Are Shelties Barkers?
Do Shelties bark a lot? You can count on it. Barking is in their DNA; centuries of artificial selection have made Shelties eager to alert us to potential predators. However, you can limit your Sheltie's barking with training.
Thinking about getting a Sheltie? If so, it's important to know that Shelties do have an innate desire to bark at all kinds of stuff - mostly what they deem as a potential threat. They also bark a lot when they get excited. If you're not geared up for your Sheltie barking, it can come as a real surprise when you start living with it.
In fact, when left unchecked, a Sheltie's barking can drive you crazy. Not to mention disrupting to your sleeping baby, your work-at-home partner, or your frazzled neighbors.
I'm talking from personal experience here.
All dogs bark from time to time, but many other breeds are positively quiet in comparison to Shelties. Shelties are so involved with the family and the day-to-day comings and goings, that they have a deep urge to chime in when anything remotely interesting happens.
Someone at the front door? Your Sheltie will bark to let you know.
Someone at the back door? Your Sheltie will bark to let you know.
Someone creeping up the driveway inaudibly? Your Sheltie will bark to let you know.
Yep, Shelties have extremely sensitive hearing and feel it's their job to listen out for visitors. Also cars. Also thunder. Also fireworks.
You get the picture.
But there's a fun side to their barking too. Howard tends to only bark to ward off intruders or to alert us to suspicious noises. Sometimes he chases and barks at the waves for fun. But mostly he's too lazy to bark at anything else.
Piper, on the other hand, barks for a whole host of extra reasons.
Piper barks when we dance. He barks when we sing. He barks just because he can sense our energy increasing. He's so attuned to us and wants to be a part of the action that barking is his way of chattering and laughing along.
So while Shelties are generally reserved and shy, those qualities are contrasted by the alarm barking that is your Sheltie's way of alerting you to potential dangers, or generally chipping in to tell you he's having a wonderful time.
How to Stop Shelties Barking
Shelties don't have an inside voice. It's a full-blast-bark or no bark at all (or a sing-song of course!)
So it's not unreasonable to ask how to stop your Sheltie barking. At least for the hyperactive, alarm barking stuff. (Remember this is his voice and taking it away completely would be psychologically damaging.)
However you can definitely curb his alarm barking and teach him to just bark a few times when the doorbell rings.
It's as straight forward as giving a short, sharp "SHHH" command. This let's him know you're alerted to the perceived threat and he's done his job.
For the command to work, you need to be calm and assertive. If you yell, you're just going to whip your dog into a frenzy and make him think there really IS something to go crazy about.
Entrain the no-bark "SHHH" command the same way you would other commands. Put it into practice in everyday life and immediately praise and reward your dog when he happens to get it right. Ignore any mistakes. Shelties are smart - he'll get it quickly enough.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by this task, read my article How to Stop Your Sheltie Barking for more detailed instructions and the psychology of dog training.
The fact that Shelties are barkers is usually the biggest (and likely the only) downside of owning a Sheltie. If you can get your head around the barking and entrain the "SHHH" command from a young age, your Sheltie hopefully won't drive YOU barking mad.