Do Shelties Melt Your Heart?
Shelties are beautiful, agile and sensitive little dogs, ranking #1 for intelligence among the small dog breeds. They're double coated furballs and agility superstars. In all, Shetland Sheepdogs are highly trainable family dogs.
My name is Becky Casale and I'm a Sheltie fanatic in New Zealand. Those are my furballs in the slow-mo video, frolicking with my partner Pete. After 11 years of Shetland Sheepdog companionship, this website is the result of all I know and love about this brilliant dog breed.
If you'd like to support my work, download my 140-page Sheltie Anthology for $7 and join our social communities on Facebook and YouTube. Remember to bookmark us and come back soon for more fluffy encounters.
I've been in love with Shetland Sheepdogs since 2008, when I met this gorgeous little guy named Howard Woofington Moon.
With his floppy ears and almond eyes, Howard had me at "Yap!"
Howard is driven by his stomach and it has got him into many awkward situations over the years. He can't understand why all the food isn't for him. Can you?
Howard's half brother, Piper, came to us as a 9-month-old dog-child. Piper is extremely eager to please and sensitive to our facial expressions. He also likes to bark at bears on the TV.
Together, our little Shetland Sheepdogs rule the beaches of New Zealand with their barking, chasing waves and general interrogation of beach-goers.
Read more about The Early Years of Howard and Piper here.
If I've whet your puppy appetite, check out this page of 101 Sheltie Puppies featuring adorable puppies.
10 Things You Need to Know About Shelties
- Shelties are a small to medium dogs. The official breed standard set by the American Kennel Club declares them to be 13-16 inches (33-41cm) at the shoulder and weighing 15-25 pounds (7-11kg). These guidelines ensure we continue to breed the same Shetland Sheepdogs we know and love.
- Shelties are not mini Collies! While they used to be known as Shetland Collies, Shelties are a distinct dog breed from Collies. They have different lineages, starting with a Scandinavian Spitz type breed. Crosses with Rough Collies, Border Collies and Pomeranians came later.
- They are long-haired, double-coated dogs. Brushing and trimming is an essential part of your pet care routine. You need to do a deep weekly grooming to strip the loose under coat and untangle the outer coat.
- Shelties are the 6th most intelligent dog breed in the world. They're also the most intelligent of all small dog breeds. They can learn new commands in as little as five repetitions and excel at performing tricks and agility.
- They are natural watchdogs. Their working dog history on the Shetland Islands of Scotland means they were selectively bred for certain traits. These include attentiveness, submissiveness and alarm barking; instincts which remain strong today.
- Shetland Sheepdogs are vocal. Besides their strong desire to alarm bark, they also communicate through some hilarious noises not often seen in other dog breeds.
- They have a wonderful temperament. They're loving, loyal, sensitive and affectionate dogs. While each dog has his own individual personality, the breed temperament offers a sweetness you'll recognize straight away.
- All Shelties need to run outside every day. As a former farm dog, the modern Sheltie needs at least 30-60 minutes of outdoor exercise a day. Given them opportunities to explore, sniff, socialize and run off the leash. They also love to play herding dog games.
- All dogs should be spayed or neutered. Every year, 3 million unwanted dogs are put down in the US because people refuse to de-sex their dogs. What's more, there are physical and psychological benefits to spaying females and neutering males. Please don't ignore this critical issue of pet care.
- Shelties live for 12-14 years. Smaller dogs tend to have a longer life expectancy than larger dogs. Take good care of your Shetland Sheepdog's diet, teeth, exercise and vaccinations to maximize his lifespan. And watch out for these 6 genetic health problems.
What Types of Shelties Are There?
Wherever you go in the world, you'll run into one of two types of Shetland Sheepdogs: the American type and the English type. American types are a little larger and have a slightly longer snout than English types. There are other subtle differences which professional breeders select to meet conformation standards.
There are 8 Sheltie coat colors. The most common is sable, made up of tan and white markings. Less often, you'll see blacks, tri-colors and blue merles, though they all bear similar coat patterns.
Miniature Shelties are those who measure under 13 inches tall at the shoulder. They're not an official dog breed but some breeders would like them to be, pointing to Miniature Poodles as an example of other recognized mini breeds. Discover the debate about miniature Shetland Sheepdogs.
Are Shelties Good Family Dogs?
Shetland Sheepdogs make wonderful family pets. They're smart, trainable and gentle with little ones. Being highly sensitive, they are attuned to your emotions. They can interpret your facial expressions, your vocal expressions and your body language to figure out what you want.
This sensitivity makes Shelties easy to train. Moderately active and eager-to-please, your Sheltie will be keen to join in with family games. Whether it's herding balls, playing hide-and-seek, or zooming around with no purpose whatsoever.
Beware, though, that sometimes this sensitivity can create a nervous Sheltie. Lack of socialization 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.
Once they're through the puppy stage, dogs quickly 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. Maybe that's gross? We think it's hilarious!
Shelties can get along with other family pets, as long as smaller pets are willing to stand their ground.
For instance, the herding instinct will drive your Shetland Sheepdog to herd your cat. But once he's cornered the poor feline, he won't really know what to do with her. Your cat must confidently put your pooch in his place and walk away all sassy!
Shelties love to be part of the family, making their voices heard and following you all around the house. They're super affectionate and enjoy being around people and other dogs.
While no dog should be left home alone all day, this breed will suffer more than most. Leaving your Shetland Sheepdog without company for hours on end will create a very sad and anxious animal.
The Sheltie is a small dog breed with a strikingly dainty appearance. They have special personalities which make them alert, eager to please and extremely talkative.
Shetland Sheepdogs gradually evolved from Scandinavian herding dogs when they were imported to the Shetland Islands of Scotland in the 1700s. They were soon crossed with Border Collies and Rough Collies which gives them the Lassie look.
Later, they were crossed with small dog breeds like Spaniels, Pomeranians, Papillons and Corgis. The Shetland farmers deliberately bred their working "Toonies" to be cute and fluffy. Then they could sell them to the rich tourists who came by the islands.
Shelties 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 watchdog, they're very sensitive to their environment too. In a watchdog capacity, Shelties will alert you to any unusual activity going on outside. And that means cars, cats and even children playing in the street.
Here are my most popular articles for more details about the Sheltie temperament, appearance, trainability, evolution and more. See exactly how Shetland Sheepdogs rank among other dog breeds in intelligence. And discover the personality traits unique to the Sheltie breed.
I started this website because I had lots of cute photos of Howard and Piper that I wanted to share. Over the years, readers have shared thousands of their photos too.
These totally adorable Shetland Sheepdog pictures reveal how puppies develop in the first year of life. Others show how Shelties shrink down in the bath. Plus there are tips on how to photograph your dog. I'm adding new photo pages so come back soon for more.
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. So where can you buy Sheltie puppies?
First, investigate rescue groups to save the life of an abandoned Sheltie. 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.
Then there's puppies. The only trustworthy place to buy a purebred puppy is through a professional Shetland Sheepdog breeder who performs genetic testing. This helps them breed their dogs for health, appearance and temperament. Visit their premises and ask to meet the puppy's parents to ensure good breeding practices.
Be EXTREMELY dubious of online listings as they are likely the work of profit-driven puppy mills. Pet stores are also often stocked by unprofessional 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.
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 will typically become very nervous and have problems settling into its new home.
Having said that, puppies should be with their new owners by 12 weeks, when they're forming strong attachments. So 8-12 weeks is the best window of opportunity to take home a new puppy.
In this section you'll find extensive Shetland Sheepdog breeder and rescues listings. And with my detailed checklist you can plan everything you'll need for when you bring your new puppy home.
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 working on obedience training, the first step is build a loving bond with your Shetland Sheepdog. This not only helps you understand his needs and instincts, it also allows your Sheltie to develop trust in you.
When puppies are securely understand they belong to the family, they're more likely to respond to your commands. The trust you build now comes from showing affection, defining mutual boundaries, and treating any breaches with firmness.
Without enforcing such limitations, it's difficult to build respect. 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.
I recommend clicker training for a gentle, conditional training method that uses only positive reinforcement to teach your Sheltie new behaviors.
With simple training, a clicking noise ingrains the habit for your dog to listen and react to your commands. Its simplicity is 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 Shetland Sheepdog.
This section lists my step-by-step guides to housetraining, teaching dog tricks and dog obedience for beginners. It includes solutions to stop your Shetland Sheepdog barking, chewing, and jumping on house guests. It also helps you deal with nervous issues like fear of children and separation anxiety.
Part of the attraction of Shetland Sheepdogs is their luxurious double coat. And that comes with the responsibility of weekly brushing sessions.
Around 5-6 months old your puppy will begin to develop the classic thick Sheltie coat. That's when you need to begin your grooming routine.
So how the heck do you groom a Sheltie? Don't worry! My step-by-step grooming guide will show you how to groom your Shetland Sheepdog so he's ready for action.
On the subject of pet maintenance, it's important to thoroughly consider the issue of de-sexing your dog.
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 dogs 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. Often, these animals are the unplanned offspring of cherished family pets. How can you help stop this tragedy? De-sex your dogs.
What's more, there are significant health benefits to neutering or spaying your Shetland Sheepdog. Indeed, many vets recommend the procedure to improve quality of life and even extend their lifespan.
There's another question people ask about potential health problems. Being a purebreed, are they susceptible to any genetic diseases?
It's true, there are a handful of conditions seen more often in Shelties due to their breed history. However, genetic testing by professional breeders can reliably rule these out.
If you have a Sheltie of unknown origin you should be aware of the following genetic disorders:
- Patellar Luxation (kneecap dislocation)
- Hip Dysplasia (joint wear and arthritis)
- Dermatomyositis (skin inflammation)
- Scleral Ectasia (Collie eye / Sheltie eye)
- Von Willebrande's Disease (blood clotting disorder)
Shetland Sheepdogs are generally a healthy breed and live long lives of 12-14 years. That equates to living 84-98 human years! Read on for detailed articles about grooming and taking good care of your small dog's health.
Shelties need a few essentials. These include a good grooming brush, a leash, a collar and a quality kibble.
In this section, I've ranked and explained the top dog products you're likely to need. You'll find my reviews of the best dog brushes, which is important reading for a double coated breed like a Shetland Sheepdog. you'll also find the truth about dog food, including what toxic and junk ingredients to look out for in dry kibble foods.
I've also deconstructed the confusing world of pet insurance. Is it worth it for your Shetland Sheepdog? I've looked realistically at the vet visits over a lifetime and what treatments are actually covered by insurance. I've also examined the fine print which stipulates key issues like payment caps and co-pay limitations. The results may surprise you.
Becky and Pete