable, and willing to please and obey. Shelties are loving, loyal, and affectionate with their family, but are naturally aloof with strangers and might not appreciate being petted by someone they do not know; for this reason Shelties must be socialized extensively. Most Shelties, if encouraged, will warm up to strangers if given time. Some can be quite reserved and some have varying degrees of shyness. Although they are excellent family pets, Shelties do especially well with children if they are raised with them from an early age; however, their small size makes it easy for a child to accidentally injure them, so supervision is necessary. The herding instinct is still strong in many Shelties. They love to chase things, including squirrels, ducks, and children. When people are milling around the yard, Shelties sometimes try to "herd" the people into a group by running around, barking, and nipping at heels. This tendency appears most when children run around the yard in a group. Shelties love to run in wide-open areas. The space should be safe and they should not get too far away.

Breed Health

Shetland Sheepdogs have a tendency toward inherited malformation and disease of the eyes. Each individual puppy should have his eyes examined by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist. The two basic forms of inherited eye problems in shelties are SES (Sheltie Eye Syndrome) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).SES can be detected in young puppies by a certified ophthalmologist. The disease involves all three layers of the posterior eyeball. Mild SES can result in a blind spot, while severe cases will lead to complete blindness. PRA can not be detected until later in life, as it is a "progressive" disease. Affected dogs often begin with night vision problems, progressing to loss of day vision and total blindness. Some lines may be prone to hypothyroidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, or skin allergies.


Shelties also are very smart, making them highly trainable, but do best with a sensitive, yet firm, owner. See our books on training

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