Breed Spotlight: Shetland Sheepdog
The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, is an extremely intelligent, quick, and obedient herder from Scotland's remote and rugged Shetland Islands. Shelties bear a strong family resemblance to their bigger cousin, the Collie.
The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, active, and agile herding dog standing between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder. The long coat is harsh and straight, with a dense undercoat, and comes in black, blue merle, and sable, with white markings. The coat, along with a long, wedge-shaped head; small, three-quarter erect ears; and deep-chested, level-backed torso, give Shelties the look of a rough-coated Collie in miniature. Bright and eager Shelties are easy trainers and world-class competitors in obedience, agility, and herding trials. They are sensitive and affectionate family dogs, highly in tune with the mood of the household. They like to bark and tend to be reserved toward strangers two qualifications of an excellent watchdog.
Shetland Sheepdogs are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, thyroid disease, eye diseases, dermatomyositis (Sheltie skin syndrome), von Willebrand's disease (vWD), gallbladder mucoceles, and epilepsy. Tests are available for many potentially heritable disorders, and minimum health testing of breeding stock is recommended by the breed's national parent club, the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA).
The Sheltie has a profuse double coat that sheds considerably. The outer coat consists of long, straight, harsh hair, while the undercoat is short, furry, and very dense. Owners must be prepared to brush the coat weekly, and more often during shedding season, to help in removing at least some of the loose hair before it drifts all over the house. Be sure to check for mats behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the "pants" under the tail. Shaving the dog is not recommended, because the coat protects against sunburn and heat as well as cold. The Sheltie needs a bath only occasionally. The nails should be trimmed regularly.
Shelties are active and athletic, and while they need a moderate amount of exercise they are also very adaptable to their family's way of life. They do well as city dogs as long as owners provide sufficient exercise. They enjoy outings with their people that will exercise both their mind and body. Shelties enjoy and excel in many canine events, including obedience, agility, herding, and tracking, and they shine as therapy dogs.
As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Very intelligent, trainable, and willing to please, the Sheltie will reach his full potential as a companion when taught at least basic obedience'”and they are superstars at canine sports such as agility. Shelties can be quite vocal and express their happiness with barking, so owners must be prepared to teach the dog to stop barking when desired. As is common with other herding breeds, Shelties like to chase moving things, including cars, so they should have a well-fenced yard and be walked on a leash.