Welcome to Sheltie Planet
Shelties are the smartest small dog breed in the world. What's more, they're goddamn gorgeous. Whether loving lap dogs or sporting super stars, Shetland Sheepdogs make fantastic family pets.
I'm Becky Casale and I have two Shelties, Howard and Piper, who you can see in the slow motion video below. After 11 years of their companionship, this site is the result of all I know and love about Shetland Sheepdogs.
Anatomy of a Sheltie
First things first. Know your Sheltie anatomy.
Shetland Sheepdog Love
I've been in love with Shelties since 2008, ever since we met this gorgeous little guy, who we very modestly named Sir Howard Woofington Moon.
With his floppy ears and almond eyes, Howard had me at "Yap!"
There are a few things you need to know about Howard Woofington Moon. Firstly, he is driven by his stomach. This has got him into many awkward sausage-based situations over the years. He simply can't understand why all the food isn't for him. Can you?
Secondly, Howard has a half brother named Piper. Piper was meant to be a show dog, because his breeder found him to be ludicrously handsome. However, he turned out to have monstrous stage fright. He was re-homed with us at 9 months old and seemed to approved of the transition.
From the day Piper arrived, Howard decided he would be the King of All Food and he hasn't looked back since. Piper, meanwhile, takes what he can get. Which is quite a lot, considering we all know that Howard is a food-hog and Piper needs extra special treats when Howard isn't looking.
As Jeff Goldblum once put it: "Life finds a way". Actually, that was Michael Crichton, but it was Jeff who said it on screen and therefore wins the credit.
Not to be overshadowed by Howard Woofington Moon, Piper is diametrically opposed in personality type to his half brother. He is extremely eager to please his humans and watches us often to look for changes in our facial expressions. He has such good eyesight that he watches TV and barks excitedly when bears appear.
Together, our Shelties rule the beaches of northern New Zealand with their barking, chasing waves and general interrogation of beach-goers. You can read some more about the early years of Howard and Piper here.
In the meantime, here's a montage of our Shelties biting each other to death and then getting bored and going back to sleep.
Here's a visual splat of many of our popular articles. If you'd like to see a searchable list of articles from all time, visit our archives. If you're getting a Sheltie puppy or already have a live-in beast of your own, you may enjoy my 190-page illustrated ebook, The Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Types of Shelties Are There?
You could categorize Shelties in a few different (unofficial) ways depending on your outlook:
American vs English Shelties. Wherever you go in the world, you'll find only two breeding "types". American Shelties are a little larger and have a slightly longer snout than English Shelties. There are other subtle differences which breeders select to meet the Shetland Sheepdog breed standard to produce the best examples of the Sheltie dog breed. Howard and Piper are English types, whose ancestors were imported to New Zealand from Scotland some years back.
Coat Colors. There are eight coat colors seen in Shelties. The most common is Sable. Less often, you'll see Black, Tri-Color, and Blue Merle Shelties. Within those groupings you have even rarer coat colors like Bi-Black, Bi-Blue and the virtually-mythical Color Headed White. See all the coat colors here.
Miniature Shelties. In America there is a small but resolute crowd of Mini Sheltie adorers. These are Shelties which are less than 13 inches tall at the shoulder. Miniature Shelties aren't an official dog breed but are seen in the pet trade and, tragically, in puppy mills.
Are Shelties Good Family Dogs?
Shelties make the best family pets, provided they are well-socialized with children when they're puppies. Shelties are smart and eager, therefore highly trainable, and they're sensitive and gentle with little ones.
Moderately active with a love of playing chase, your Sheltie will be keen to join in with all family activities. Whether it's herding rolling rocks, playing hide-and-seek, or zooming around with no purpose whatsoever. This is what makes our Shelties endlessly entertaining and the kids love it.
Beware, though, that this heightened sensitivity can create a nervous Sheltie. Lack of socialization when they're young can leave them upset by dominant people. They can be overwhelmed by children shrieking and running, triggering them to alarm bark, herd and snap in response.
Shelties love to be part of the family, making their voices heard and following you all around the house. They're sensitive, affectionate, and enjoy being around their family. If you're out the house most of the day, don't get a Sheltie (or any dog for that matter) as they will become very lonely and anxious.
How Do I Avoid Raising a Nervous Sheltie?
It's essential to socialize your Sheltie puppy with all kinds of people at a young age including children and babies. Early exposure is key. A well-socialized adult Sheltie will then get along with everyone because they have good experiences to recall from puppyhood.
Don't worry if your Sheltie puppy seems particularly bitey. Like babies, they explore the world with their mouths and it does not mean they're going to be nervous, nippy adults! Once they're through the puppy stage, dogs of all breeds learn not to be mouthy. That means they understand it's never ok for their teeth to make contact with your skin.
The same can't be said for their tongues... Piper loves to lick our wounds. We even taught our dogs to "kiss" us on the nose. Is that gross? Probably.
Do Shelties Get Along with Other Pets?
For sure, Shelties can get along with other family pets, as long as other pets are willing to stand their ground when herded! It may be strange at first, as each pet comes to understand their role in the dynamic, but give them time. Again, early exposure makes all the difference.
The herding instinct will drive your Sheltie to herd your cat, for example. But once he's cornered the poor bugger, he won't really know what to do with her. To establish some ground rules, your cat must have enough confidence to put your pooch in his place by walking away all sassy. In short, if they don't get a reaction they won't bother much next time.
What's The History of Shetland Sheepdogs?
Shelties hail from Scandinavian herding dogs, after they were imported to the Shetland Islands of Scotland in the 1700s for farming. They were soon crossed with Border Collies and Rough Collies which gives them the Lassie look.
Later, Shetland farmers deliberately bred their working "Toonies" to be cute and fluffy by crossing them with small dog breeds like Spaniels, Pomeranians, Papillons and Corgis. They found they could sell the fluffies to rich tourists who came by the islands.
What's The Sheltie Temperament Like?
Shelties are sensitive and expressive. They have many different ways of displaying their emotions through body language, facial expressions and vocal chords. Known for their high pitched barking, they can be trained to curb their bark. They can also speak on demand and even sing if it pleases you. But they were definitely not made to be seen and not heard.
Being a small dog breed and lightweight under all that deceptive fur, Shetland Sheepdogs are naturally gentle creatures. Their sensitive and playful nature enables them to play safely with young children and many other types of dogs.
As an intelligent alarm dog, they're very sensitive to their environment too. In this capacity, your Sheltie will alert you to any unusual activity going on outside. And that means cars, cats and even children playing in the street.
Where Can I Find Sheltie Puppies?
All puppies are adorable. That's a scientific fact! But the Sheltie puppy, with his big floppy ears, beautiful almond eyes and silky soft fur, can be deliberately cute on demand.
Shelties are popular dogs in the US, ranking at number 24 out of 190 American Kennel Club breeds. If you want to adopt a Sheltie, first browse our rescue directory or visit Adopt a Pet and save the life of an abandoned Sheltie near you. Sadly, people give up their dogs for all kinds of reasons and at all ages. You may be able to adopt a Shetland Sheepdog who was neglected or left behind after a house move. Sometimes they're simply given up because the owners can't handle the responsibility of a dog.
The only trustworthy place to buy a purebred Sheltie puppy is through a professional Sheltie breeder who performs genetic testing and strives to produce excellent examples of the breed. They aren't in it for the money or the pet trade. They sell puppies only as a by-product of breeding to create champions, as not every puppy in a litter has champion potential. Professional breeders care a great deal about health, appearance and temperament.
On the flipside, be extremely dubious of online listings with Sheltie puppies for sale that don't trade under a specific Sheltie breeder name. Do they compete in dog shows for conformation and agility? Will they allow you to pick up their puppy from their dedicated kennels? Do they specialize in working with just one or two dog breeds? If not, they are likely the work of profit-driven puppy mills. These are inhumane and cruel. Do not support a puppy mill, ever.
This includes buying puppies from pet stores, which are often stocked by amateur backyard breeders and puppy mills. Genuine breeders never sell their pups through pet stores as they can't see where their dogs will end up. Be vigilant and do your homework. An anonymous online puppy listing is dripping in cruelty.
When Can I Take My Sheltie Puppy Home?
Like all dog breeds, Sheltie puppies shouldn't be separated from their mother until they're at least 8 weeks old. Any earlier and the puppy usually becomes nervous and has problems settling into her new home.
Puppies should be settling in with their new family by 12 weeks, when they're forming strong attachments. Therefore, 8-12 weeks is the best window of opportunity to take your new puppy home and responsible breeders will ensure this timeframe.
If you're about to adopt a Sheltie puppy, see my detailed 20-item checklist for everything you'll need when you bring your puppy home.
How Do I Train My Sheltie?
The number one rule of puppy training is to build a relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect. So before you begin obedience training, the first step is create a bond with your Sheltie. This not only helps you understand his needs and instincts, it also help your Sheltie develop trust in you.
When puppies securely understand they belong to the family, they're more likely to respond to your commands. The trust you build early on comes from showing affection, defining mutual boundaries, and treating any breaches with firmness.
Without enforcing such limitations, it's difficult to build respect with your Sheltie. And when there is no respect, building a bond with your puppy becomes almost impossible. So don't be afraid of laying down the rules in a fair manner.
We like clicker training for a gentle conditional training method that uses only positive reinforcement to teach your Sheltie new behaviors.
It's beautifully simple really. The clicking noise ingrains the habit for your dog to listen and react to your commands. This simplicity is actually the key: once entrained, the click tells your dog to listen up. Through psychological conditioning (a most natural way for your dog to learn) you can instil new behaviors and commands in your Sheltie.
Are Shelties a Healthy Dog Breed?
Purebred Shelties come from careful breeding practices, including selection of mating pairs that are free of genetic disease and have a good temperament. The historic crossing of related dogs to create the original breed has, however, left genetic traces of certain disease mutations which we have to look out for. These are more likely to crop up in amateur breeding and puppy mill victims and include:
- Patellar Luxation (kneecap dislocation)
- Hip Dysplasia (malformation of the hip joint and arthritis)
- Dermatomyositis (skin inflammation)
- Collie eye (congenital eye deformities)
- Von Willebrande's Disease (blood clotting disorder)
Eventually, with widespread genetic testing, common purebred ailments can be flushed out of the gene pool. Learn more about these inherited diseases in my article on genetic health issues in Shelties.
As for lifespan, Shelties often live for 12-14 years. That equates to living 84-98 human years! Take care of your Sheltie's vaccinations, diet, weight, coat, exercise, and dental needs, and he'll enjoy a good quality of life as he ages.
How Do I Groom My Sheltie?
Part of the attraction of Shetland Sheepdogs is their luxurious double coat. And that comes with the responsibility of weekly brushing sessions. At around 5-6 months old, your puppy will begin to develop the classic thick Sheltie coat. That's when you need to step-up your grooming routine.
So how the heck do you groom a Sheltie? My step-by-step grooming guide will show you how to groom your Shetland Sheepdog so he's ready for action. I also talk about what brushes to use on your Sheltie and how to bathe him and cut his nails safely.
Should I Spay / Neuter My Sheltie Puppy?
On the subject of pet maintenance, it's important to thoroughly consider the issue of de-sexing your Sheltie. Neutering males and spaying females is a routine procedure for dogs and is considered the most responsible option for pet owners. Rescue shelters spay and neuter all Shelties when they are re-homed. And with good reason.
According to The Humane Society, 3 million unwanted dogs are put down in US shelters every year. That's about 1 dog every 10 seconds. I actually feel sick. Often, these animals are the unplanned offspring of cherished family pets. How can you help stop this tragedy? De-sex your dog.
What's more, there are significant health benefits to neutering or spaying your Sheltie. Vets recommend the procedure to improve their quality of life and even extend their lifespan.
Bye For Now
Wow, you've reached the end of the page, you must really love Shelties! Thanks for visiting us and remember to subscribe to Sheltie Planet on Facebook and YouTube for your regular dose of Sheltie love. If you want to talk Sheltie, visit our forums for questions, photos and general woofy banter.
All the fluff, from Becky and Pete.