A Shetland sheepdog is not a “mini-collie” but a distinct separate breed that actually has roots in the Border collie. A native of the Shetland Isles in far northern range of Scotland he was a dog developed to help on crofts, or small farms, where there wasn’t much food to be had. A small dog was needed for that reason, yet a tireless worker in all kinds of weather which gave rise to selection for a durable coat and a loyalty to their owners.
Shelties are also thieves – they’ll steal your heart slicker than any pickpocket! They are commonly sable, black and white, tri color and blue merle. They can be barkers without patience and training but are a loyal, observant dog. Their intelligence and trainability make them among the most successful obedience breeds.
The sheltie coat does require regular grooming to remain tangle free and prevent it from becoming matted. There is a double coat with an outer layer that is more harsh and straight and an undercoat that is very dense. This can help shed rain from a working standpoint and enough harshness to the coat to resist tangling. For pet dogs you must be committed to thoroughly combing a Sheltie a couple times per week. It is not advisable to shear or close cut a Sheltie’s natural coat.
From a show standard point the Sheltie is 13-16 inches tall and of course show dogs are bred for that glorious coat. Dogs over or under height can excel at herding, agility, obedience and many other tasks where intelligence and their work ethic is valued.
Some Shelties are very nervous, some very friendly and some reserved. One sheltie came to a new home at five months old and was very stand offish initially, almost timid. After a week or so his new owners noticed he was observing EVERYTHING in the household. From washing clothes to cooking dinner to hooking up speakers on the stereo the young Sheltie was observing as if taking notes on human behavior. Once he was satisfied in his mind things were fine he became a constant companion and irreplaceable part of the household. He had his little quirks and routines – he loved to be outside but let one rumble of thunder roll and he wanted inside pronto! He would patiently stand to be combed and brushed until the camera came out when he would primp and pose like the most arrogant of film stars!
Shelties are above all people dogs. They’re intensely loyal and affectionate with a high drive to please their owners. They should move as a working dog with purpose, without up and down hackney action. They are wonderful dogs for those who have a small area or need a small dog due to housing requirements. They are a big dog in a small package and often have a hero worship for the people lucky enough to own one.
There are health considerations that warrant attention in the Sheltie. Among them is hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, von Willebrands disease, dermatomyositis, collie eye anomaly, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy and Addison’s disease are among those to watch for. Many of these can be tested for including eye disease, epilepsy and hip dysplasia.
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