Shetland sheepdogs

sheltie grooming ABOUT SHELTIES miley sheltie ear glue taping

The Shetland Sheepdog, often known as the Sheltie, is a breed of herding dog. They are small to medium dogs, and come in a variety of colours, such as sable, tri-color, and blue merle. They are vocal, excitable, energetic dogs who are always willing to please and work hard. They are partly derived from dogs used in the Shetland Isles for herding and protecting sheep. The breed was formally recognized by The Kennel Club in 1909.
The Shetland Sheepdog's early history is not well known. Although of obscure origin, the sheltie is probably a descendant of small specimens of the Scottish Collie and the King Charles Spaniel. It was developed to tend the diminutive sheep of the Shetland Islands, whose rugged, stormy shores have produced other small-statured animals such as the Shetland pony.
Today it is raised as a farm dog and family pet. They were originally a small mixed-breed dog, 330 mm in height and it is thought that the original Shetland herding dogs were of Spitz type, and were crossed with collie-type sheepdogs from mainland Britain. In the early 20th century, James Loggie added a small Rough Collie to the breeding stock, and helped establish what would become the modern Shetland sheepdog. The original name of the breed was Shetland Collie, but this caused controversy among Rough Collie breeders at the time, so the breed's name was formally changed to Shetland Sheepdog.

Unlike many miniature breeds that resemble their larger counterparts, this breed was not developed simply by selectively breeding the Rough Collie for smaller and smaller size. The original sheepdog of Shetland was a Spitz-type dog, probably similar to the modern Icelandic Sheepdog. This dog was crossed with mainland working collies brought to the islands, and then after being brought to England, it was further extensively crossed with the Rough Collie, and other breeds including some or all of the extinct Greenland Yakki, the King Charles Spaniel (not the Cavalier), the Pomeranian, and possibly the Border Collie. The original Spitz-type working sheepdog of Shetland is now extinct, having been replaced for herding there by the Border Collie. The Shetland Sheepdog in its modern form has never been used as a working dog on Shetland, and ironically it is uncommon there.
When the breed was originally introduced breeders called them Shetland Collies, which upset Rough Collie breeders, so the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog. During the early 20th century (up until the 1940s), additional crosses were made to Rough Collies to help retain the desired Rough Collie type – in fact, the first AKC Sheltie champion's dam was a purebred rough Collie.
The year 1909, marked the initial recognition of the Sheltie by the English Kennel Club, with the first registered Sheltie
being a female called Badenock Rose. The first Sheltie to be registered by the American Kennel Club was "Lord Scott" in 1911.

The general appearance of the Sheltie is that of a miniature Rough Collie. They are a small, double coated, working dog, agile and sturdy. Blue merle Shelties may have blue eyes or one brown and one blue eye, but all others have dark coloured eyes. Their expression should be that of alertness with a gentle and sometimes reserved nature. They are often very good with children. They carry their tail down low, only lifted when alert and never carried over the back. They are an intensely loyal breed, sometimes reserved with strangers but should not be too shy.

Shelties have a double coat, which means that they have two layers of fur that make up their coat. The long, rough guard hairs lie on top of a thick, soft undercoat. The guard hairs are water-repellent, while the undercoat provides relief from both high and low temperatures.

The English Kennel Club describes three different colours: tricolour, blue merle, and sable (ranging from golden through mahogany), marked with varying amounts of white and/or tan. Essentially, however, a blue merle dog is a genetically black dog, either black, white, and tan (tricolour). In the show ring, blue merles may have blue eyes; all other colours must have brown eyes.

Basic coat colours
Sable – Tricolour – Bi-black
See more here

"Modified" coat colours
Any of the above colours may also have a colour modification gene. The colour modification genes
are merling and white factoring. Merling dilutes the base colour (sable, tricolour, or bi-black) causing a black dog's
coat to show a mix of black, white, and gray hairs, often with black patches.
Blue merle—blue, white, and tan. A tricolour with the merling gene. May have blue eyes.
Bi-blue—blue and white. A bi-black with the merling gene. May have blue eyes.
Sable merle—faded or mottled sable and white. Often born with a mottled coat of darker brown over lighter brown, they usually present as a faded or lighter sable or can appear as a washed out blue-merle. Sable merles are shown in the breed ring as sables.
White factoring affects the amount of white on the dog. It is hard to tell, without actually breeding, whether a dog is white-factored or not, though dogs with white going up the stifle (the front of the hind leg) are usually assumed to be white-factored. Breeding two white-factored dogs can result in colour-headed whites—Shelties with coloured heads (sable, tricolor, bi-black, or blue or sable merle) and white bodies. For show dogs, dogs with more than 50% white are heavily penalized and thus are not shown in the breed ring; they are normal in every other way.
Double merles, a product of breeding two merle Shelties together, have a very high incidence of deafness and/or blindness.
There have been reports of a brindle Sheltie, but many Sheltie enthusiasts agree that a cross sometime in the ancestry of that specific Sheltie could have produced a brindle. Unacceptable colours in the show ring are a rustiness in a blue or black coat. Colours may not be faded, no conspicuous white spots, and the colour cannot be over 50% white.

Shelties normally weigh around 6–10 kilograms. In general, males are taller and heavier than females. KUSA specifies a male’s height as 37cm ± 2½ cm at the withers, and a female’s height as 35.5cm ± 2½ cm, however, some shelties can be found outside of these ranges but are not considered truly representative of the breed.

To conform to the breed standards, the Shelties' ears should bend slightly or "tip", this contributes to the "proper
Sheltie expression. The ear is to have the top third to a quarter of the ear tipped. Wide-set (too much distance between) ears are also not a desired trait, nor are ears which tip too low down.

Shelties have a double coat, and often shed a lot of the time, no matter the season. The top coat consists of long,
straight, water-repellent hair, which provides protection from cold and the elements. The undercoat is short, furry, and very dense and helps to keep the dog warm. Mats can be commonly found behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the fluffy fur on the hind legs, as well as around the collar. The coat is usually shed twice a year. Females will also shed right before or right after giving birth. Male shelties technically shed less than females but fur still comes off constantly. Shaving these dogs is very bad for their skin and some do not regrow any significant amount of hair after being shaved, a condition known as alopecia. Spaying or neutering can alter coat texture, making it softer, more prone to matting and even more profuse. It should be noted that Shelties shed in clumps which can be pulled or brushed out of the main coat, rather than individual hair. This makes them much easier to groom and clean-up after than many smooth-haired dogs, which leave loose fur in their space.

Shelties have a high level of intelligence. According to Dr. Stanley Coren, an expert on animal intelligence, the Shetland sheepdog is one of the brightest dogs, ranking 6th out of 132 breeds tested.


The Shetland sheepdog is lively, intelligent, playful, trainable, and eager to please and obey. They are loving, loyal, devoted, and affectionate with their family, with a gentle and sometimes reserved nature. However they are excitable, energetic dogs who love to bark and let you know what’s going on.

Is this the correct pup for you, which is the best home and why?

Shelties thrive on the farm, but can adapt to many living situations if sufficiently exercised. They are good with any family especially an active family and do best with a sensitive, attentive owner.
This breed needs people, they need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They are prone to separation anxiety and this can translate to neurotic behaviours, destructive chewing, or chronic excessive barking (sometimes with a high-pitched, piercing voice).

These dogs have quick reflexes, which can make them overly reactive to loud noises and sudden touches. Indeed, quite a few individuals are highly strung, startle easily, and do not do well in an environment with frequent tension, loud voices, or too much rough-housing. They are extremely sensitive to stress and may behave neurotically if the people in their home are having family problems. Shelties are peaceful dogs who need a harmonious home.
They can be reserved with strangers and without proper exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds, their natural caution can become outright shyness or fear. To build a confident temperament, the Shetland Sheepdog needs more extensive socialization from a young age than many other breeds.

Shelties are very alert to outside stimuli and will let you know of any that is going on, thus they make excellent watch dog as well as guard dogs. However they are in general very vocal dogs and some will bark incessantly, so they may not be the best breed for a home that is close to neighbours. With proper training the barking can be kept to a minimum.

Though on the small side, this breed has the heritage of an active herding dog and needs more exercise than many other smallish dogs. Although they don't need miles of running exercise, a half an hour to an hour walk or jog twice a day will be fine and they also love to run in wide-open areas. The herding instinct is still very strong in many of these dogs and they love to chase and herd things including cats, children, and if an owner is not watchful - cars.

In addition to physical exercise Shelties need mental stimulation as well, they are bright dogs that cannot just sit in the backyard and do nothing. At home this can be done by playing challenging games with them, or even by letting them fetch balls and find hidden toys.
Other ways to exercise them physically as well as mentally is by participating in dog agility, obedience, conformation, flyball, tracking, herding, guarding, and performing tricks!
Neglecting a Sheltie's need for exercise and intellectual stimulation can result in undesirable behaviours, including excessive barking, phobias, destructive chewing and nervousness.

In a nutshell a Sheltie is for you if you

Don’t mind a dog that barks
Want small dog that has lots of energy
Are prepared to give it the exercise it needs
Want a dog that is easy to train, and you are willing to put the time and effort into training the dog
Want a dog that will go anywhere with you, just keep in mind that they are sensitive to stress and loud noises
You are willing to spend time on brushing and combing them daily.
Don’t mind a dog that sheds a lot
Are willing to spend money at the vet, these dogs have a potential for serious health problems
You have the time or inclination to get your dog involved in agility, advanced obedience, tracking, or a similar canine activity.
Are an active family that can give them the exercise they need, they need more exercise than many other smallish dogs.

Where do I get my pup from?

Only from reputable breeders! One can contact the Kennel Union Of Southern Africa (KUSA) to check out any breeder.
Here is a list of current participating Sheltie breeders in South Africa.

Always try and meet both parents of the puppies. This is not always possible, but definitely ask to see the mother.
Please read our article on how to choose a reputable breeder on the this page.

Which other breeds are most compatible with the Shetland Sheepdogs?

They will get along with almost any active breed, but will be able to play easier with smaller breeds than bigger breeds.
Naturally a good choice will be another Sheltie or Shepherd breed, but also adapt to other breeds.

Is it wise to have two or more of the same breed?

Most definitely, this is the most ideal situation as they understand each other.

Should I get two pups together?

This is not a good idea. Most people think that the pups will be happier with a playmate and won’t fight if they are family. The truth of the matter is that your two pups are likely to:
Bond with each other to the exclusion of you
Will stress without the other dog being around
Fight with each other
Be more destructive and boisterous
Two pups together often leads to one being more assertive and the other more submissive. This could well end up in a situation where the more submissive dog will never develop its full potential.

Is it wise to keep same-sex dogs?

If you are a first time dog owner, perhaps avoid this, but if you are well versed in dogs, it shouldn't be a problem!

Do they get on well with other animals?

They're peaceful with other animals
Keep in mind that, like with all dogs, the level at which these dogs get along with other animals depends greatly of how well they were socialized as pups

Are they good with children?

These dogs are polite with everyone, though typically reserved and sometimes timid with strangers, so as much early and continued socialization as possible.
Shelties do well with children if they are reared with them from an early age; however, many Shelties feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that young children can't help making and their small size makes it easy for a child to accidentally injure them, so supervision is necessary. They do get along well with older children, especially if the child has learnt to handle them calmly and gently.


These dogs are exceptionally attentive and responsive, this along with their intelligence and willingness to please makes them very easy to train.
They are sensitive to the tone of your voice, and they need a trainer that has a calm voice and a light hand on the leash. They often only need verbal corrections, and they wilt or become defensive if you jerk them around.
Praise, gentle guidance, and positive reinforcement are the way to go with Shelties.
With proper and correct training this breed can easily dominate in dog agility, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding.


Shelties have a double coat; the topcoat consists of long, straight, water-repellent hair, which provides protection from cold and the elements and the undercoat is short, furry, very dense and helps to keep the dog warm. Spaying or neutering can alter their coat texture, making it softer, more prone to matting and even more profuse.
Shelties are quite fastidious about their cleanliness, bathe or dry shampoo only when absolutely necessary and regular brushing, combing, and occasional trimming is important to keep their feathered coat free of mats. Mats can be commonly found behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the fluffy fur on the hind legs, as well as around the collar.

DO NOT shave these dogs, shaving them is very bad for their skin and some do not re-grow any significant amount of hair after being shaved, a condition known as alopecia.
Something to keep in mind is that they shed a lot. You'll find hair and fur is deposited all over your clothing, upholstery, carpeting, and under your furniture. Their dense undercoat is shed twice a year - in the spring and fall - and females will also shed right before or right after giving birth. It should however be noted that they shed in clumps which can be pulled or brushed out of the main coat, rather than individual hair. This makes them much easier to groom and clean-up after than many smooth-haired dogs, which leave loose fur in their space.
More on grooming to be found here.

Health concerns

For the most part Shelties are athletic and healthy, however the list of health problems that can occurring regularly in Shelties is depressingly long.
Some health problems that can occur include: epilepsy, bleeding disorders, heart disease, skin allergies, displacement of the patella (kneecap) - which is thought to be inherited and easy weight gain - so you need to watch their food portions.

Although small breed dogs are not usually plagued by hip dysplasia, it has been identified in Shelties and is ever-increasing in incidences. Hip dysplasia occurs when the head of the femur and the acetabulum do not fit together correctly, frequently causing pain and/or lameness.
It is thought to be genetic.

Like the Rough Collie, there is a tendency toward inherited malformation and disease of the eyes. Each individual puppy should have his eyes examined by a qualified canine ophthalmologist. The two basic forms of inherited eye diseases/defects in Shelties are Collie eye anomaly (CEA) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

Some lines may be prone to hypothyroidism, which is the under-functioning thyroid gland. It is an Autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Clinical symptoms include hair loss or lack of coat, over or under-weight, and listlessness.

Some herding dogs carry a MDR1 gene which makes them sensitive to certain drugs - that are otherwise okay to give another dog.

Shelties are also highly susceptible to Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC). TCC is a cancer of the bladder, and can be diagnosed early by regular urinalysis from a normal veterinarian. Causes are debated between breed susceptibility and female gender and exposure to insecticides.

Dermatomyositis may occur at the age of 4 to 6 months, and is frequently misdiagnosed by general practice veterinarians as sarcoptic or demodectic mange. The disease manifests itself as alopecia on the top of the head, supra- and suborbital area and forearms as well as the tip of the tail. If the disease progresses to its more damaging form, it could affect the autonomic nervous system and the dog may have to be euthanised. This disease is generation-skipping and genetically transmitted, with breeders having no clear methodology for screening except clear bloodline records. Deep tissue biopsies are required to definitively diagnose dermatomyositis.[19]

Von Willebrand disease is an inherited bleeding disorder. In Shelties, affected dogs as a general rule are not viable and do not live long. The Sheltie carries type III of von Willebrands, which is the most severe of the three levels. There are DNA tests that were developed to find von Willebrands in Shelties. It can be done at any age, and it will give three results: affected, carrier and non-affected.

​ “In today’s age, with the rising cost of veterinary care, it really is a wise decision to consider medical insurance for your pets. Depending on the plan you choose, you can ensure that if your pet does develop one of the health issues the breed is prone too, that you will be covered –additionally, just knowing that any accident your pet may have will be covered, will out-weigh the monthly insurance fee for most pet owners. Our own personal choice is Genricpet as they have a ‘no limit’ policy and their rates are comparable to the rest of the industry. To find out the questions and things to look for in a Medical Insurance, please just follow this link”

More on conditions here.

Life expectancy

About 12-15 years.



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