Choosing a Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland sheepdog is a popular small dog. Looking like a miniature collie, this dog is a wonderful family companion.

History and Origin

The Shetland sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is named after the island where he originated in the 1700s. The Shetland Islands are located northwest of the British Isles, between Scotland and Norway. Wool and lamb are the main commodities of the Shetland Islands and the Sheltie was originally bred to watch over the flocks of sheep. The Islands' harsh environment and terrain demanded a small, hearty dog to guard the herds. The farmers bred herding dogs from the British Isles with other collies, such as the border collie, and the Sheltie was produced. These small dogs were intelligent and independent enough to oversee the flocks while the farmers were away; the Shetland Islands are mostly used as grazing land and are not inhabited for most of the year.

In the 1900s, the Sheltie was bred with the rough collie and various spaniels to produce the Sheltie that we know today. The Shetland sheepdog is recognized by the American Kennel Club in the herding dog group.


The Sheltie has a double layer coat that is waterproof and well insulated. He has a long snout with a well defined stop at the skull. The ears are medium sized and feathered with hair.

Proportionally, the Sheltie is stockier than the collie. His hair coat comes in merle, black and sable with white markings. The coat is medium to long with feathered legs and tail. The hair is soft and smooth, and needs daily brushing. The almond-shaped eyes can be light on sable dogs but must be dark on all other colors.

Most Shelties stand between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 14 and 20 pounds. Some weigh over 20 pounds.


Shelties like to work; they aim to please. They can get nervous if bored, but are primarily even-tempered. Shelties are very loyal and loving companions. Some are wary of strangers and they make excellent watchdogs. Their laid back personality makes them ideal for households with children.

Home and Family

Shelties do very well with children and other pets. Due to their small size, this breed can do well in apartments and condominiums. They are very well rounded, sweet dogs.


These dogs are highly trainable, intelligent and eager to learn. They love agility, herding and obedience and excel in these areas.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Although uncommon, the following disorders may also be seen in this breed:

Life Span

The average life span of the Sheltie is 12 to 14 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.