Choosing a Shetland Sheepdog

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

  • Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
  • Ivermectin toxicity occurs secondary to a sensitivity to Ivermectin, a commonly used parasitic drug, can result from a genetic abnormality. This drug should be used with caution in this breed.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly is a congenital eye disorder.
  • Heart disease occurs when the valves of the heart no longer function normally..
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Cryptorchidism is a condition in which one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is a congenital birth defect caused by a blood vessel that normally closes after birth, but remains open resulting in the passage of extra volumes of blood into the lungs.
  • Malassezia dermatitis – is a yeast infection of the skin caused by Malassezia pachydermatitis.
  • Cutaneous Histiocytoma – is a benign tumor of the skin that can affect young dogs.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Deafness congenital deafness occurs in double merle colored dogs.
  • Renal dysplasia – is the abnormal development of the kidneys. Problems usually begin when the pet is less than one year of age and include lack of appetite, stunted growth or weight loss, lethargy, drinking and urinating an unusually large amount and vomiting.
  • Corneal dystrophy – causes the appearance of spots on the surface (cornea) of the eye. This condition usually occurs in both eyes and does not affect vision.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Distichiasis is a condition in which there is growth of extra eyelashes from the glands of the upper or lower eyelid.
  • von Willebrand's Disease is a disorder that results in the inability to clot blood. Affected animals will bleed extensively following trauma or surgery.
  • Nasal tumors – may occur in some dogs.
  • Testicular tumors are tumors that involve the testicles in intact male dogs.
  • Congenital elbow luxation – is a dislocation of the elbow joint.

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

  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Pemphigus foliaceous,
  • Polyarthritis
  • Dwarfism
  • Cleft lip/palate
  • Hemophilia
  • Lupus.

    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.

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