The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Shetland Sheepdogs

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Shetland Sheepdogs

Welcome to our comprehensive guide all about Shetland Sheepdogs. This blog post is designed to be your one-stop resource, offering all the essential information you need about these charming and smart canines.

We’ll explore the breed’s origins, traits, and personality in depth to provide you with a holistic understanding of what owning a Sheltie entails.

We’ll also provide crucial insights into their health and grooming needs, and offer practical advice on training and socializing your Sheltie.

Whether you’re considering adding a Shetland Sheepdog to your home, or you’re already a Sheltie guardian seeking more knowledge, you’ll find plenty of valuable information here.

Shetland Sheepdog History: What Are Shetland Sheepdogs Bred for?

Shetland Sheepdogs, also known as Shelties, is a comparatively recent breed of dog. Their roots trace back to the Shetland Islands in Scotland, where they were specifically bred as herding dogs to manage the small indigenous sheep in that region.

The breed was first registered in Lerwick in 1908 and with the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club in 1909.

The Shetland Sheepdog’s lineage includes a mix of breeds, notably the Rough Collie, which had a significant presence in Scotland during its development.

The breed was first recognized as the Shetland Collie, but to avoid any misunderstanding with its bigger relative, the Rough Collie, the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog in 1914.

Shetland Sheepdogs are still used as herding dogs today, although they are also popular as companion animals.

If you are considering getting a Shetland Sheepdog, you need to understand their herding instincts. Shelties have a strong desire to herd, and they may try to herd children or other pets in the household.

How Big Do Shetland Sheepdogs Get?

Shetland Sheepdogs are small to medium-sized dogs.

A fully grown Shetland Sheepdog typically stands at about 13 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder. Male Shelties typically attain a height of approximately 14 to 16 inches, whereas females generally measure between 13 to 15 inches in height.

In terms of weight, a healthy adult Sheltie generally weighs between 15 to 25 pounds. Males typically exhibit a slightly heavier physique, with their weight commonly fluctuating between 20 to 25 pounds. Females generally weigh between 15 to 20 pounds.

Factors such as genetics, diet, and physical activity can significantly influence a Shetland Sheepdog’s stature.

To gauge the potential size of your Shetland Sheepdog more accurately, consulting a breed-specific growth and weight chart can be beneficial. These charts provide a broad understanding of the expected height and weight at various stages of your pet’s growth.

Shetland Sheepdogs Temperament: What Is It Like to Own a Shetland Sheepdog?

Shelties are known for their affectionate nature and devotion to their family. They love to follow their owners around and be close to them. They are sensitive dogs and enjoy being petted and cuddled.

Shelties have a reserved and timid personality, especially around new people. However, they are not aggressive and rarely bark without reason. They are intelligent dogs and can be trained easily. They are also very obedient and eager to please their owners.

The Shetland Sheepdog is a herding dog. They need daily walks and playtime, as well as mental stimulation to keep their minds sharp.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Good with Kids?

The answer is yes! Shetland Sheepdogs can make great companions for children.

Shelties are known for their loving and sensitive nature. They understand that kids are fragile beings who need the utmost care. They are also clever enough to interact with children in a tender and playful way.

Shetland Sheepdogs are moderately active dogs. These dogs are fond of energetic play and roaming around, but they also value tranquil downtime with their family. This combination makes them a perfect fit for families with children, as they can keep pace with high energy levels while also recognizing when it’s time for calm.

Shetland Sheepdogs need to be socialized and trained from a young age. This will aid in their development into disciplined and compliant dogs. With proper training, Shelties can make great family pets that are good with children.

Do Shetland Sheepdogs Get Along With Cats?

Shelties are generally good with cats, introduce them slowly and carefully and monitor their interactions. With patience, your Sheltie and cat can become great companions.

A method to familiarize your Sheltie with your cat is by initially keeping them apart and letting them acclimate to the smell of each other. You can do this by swapping their bedding or toys, or even rubbing a towel on one pet and then placing it near the other pet.

Once they are comfortable with each other’s scent, you can start supervised visits with your Sheltie on a leash. This will allow you to control the situation and prevent any chasing or aggressive behavior. Reward both pets for calm and friendly behavior.

Every pet is different, and some Shelties may not get along well with cats. If your Sheltie shows any signs of aggression or chasing, separate them and seek the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist.

Shetland Sheepdogs Intelligence: How Smart Are They?

Shetland Sheepdogs are a highly intelligent breed. Shelties rank 6th among all dog breeds.

When it comes to obedience, Shelties are recognized for their superior obedience capabilities. They can rapidly pick up new commands and display a strong desire to please their owners. Their independent working ability makes them exceptional working dogs.

Shelties are good at adept problem-solving. Their ability to independently decipher solutions to challenges makes them great problem solvers. This intelligence also makes them great at learning new tricks and commands.

How Often Do Shetland Sheepdogs Bark?

Shetland Sheepdogs are naturally inclined to bark, and the frequency of their barking can be managed with proper training and a suitable environment.

Shelties were originally bred for herding livestock in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. This background has ingrained in them an instinct to bark as a means of communication and control over the flock.

Not all Shelties bark excessively. The frequency and intensity of their barking can be greatly influenced by their upbringing and training.

Shelties that are properly trained from a young age to understand when barking is appropriate and when it does not tend to bark less frequently. Positive reinforcement techniques can be particularly effective in curbing excessive barking.

Furthermore, the environment plays a significant role in a Sheltie’s proclivity to bark. Shelties that are regularly stimulated with physical exercise and mental challenges are likely to bark less out of boredom or frustration.

On the other hand, Shelties living in high-stress or overly noisy environments may bark more often as a response to the chaos around them.

How Much Sleep Should a Shetland Sheepdog Have?

Typically, Shetland Sheepdogs need about 12 hours of sleep each day. Puppies need to sleep up to 18-20 hours daily due to their growth and development needs.

Sleep is crucial for your Shetland Sheepdog’s health, they require plenty of exercise and playtime to keep their energy levels balanced. Lack of sufficient physical activity could lead to your Shetland Sheepdog becoming lethargic and restless, which may subsequently result in behavioral issues.

For guaranteeing the appropriate balance of sleep and exercise for your Shetland Sheepdog, establish a routine that includes daily walks and playtime. This will strengthen your bond with them.

Understanding Your Shetland Sheepdogs1

Best Age to Breed a New Shetland Sheepdog

The best age to breed a female Sheltie is around 2 years old. This is because they have reached physical maturity and are more likely to have successful interactions with their male suitor.

Shelties reach sexual maturity around six months old, but this doesn’t mean they should be bred at this age. Early-age pregnancies can carry health dangers for both the mother and her offspring.

Therefore, it’s recommended to wait until the Sheltie is fully grown, which typically happens by the age of two. This way, the dog is physically ready to carry a pregnancy and nurse her puppies effectively.

On the other hand, it’s suggested to refrain from breeding a Shetland Sheepdog once they reach six years old. As dogs age, their bodies may struggle with the demands of pregnancy and childbirth, leading to potential complications.

Older dogs might also produce smaller litters and are at an increased risk of developing health problems, such as mammary tumors.

Apart from age, other factors play a crucial role in deciding when to breed your Sheltie. It’s essential to consider the dog’s overall health and genetic history. Shelties are prone to specific genetic diseases, so it’s prudent to have your dog checked to confirm these conditions are not transmitted to the next generation.

Best Age to Spay/Neuter a Shetland Sheepdog

The ideal time to spay or neuter your Shetland Sheepdog falls between their fourth and ninth months.

Pros of Spaying or Neutering

  • Spaying or neutering your Shetland Sheepdog can help prevent unplanned litters, reduce the risk of specific cancer types, and prevent some behavioral problems.
  • Spaying your female Shetland Sheepdog can prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats.
  • Neutering your male Shetland Sheepdog can prevent testicular cancer and some prostate problems.

Cons of Spaying or Neutering

  • Spaying or neutering your Shetland Sheepdog can also have some negative effects, such as a heightened possibility of obesity.
  • Spaying your female Shetland Sheepdog before her first heat cycle can increase her risk of urinary incontinence, which is the inability to control urination.

What Shetland Sheepdogs Can (And Can’t) Eat?

Shelties can thrive on a diet that is balanced with high-quality proteins, moderate amounts of fats, and low-to-moderate carbohydrates.

What Shetland Sheepdogs Can Eat

  • Protein-rich lean meats like chicken, turkey, and beef
  • Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and bananas
  • Vegetables like carrots, green beans, and sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal
  • Dairy products such as plain yogurt and cheese in moderation
  • Any new foods should be introduced gradually and in small amounts to avoid digestive upset.

What Shetland Sheepdogs Can’t Eat

Some foods can be harmful and even toxic to your Shetland Sheepdog.

  • Chocolate and caffeine
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions, garlic, and chives
  • Avocado
  • Alcohol
  • Foods high in sugar and fat, like candy and fast food

Additionally, bones, especially cooked ones, can splinter and cause serious harm to your dog’s digestive system.

Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to weight gain, monitor their calorie intake, and ensure they get enough exercise.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Easy to Train?

Shetland Sheepdogs are generally easy to train due to their intelligence.

They require consistent training and positive feedback to efficiently pick up new commands and behaviors.

Shetland Sheepdogs are sensitive dogs, and harsh training methods can be counterproductive. Shelties react positively to verbal guidance and rewards like treats and compliments. An effective training approach involves a gentle voice and minimal leash handling.

Shelties excel in agility training due to their speed and agility. They require ample playtime and attention to thrive.

Can Shetland Sheepdogs Swim?

Shelties can swim, but not all Shelties are natural swimmers. Their dense fur makes it difficult for some of them to swim.

Despite their small size, Shelties are an active breed that requires regular exercise. Swimming is a great low-stress exercise that can help keep your Sheltie in shape. It can be a fun activity to bond with your dog and cool off during the hot summer.

When initiating your Shetland Sheepdog to swim, start slowly and make sure they feel comfortable in the water.

Here are some tips:

  • Begin in a tranquil lake or shallow pool where your dog can easily reach the bottom.
  • Use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to motivate your dog to enter the water.
  • Never force your dog to swim or throw them into the water.
  • Use a life jacket to keep your dog safe and buoyant.
  • Always monitor your dog and be ready to assist them if necessary.

Can Shetland Sheepdogs Run Long Distances?

Shelties can run long distances. Shelties are an active and athletic breed that enjoys exercising.

If your Shetland Sheepdog is in good health and condition, it can run long distances. Make sure to break the long miles into sessions with rests and water breaks within it.

Shelties can run fairly far, but it could turn disastrous, getting the Sheltie running long stretches all in one session.

It is recommended to start with shorter distances and gradually increase the distance as your Shetland Sheepdog builds up its endurance.

Shetland Sheepdogs have a thick double coat, which means they can get overheated easily. Make sure to monitor your Shetland Sheepdog’s body temperature and provide plenty of water breaks during the run.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Hypoallergenic?

Shelties are not hypoallergenic dogs. They have a flowing rough coat that can present more than a few allergy issues, and their fur and dander can trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

Dog allergies are triggered by a protein present in their skin cells, saliva, and urine. Even if a dog is bathed regularly and kept clean, it will still produce this protein and shed its skin cells, which can trigger allergies in some people. Shelties are no exception to this rule.

While there are methods to control allergies, like taking allergy medication or using air purifiers, be aware of the potential for allergies before bringing a dog into your home.

Do Shetland Sheepdogs Shed?

Shelties do shed. Shelties have a double coat, which means they have both an undercoat and an outer coat. The undercoat is soft and dense, while the outer coat is longer and coarser. This double coat helps the Sheltie stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but it also means they shed quite a bit.

Shelties shed year-round, but they tend to shed more heavily twice a year during seasonal changes. During these times, you may find clumps of fur around your home. Regular grooming can help manage the shedding and keep your Sheltie’s coat healthy.

To keep your Sheltie’s coat healthy, you should brush them at least once a week. This will help remove any loose fur and prevent matting. You may need to brush your Sheltie more frequently during shedding season. You can also use a de-shedding tool to help remove excess fur.

You should also bathe your Sheltie every few months to keep their coat clean and healthy. Be sure to use a dog-specific shampoo to avoid drying out their skin.

Can Shetland Sheepdogs Stay Outside in the Heat?

Shelties can stay outside in the heat, but take precautions to keep them safe and comfortable.

  • Temperature: Shelties can tolerate days as warm as 85°F (30°C) very well, even when they are active outdoors. Temperatures higher than this can be dangerous for them. When the temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C), it’s recommended to keep your Sheltie indoors in a room with air conditioning.
  • Shade: Provide your Sheltie with access to shade, especially during the hottest parts of the day. A covered porch, a tree, or a doghouse with proper ventilation can provide relief from the sun’s heat.
  • Water: Always make sure your Sheltie has access to plenty of fresh water. You can use a large bowl or an automatic waterer to ensure that they have water available throughout the day.
  • Exercise: During hot weather, it’s best to avoid strenuous exercise with your Sheltie. Instead, opt for a walk or jog during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening.
  • Coat: During hot weather, you can trim their coat to help them stay cool. Avoid shaving them completely, as their coat protects from the sun’s rays.

Can Shetland Sheepdogs Stay Outside in the Cold?

While Shetland Sheepdogs can tolerate cold weather better than some other breeds, it is not recommended to leave them outside in extremely cold temperatures.

Shelties can survive outside in far colder environments than regular dogs, but when temperatures start falling below -51 degrees Celsius, they shouldn’t stay out too long in those weather conditions if not aided with weather-protective jackets.

A healthy, grown-up Sheltie can handle a day as cold as 0°F/ -18°C for a brief walk, but they should be moving the entire time and not stay outside longer than needed in freezing weather.

The thickness of their coat alone is not enough to keep them warm in extreme cold. Shelties need to be provided with proper shelter, blankets, and other protective gear to help them stay warm and comfortable in cold weather.

Can Shetland Sheepdogs Live In Apartments?

Shelties can live in apartments.

Ensure your living environment is conducive for a Sheltie. They require enough space to move around, play, and do leg stretching. If you have a small apartment, take your Sheltie for routine walks and provide abundant opportunities for running and playful activities.

Shelties may bark at the slightest noise. This could be a challenge if you live in an apartment building with thin walls or have neighbors susceptible to noise disturbances. Proper training and socialization can help reduce excessive barking.

Understanding Your Shetland Sheepdogs2

Are Shetland Sheepdogs Good Service Dogs?

Shelties can make great service dogs. Their compact size, friendly personality, and loyalty make them perfect companions for those with disabilities or unique needs.

Shelties can be trained to execute several tasks, like opening doors, retrieving objects, and providing emotional support.

Shelties have an instinct to herd and protect, which makes them excellent watchdogs. They are remarkably adept at detecting subtle signs and are highly sensitive to their owner’s needs.

Shetland Sheepdog Mixed Breeds

Shetland Sheepdog mixes are becoming increasingly popular.

Some popular Shetland Sheepdog mixed breeds:

Border Sheepdog

The Border Sheepdog is a mix of a Shetland Sheepdog and a Border Collie. These dogs are brimming with energy and intelligence, making them outstanding in pursuits such as agility exercises and obedience training.


The Shel-Aussie is a mix of a Shetland Sheepdog and an Australian Shepherd. These dogs are highly intelligent and trainable, and they make great companions for active families.

Golden Sheltie

The Golden Sheltie is a mix of a Shetland Sheepdog and a Golden Retriever. These dogs are friendly, loyal, and remarkably trainable, making them excellent companions for families.

Scroll to Top