Have You Fallen in Love with Shelties?
Have you fallen in love with Shelties? Me too! Shelties are the smartest small dog breed in the world. They're gorgeous, sweet, playful, and ever so sensitive, making them wonderful family pets.
First things first, know your Sheltie anatomy:
Where to next? That all depends on what you want to know about these glorious long haired pooches...
Here you'll find all my articles on temperament, appearance, history, coat colors and more. Discover how Shetland Sheepdogs rank for intelligence and popularity, as well as unusual breed traits like smiling and singing.
Browse Sheltie puppy breeder and rescue listings across the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Educated yourself about the dangers of supporting puppy mills, and see what you need when you bring your new puppy home.
Love looking at Sheltie photos? Me too! Check out these adorable collections of pet photos sent in by our readers. There's also advice on how to photograph your dog to get the best shots in any situation.
Training a Sheltie is a straightforward business because they're just so intelligent and eager to learn. But problems can arise when you mis-read their behaviors or mis-communicate your goals. Let's take a look at expert approaches to dog psychology and basic obedience training.
Here's my best advice on grooming, flea control, safe feeding, spaying, neutering and genetic health issues that crop up in this dog breed.
Let's look at the best dog products for Shelties, including grooming brushes, collars, leashes, pet insurance, dog food, and dog beds.
How I Discovered Shelties
I've been in love with Shelties since 2008, ever since we met this gorgeous little guy, who we modestly named Howard Woofington Moon.
With his floppy ears and almond eyes, Howard had me at "Yap!"
Now, there are a few things you need to know about Howard. Firstly, he is driven by his stomach. This has got him into many embarrassing sausage-based situations over the years. He simply can't understand why all the food isn't for him. Can you?
Secondly, Howard has a half-brother named Piper. Piper was meant to be a show dog, because his breeder found him to be ludicrously handsome. However, he turned out to have monstrous stage fright. He was re-homed with us at 9 months old and seemed to approved of the transition.
From the day Piper arrived, Howard decided he would be the King of All Food and he hasn't looked back since. Piper, meanwhile, takes what he can get. Which is quite a lot, considering we all know that Howard is a food-hog and Piper needs extra special treats when Howard isn't looking.
Not to be overshadowed by the bold and enigmatic Howard, Piper is diametrically opposed in personality. He is extremely eager to please us and even reacts to changes in our facial expressions. In fact, he has such a good eye that he barks whenever he sees bears and other ferocious predators on the TV.
Together, our Shelties rule the beaches of north Auckland with their barking, wave-chasing, and general interrogation of beach-goers. Read more about the early years of Howard and Piper here.
In the meantime, here's a collage of them waking up and biting each other to death. Don't worry, they soon got tired and went back to sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Types of Shelties Are There?
There's really only one official type of Shetland Sheepdog. But we can unofficially sort different types in a few ways:
American and English Types. Wherever you go in the world, you'll find two breeding "types". American Shelties are a little larger and have a longer snout than English types. There breed standard indentifies a few other subtle differences. Howard and Piper are English types, whose ancestors were imported to New Zealand from Scotland some years back.
Five Coat Colors. There most common coat color is Sable, produced by a dominant gene variant, which is unlike most other breeds where black is dominant. Less often, you'll see Tri Color and Blue Merles. And rarely, you'll come across Bi Blue and Bi Black, involve just two color combinations. Check out all the Shelties colors in pictures with explanations of their inheritance patterns.
Standard and Miniature Sizes. All Shelties that meet the breed description for size (13-16 inches at the withers) are "Standard", so it's not really a word we often use. In this case, it's to contrast them to the unofficial type known as Toy or Minis. In America there is a small but resolute crowd of Mini Sheltie fanciers, preferring them to be under 13 inches tall. This type isn't recognized by the American Kennel Club at present but they do perform well in agility trials.
Are Shelties Good Family Dogs?
These little dogs make wonderful family pets, provided they are well-socialized with children when they're puppies. Because they're smart and sensitive, they're highly trainable and very gentle with little ones.
Moderately active with a love of playing chase, these little guys are keen to join in with all family activities. Whether it's herding rolling rocks, playing hide-and-seek, or zooming around with no purpose whatsoever (Zoomies!) our dogs are endlessly entertaining. The kids love them.
Shelties love to be part of the family, making their voices heard and following you all around the house. They're very affectionate and make great lap dogs. So if you're out the house most of the day, please don't adopt a Shetland Sheepdog (or any dog for that matter) as they will become very lonely and anxious.
Also beware that their heightened sensitivity can sometimes give way to a nervous temperament. Lack of socialization when they're young can leave them fearful of dominant people. Shy Shelties can also be overwhelmed by children shrieking and running, triggering them to alarm bark, herd, and snap in response.
How Do I Avoid Raising a Nervous Sheltie?
It's essential to socialize a puppy with all kinds of people at a young age including children and babies. Early exposure is key. A well-socialized adult dog gets along with everyone because they have good experiences conditioned since puppyhood.
Don't worry if your puppy nips when he's young. Like babies, they explore the world with their mouths (although unlike babies they have lots of pointy teeth!) This can be concerning, but is easily corrected and doesn't mean they're going to be nervous, nippy adults. Once they're through the puppy stage, well-adjusted dogs have learned it's never ok for their teeth to make firm contact with your skin.
The same can't be said for their tongues! Piper loves to lick our wounds. We even taught our dogs to "kiss" us on the nose. Is that gross? Probably. But they don't mind. And neither do we.
Do Shelties Get Along with Other Pets?
These guys get along well with other family pets, as long as other pets are willing to stand their ground when herded. It may be strange at first, as each pet comes to understand their role in the dynamic, but give them time. Again, early exposure makes all the difference.
The herding instinct will drive your Sheltie to herd your cat, for example. But once he's cornered the poor feline, he won't know what to do with her. To establish the ground rules, your cat need to be confident enough to put your pooch in his place by staying calm and walking away all sassy. If your Sheltie doesn't get a reaction, his instinct won't be triggered.
What's The History of Shetland Sheepdogs?
Shelties hail from Scandinavian herding dogs, after they were imported to the Shetland Islands of Scotland in the 1700s for farming. They were soon crossed with Border Collies and Rough Collies which gives them the Lassie look.
Later, Shetland farmers deliberately bred their working "Toonies" to be cute and fluffy by crossing them with small dog breeds like Spaniels, Pomeranians, Papillons and Corgis. They found they could sell the fluffies to rich tourists who came by the islands.
Today, breeders select the best examples of Shelties according to health, appearance, and temperament to maintain the breed as we know it. The puppies who don't meet the strict breed definitions are often sold as pets.
What's The Sheltie Temperament Like?
Shelties are quirky and expressive. They have many different ways of displaying their emotions through body language, facial expressions, and vocal chords. Known for their high pitched barking, they can be trained to curb their bark but it does take consistency. They can also be trained to speak, howl, and sing.
Being a small dog breed, Shetland Sheepdogs are naturally gentle creatures. Their intelligent and playful nature enables them to frolic safely with young children and many other types of dogs.
As an alarm dog, Shelties are very sensitive to their environment too. They'll alert you to any unusual activity going on outside. And that includes cars, cats, and their mortal frenemy, the mailman.
Should I Get a Sheltie Puppy?
All puppies are adorable. That's a scientific fact! But the Sheltie puppy, with his big floppy ears, beautiful almond eyes and silky soft fur, can be deliberately cute on demand.
Shetland Sheepdogs are somewhat popular in the US, ranking at number 24 out of 190 American Kennel Club breeds. To adopt a dog, first browse our rescue directory or visit Adopt a Pet and save the life of an abandoned pet.
Sadly, people give up dogs for all kinds of reasons and at all ages. You may be able to adopt a Shetland Sheepdog who was neglected, abused, or simply left behind after a house move. Often, dogs are given up because the owners can't handle the responsibility. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.
If you have your heart set on a puppy, go directly to a professional Sheltie breeder who performs genetic testing and produces puppies only for the continuation of the breed. This will help ensure the optimal health and lifespan of your new best friend, as well as avoiding the profit-driven pet trade.
Never buy a puppy from a pet store or an online listing which doesn't allow you to collect your puppy from the kennels. This is the work of a backyard breeder or puppy mill.
Not only is the profit-driven pet trade cruel and exploitative, you may spend a lot of money on a puppy born with an inherited disorder, leading to costly vet bills and an early death. Puppy mill victims are also poorly socialized and have experienced severe neglect. Don't try to "save" them by buying a puppy from a dubious—just report the breeder to the authorities who will take action.
Professional breeders never sell their puppies through pet stores or no-contact listings because they can't see where their dogs will end up. Be vigilant and do your homework.
When Can I Take My Puppy Home?
Puppies shouldn't be separated from their mother until they're at least 8 weeks old. Any earlier and the puppy usually becomes nervous and has problems settling into her new home.
Puppies should be settling in with their new family by 12 weeks, when they're forming strong attachments. Therefore, 8-12 weeks is the best window of opportunity to take your new puppy home and responsible breeders will ensure this timeframe.
If you're about to adopt a puppy, see 20 Things You Need for a New Puppy before you bring them home.
How Do I Train My Sheltie?
The number one rule of puppy training is to build a relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect. So before you begin obedience training, the first step is create a bond with your dog. This not only helps you understand his needs and instincts, it also helps him develop trust in you.
When puppies securely understand they belong to the family, they're more likely to respond to your commands. The trust you build early on comes from showing affection, defining mutual boundaries, and treating any breaches with kindness but firmness.
I recommend clicker training for a gentle conditional dog training method that uses only positive reinforcement to teach your Sheltie tricks and obedience.
It's beautifully simple really. The clicking noise ingrains the habit for your dog to listen and react to your commands. This simplicity is the key: once entrained, the click tells your dog to listen up. Through psychological conditioning (a natural way for your dog to learn) you can instil new behaviors and commands in your smart little pooch very quickly.
Are Shelties a Healthy Dog Breed?
Purebred dogs come from careful breeding practices, including selection of mating pairs that are free of genetic disease and have a good temperament.
However, the historic crossing of related dogs to create the original breed has left traces of certain disease mutations. Hence the need for genetic testing to eliminate inherited disorders. Without genetic testing, these conditions are more likely to crop up from backyard breeding and puppy mills:
- Patellar Luxation (kneecap dislocation)
- Hip Dysplasia (malformed hip joint)
- Dermatomyositis (skin inflammation)
- Collie eye (eye deformities)
- Von Willebrande's Disease (blood clotting disorder)
With genetic testing, such purebred ailments are being flushed out of the gene pool. If you already have a Sheltie with unknown origins, read up on these genetic health issues.
As a small dog breed, they typically live for 12-14 years, which equates to living around 84-98 human years! Take care of your Sheltie's vaccinations, diet, weight, coat, exercise, and dental needs, and he'll enjoy a good quality of life as he ages.
How Do I Groom My Sheltie?
Part of the attraction of Shetland Sheepdogs is their luxurious double coat. That comes with the responsibility of weekly or fortnightly brushing sessions.
At around 5-6 months old, your puppy will begin to develop the classic coat. That's when you need to step-up your grooming routine.
So how do you groom a Sheltie? Read How to Groom a Shetland Sheepdog to keep him healthy and happy, and prevent your house from turning into a fur-fest. It includes the best dog brushes for the breed, and exactly how to bathe him and clip his claws.
Should I De-Sex My Dog?
On the subject of pet maintenance, it's important to thoroughly consider the issue of de-sexing. Neutering males and spaying females is a routine procedure and is considered the most responsible option for pet owners. Rescue shelters spay and neuter all pets when they are re-homed. And with good reason.
According to The Humane Society, some 3 million unwanted dogs are euthanized in US shelters every year. That's about 1 dog every 10 seconds. I actually feel sick. Often, these animals are the unplanned offspring of cherished family pets. How can you help stop this tragedy? De-sex your dog.
There are also significant health benefits to neutering or spaying your Sheltie. Vets recommend the procedure to improve their quality of life and even extend their lifespan.
Wow, you've reached the end of the page, you must really love Shelties. Or this site. Or both! :)
Please stay in touch by following us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Talk woofy to your heart's content at our Sheltie Forum. You can share your stories, get advice from fellow pet owners, and post photos of your gorgeous Shelties.
To learn more about Shelties, check out my 190-page ebook, The Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties. It's a goldmine of information for new and long-time Sheltie fanciers, illustrated with hundreds of gorgeous photos.
Bye for now!