The History of The Sheltie Breed
Shelties are often met with cries of "Look! A mini Lassie!" because they resemble miniature Rough Collies. But Shelties come from a different lineage altogether, with Collie crosses only in the last 100 years. Take a look at our fascinating Sheltie History, tracing the Shetland Sheepdog's evolution from its herding dog origins in Scandinavia.
We all know that Shetland Sheepdogs come from the Shetland Islands of Scotland. But the complete Sheltie history is lesser known and makes for an intriguing story.
The Sheltie Breed Origins
The mostl likely explanation of the Sheltie's origins is a Scandinavian herding dog, perhaps a Spitz breed similar to the modern Icelandic Sheepdog. Their thick double coats made them well equipped to deal with harsh winters, and they were excellent working dog candidates for the islands of Scotland.
Once imported into the Shetland Islands in the 1700s, the Scandinavian Spitz breed was extensively crossed with mainland working collies. These included the Border Collie and Rough Collie, along with other breeds like the now extinct Greenland Yakki, the King Charles Spaniel and the Pomeranian.
The Miniature Collie
Has your Sheltie ever been called a "mini Lassie"? Why do Shetland Sheepdogs look so much like miniature Rouch Collies? As you'll see in a moment, this evolving breed of sheepdog was heavily crossed with Rough Collies. But first, there was significant miniaturization - for two reasons:
1. Smaller Cattle
The Shetland Islands are famous for their miniature animals, including the Shetland Pony which stands at around one meter tall. Shetland Sheep are also smaller and lighter than their mainland counterparts.
This is because the islands are small and with limited food and habitat, so natural selection saw smaller animals survive better over the generations. As a direct result, Shetland farmers artificially selected for smaller Shetland Sheepdogs to watch their wee cattle. And so came the evolution of the "Toonie".
By the 1800s, the people of the Shetland Islands found that they could make money by selling the cute, fluffy Toonie breed to rich tourists. To increase the appeal, they crossed their working Toonies with Pomeranians and possibly even Papillions and Corgis to achieve even smaller dogs that would make even cuter pets.
The Modern Sheltie Breed
By 1900, the breeders of the Shetland Islands began to realize that the original working dog breed was disappearing. So they retraced their steps and reintroduced Collie crosses, sometimes even with show Collies. The new lines became known as Shetland Collies and a Sheltie breed standard was accepted by the Kennel Club in 1911.
The dog pictured below is Chestnut Rainbow, born ~1922, thought to be the ancestor of almost all modern American Shelties.
But then things got political. Collie breeders began shunning the new Shetland Collies as "little mongrels" and calling for greater distinction between them and Rough Collies.
The Kennel Club quickly changed the breed name to Shetland Sheepdogs, even though the modern Sheltie breed is so evidently highly influenced by Rough Collie crosses.
Nonetheless, this process went on to define the modern day standard which describes the Sheltie breed's ideal dimensions, colors, gait and temperament.
To learn more, take a look at the modern Shetland Sheepdog breed standard.
How to Care for a Shetland Sheepdog Puppy
All puppies are adorable. That's a scientific fact! But the Shetland Sheepdog puppy - with his big floppy ears, beautiful almond eyes, and silky soft fur - knows how to be deliberately cute on demand. Interestingly, sable Sheltie puppies usually have lighter fur when they're young, which deepens and intensifies as they age. In fact, it can take up to two years for the full adult double coat to grow, which is what gives this breed their distinctive look.
How to Clicker Train Your Dog
Clicker training is a gentle training method that uses only positive reinforcement to teach your dog new behaviors. All you need is a good clicker and an understanding about what makes this dog training method work so well, especially with intelligent dogs like Shelties. I'm going to help you get an overview of clicker training here, plus everything you need to get started.
How To Photograph Your Dog
One of the reasons I made Sheltie Planet is because I have an abundance of Sheltie photos I wanted to share. I love taking pictures of Howard and Piper and being able to capture them in a way that frames that moment forever. Today I'd like to share some general pet photography tips based on what I've learnt using my digital point-and-shoot camera. I hope this helps you get the most out of your pet photography and creates some great images that you will treasure forever.
The Top 10 Most Intelligent Dog Breeds
Dogs can be smart in different ways: a breed with an acute and wellhoned ability to work will be quick to learn how to do its job. Other breeds may be so eager to please their people that they're attentive and highly trainable. But intelligence alone doesn't make a good pet. Owners need to be willing to put in the work to channel a dog's inherent intelligence - and a good owner will understand a dog's natural traits to bring out his natural smarts.