The Characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog

June 8, 2019
Intelligent, loyal, obedient...read this article to learn all there is to know about the Shetland sheepdog.

Today, we’re going to talk about a very recognizable breed of dog: the Shetland sheepdog. Keep reading to learn about their physical qualities, their temperament, and what type of care they need.

Where does the Shetland sheepdog come from?

To find the origins of the Shetland Sheepdog (or Sheltie, for short), you have to travel to the Scottish islands that they get their name from. 

Used to rough terrain without much vegetation, the Shetland Sheepdog started to become one of the best sheepdogs out there. By the 20th century, people were importing the breed to other countries and cross-breeding them to fine-tune their qualities. Nowadays, you can see Shetland Sheepdogs all over the world.

The most recent studies show that this breed comes from a cross between a long-haired collie (probably a Border Collie) and smaller breeds of dogs.

A Shetland Sheepdog sitting in a forest.

General characteristics

As we said, these are small, compact dogs. In addition to that, they’re also extremely agile. Males tend to be around 15 inches tall, and females 13-14. They can weigh anywhere from 13 to 26 pounds. They have a long head (they’re doliochocephalic), and small ears that point forward.

Shetland Sheepdogs have a double coat of fur, which is perfect for bad weather. The outer coat is made up of longer hair, and the inner coat is thick and woolly. Color-wise, there are a lot of varieties with this kind of sheepdog, namely black, white, gray, sable, and any mix of those.

The temperament of the Shetland Sheepdog

This is an extremely loyal, intelligent, happy, and active breed. They’re very affectionate with family and friends. However, they can be skittish around strangers, so you have to be careful about that.

They’re always on alert. They’ll also start barking right away if they notice anything unusual. So, if you get one, you should make sure yours doesn’t bark too much, because it could become a long-term problem.

A Shetland sheepdog on some rocks.

Even though they’re very active, they’re still good at living in small homes. The best way to keep them healthy and balanced is to take them on long walks and do exercise with them.

Health and care

Like other breeds (including the collie), the Shetland sheepdog has a predisposition for certain genetic eye conditions. Because of that, you should take yours to the vet every so often to check for symptoms of those kinds of conditions.

There are also some other common conditions for this breed, like hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and hyperthyroidism. You should always keep track of your pet and be on the watch for any abnormalities.

As far as care goes, fur is probably the big thing to look out for. You’ll need to brush your sheepdog every day to make sure its fur is in perfect condition and to prevent knots.

  • Parker, H. G., Kim, L. V., Sutter, N. B., Carlson, S., Lorentzen, T. D., Malek, T. B., … & Kruglyak, L. (2004). Genetic structure of the purebred domestic dog. science304(5674), 1160-1164.
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20080715062043/http://www.akc.org/breeds/shetland_sheepdog/index.cfm