Sheltie Planet

10 Things I Love About Shelties

By Becky Turner

Shelties are a beautiful and unusual dog breed, with their own special characteristics. Here's my list of 10 things I love about Shelties.

Shetland Sheepdogs are a gorgeous dog breed with lots of great personality traits. They are family-oriented dogs, making them very loyal to their human pack. Shelties are also great with kids if you socialize them early.

If you're looking for a new family pet there are, of course, lots of fantastic dog breeds to choose from. I decided to write 10 Things I Love About Shelties to convey just what it is that make Shetland Sheepdogs such wonderful pets.

1. Shelties Are Beautiful

The first thing you notice about a Sheltie is that's he's ridiculously good looking.

Shelties are beautiful dogs

Shelties are beautiful dogs

Shelties evolved from Scandinavian herding dogs when they were imported to the Shetland Islands of Scotland in the 1700s. They were crossed with Border Collies and Rough Collies which gives them the classic Lassie look.

Soon, they were reduced in size through crosses with Spaniels and Pomeranians - and later, quite possibly, with Papillons and Corgis. The Shetland farmers deliberately made their working "Toonies" cuter so they could sell them to the rich tourists who came by the islands, who had never before seen such a dainty, miniaturized working breed.

The Shetland Sheepdog breed officially emerged in the 1900s as breeders worked hard to establish a consistent and special appearance for Shelties.

Today, they are unique in their appearance - with their luxurious double coat, long gentle snouts and bright, twinkling eyes.

Shetland Sheepdogs have very soft fur including a short, woolly inner layer and a long, fluffy outer layer. They also come in a range of different coat colors.

Although they are often met with shrieks of "Look Mommy, Lassie!" it's easy for the untrained eye to tell the difference between a Sheltie and a Rough Collie when stood side-by-side.

Both beautiful in different ways, Shelties have finer, more delicate snouts with gives them an eternal puppy look.

A Sheltie Next to Its Cousin, The Rough Collie

A Sheltie next to his cousin, the Rough Collie

2. Shelties Are Intelligent

As the world's 6th most intelligent dog breed, Shetland Sheepdogs have a lot going on in the brains department.

Originally bred as hardy working dogs to tend flocks of sheep, they have exceptional watchdog and agility skills. They learn new commands in as little as five repetitions and have the capacity to learn hundreds of spoken words. They are also very curious to explore the world around them.

We've formed such strong attachments with our Shelties because they show such incredible smarts, especially for wee little dogs, who usually have a reputation for being small-brained (sorry little guys).

However, owning a smart dog also means we have the responsibility to provide them with lots of mental stimulation. They gain a lot of new information from their daily walk, especially when there are lots of good scents to trace. We also teach them new tricks and reinforce established commands and tricks.

Shelties are constantly aware of your movements and behaviors, and often react to tiny muscle movements that suggest you're about to take them for a walk - even when you thought you were only thinking about it!

Incidentally they can also tell when you're about to reach into your pocket and give them a treat...

3. Shelties Are Sensitive

Being so intelligent, Shetland Sheepdogs are incredibly sensitive to their environment.

In a watchdog capacity, they will alert you to any unusual activity going on outside - and that means cars, cats, and even children playing in the street.

You can train your Sheltie to curb any excessive barking reaction, but they are still extremely motivated to stay on watchdog duty at the window.

Shelties are super watchdogs

Shelties are super watchdogs

In an emotional sense, Shelties are highly sensitive to their surroundings and some nervous dogs may become easily excited or upset by too much happening at once. Sometimes they can be too sensitive, fearing strangers and new circumstances, or simply being left home alone as in the case of separation anxiety.

This genetic trait of Shelties is made worse if owners don't socialize them enough during the critical puppy phase. However, a well-bred and well-adjusted Sheltie should be confident and sure of himself, while retaining a strong sensitivity to his environment.

4. Shelties Are Expressive

Shelties have many different ways of displaying their emotions through body language - and, of course, their vocal chords.

Known for their high pitched barking, Shelties can be trained to curb their bark, speak on demand, and even sing when it pleases you. But Shelties were definitely not made to be seen and not heard...

Shelties Are Expressive

Shelties are expressive

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Shetland Sheepdogs have lots to talk about. They crave lots of interaction with their owners and will stay by your side all day long just to be close to you.

As soon as it's time to do something different, like have dinner or go for a walk, they'll tell you about it. Howard is a particularly bossy Sheltie and will yelp and paw at my feet to tell me exactly when it's his dinner time.

When a Sheltie is happy, you'll know about it too. They have that great Sheltie smile caused by their submissive nature and positively reinforced by humans.

Our other Sheltie, Piper, loves to bark when he's super excited - we say that he's laughing. It's very easy to communicate with these expressive creatures once you get to know them.

5. Shelties Are Quirky

Have you ever seen a giant ball of fluff dart around the living room three times, roll on his back waggling all four limbs in the air, do a long yawn that turns into a song, then roll over with long ear-fur flopped over his face, grinning at you and panting with sparkling eyes?

When it comes to the Sheltie personality, quirky doesn't even cover it.

Shelties Are Quirky

Shelties are quirky

What causes a Sheltie's quirkiness? It's a combination of his charming looks, his sensitivity, his intelligence and his ability to amuse. Shetland Sheepdogs engage in all kinds of silly behaviors, whether they think you're watching or not.

Throw in the hilarious Sheltie talk and you have one bizarro dog breed.

6. Shelties Are Loving

The perfect sized lapdog, many Shetland Sheepdogs love to warm your lap in the evenings and enjoy hours of stroking and belly rubs.

Piper is so content in this sleepy state that when I stop, he reaches out and pulls my hand back to stroke him again.

Shelties Are Loving

Piper is the most affectionate dog I've ever met

In most cases, Shelties are notoriously loyal and loving with their owners, while reserved around strangers, which makes your relationship with them extra special.

Every morning, we wake up to two fluffy Shelties sitting on the end of the bed, eyes bright and expectant, just waiting for us to wake up and play with them. That - and give them breakfast.

It's the first thing to put a smile on my face every day. Yup, Shelties are extremely sweet and loving pooches.

7. Shelties Are Playful

With their light and agile bodies, Shetland Sheepdogs love to dash and play.

As with most dog breeds, look out for the play bow, where a game of chase ensues, rushing round the house or garden wearing their ecstatic Sheltie grins.

This game is usually played between dogs but you can initiate it as a human too...

Shelties Are Playful

Howard and Piper wrestle at the beach

While they may not take to retrieving frisbees, Shelties do like to chase and herd objects (and occasionally, small children, especially if they're not socialized with children as puppies).

Howard loves it when we roll rocks along the beach, so he can chase them down and bark at them when they drop on their side.

Piper doesn't quite understand the point of this, so he chases Howard and bites at his mane to engage him in a wrestling match.

If you want to see something really cute, dilute some washing-up liquid and blow bubbles into the breeze. Our Shelties go nuts chasing these magic elusive things and trying to eat them to make them pop.

8. Shelties Are Small

I'm not saying I wouldn't love a giant 200-pound Sheltie but a lot of people comment on how they are the perfect-sized dog. And I think they're right.

Typically standing at 13-16 inches tall and weighing 15-23 pounds, they're light enough to pick up and cuddle, and small enough to play with young children and reassure even those who are normally afraid of dogs.

What's more, unlike their larger Collie cousins, Shetland Sheepdogs have only a moderate need for exercise and can even live in a city apartment, provided they still get 30-60 minutes of exercise each day.

9. Shelties Are Gentle

Being small and lightweight, Shelties are very gentle creatures. Don't be fooled by their double coat - under all that fur is an extremely dainty dog.

Their sweet and playful nature enables them to play safely with young children.

Shelties Are Gentle

Shelties are very gentle dogs

What's more, Shelties are very submissive dogs who are unlikely to snap, unlike some small breeds like Dachshunds who sometimes have a tendency to bite little fingers.

Shelties are also great for people who have never owned a dog before. It's all thanks to Shelties that I started appreciating dogs in the first place. I used to have a fear of dogs but the sweet, gentle nature of Shetland Sheepdogs enabled me to understand and be much less afraid of all dogs.

10. Shelties Are Companions

What happens when you mix beauty, intelligence, loyalty and sensitivity? You get a great companion dog.

Shetland Sheepdogs yearn to be with you always, even when that means doing scary things like going into the water, which for some Shelties can be terrifying (although not all fear the wet stuff, some of them love it.)

A famous poet once wrote how his dog would rather follow him into the freezing cold basement than sit upstairs by the nice warm fire, just so they could be together. And so it is with Shelties.

Shelties Are Companions

Howard kindly shares his pillow with Pete

These sweet animals are 100% guided by your companionship, so they really do get upset when you leave the house without them. I definitely wouldn't recommend a dependent breed if you're going to be out at work all day.

When you take on a Sheltie, you take on a new best friend and you'll need to accommodate him in almost every aspect of your life. My Shelties even follow me into the bathroom...

About The Author

Becky Turner is a writer and zoologist-in-training. Learn more about Becky here. If you'd like to support her work, check out her ebook, The Sheltie Anthology, a complete guide to everything Sheltie.