Shetland Sheepdog

Written by: Jamie
Updated: April 4, 2021

One of the most intelligent dog breeds is the Shetland Sheepdog. Learn all about these canines and their background in today’s guide.

shetland sheepdog on woods

Shetland Sheepdog Height: 13-16 inches
Weight: 7-11 kilos
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the basic pros and cons of the Shetland Sheepdog below:


  • Ideal breed choice for first-time owners
  • Highly intelligent and easy to train service dog
  • Sociable with other dogs and animals
  • Excellent watchdog


  • High grooming maintenance & heavy shedding
  • Prone to separation anxiety
  • Needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation
  • Sensitive to their surrounding environment

shetland sheepdog in park


The Shetland Sheepdog is a kind, sweet, and gentle dog that looks like the smaller version of the Rough Collie. Despite their resemblance, both are separate breeds.

Its magnificent coat will have people across the street turning their heads! Unfortunately, it requires lots of maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape.

Shelties are classified as a herding breed. Originating from Scotland, these canines are known to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds.

A trait that serves them well, allowing them to work as a service, medical alert, and therapy dog. Shelties are docile by nature and aren’t known to be aggressive.

Dog enthusiasts love to show off the Sheltie dog breed in the sport and show ring. These smart canines love learning new tricks and excel in obedience, agility, herding, and, rally. Shelties are one of the top breeds to come up against in these competitions.

Apartments won’t be suitable for this dog. They will need access to at least a small-sized garden.

Shelties are deeply affectionate towards their families and can’t be left alone for long periods. Separation anxiety could develop, resulting in destructive behaviour.

Due to their herding and watchdog background, it is the Shelties instinct to alert and bark at anything out of the ordinary. To avoid excessive barking and annoying the neighbours, one of the first commands you should teach this breed is ‘quiet’.

shetland sheepdog playing on snow


Deriving from the Shetland Islands, the Northernmost region of Scotland, is the Shetland Sheepdog.

In an area located near the Arctic Circle, Shelties developed a thick, double coat to protect them from the harsh conditions. These smaller herding dogs were perfect for working life on the islands as opposed to the mainland.

Little is known about the history of the Shetland Sheepdog. They remained relatively unknown until the 19th century, due to the island’s inaccessibility.

It is thought the original Shetland Sheepdog was part of the Spitz family until they were crossed with mainland Collies. They are now extinct after being replaced by other Collie breeds.

The breed was further crossed with the King Charles Spaniel, Pomeranian, and the Rough Collie. Producing the modern Shetland Sheepdog we know today.

Despite their popularity and competitor status in dog sports, they have never won the Best in Show title from the Westminister Kennel Club or Crufts.

At first, the breed was known as the Shetland Collie, but this was changed to the Shetland Sheepdog after Rough Collie enthusiasts protested.

Toonie was another nickname given to these canines. It means ‘farm’ in Norweigan. Their job was to herd and protect the Shetland Sheep.

In Lerwick, 1908 The Shetland Collie Club applied for recognition from the Kennel Club however, this was rejected. It is in this area where engravings can be found of what is thought to be the Sheltie, dating back to 1840.

In 1909, The Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed and eventually, the breed received KC recognition in 1914.


Shetland Sheepdog Temperament:

Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their sensitivity. Due to this, loud sounds, shouting, and, arguing in the household could seriously stress this dog out.

They have deeply strong bonds with their owners and can’t be left alone for long periods of time. Shetland Sheepdogs could develop separation anxiety as a result.

shetland sheepdog in front of sea

The Sheltie temperament is described as loyal, alert, affectionate, reserved, and gentle. Some dogs can be timider than others so it is important a Shetland puppy is well-socialized.

This breed requires a leader that can guide them through life. A pushover will enhance the Sheltie to become more dominant.

Recommended: Scotland’s very own addition to the Setter family is the black and tan Gordon Setter. Find out everything you need to know about these rare hunting dogs.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Good with Strangers?

The Shetland dog is naturally reserved and wary of strangers. As a watchdog, the breed will always alert its owner to newcomers approaching its territory. Whilst they aren’t known to be aggressive, lack of socialization will increase the likelihood of timid and shy behaviour.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Good with Children?

This breed is better suited to a home with older children as toddlers can make Shelties nervous. The loud squealing, noises, poking, and prodding will cause stress. The Sheltie dog has a lower tendency to nip, chew, and, herd compared to other herding breeds.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Ok with Other Dogs?

Yes, the Sheltie gets along well with other dogs. They’re a social breed and love interacting with canines at the park. Both cats and dogs can live alongside the Sheltie although it is recommended they are introduced from an early age.


Set aside one hour every day to exercise the Shetland Sheepdog. Although some pooches could do with longer! These extremely intelligent canines require daily mental stimulation to prevent boredom.

They have a strong prey drive and especially love chasing birds! Due to their herding background be wary of allowing them off-leash near livestock.

Shelties thrive when working so try to give them some jobs around the house. This breed is one of the top competitors in the dog sport world. Get them involved in some of these activities by visiting your local dog sports centre, or just set up an obstacle course in the garden!

shetland sheepdog beside the river

Recommended next: The Cavapoochon is one of the more lesser-known designer breeds. Our guide will tell you all you need to know about this adorable little hybrid.


Find out the breed-related health conditions of the Shetland Sheepdog below:

  • Hip Dysplasia- Poor development of the hip will prevent the joints from fitting together. Instead, they will rub and grind against one another causing pain, swelling, and, inflammation. Arthritis will follow.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- Over time, the retina of the eye will progressively worsen. Dogs will experience night-time blindness before proceeding to total blindness.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly– This condition is inherited and is a mutated gene that affects the development of the eye. A Sheltie puppy can be tested for this disease between 6-8 weeks of age.
  • Legg-Perthes Disease- This disease affects the hip and will cause a dog to limp. Eventually, the hip will crumble and collapse. It is a painful orthopaedic disorder that could be rectified by operating to remove the diseased hip joint.
  • Luxating Patellas- Dogs may skip a beat in their step or run on three legs when experiencing a luxating patella. It is a term used to describe the temporary dislocation of the kneecap.
  • Von Willebrands Disease- Excessive bleeding is caused by a deficiency of blood platelets. It is a common inherited bleeding disorder affecting both dogs and humans.
  • Hypothyroidism- An underactive thyroid will greatly reduce a dog’s metabolism. Most dogs will experience weight gain without an increase of appetite, lethargy, and an unwillingness to exercise.
  • Distichiasis- The smaller eyelashes grow right on the edge of the eye causing them to rub on the eye’s surface.

Intelligence & Training

The Shetland dog is one of the smartest breeds currently walking the earth! These canines are quick learners and perform a variety of jobs most of which were vital to humans.

Today these canines are still found on farmland, although other breeds such as the Border Collie, are more commonly used for herding.

The Shetland Sheepdog size is small to medium. Owners interested in a smaller version of the Rough Collie can find this benefit in the Sheltie.

Yet due to their size, they can grow up to be shy without the right socialization. It is important Shetland Sheepdogs are introduced to a variety of people and animals growing up.

shetland sheepdog doing agility trial

Good old-fashioned dog walking in the park is one way of bringing out the Shelties sociable side. Group puppy classes are also another way to socialize whilst training a pooch.

Inviting people into the house is a good way of getting a dog used to strangers knocking on the door. Whilst they may keep their reservations they should relax.

Shelties will be easy to train so long as you remain calm. This sensitive breed will become upset or even stressed from harsh training methods and voice tones.

Always praise good behaviour and only use positive reinforcement methods. Ensure the ‘Quiet’ command is at the top of the Shelties learning list!

Recommended: The Yorkipoo is a designer dog that is crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier and Minature or Toy Poodle.


The luxurious coat of the Sheltie will need lots of maintenance to keep it looking good. The breed also sheds copious amounts of fur during the year so daily brushing is recommended.

Pin brushes, slicker brushes, and metal combs are the best tools to use.

Bathe the Sheltie every 4-6 weeks or whenever they start getting dirty. Brush them thoroughly before wetting their fur as knots are extremely difficult to remove once wet.

shetland sheepdog playing with ball

Use a blow dryer to prevent debris from sticking to the coat after a bath. Overgrown fur in areas like the paws can be trimmed. Their coat should never be shaven.

Nails will need to be trimmed every two weeks. Sometimes these may file naturally when walking on rough surfaces. Ears should be checked and cleaned once a week to remove debris from the canal.

Teeth will need brushing multiple times a week however vets recommend this is done daily.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}