Shetland Sheepdog Overview

Dog Breed:
Shetland Sheepdog
Breed Group:
Playful, intelligent, quick, sensitive, and loving.
13-16 inches
15-25 pounds
Life Span:
12-14 years
Coat Colors:
Black, blue merle, and sable, with white markings
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Active Families/Owners with a keen interest in training/Access to land for off-leash running
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Shetland Sheepdogs
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Shetland Sheepdogs

Shetland Sheepdog Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Shetland Sheepdog

  • A small and lively working dog

  • Loving companion

  • Needs training to keep their active brains busy

The Shetland Sheepdog (nicknamed the Sheltie) was a multipurpose Scottish farm dog. Not only did they take on watchdog duties, but they also scared birds and other animals from the crops, and once crossed with herding breeds, they were also responsible for moving the livestock. While they do look very similar to the larger Rough Collie, they are, in fact, a very different breed.

Shelties make fantastic companions who are quick to learn and love taking part in family activities. They do, though, still retain some of the behaviors from that earlier farm work such as herding and barking, so these do need to be carefully managed to ensure that they don’t become a problem.

This is a breed that can adjust to a whole range of home environments as long as they are close to their adored family.

Shetland Sheepdog Breed History

  • Originated from the Shetland Islands off Scotland

  • Number of different types were crossed to develop the Sheltie breed

  • Arrived in the US in 1908


The Shetland Islands sit in the Northern Atlantic and are a series of small exposed and rugged Scottish isles. Although the Sheltie hails from this area, the beginnings of the breed is pretty much a mystery and is still subject to a lot of debate.

One suggestion is that the beginnings of the breed came from a number of breeds that arrived with early settlers. These included Northern Spitz types, Pomeranian, King Charles Spaniel, and the Scotch Collie. As to the actual mix and combination, we still don’t know!

Meanwhile, these small fluffy dogs caught the eye of visitors who wanted to own a companion dog and so the Sheltie became a source of income for the Islanders. At this point, there was a huge variety in color and size, and it took breeders crossing the standard Collie with smaller dogs to begin to develop more uniformity of type. There are suspicions that even at this stage, other types of dogs were added in to achieve the blue colorings seen in the breed.

It was 1908 when the Sheltie first arrived in the USA and 1911 when they became recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Shetland Sheepdog Size & Weight

  • Height of between 13 and 16 inches

  • Average weight of around 20 pounds

  • Can be big variations of size within a litter of pups


Both male and female Shetland Sheepdogs should measure between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder. They usually weigh around 20 pounds, but this can go up to 35 pounds.

The Sheltie is a relative newcomer to the purebred world, and there can still be big differences in size within a littler of pups. This goes back to the development of the breed using both smaller dogs and the larger Collie.

Shetland Sheepdog Personality & Temperament

  • Generally, a gentle and playful nature

  • There can be big variations of temperament within the breed

  • Normally wary of strangers


Shetland sheepdogs are generally known for their very gentle, sweet, and pleasing personality. Combined with their playful and affectionate nature, it’s no wonder that they are such a popular family pet. There is, however, some variation within the breed, and some Shelties can be quite shy and nervy. This makes it so important to meet the Mum and other relatives when viewing pups.

Shetland Sheepdogs can be wary of strangers, and so you’ll soon be alerted to someone unknown close to home. The Sheltie bark is well-known and is also put to good use when they become excited.

This is a super-intelligent breed combined with high levels of trainability. They learn new behaviors quickly, but they also need to be kept busy to prevent themselves from getting into trouble.

If you’re looking for an excellent all-round family pet, the Sheltie could be a great choice. They are perfect for young people to handle in showing and performance sports and playful enough to want to join in with whatever’s going on.

Given the chance, a Sheltie will want to be with you all the time. This can then mean that they can become anxious when left alone. You can, though, avoid this happening by scheduling in short periods when your dog is by themselves right from being a puppy. Pair time alone with a tasty chew, and they won’t notice you’ve gone!

Shetland Sheepdog Health & Grooming


Shetland Sheepdogs are generally healthy dogs, but there several genetic conditions that responsible breeders will screen their dogs for. These include –

  • Hip Dysplasia. A skeletal condition which affects the hip joint and causes lameness and pain
  • Caused by the body failing to make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include skin problems and hair loss, weight gain, and behavior changes, including fearfulness and aggression.
  • Dermatomyositis. Also known as Sheltie skin syndrome, this is an inherited skin condition which can cause lesions and blistering
  • Gallbladder mucoceles. This causes the gallbladder to become distended due to a thick mass of sludge and mucus. It can result in obstruction and rupture of the gallbladder.
  • Epilepsy. Usually beginning between six months and three years of age, with lifetime medication needed to control the seizures.

The Sheltie has a thick double coat made up of an outer coat with long, straight, harsh hair and an undercoat, which is short and furry. Weekly brushing will be needed increasing to daily during the heavy shedding season. Special attention needs to be paid to the areas under the ears, behind the elbows on the front legs, and in the ‘pants’ under the tail, because these are places where mats quickly develop.

Shetland Sheepdog Training

  • High levels of intelligence and trainability

  • Great breed for performance dog sports

  • Can have a strong herding instinct


The Shetland Sheepdog is a dream training companion. They love to learn and pick up new behaviors really quickly. This does make it really important that they attend at least a puppy training class because while they will learn the correct behaviors in super-fast time, they’ll also learn the ones you don’t want with equally high speed!

Once the foundation obedience behaviors, such as sit, recall, and stay are in place, then you can move on to performance sports training. The Sheltie excels in a whole range of activities, including agility, obedience, herding, and flyball.

Many Shelties retain the instinctual herding behavior, and this can mean that they have the desire to chase and nip when faced with fast-moving children, dogs, and other animals. This can quickly be resolved by teaching a good recall and providing additional outlets for that need to chase.

The Shetland Sheepdog does have a reputation for being vocal, you may well hear them before you see them! Attending an excellent reward-based training class will help you to teach your Sheltie self-control and good manners.

Shetland Sheepdog Exercise Requirements

  • High levels of intelligence and trainability

  • Great breed for performance dog sports

  • Can have a strong herding instinct


The Sheltie is an active and athletic breed that needs around an hour of exercise each day. They tend to be very adaptable and can do well as city dogs as long as there is access to a park where they can safely run off-leash.

The key to a happy Sheltie is to provide enrichment for both their mind and body. Combining training within the daily walk or playing search games when at home are great ways to ensure their needs are met.

Shetland Sheepdog Diet & Feeding

  • Chat to you vet for personalized feeding advice

  • Select food based on age, size and exercise intensity

  • Avoid foods with unnecessary colorings and additives


We recommend chatting to your vet for personalized nutritional recommendations for your Sheltie. Generally, pups will start out on specially formulated food to ensure that they receive all the nutrition their growing bodies need.

Once they reach around six months, they’ll generally move over to adult food, which needs to be selected based on the age, size, and exercise level of each dog. It’s also recommended that foods with unnecessary additives and colorings are avoided; they have been known to cause both behavioral and skin problems.

You may also be interested in:

Shetland Sheepdog Rescue Groups

Sadly, there will be times when a Sheltie is looking for a new home. If you’re interested in offering a rescue dog a place in your family, we recommend speaking to breed rescue groups for help and advice. These include –

Jacksonville Sheltie Rescue –

Mid Arizona Sheltie Rescue –

West Virginia Shetland Sheepdog Rescue –

For further information on the Shetland Sheepdog, take a look at the website of the American Sheepdog Association –