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Shetland Sheepdog

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With their fluffy coats and elegant look, Shetland sheepdogs ooze charm and are highly intelligent. They are fabulous pets that develop strong bonds with their owners but require constant company and plenty of exercise. They need regular grooming and that wonderful fluffy coat will shed throughout the year. Owners must be able to devote a considerable amount of time to these dogs which can otherwise become noisy and destructive.

Which breed group is the Shetland sheepdog in?

Breed group: Pastoral

Shetland sheepdog breed history

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that the Shetland sheepdog hails from the Shetland Isles. Home to several small breeds of animal, the Shetland Isles are located 50miles north of the Scottish mainland. Many years ago, farmers crossed border collies with smaller dogs to evolve the perfect herding dog for their diminutive Shetland sheep.

Eventually, farmers started to breed even smaller and fluffier dogs which they could easily sell to travellers visiting the islands. It is believed that Pomeranians might have been crossed with sheepdogs to produce the desired traits. Islanders began to realise that their sheepdogs varied considerably and that there was some debate over what the dogs originally looked like. Breeders embarked on differing projects to produce dogs which were closer to the Shetland’s ancestors. Shelties of different types continued to appear, but the breed was recognised by the Kennel club in 1909. The dogs were then known as Shelties but their name was later changed to Shetland sheepdog.

Arguments surrounding the correct appearance of the breed persisted until the Scottish and English Shetland Sheepdog clubs agreed that the dogs should resemble collies in miniature. Shetland sheepdogs were first exported to the United States in the 1950s and they were to become incredibly popular as pets. Meanwhile, they were gradually replaced by border collies in their homeland where they are now comparatively rare.

Shetland sheepdog breed characteristics

Like rough coated collies in miniature, Shetland Sheep dogs boasts elegant heads and intelligent eyes. Their ears are small with dogs carrying them back when relaxed and forward when excited. Their chests are deep and their hind legs very strong. Feet are oval with tight toes and tails are set low. Shetlands carry their tails slightly raised when they are excited but never higher than their backs. They have dense coats that feature a straight, harsh top coat and a shorter but softer undercoat. Hair around the neck is longer, creating a distinctive mane and Shetlands’ front legs are feathered. Coats can be black and tan, black and white, merle, blue merle, sable, sable and white and tricolour.

Energetic, highly intelligent and loyal, these dogs form strong bonds with humans but can be wary of strangers. They are rarely aggressive and are naturally cheerful animals which enjoy human company. They may bark excessively and become destructive when bored. Many Shetland sheepdogs possess a penchant for chasing birds and can even attempt to chase aircraft flying overhead.

  • Lifespan: 12-13 years
  • Height: up to 44cm
  • Weight: up to 12kg
  • Elegant heads
  • Deep chests
  • Strong hind legs
  • Long hair around the neck forms a ruff
  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Easily bored
  • May bark excessively
  • Energetic

Health issues with Shetland sheepdog

Robust and energetic, Shetland sheepdogs are hardy animals but are prone to the following conditions:

  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA) - dogs should be tested
  • General progressive atrophy (GPRA) - dogs should be eye tested
  • Hip Dysplasia - dogs should be hip scored
  • Dermatomyositis (DM or FCD)
  • MDR1 - dogs should be DNA tested
  • Von Willebrand's disease - dogs should be DNA tested
  • Congenital deafness - dogs with merle coats should be BAER tested
  • Adverse reaction to Ivermectin
  • Obesity

What is the Shetland sheepdog bred for?

Bred for herding sheep, the Shetland sheepdog originated on farms in the Shetland Islands. It is now rarely used to control livestock in its homeland, but these appealing pooches have become popular pets across the globe.

What sort of owners does the Shetland sheepdog suit?

Bright, cheerful and easy to train, the Shetland sheepdog is in many ways the perfect dog for first-time owners. However, these elegant canines require a huge amount of grooming and they shed copiously throughout the year. They need a good amount of exercise and relish constant company. They do not thrive in households where everyone is out all day and potential owners of these dogs must enjoy life outdoors and have the time to groom their pets.


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