Shetland Sheepdogs, or Shelties, resemble the Collie. Although they are often called "Miniature Collies" or "Toy Collies", the Sheltie is a completely separate breed. The breed evolved from its ancestors who once lived on the Shetland Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland. The Sheltie was developed as a herding and 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 a very strong desire to please their owners and an enormous capacity for love and affection. Each Sheltie has its own personality. Some are more reserved, while others are very excitable and energetic. They are usually very easy to train and are 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. Unlike some breeds, there is little difference in temperament between male and female Shelties. Both make wonderful companions and pets.
Is a Sheltie Right for Your Family?
While Shelties possess many delightful qualities that make them rewarding companions, they also have some traits that may give pause to potential adopters: They are a sensitive breed, have long hair to shed, and they bark. Before aquiring a Sheltie, you should consider carefully whether you are willing to assume the special responsibilities associated with these dogs.
The Sheltie is a sensitive and responsive breed. While this can make the Sheltie a very trainable dog, it also means that a Sheltie will react to major life changes. A Sheltie in rescue has been through an ordeal, losing its family and not knowing why. A family adopting a rescue Sheltie needs to plan for a period of adjustment. Shelties placed in a new home have a high flight risk, and extreme caution must be taken in the early months to avoid any potential for a lost dog situation.
Shelties are a double-coated breed and require a minimum of one thorough brushing each week to maintain their coats. During sheds, daily attention is a must. Most adult Shelties shed their coat once a year. When youngsters "blow" their puppy coat, it seems as if there is fur everywhere, but this only happens once. Generally, males have heavier coats than the females, and of course, the bigger the adult Sheltie, the more coat there will be to deal with.
The other challenge to owning a Sheltie is that they are notorious barkers. To some extent, this caries with the individual, but as a breed they are known to be vocal. Unlike some smaller breeds that are barky, but have "baby" voices, Shelties possess a penetrating bark.
Printed with permission from Triangle Sheltie Rescue of North Carolina; with additions and edits by MNSR.