Shelties are the smartest small dog breed in the world. What's more, they're goddamn gorgeous. Whether loving lap dogs or sporting super stars, Shetland Sheepdogs make fantastic family pets.
I'm Becky Casale and I have two Shelties, Piper and Howard Woofington Moon, seen in the slow motion video below. After 12 years of companionship, this site is reveals everything I know and love about Shetland Sheepdogs.
ABOUT - Learn about the history, evolution, coat colors, appearance, and personality of Shelties.
PUPPIES - Rescue a Sheltie or find Sheltie puppies for sale with a breeder near you.
TRAINING - Advice on housebreaking, socialization, barking, jumping, and obedience.
HEALTH - Information on grooming, flea control, spaying, neutering, and hereditary diseases.
PHOTOS - Browse hundreds of adorable Sheltie photos by category sent in by our fans.
PRODUCTS - Reviews of essential pet gear including dog food, leashes, beds, and dental.
Not sure where to start? Download my complete guide to the Sheltie breed, with detailed advice on how to take care of your Sheltie's every whim: food, health, training, grooming, and much more.
Anatomy of a Sheltie
First things first. Know your Sheltie anatomy!
How I Discovered Shelties
I've been in love with Shelties since 2008, ever since we met this gorgeous little guy, who we very modestly named Sir 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. You can read about the early years of Howard and Piper here to get to know our beautiful boys.
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.
Here's a visual splat of the most popular articles on Sheltie Planet. If you'd like to see a searchable list, visit our complete archives.
And if you're super excited about getting a new Sheltie puppy or already have a live-in beast of your own, you will love my 190-page illustrated ebook, The Pet Owner's Guide to Shelties.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Types of Shelties Are There?
People categorize Shelties in a few different ways:
American vs English Shelties. Wherever you go in the world, you'll find only two breeding "types". American Shelties are a little larger and have a longer snout than English Shelties. There are other subtle differences defined by the Shetland Sheepdog breed standard. Howard and Piper are English types, whose ancestors were imported to New Zealand from Scotland some years back.
Coat Colors. There are eight coat colors seen in Shelties. The most common is Sable. Less often, you'll see Black, Tri-Color, and Blue Merle Shelties. Within those groupings you have even rarer coat colors like Bi-Black, Bi-Blue and the virtually-mythical Color Headed White. You can see all the coat colors here.
Miniature Shelties. In America there is a small but resolute crowd of Mini Sheltie adorers. These are Shelties which are less than 13 inches tall at the shoulder. Miniature Shelties aren't an official dog breed by conformation standards but they are seen in agility trials and the pet trade.
Are Shelties Good Family Dogs?
Shelties make wonderful family pets, provided they are well-socialized with children when they're puppies. Because Shelties are smart and sensitive, they are highly trainable, and they're very gentle with little ones.
Moderately active with a love of playing chase, Shelties 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. This is what makes our Shelties endlessly entertaining. The kids love it.
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 get a Sheltie (or any dog for that matter) as they will become very lonely and anxious.
Also beware that the Sheltie's heightened sensitivity can give way to nervousness. A lack of socialization when they're young can leave them upset by 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 your Sheltie puppy with all kinds of people at a young age including children and babies. Early exposure is key. A well-socialized adult Sheltie gets along with everyone because they have good experiences conditioned from puppyhood.
But don't worry if your Sheltie puppy seems particularly bitey. Like babies, they explore the world with their mouths. It doesn't mean they're going to be nervous, nippy adults. Once they're through the puppy stage, well-adjusted dogs of all breeds learn not to be mouthy. That means they understand 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?
Shelties 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 be confident enough to put your pooch in his place by staying calm or 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. Thus, Shelties entered the pet trade.
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 make the cut are usually sold as pets. Aside from rescuing a Sheltie (which can include puppies and adult dogs), professional breeders are the only place you should ever seek to buy a Sheltie puppy. Avoid pet stores, backyard breeders, and puppy mills at all costs.
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. Your Sheltie will 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.
Shelties are popular dogs in the US, ranking at number 24 out of 190 American Kennel Club breeds. If you want to adopt a Sheltie, first browse our rescue directory or visit Adopt a Pet and save the life of an abandoned Sheltie.
Sadly, people give up their 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 (including puppies) are given up because the owners can't handle the responsibility. That comes back to you, too. Remember: 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. This will help ensure the optimal health and lifespan of your new best friend.
Never buy a puppy from a pet store or an online listing which doesn't allow you to collect your puppy from the kennels. They are very likely to be a backyard breeder or puppy mill.
Not only is this profit-driven trade horrendously cruel and exploitative, you may spend a lot of money on a Sheltie 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—just report 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 Sheltie Puppy Home?
Like all dog breeds, Sheltie 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 Sheltie puppy, see my detailed 20-item checklist for everything you'll need before you bring your puppy 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 Sheltie. This not only helps you understand his needs and instincts, it also help your Sheltie 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.
We 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 Sheltie very quickly.
Are Shelties a Healthy Dog Breed?
Purebred Shelties 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. Of course, without genetic testing, these are more likely to crop up in 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 now being flushed out of the gene pool. If you have a Sheltie from an unknown source, read up on the genetic health issues in Shelties.
As for lifespan, Shelties often live for 12-14 years. That 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 thick Sheltie coat. That's when you need to step-up your grooming routine.
So how do you groom a Sheltie? My step-by-step grooming guide shows you how to groom your Shetland Sheepdog to keep him healthy and happy, and prevent your house from turning into a fur-fest. It includes the best dog brush for your Sheltie, and how to bathe him and clip his claws.
Should I De-Sex My Sheltie?
On the subject of pet maintenance, it's important to thoroughly consider the issue of de-sexing your Sheltie. Neutering males and spaying females is a routine procedure for dogs and is considered the most responsible option for pet owners. Rescue shelters spay and neuter all Shelties when they are re-homed. And with good reason.
According to The Humane Society, some 3 million unwanted dogs are euthamized 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.
What's more, there are significant health benefits to neutering or spaying your Sheltie. Vets recommend the procedure to improve their quality of life and even extend their lifespan.
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