Shetland sheepdogs are Spitz type dogs that originated in the Shetland Islands of the North Sea. Farmers in this region used these dogs to herd sheep and ponies. Lovingly known as Shelties, Shetland sheepdogs are famous for their beautiful looks, herding skills and friendly personalities. The Shetland sheepdog looks like a miniature Rough Collie, Lassie’s breed, with similar symmetrical and magnificent coats. The American Kennel Club registers nearly 30,000 Shelties each year, such is their popularity. Let us study their temperament and other factors you need to know when raising a Sheltie.
Fun facts about the Shetland Sheepdog
- The Shetland sheepdog may have originated from dogs descended in Scotland and Norway.
- Shelties make wonderful family dogs and their tales of heroism are well known. A Sheltie saved the life of a boy in 1956. The boy had been operated upon for tonsil removal, and he started bleeding profusely at night. The Sheltie ran into the parents rooms and tugged on their blanket until they woke up. The pet’s quick thinking saved the boy’s life.
- Walt Disney has even made a movie on a Shetland sheepdog named The Little Shepherd Dog of Catalina Island. It was about a lost dog rescued by a farmer. The dog later repays the farmer by saving the life of his horse that is going to fall off a cliff.
- Shetland sheepdog vs. Collie – The Shetland sheepdog was actually named as the Shetland collie earlier, since it looks rather similar to Rough collies. But many collie breeders took objection to this name which was then changed to Shetland sheepdog in 1909. Collies are much larger than the more popular shelties.
- Today, shelties are one of the most popular dog breeds in North America, Britain and Japan.
- Shetland sheepdog size – These dogs measure up to 13-16 inches at withers. Males weigh between 20-25 lbs and females are slightly shorter and lighter.
- They have long, straight, thick hair. The hair is even longer at the neck.
- Colors – Shelties come in five color patterns: tricolored, sable, blue merle, bi-blue and bi-black. Blue merle is actually gray with black spots, tan and white. Sable is brown with white and black markings. Bi blue is gray with white spots and white. Bi-black is black and white.
Where to find a Shetland Sheepdog
Your selection of a good Sheltie puppy can be determined by your needs. Are you looking for a house pet or a show dog, a working farm dog or a guard dog? A show quality dog is developed with focus on the looks but ethical breeders will also strive for an even, mild temperament. So always acquire your puppy from a reputed breeder. Puppies at just four weeks of age will begin to display their individual temperaments and personalities.
When you arrive at the breeders, check the facility. It should be clean and puppies should look well fed and healthy. Ask to meet the dam as well. How do the puppies interact with the breeder? Are they happy or anxious? Does the pup smell good with sweet puppy breath? Note that good breeders usually have long wait lists so be prepared to wait for several weeks, even months, to bring your pet home. The average price of a Sheltie puppy can be between $800 and $1000 depending on colors, breeder etc. In fact, prices vary greatly from breeder to breeder. You can also look for Shetland sheepdog rescues at a local animal shelter.
The sheltie is an intelligent, sensitive dog suited for families. They are reserved towards strangers and tend to bark at them. However, after a warning bark, they are usually friendly. These dogs have a tendency to protect and herd. They are extremely loyal and very good with children. Some Shelties even herd children to keep them together while playing! Shelties are easy to train and they obey their owners. They are hard working dogs that are can live in an apartment, a farm or a mansion. They are easy to care for and get along well with people.
Although this is a small dog, he still needs plenty of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is as harmful to a dog as it is to humans. Shelties love to play and run and go on daily walks twice a day.Take him out morning and evening, or let him play with the kids in an enclosed yard. It is best to supervise your pet’s exercise as these dogs have the tendency to run. Shelties also enjoy an occasional hike or swim. Remember: you must never over exercise an obese dog and nor should you allow young puppies to jump from a height. These things can be extremely detrimental to their joints. Also remember that exercise is important not just for physical health but for your pet’s mental well being as well. A bored dog will find something destructive to do: chewing up furniture, digging and excess barking etc are just a few unwanted behaviors that your sheltie is likely to indulge in when bored. There are no limitations to the kinds of exercise your Sheltie will welcome. If you are fortunate enough to have a treadmill, you can train your Sheltie to use it safely. It will be especially useful in inclement weather.
Young pups are better students than adolescent dogs. Start training your pet as soon as he is 10 weeks old. You can always find training classes near you. If you follow all recommended procedures faithfully, you will get positive results.
- Housetraining – Start by showing your puppy where it is okay to relieve himself. The grass in your yard, or dirt or cement works best. You can also train him to go on a newspaper. Decide the location you want your Sheltie to use. Just make sure it will remain permanently. You can also decide on some command phrase like ‘Go potty’, ‘Hurry’ etc so your Sheltie understand what you want him to do.
- Training should always be positive and reward based. Dogs respond to gentle consistent and patient training and a Sheltie is no different.
- Your dog is also training you while you are training him. He will repeat whatever action gets your attention. So learn to ignore negative actions and behaviors and praise wanted behavior.
- Do socialize your puppy by getting him to meet other people, kids and dogs. This will prevent shyness, timidity, aggression and other behavioral issues.
Shetland shepherd shedding occurs twice a year. Invest in a metal comb and a natural bristle brush to remove dead hair and stimulate natural oils. This will add shine and healthy look to your pet’s coat. Also, regular brushing will prevent matting. Your Sheltie will also look forward to daily grooming as it will help him bond with you. Dogs do not need as many baths as humans do but monthly or bi monthly baths will keep your Sheltie’s coat clean and parasite-free. Get your puppy used to baths from an early age so that he is at ease in the bathtub. Trim your pet’s nails regularly and inspect his ears from time to time. Also brush your Sheltie’s teeth daily to maintain oral hygiene.
Health issues in the Sheltie
Hip dysplasia is a common concern in many Shelties. Also, breeders are concerned about eye issues like the Collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts and trichiasis. Lifespan of the Sheltie is between 12 and 14 years.