|By Becky Turner||Visit The Sheltie Forums|
Are there such things as Miniature Shelties? Technically, yes. Although they are not recognized as a dog breed. According to the American Kennel Club, there is only one Shetland Sheepdog breed standard, and it is 13 to 16 inches tall and weighs 15 to 23 pounds. Anything much under this size might be considered a miniature.
Mini Shelties are a contentious issue among pet owners. Supporters say that the original 19th century Shelties were much smaller - after all they do have Pomeranians and other toy breeds in their genetic history. So it's not unnatural to have the occasional undersized dog pop up today as a genetic throwback. Indeed, there are dedicated Mini Sheltie breeders who follow responsible breeding practices to create these pint-sized pooches based on that notion.
The truth about miniature Shelties
However, sadly, this is the exception and not the rule. The biggest cause of Minis these days is to create designer dogs - dogs created for their novelty value - and for profit.
There are unethical people who cross Shelties with smaller breeds to create a Sheltie mix, which they then call a miniature. There are other backyard breeders who focus on breeding the runts of the litters to get smaller and smaller Shelties. This is not a healthy practice at all.
Both kinds of breeding often take place in puppy mills (which create pet store puppies) and are very much profit driven affairs. This is bad news because:
Like many toy breeds, unnatural miniaturization can have a damaging effect on the health and temperament of the dog.
For example, tea cup dogs are known to suffer from:
Tea cup dogs have more health problems
In some cases, toy breeds have been so poorly bred that there is not enough room for their internal organs in their abdomen. There are also genetic malformations and complications that can occur.
Remember that it is still possible to breed healthy toy dogs, with enough due care. If a breeder takes the considerable time and effort to breed healthy dogs from a line of champions, they can slowly reduce the size without resorting to breeding runts. Unfortunately, this is the exception and definitely not the norm.
One particular organization, called the Toy Sheltie Club of America, supports the miniaturization of Shetland Sheepdogs. They state on their website that a typical Sheltie should stand 8-12 inches tall to meet the breed standard. This flies in the face of the established American Kennel Club standard, which is 13-16 inches tall.
As much as we all may love miniaturized dogs for added cuteness, the AKC standard was decided for a reason. Modern Shelties are very different from their 19th century Toonie counterparts. They have since been heavily crossed with Rough Collies in the 20th century and this makes them small to medium sized dogs... History cannot be undone.
So, if you have your heart set on a Miniature Sheltie, you have a difficult task ahead. You must seek out a responsible Mini breeder which is a difficult task indeed - considering the undeniable truth that there are thousands of puppy mills striving to create these miniature designer dogs for profit.
Beware because they will most likely be sold by people claiming to be professional breeders, or in the perceived innocence of a pet shop. Unless you are able to view both parents and confirm they are healthy adult Shelties, you will never know.
The Shetland Sheepdog is not a large breed to begin with. Most Shelties fall into the small dog breed category (unless you have a particularly large individual) that's great with kids and makes an excellent lap dog. For the sake of your dog's health and not supporting the unethical (and illegal) practices of puppy mills, exercise some caution over the trade of Miniature Shelties and tread carefully.
*I have written this page with a great deal of input from professional Sheltie breeders, Miniature Sheltie lovers, and my own research. My aim is to provide a fair and balanced view of the reality of the situation. If you feel I have missed part of the argument or your views are not represented, please email me and I will add your views to the debate.
Becky Turner is the creator of Sheltie Planet. She lives in New Zealand with her partner, Peter, and their son, Fox. Becky is 100% owned by Howard and Piper Woofington Moon, the Shelties who inspired this site. Visit them on Facebook or The Sheltie Planet Forums.