Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog looking forward

Quick Facts


15 to 25 pounds


13 to 16 inches at the shoulder

Average Lifespan:

12-14 years

Known For:

Extremely intelligent, small and active dogs, but they are reserved towards strangers and like to bark.


Oh, the joy and charm that a Shetland Sheepdog brings into a home! Affectionately known as the Sheltie, this breed originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland, where its primary role was to herd sheep and protect farms from predators.Β 


Despite its smaller stature, this adorable pooch is known for its intelligence, agility, and heartwarming affection. The American Kennel Club ranks the Sheltie as the 25th most popular dog breed in the United States, illustrating its enduring appeal among pet lovers1.

History and Origin

The history of the Shetland Sheepdog is as fascinating as its beautiful, flowing coat! Originating from the rugged and remote Shetland Islands, this breed was first developed to assist farmers in herding sheep and protecting homesteads from predators. The Sheltie’s ancestors likely included small Scandinavian herding dogs, brought to the islands by fishermen, which were then crossed with native breeds to produce an agile and hardworking companion.


The Shetland Sheepdog was officially recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1909 and by the American Kennel Club in 19112. Since then, it has become a well-loved breed worldwide, not only for its herding abilities but also for its success in dog sports and obedience competitions. The breed even has a few celebrities among its ranks, such as Lassie’s friend β€œTimmy” in the original Lassie series!

Breed Characteristics


Barking Tendency

Dog Friendly

Health Issues

Shedding Level









Cat Friendly

Exercise Needs


Social Needs








App. Friendly

Child Friendly


Energy Level

Stranger Friendly

Watchdog Instincts







Appearance and Size

With their captivating looks, Shetland Sheepdogs are true canine beauties! They sport a double coat with a dense undercoat and long, straight outer coat, commonly seen in colors such as sable, black, and blue merle. This breed is known for its mane of fur around the neck and frill at the chest, giving it a regal appearance.

In terms of size, Shelties are small to medium dogs, typically standing between 13 to 16 inches at the shoulder and weighing around 15 to 25 pounds3. Their faces are often described as fox-like, with a refined, wedge-shaped head, almond-shaped eyes, and erect, tipped ears. Despite their smaller size, Shelties are known for their agility and speed, making them fantastic competitors in dog sports.

Personality and Temperament

Shelties are renowned for their sweet and gentle nature. They form strong bonds with their families, often displaying a sense of loyalty and devotion. Intelligent and trainable, these dogs excel in activities that challenge their minds and allow them to showcase their agility.


However, Shetland Sheepdogs can be a bit reserved around strangers, and early socialization is key to helping them become well-rounded adults. They are known to be vocal and may bark to alert their family of anything they deem suspicious. Shelties also have a high herding instinct, which means they might try to herd children, other animals, or even adults if not trained properly!

Health and Lifespan

Caring for a Sheltie’s health is a vital aspect of ensuring they lead a happy, vibrant life. Shetland Sheepdogs generally enjoy a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, given proper care and attention1. Like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions, but knowing what to anticipate can help in maintaining their well-being.


One common health issue in Shelties is hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit into the hip socket properly. Regular check-ups and maintaining an optimal weight can manage this condition. Shelties can also experience eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. Regular veterinary eye exams can help detect these issues early.

Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland produces less hormone, is also seen in some Shelties. Symptoms include lethargy, mental dullness, and weight gain. A proper diet and medication can manage this condition effectively.


Despite these concerns, with regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and a loving environment, Shelties are likely to enjoy a long, healthy life. Regular check-ups and being vigilant about any changes in behavior or appearance can help catch any health issues early.

Care and Maintenance

Shetland Sheepdog grooming

Caring for a Shetland Sheepdog is as rewarding as their loving companionship! Shelties have a thick double coat that sheds moderately, but during the shedding season, they require more frequent grooming. Brushing them a few times a week will keep their coat healthy and reduce shedding. Don’t forget to check their ears, teeth, and nails regularly!


Shelties are energetic and intelligent, so they thrive on mental stimulation and physical activity. Regular walks, playtime, and puzzle toys will keep them happy and engaged. Agility training is particularly beneficial for Shelties, allowing them to showcase their intelligence and nimbleness.


A balanced, nutritious diet is crucial for maintaining their health. Be mindful of their portion sizes to prevent obesity, especially since Shelties love their treats!

Training and Behavior

Shetland Sheepdogs are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, making them highly trainable. Early socialization and obedience training are essential in shaping a well-behaved and adaptable adult Sheltie.


Positive reinforcement techniques work wonders with Shelties. They respond well to rewards and praise, making training sessions enjoyable for both the dog and the owner. Consistency is key, as Shelties are quick learners and can pick up on both good and bad behaviors.


Shelties have a natural instinct to herd and can be quite vocal. Training them to follow commands and minimizing excessive barking are important for harmonious living. Addressing their high energy levels and mental stimulation needs through training and activities helps in curbing any unwanted behaviors.

Shetland Sheepdog and Families

Shetland Sheepdog with people

Shelties are a bundle of joy in any family setting! They are known for their loyalty and affection towards their family members, forming deep, lasting bonds. Their gentle and playful nature makes them great companions for children, though it’s important to teach kids how to approach and play with dogs to ensure mutual respect and safety.


Shelties can be a bit reserved around strangers, but they typically warm up once they sense there’s no threat. Their alert and watchful nature makes them excellent watchdogs, as they are sure to bark to alert their family of any unusual activity.


While they generally get along well with other pets, their herding instinct might kick in around smaller animals. Proper introductions and supervision can help foster positive relationships between Shelties and other furry family members.

Adopting a Shetland Sheepdog

Are you ready to welcome a Sheltie into your life? Adopting one of these charming canines can be an incredibly rewarding experience! When considering adoption, reach out to reputable breeders, rescue organizations, or animal shelters. The Shetland Sheepdog Club of America is a valuable resource for finding breed-specific rescues1.


Before adopting, consider if your lifestyle and living situation are a good fit for a Sheltie. They thrive in environments where they receive plenty of attention, mental stimulation, and physical activity. Be prepared for their grooming needs and commit to regular veterinary check-ups.

Once you’ve made the decision, spend time with differentΒ 


Shelties to find the one that best matches your personality and lifestyle. Remember, adopting a pet is a long-term commitment, so ensure you are ready to provide a loving home for your new furry friend for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the temperament of a Shetland Sheepdog?

Shetland Sheepdogs are intelligent, alert, and loyal. They are highly trainable and known for their obedience, making them excellent companions and family pets.

How much grooming does a Shetland Sheepdog require?

Their long, dense coat requires regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Weekly brushing and occasional baths are recommended to keep their coat in good condition.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs good with children?

Yes, they are great with children, offering gentle and playful interactions. They are protective of their families and make good watchdogs.

What health issues are common in Shetland Sheepdogs?

They can be prone to genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, thyroid disease, and eye disorders. Regular health screenings are important for early detection.

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