History of the Shetland Sheepdog Breed
The Shetland sheepdog came from the same Scottish herding dog stock that produced the collie and border collie. The smaller collie dogs – some only 18 inches tall – were further developed on the Shetland Islands. It was bred with some Icelandic dogs and possibly even a black and tan King Charles terrier to create the small herding dog we know today. Because of the scarceness of vegetation, the livestock was generally smaller on the Islands. The small Sheltie was perfect for herding under these conditions and was used not only for livestock, but for chickens and ponies as well. The dogs were brought to England before World War I by the British navy, which visited the Islands for maneuvers. Initially they were called “toonie dogs” because of the local Shetland word for farm (“toon”). When first shown around 1906, they were labeled Shetland collies, however collie supporters balked at the comparison. The name was changed to Shetland sheepdog, however the breed is more frequently called by its nickname “Sheltie.” In 1911, the AKC registered the first Shetland sheepdog, Lord Scott, imported from Scotland by John G. Sherman, Jr. of New York. Early on in England, breeders often crossed Shelties with rough-coated collies in a quiet attempt to improve the collie characteristics. This practice produced oversized Shelties and was frowned upon. The breed is extremely popular among families seeking a smaller pet that is beautiful and loyal.
Size and Appearance of the Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog looks like a smaller version of the Rough Collie in form and general appearance. It is longer than it is tall with a smooth effortless gait. It is lightly built, making it quick and agile. It maintains a gentle expression that reveals its intelligence and appears to be questioning – as if waiting to respond to its owner’s commands. It has a double coat and a mane of hair on its neck and chest. Its undercoat is short and close, while its rough outer coat is long and straight. It is colored in sable, tricolor, blue merle, black and white and black and tan.
Shetland Sheepdog Temperament
The Sheltie is the epitome of a family pet. It is gentle, bright, loyal, and friendly. It is obedient and playful, making it great for a family with children, however it may nip at heels during play. It will get along well with other dogs as well as cats and other small animals. It aims to please and is devoted to its family. It is wary of strangers and may bark a lot, which makes it a great watchdog. It is not, however, a guard dog. First, it is not threatening-looking, and although it will warn of intruders, it will either retreat in fear or escort the prowler through your home.
Shetland Sheepdog Recommended Maintenance
The Shetland Sheepdog has a thick, long coat that requires regular grooming. Its coat should be misted with water prior to brushing to help with mats. Tangles are common behind the ears, on the hindquarters and beneath the shoulders. Bathe or dry shampoo as needed. Shelties shed twice a year and will require additional brushing during this time. It is a fairly active dog both indoors and out and requires a moderate amount of exercise. It enjoys a romp in the yard, a walk or short jog, or a good game. The Shetland sheepdog is capable of living outdoors in temperate climates, however it won’t be happy away from its family. It is highly adaptable to smaller living conditions, such as an apartment, provided it receives adequate exercise. This breed is easy to train and incredibly smart. It enjoys a challenge and would enjoy obedience or agility classes.
Shetland Sheepdog Health
• Life span: 12 – 14 years
• Major concerns: dermatomyositis
• Minor concerns: CEA, PRA, trichiasis, cataract, CHD, hemophilia, Legg – Perthes, patellar luxation
• Occasionally seen: PDA, deafness, epilepsy, vWD
• Suggested tests: eye, hip, DNA for vWD
• Note: may be sensitive to ivermectin. Merles should not be bred to merles because homozygous merle is lethal or detrimental to health.