Acquired: Breeder (professional)
Training: I haven't learned care / training techniques
Washington, United States
Posted July 20, 2014
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is often called a miniature Collie. That is understandable since it both looks and acts reasonably close to its larger cousins. The breed was first developed in the Shetland Islands as sheep herder and most retain the personality of a working dog. Some also inherit the herding instinct and will attempt to round up children or animals if they move too quickly. Of the two I owned, one was a herder and the other wasn’t. Shelties usually measure between 12-18 inches tall at the shoulder, with the males being on the larger end and the females smaller. They are covered in a dense double coat of fur ideal for the cold and rainy weather of their birthplace. Do not consider getting one of these unless you are willing to invest time and/or money to keep your dog properly groomed. A few weeks of no grooming will have a bad effect on the dog’s appearance and happiness. A few months could find your dog with dangerous mats and limited mobility.
Shelties have nice, friendly personalities and get along well with children and cats, making them good for families. Some have found their smaller size a good alternative to Golden Retrievers or other family-friendly dogs. They have plenty of voice and will bark regularly. Some training can help reduce this habit but will not quiet them completely, so consider noise requirements before purchase. Although they will try to “bark away” a perceived intruder from a distance, Shelties aren’t guard dogs. If a stranger enters, they will either try to make friends or run and hide. One day my dog found the gate open and finally got to confront the mail carrier he so viciously barked at each day. All he could think to do was sniff him and stand there waiting for a pet. Shelties love their humans to the extent that they will often sit on the doorstep outside, not daring to miss the opportunity for an interaction, and neglect to get their exercise in the yard. They are also inclined to develop a habit of howling if they feel ignored. So don’t add one to your family unless you can ensure proper exercise and attention.
Shelties are above average intelligence for dogs and can be trained well. They will be quite stubborn at first but that can be overcome. They are also quite mannerly. Both of the Shelties I owned would take walks without defecating or spraying a tree. They also tended to ignore other animals, with few exceptions, and calmly trotted along. They have a decent lifespan, ranging between 12-14 years. It is important that you buy from a reputable breeder, though, and ensure that they are not closely inbred. My first was the product of half-siblings and suffered some hearing and vision problems typical of inbreeding. Shetland Sheepdogs are an excellent breed of dog. If they fit your needs go ahead and get one—you won’t be disappointed.