ABOUT THE SHETLAND SHEEPDOG (SHELTIE)
The Shetland Sheepdog looks like a miniature copy of the rough-coated Collie. The double coat is long and abundant all over the body, but is shorter on the head and legs, and the coat forms a mane around the neck and chest. The outer coat can be straight or curly and soft to the touch and the under coat is softer and tighter. Coat colors come in blue merle, sable, and black with various amounts of white and/or tan.
The Shetland Sheepdog is loyal, docile, alert with a pleasant temperament, willing and eager to please, making it a wonderful companion dog. Loving, loyal, and affectionate with its family, this breed needs people. It is a good guard and watchdog. Sensitive to the tone of your voice, these dogs will not listen if they sense you do not mean what you say, and will not listen if you are too harsh. They need their owners to be calm, but firm. They must be raised in a home where the humans are confident, consistent pack leaders. Very intelligent, lively, and trainable, the Shetland Sheepdog is one of the smartest breeds. With intelligence comes the need to occupy their minds. They like to be kept busy. The Sheltie is above all an intelligent herder, capable both of commanding large cattle and holding small sheep in check. The herding instinct is still very strong in many of them. They love to chase things. Teach this dog not to chase cars. A Sheltie should not be allowed to run free near a road as it may decide to chase a car or something else it sees across the road, running a high risk of getting hit by a car. Because of its beauty and kindness, the Sheltie has become a popular companion dog. Do not allow this dog to believe he needs to run your home, or many behavior problems will start to develop. They can become suspicious with strangers, especially with children. They may not allow themselves to be touched by strangers and will display noisy persistent barking, as they tell the humans to leave them alone. This can lead to guarding, snapping, and even biting. They may hide behind something, barking persistently when company arrives. The dog needs to be told this is not an acceptable behavior. These negative traits are not Sheltie traits, but rather Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors where the dog believes he is pack leader to humans. Varying degrees of negative behaviors result when a dog feels it is the leader of a human pack and must keep its humans in line. These negative traits will subside as soon as the humans around the dog start to display the proper leadership, along with daily pack walks to relieve mental and physical energy.
Like the Rough Collie, there is a tendency toward inherited malformation and disease of the eyes. Some lines may be prone to hypothyroidism and displacement of the patella (kneecap), which is thought to be inherited. Do not overfeed; shelties can gain weight easily. Some herding dogs carry a MDR1 gene, which makes them sensitive to certain drugs that are otherwise okay to give another dog. If tested positive for this gene, these drugs can kill them.
The Sheltie will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. A rough-coated, longhaired working dog, he is alert, intensely loyal, and highly trainable and is known as a devoted, docile dog with a keen sense of intelligence and understanding. Agile and sturdy, the Sheltie is one of the most successful obedience breeds, but also excels in agility, herding, and conformation. This active, graceful dog needs lots of exercise, which includes a daily walk or jog.
The coat is easier to care for than you might expect, but regular brushing is important. Mist the coat lightly with water before you begin and tease out the mats before they get bad, but use the comb sparingly. This breed is a seasonally heavy shedder. The dense undercoat is shed twice a year: in the spring and fall. The coat readily sheds dirt and mud and Shelties are quite particular about their cleanliness. Bathe or dry shampoo when necessary.
The Shetland Sheepdog is related to the Rough Collie, and both breeds are descended from Border Collies that inhabited Scotland. The Border Collies were brought to the Scottish island of Shetland and crossed with the Icelandic Yakkin, a small island dog that is now extinct. By 1700, the Sheltie was completely developed. The dogs were used to herd and guard the sheep flocks of the Shetlands. This willing worker was very gentle when herding the miniature stock. The AKC first recognized the Shetland Sheepdog in England in 1909 and in 1911. The Sheltie is one of today’s most popular companion dogs.