Shetland Sheepdogs, or 'Shelties' as they are often called, generally resemble the Collie in miniature. Although they are often called 'Miniature Collies' or 'Toy Collies', the Sheltie is actually a distinctly separate breed and was not bred down from the full-size Collie. The breed evolved from hardy ancestors which lived on the Shetland Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland. The Sheltie developed as a hardy herding dog, alert guard dog, and an intelligent and affectionate companion. The breed's attentiveness and his willingness to obey were qualities desired by the crofter and the shepherd alike.
Shelties have an intense desire to please their owners and an enormous capacity for love and affection, although they can be a bit reserved or reticent with strangers. They are exceptionally trainable and responsive companions, as well as outstanding learners and workers in obedience, herding and agility events. Shelties raised as pets develop a lasting loyalty to their owners. Shelties are very alert and protective, and will bark to let you know something is different in their realm. Their natural affinity for children make them gentle and loving companions. Unlike some breeds, there is little difference in temperament between male and female Shelties.
All Shelties should be given a variety of early training experiences. This training, or socialization, can include trips to the park, playground, shopping center, a friend's house, or other places where your Sheltie is welcome. Early socialization will help a young Sheltie develop a friendly outgoing disposition and mature into a gentle and loving family member that can adjust to strange circumstances.
According to the breed standard, the ideal Sheltie should stand between 13" and 16" at the shoulder, and will generally weigh 20-25 pounds. Oversize and undersized Shelties do exist and can appear in the same litter. Although not suited for showing or breeding, they can make excellent pets. Ear set, carriage, and tip contribute to proper Sheltie expression, which is important in the conformation show ring. Although they will have little effect upon your Sheltie being a good pet, prick ears and hound ears can be avoided with proper care and ear bracing during puppyhood. Most breeders can give you advice and show you the proper way to train your puppy's ears.
The Sheltie comes in five preferred colors, all set off by white markings: The most common color is Sable, ranging from golden brown to mahogany, with touches of black; Tri-color with black, and tan; Blue Merle with blue-gray, black, and tan; Bi-blue with blue-grey and black; and Bi-black with only black and white. All colors should be clear and not diluted or washed out.
Shelties have a double coat. The outer layer consists of long, straight, coarse hair, while the undercoat is short, furry, and very dense. Mature males have a more impressive coat than females. How much grooming your Sheltie needs will depend upon the type and quality of the coat. Overall, the Sheltie is a very clean dog, and on the average needs only a weekly brushing (it's helpful to spray-mist with water when brushing). Be sure to check for mats behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the 'pants' in the rear. Toenails and hair between the pads need to be trimmed every several weeks. Start your Sheltie's grooming routine at an early age. Periodically open the mouth and check the teeth and gums for cleanliness and overall condition. Tartar can be scaled off with an dental tool by the owner or a vet. Correctly guided and encouraged, most Shelties learn to love the attention grooming provides, and look forward to it as special 'quality' time.
Care and Exercise
With adequate water, proper nutrition (using commercial, quality grade dog food) and regular vet and owner care, Shelties can easily live to be 14 years old. Be sure to immediately place your Sheltie under veterinary supervision to be certain that it receives its inoculations and is regularly checked for parasites. Your dog should have all its protective shots before being exposed to the general animal population. Keep your Sheltie in a safe, secure area. Follow local licensing ordinances and be sure to use some sort of identification (tattoo, microchip, name tag) in case your dog is ever lost or stolen. To be fit and happy, Shelties need a fair amount of exercise in the form of daily walks and active play sessions. As your Sheltie matures, it will readily adapt to your lifestyle and will do well in almost any environment. The breeder should be able to provide you additional information about caring for, and exercising your dog.