Do Shelties Melt Your Heart?
Shelties are beautiful, agile and sensitive little dogs, ranking #1 for intelligence among the small dog breeds. Shelties are double coated furballs and agility superstars. They're highly trainable and family-oriented, making them wonderful companion dogs.
I'm Becky Casale, a Sheltie lover in New Zealand. Those are my beloved furballs, Howard and Piper, in the video, frolicking in slow motion with my partner Pete. After 11 years of Sheltie companionship, I've learned lots about this dog breed from first-hand experiences, research, breeders and other Sheltie fans. This website is the result of everything I know and love about Shelties.
I hope you enjoy Sheltie Planet and take a moment to support my work. Download my 140-page Sheltie Anthology and join our awesome social communities on Facebook and YouTube. Remember to bookmark Sheltie Planet and come back soon for more fluffy encounters!
I've been in love with Shelties since 2008, when I met this gorgeous little guy.
With his floppy ears and almond eyes, Howard Woofington Moon 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 Shelties 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 photo-packed page of 101 Sheltie Puppies featuring adorable puppies sent in by our readers.
10 Things You Need to Know About Shelties
- Shelties are a small to medium dogs. The Sheltie standard puts the breed at 13-16 inches (33-41cm) at the shoulder and weighing 15-25 pounds (7-11kg). These guidelines ensure we continue to breed the same Sheltie dog we know and love.
- Shelties are not mini Collies! As if! Shelties are a distinct dog breed with different lineages. Originally a Scandinavian Spitz type breed, crosses with Rough Collies, Border Collies, Greenland Yakki and Pomeranians came later.
- Shelties 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 out the loose undercoat and take care of knots and tangles.
- 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.
- Shelties are natural watchdogs. Their working dog history on the Shetland Islands of Scotland means they were selectively bred for traits like attentiveness, submissiveness and alarm barking. These instincts remain strong today.
- Shelties are vocal dogs. Besides their strong desire to alarm bark when visitors approach the house, they also communicate with their owners through a variety of hilarious noises not often seen in other dog breeds.
- Shelties have a wonderful temperament. They're loving, loyal, sensitive and affectionate dogs. While every Sheltie has his own individual personality, bred into their temperament is a sweetness you'll recognize straight away in any Sheltie.
- All Shelties need to run outside every day. Like many dogs, they need at least 30-60 minutes of outdoor exercise a day, with opportunities to explore, sniff, socialize and run off the leash. They also love to play herding dog games.
- All pet Shelties should be spayed or neutered. Every year, 3 million unwanted pet dogs are put down (in the US alone) due to pet owners' refusal to de-sex their dogs. What's more, there are physical and psychological benefits to spaying females and neutering males so 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 Sheltie's diet, teeth, exercise and vaccinations to maximize his lifespan and watch out for these 6 genetic vulnerabilities in Shelties.
What Types of Shelties Are There?
Wherever you go in the world, you'll run into one of two types: American Shelties and English Shelties. While American Shelties are a little larger and have a slightly longer snout, there are other subtle differences which expert 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 black Shelties, tri-color Shelties and blue merle Shelties, though they all bear similar coat patterns overall.
Miniature Shelties are those dogs who measure under 13 inches tall at the shoulder. They're not an official dog breed but some breeders would like them to be, citing Miniature Poodles as an example of other recognized mini breeds.
Are Shelties Good Family Dogs?
Shelties make wonderful family pets. They're smart, trainable and gentle with little ones. Being highly sensitive, Shelties 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 a Sheltie upset by dominant people. They can be overwhelmed by children shrieking and running, triggering them to alarm bark, herd and snap in response. This is why it's essential to socialize your Sheltie puppy with all kinds of people. A well-socialized Sheltie gets on with people of all ages, including babies.
Once they're through the puppy stage, Shelties 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 and we even taught our dogs to kiss us on the nose (which the kids adore!)
Shelties can get along with other family pets, as long as the other pets are willing to stand their ground. The herding instinct will drive your Sheltie to herd your cat - but once he's cornered the poor feline, he won't really know what to do next. Your cat must confidently put your Sheltie 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. They get lonely without company, so make sure your Sheltie won't be home alone all day as this would create a very sad and anxious dog.
The Sheltie is a small dog breed with a strikingly dainty appearance and many special characteristics: alert, eager to please and extremely talkative.
Shelties 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 so 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 their vocal chords. Known for their high pitched barking, Shelties can be trained to curb their bark, speak on demand, and even sing when it pleases you. But Shelties were definitely not made to be seen and not heard.
Being a small dog breed and lightweight under all that deceptive fur, Shelties 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, Shelties are very sensitive to their environment too. In a watchdog capacity, they 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 Shelties rank among other dog breeds in intelligence and discover the personality traits unique to the Shetland Sheepdog breed.
I started this website because I had an abundance of cute Sheltie photos of Howard and Piper that I wanted to share with the world. Over the years, readers have shared thousands of their photos too.
These totally adorable Sheltie pictures reveal how puppies develop in the first year of life, how Shelties shrink down in the bath, and how to photograph your fast-moving furball. 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 - knows how to be deliberately cute on demand.
Shelties are popular dogs in the US, ranking at number 24 out of 190 AKC breeds. So where can you buy Sheltie puppies?
First, investigate if you can adopt a rescue Sheltie and save the life of an abandoned dog. Sadly, people give up their dogs for all kinds of reasons and at all ages. You may be able to adopt a Sheltie who was neglected, left behind after a house move, or simply given up because the owners couldn't handle the responsibility of a dog.
Then there's puppies. The only trustworthy place to buy a purebred Sheltie puppy is through a professional Sheltie breeder who performs genetic testing and breeds 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 shops are also a bad place to buy Sheltie puppies because they're usually 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 mom 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, Sheltie 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 Sheltie puppy.
In this section you'll find extensive Sheltie 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 new dog. This not only helps you understand his needs and instincts, it also allows your Sheltie to develop trust in you.
When puppies are secure in the knowledge that they belong to the family, they are more likely to respond better to your training commands. The trust you build now comes from showing affection, defining mutual boundaries and treating any breach of those boundaries with firmness and fairness.
Without enforcing such limitations, it's difficult to build respect. And when there is no respect, building a bond with your Sheltie 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 Sheltie 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.
This section lists my step-by-step guides to housetraining, teaching dog tricks and dog obedience for beginners. Includes solutions to stop your Sheltie barking, chewing, and jumping on house guests, as well as dealing 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 Sheltie puppy will begin to develop the classic thick Sheltie coat. That's when you need to begin your Sheltie grooming routine.
So how the heck do you groom a Sheltie? Don't worry - my detailed step-by-step grooming guide will teach 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 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 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 pet Sheltie.
What's more, there are significant health benefits to neutering or spaying your Sheltie. Indeed, many vets recommend the procedure to improve quality of life and even extend their lifespan.
Another question people ask about the health of Shelties is: being a purebreed, are they susceptible to any genetic diseases?
There are a handful of conditions seen more often in Shelties due to their breed history. Genetic testing by professional breeders can reliably rule these out. However 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)
But don't let that scare you. Shetland Sheepdogs are generally a healthy breed and live long lives of 12-14 years (which equates to living 84-98 human years!) Read on for detailed articles about grooming and taking care of your Sheltie's health.
Shelties have a few essential product needs - a good grooming brush, a leash and collar, and a quality kibble to name a few.
In this section, I've ranked and explained the top dog products you're likely to need. I've reviewed the famous Furminator grooming brush and identified the scale of dog foods (and what toxic and junk ingredients to look out for).
I've also deconstructed the confusing world of pet insurance. Is it worth it? I've looked realistically at the vet visits over a lifetime, what treatments are actually covered by insurance, and the fine print which stipulates important issues like payment caps and co-pay limitations. The results may surprise you.
Keep it fluffy!
Becky and Pete