Sheltie Planet

Do Miniature Sheltie Puppies Exist?

Miniature Sheltie is the name given to a Shetland Sheepdogs under 13 inches tall. They're not a separate breed recognized by the AKC, but some breeders want them to be.

Mini Shelties do exist, if what you're talking about is an undersize Shetland Sheepdog (which stand 13-16 inches tall). They're not recognized by the American Kennel Club. Which is why many breeders frown upon deliberately breeding toy Shelties. Others see it differently.

Miniature Shelties

A Mini Sheltie

Breeders of miniature Shelties point out that the AKC does recognize Miniature and Toy Poodles. They would like to see Miniature Shetland Sheepdogs added to the official dog breeds list, so that they can compete in conformation trials and breed champions.

This means you can buy miniature Sheltie puppies as pets, but you'll have a hard time finding a breeder. You're also more likely to run into illegal puppy mills which focus on breeding Sheltie mixes, miniatures, and designer dogs. It's important you make the distinction of who you're dealing with so as to avoid supporting the cruel puppy mill trade.

If you're seeking a miniature Shetland Sheepdog puppy, I've listed some official breeders below. But first read up about the story of minis and how to avoid supporting puppy farms.

Miniature Sheltie by K-Li's Kritters

Ami, a miniature Sheltie by K-Li's Kritters

The Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties by Becky Casale

What Are Miniature Shelties?

Mini Shelties are undersized types of the Shetland Sheepdog breed. So where did they come from?

All dog breeds are "made up" by humans. They're the result of artificial evolution. (Artificial because we're the ones matching the parents for desirable traits and not mother nature.)

The Shetland Sheepdog breed as we know it today is the result of many generations of selective breeding. Crosses have occurred between Scandinavian Spitz breeds, Border Collies, Rough Collies, Pomeranians and others. Over time, Shelties have evolved considerably in appearance and size to what we know today.

The modern breed standard, updated by the American Kennel Club in 1952, declares Shelties to be 13-16 inches (33-41cm) tall at the shoulder and weighing 15-25 pounds (7-11kg).

In her article, Why Breed to The Standard? breeder Charlotte Hulett explains.

In other words, the American Kennel Club standard is not arbitrary. It was written with performance, appearance and health considerations in mind. For example, Shelties of this size and stature should be less prone to joint deterioration.

So breeders aim to create excellent examples of Shelties that fit the standard, along with a host of other physical and behavioral traits. They win awards at dog shows and set the bar for the continuation of the breed as a whole.

Shetland Sheepdog by the ASSA

A champion from the American Shetland Sheepdog Association

So having a well-defined breed standard is really important. Without it, Shelties would evolve in all different directions and eventually stop looking and behaving like Shelties altogether. Noooo!

So this is one reason why plenty of Sheltie breeders get miffed when other breeders focus on creating miniature Shelties. They're deviating from the essential standard.

In their defense, mini breeders say they want to officially designate a separate breed: the Miniature Shetland Sheepdog. This would avoid diluting the genetic stock of regular Sheltie populations with undersize genes.

This is this mission of the Toy Sheltie Club of America. Once proponents of the 8-12 inch toy Sheltie, they now advocate that any Sheltie under 13 inches be classified as a miniature Sheltie.

Sounds like a reasonable solution, right? Make an official distinction. But the story doesn't end there.

Some experts argue that to reduce the size of a breeding line, you have to resort to mating "runts".

While so-called runts might be adorable to you or I, their genome is arguably less robust. They failed to thrive in the womb compared to their littermates. They may even carry genetic diseases. This is no basis for creating champion dogs.

But let's give the toy breeders their say. Here's how one active miniature Sheltie breeder explains it:

In other words, they select their strongest dogs, not necessarily the smallest. Creating diminutive puppies will take more generations this way, and be harder to maintain, but it keeps the germ line strong and healthy.

So mini Sheltie breeders insist they identify with ethical practices just like regular breeders. And that includes performing genetic testing and breeding for temperament so as not to pass on known heritable diseases.

And that's how you end up with mini Shelties under the standard 13 inches tall. They're not allowed to compete in conformation (they don't fit the bill) but they can compete in the agility ring.

Mini Shelties

Mini Shelties can compete in agility

Ultimately, the American Kennel Club will likely decide the fate of mini Shelties. The nod from them would open toy Shelties up to dog shows and therefore create a gap in the industry. New and existing breeders would quickly fill it.

In the meantime, pet owners still seek out toy Shelties for companionship from a limited number of legitimate breeders. So where exactly can you buy miniature Shelties?

Where to Find Miniature Shelties For Sale

Your options may be limited, but you can find some dedicated mini breeders in the US.

Here are the mini breeders listed by the Toy Sheltie Club of America. We can't vouch for them from all the way out here in New Zealand. Please do your own research into their individual breeding practices.

  • Fox Point Farm, 803-802-3888 (South Carolina)
  • Holbrook Toy Shelties, 803-807-1116 (South Carolina)
  • James Gang Toy Shelties, 803-371-2380 (South Carolina)
  • K-Li's Kritters, 304-856-1275 (West Virginia)
  • Puppylove Shelties, 760-953-0604 (California)
  • Wildwood Shelties, 865-577-9286 (Tennessee)
  • Anne Moore, 570-850-1840 (Pennsylvania)
  • Mountain High Kennels, 740-328-9282 (Ohio)
  • Diamond Hill Shelties, 240-362-7464 (Maryland)
  • Theresa Keiser, 610-577-6604 (Pennsylvania)
Toy Sheltie

Muriel, a mini Sheltie in agility by Holbrook Toy Shelties

You may find other mini Sheltie breeders online in your search. Please beware that there are relatively few dedicated mini breeders versus thousands of puppy mills. Take every measure to ensure you only buy your puppy from an ethical source.

How can you be sure? Be extremely dubious of online-only transactions. It's critical to visit the breeder's premises and ask questions about genetic testing and their individual breeding practices.

How to Spot a Puppy Mill

Toy breeds and designer dogs are the lifeblood of puppy mills, whose goal is to maximize cuteness regardless of health status.

There are more than 4,000 puppy mills in the US, producing 500,000 puppies per year. They are everywhere. And they are not happy places.

Puppy Mills

Many breed miniature Shelties because they can make more money selling novelty pets. And, yes, anything miniaturized has a novelty value until it becomes the norm. Blame our biological parental instincts for wanting to protect tiny vulnerable things.

The criminals who run puppy mills don't care about genetic testing. They really should - because purebred dogs have a higher chance of carrying disease mutations due to their relatively smaller gene pool.

And, being profit-oriented, they definitely breed runts to create toy Shelties. Another trick is to mate a regular Sheltie with, say, a Pomeranian to create a miniature Sheltie. In reality this is a Sheltie mix; a "Poshie".

A Poshie: Pomeranian Sheltie Mix

A Poshie: Pomeranian Sheltie Mix

While there's nothing inherently wrong with the Poshie, it's the breeding practices and dishonesty I care about. And let's not forget the 3 million abandoned dogs put down every year in the US. It's impossible to make a good case for cross breeding for profit under these circumstances.

Worst of all, though, is the quality of life of a puppy mill dog. Multiple animals are confined in small cages, without exercise or socialization. They're continually bred until they're served their purpose and are finally euthanized. This is no life for any sentient being.

It's made all the more unbearable by the fact that they're funded by our love of animals. They only exist because people keep buying novelty designer pets.

When you buy a puppy from an online-only listing or even from a pet store, you are likely dealing with the work of a puppy mill.

In these transactions, you'll have no opportunity to:

  • Verify the puppy was raised in healthy conditions
  • Verify the health and temperament of their breeding stock
  • Meet the puppy's parents in real life
  • See what your puppy will look like fully grown
  • Verify if the puppy was purebred or cross bred

And don't be fooled by official looking AKC papers. These can be falsified.

Puppy mills often pose as professional breeders when it comes to selling their miniature Sheltie puppies online. So it's hard to know when an online seller is offering genuinely healthy pups.

Despite the tragedy of puppy mills, they continue to thrive as illegal businesses as long as buyers remain ignorant. So here's the distinction you need to make:

So how will you avoid buying a miniature Sheltie from a puppy mill? Here's my advice:

  • Adopt a rescue Sheltie. Save a dog's life and guarantee you're not funding yet another puppy mill.
  • Seek a responsible Sheltie breeder. Ensure you visit the premises and meet the puppy's parents.
  • Avoid online sales. It's common for puppy mills to use fake photos and certificates to get you to hand over money. Remember they are out to scam you.
  • Avoid pet store puppies. They're frequently supplied by puppy mills and backyard breeders.
  • Tell your friends. Ignorance is not bliss. Help your friends and family understand so they don't support the trade.

Final Thoughts

For most pet owners, it's a small distinction of a couple of inches between a Sheltie and a miniature Sheltie. Bear in mind the following points.

English Shelties are daintier and "lighter boned" than their American counterparts, but they're not that much smaller. The English Shetland Sheepdog Standard seeks Shelties to be 13-15.5 inches (33-39.5cm) at the withers.

English Type Sheltie

Howard, our English type Sheltie

Females are usually smaller and daintier than their male counterparts, so bear that into consideration too.

While there are dedicated mini Sheltie breeders out there, they are heavily outnumbered by puppy mills. I am deeply concerned with the trading practices of the latter.

For the sake of avoiding the puppy mill trade, exercise caution when buying a miniature Sheltie and always collect your new companion from the kennels in person.

Author Bio

Becky Casale is a writer and science student. She has two Sheltie babies and two human babies who all smell like popcorn. See her Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties and her illustrated blog Science Me.

The Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties by Becky Casale