The Shetland Sheepdog is a small breed that stands about 13-16 inches tall. They have long usually tricolored coats that range in colors from sable, tan, white, black and grey depending on the dog and its inherited color coat scheme. The Shetland Sheepdog is often marked closely enough to a Collie to be mistaken for a miniature Collie.
The Shetland Sheepdog breed is not considered a miniature Collie as it was not derived from selectively breeding Rough Collies. Shelties have come from the breeding of Border Collies and other various types of herding dogs over many years, some popular possibilities of ancestry is that Border Collies and Scandinavian herding dogs, Icelandic dogs or Greenland Yaki's were bred to create the new breed we now call Shetland Sheepdogs.
The breed of Shetland Sheepdogs have a beautiful coat of hair and a dramatic and handsome look to them. They come in several different colors, the most popular and dominant color being Sable which ranges from golden brown to deep mahogany through out their stately coat of hair. Other colors that exist in the Shetland Sheepdog's breed include Blue Merle, tricolor, bi-blue's and bi-black coat color schemes. Blue Merle is a combination of a Grey, White, Black and Tan coloring of the coat. Shelties that are tricolored are Black, White and Tan. Two more rare colorings of Shetland Sheepdog coats are bi-blues which are a combination of Black, Grey and a bit of White and bi-blacks which are colored in Black and White coats. Sable Merle's and Double Merle's are other color coats that a Shetland Sheepdog can have however these are more rare and often have health problems that are not as prevalent in the other color coated Shelties.
A Shetland Sheepdog's coat is made up of what is referred to as a double coat. The top coat of a Shetland Sheepdog is composed of long, straight, smooth hair that protects the dog from cold weather as well as from the other elements of harsh weather. This top coat is also water-repellent and allows the dog to stay virtually dry in areas of heavy rain as well as in other forms of moisture and precipitation. A Shetland Sheepdogs undercoat is made up of short, thick fur that clings close to the dog's body and helps it to retain it's body heat in colder and more harsh climates. This undercoat is very dense and helps to keep the Shetland Sheepdog warm in all types of colder weather and conditions.
The Shetland Sheepdog has a lengthy and fascinating history. The breed has been traced back to originating in the Shetland Islands which is just off the coast of Scotland. This is a colder and harsh climate which explains the warmth the Shelties coat and fur provide for it. Recently the Shetland Sheepdog has been replaced in its home of the Shetland Islands with the more popular Border Collie and is rarely found in Shetland, however they are quite popular in other parts of the world both as pets, show dogs and herding dogs. The Shetland Sheepdog is still commonly used as a working or herding dog on farms and other agricultural business.
Aside from a bit of extra work for grooming, Shetland Sheepdogs are great companion dogs because they are loyal, affectionate, intelligent and very willing to please. They are excellent family members and do great with children in part because they are an active dog with a kind temperament. The only caution with children is that the Sheltie is a small breed of dog and can be easily injured so supervision is necessary. They are also prone to nipping at ankles because of their herding instincts.
Shelties are somewhat wary of strangers which makes the breed good watch dogs. There is a need for the Shetland Sheepdog to be well socialized from the start of ownership so they are trained when to guard and when it is acceptable for a stranger to the dog to be in the home. Often a Sheltie can be trained to give 2 to 3 barks to alert you to a visitor at the door or a stranger on the property. Most Shetland Sheepdog puppies learn to socialize well as long as they are often put in social situations where they can learn how to adapt to people and other beings they are not used to seeing. Some Shelties have the undeserving reputation of being too vocal, however as they are very intelligent dogs this can be quickly over come with good training and become great watch dogs because they are so loyal.
The Shetland Sheepdog is considered to be one of the smartest dog breeds available ranking around 6th out of 132 different dog breeds tested for intelligence. The Sheltie can be an excellent pet no matter the gender of the dog as both male and female dogs are much the same in their kind temperament and inherent need to please their owner. The sweet disposition of the Shetland Sheepdog will make it a great pet as well as a vocal watch dog that will add security and piece of mind to your home and family. The Shetland Sheepdog is a breed that will alert you to strangers in it's territory, however it is not a dog that will aggressively attack unless repeatedly provoked by someone or something. The herding instinct will cause most Shelties to nip at ankles and chase cars so supervision is necessary if there is no fence or with very young children. The nipping and chasing of this breed is not an aggressive act simply a herding mechanism and instinct and is most often without injury and generally not painful.
Shetland Sheepdogs have some Health concerns and inherited diseases that are generally more common in this particular breed than in other breeds. They are prone to inherited diseases such as CEA (Collie eye anomaly), VWD, von Willebrands Disease and PRA, Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Shelties also have an incidence of Dermatomyositis, Hypothyroidism, and hip dysplasia. hip dysplasia is often much more common in larger breeds but the smaller breed of the Shetland Sheepdog is one that does have a large association with this affliction. Not all Shelties are afflicted with one or all of these Health Problems, however these are concerns that should be watched for as they are common in Shetland Sheepdogs. Being aware of the possible health risks for any dog can prolong it's life expectancy as well as make the dog more comfortable when any of the above are treated or tended to by a veterinarian.
A Shetland Sheepdog generally only needs to be brushed once every one or two weeks when regular bathing is practiced. Shelties are very clean dogs and will tend to their coats themselves for the most part however it is up to the owner to brush the dog free of excess hair and remove mattes and tangles. It is also common practice to have your Shetland Sheepdog's hair cut in a fashion that keeps it from dragging the ground which further protects the beauty and clean cut look of the dog's coat.
In warmer climates and seasons of high shedding there is an additional need for brushing the Shelties coat so the dog's coat does not tangle and hold the excess released hair, additional shampooing is also needed during seasons of high shedding to assist in keeping the coat clean and free of excess hair. The warmer seasons will cause the Shetland Sheepdog to shed much of it's under coat so the dog is not uncomfortably hot and extra shampooing and brushing is needed in these seasons of high shedding to work the released hair out through the top coat so as not to become entangled and matted with in the remaining coat.
Shelties are lithe, agile and active dogs that will need both mental and physical challenges to keep them happy. Because they are descendants of herding dog breeds they are prone to chasing things such as animals, children, people and anything else that will cause visual stimulation or movement for chase. In other words they will most often try to "herd" anything that is movable in their yards. Also because of their ancestry Shetland Sheepdogs should have a large outdoor space to run and be active in. This space should be an enclosed space for safety but large enough for the dog to run and release the natural energy of the breed. Exercise for Shetland Sheepdogs can range from a game of fetch to simply release in an large open area where they can run free. However most owners will want any open area to be fenced as the instincts of this breed will be to chase or herd any distraction they may find. The dog will give chase to small or larger animals and may not over ride it's instincts to return when you call. Most often an average sized yard is big enough for this small breed to be adequately exercised without other means depending on your lifestyle.
Shelties are very smart and can easily be trained to play Frisbee or fetch with any number of items. Shetland Sheepdogs are very good runners and will be happy to run or jog with you for exercise as well. Although they are very intelligent and easily trained without training they will most often pull at the leash because of the instinct to be free, run and heard other animals. This is easily and often quickly corrected through early training with the right methods.
Because of the great intelligence of the breed of Shetland Sheepdogs training is usually a simple and successful matter. Especially when training is started early in puppy years or as a young dog. However even older Shetland Sheepdogs are trainable with the right methods. The best results will be through a professional training class with the right trainer and technique where your Sheltie can be trained and socialized at the same time. This is generally a successful route for training as this breed of dogs is very intelligent and will learn quickly. Part of their general demeanor is to obey quickly and eagerly making them train exceptionally well, this is largely due to the herding instincts that is inherent in Shetland Sheepdogs and other herding breeds.