Shetland Sheepdog

Energetic, intelligent and playful, excelling at every sports

The extremely intelligent and affectionate Shetland Sheepdog is a smart little herding dog that resembles its larger relative, the Rough Collie, only in appearance. The breed stands out for its eagerness to work and its sensibility, making it a wonderful family companion that instinctively understands the emotions of the people around it.

Shelties are alert and watchful and have a tendency to bark. Luckily, with a bit of training, you can teach them to stop barking when their services are not needed. You and your neighbours will be forever grateful.

Quick-witted and with lots of energy in their arsenal, Shelties need daily exercise and mental stimulation. Thriving on human companionship, they’ll happily partake in any activity that includes their beloved people. No matter if you take them on your daily run, try your luck at different dog sports, teach them new tricks, or take them for long walks – Shelties just want to be at their humans' side.

No matter if loyal companion, exercise buddy or playmate – the Shetland Sheepdog has got it all.

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. "Toonie dog" was an old name for Shelties based on the Shetland word "toon" for small settlement or enclosed homestead.
The Shetland Sheepdog was valued as a small, undemanding, agile, intelligent and robust all-rounder and companion, who mainly kept stray livestock away from the smallholders' yards.
While the first Shelties were registered with the UK Kennel Club in 1909 under the category "any other variety", the breed was finally recognized as "Shetland Sheepdog" in 1914.
Type and characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog should resemble those of a "Rough Collie in Miniature" including their luxuriously thick double coat and their intelligence and will to please.
Shelties are small, energetic, highly intelligent and robust all-rounders: they excel at all sorts of canine sports including agility or obedience.

Shetland Sheepdog characteristics

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The hardy Shetland Sheepdog stems from the rugged and rocky Shetland Islands, where the exposure to the whims of both the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea called for enduring, frugal and hardworking dogs that could assist the local farmers.

No written records exist to trace the exact origins of the Sheltie, but it is assumed that its early ancestor was a Spitz-type dog from Norway, Iceland and other northern European countries. Over the years, breeds from the British mainland found their way into the mix, namely Welsh and Scotch Collies, as well as Border Collies and the King Charles Spaniel.

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In any case, a uniform appearance wasn’t what farmers were looking for back then – what counted was the dog’s work ethic, intelligence and the ability to withstand the barren conditions of the islands. The Sheltie, equipped with its thick double-coat, rose to the occasion to herd sheep and the famous Shetland Ponies, as well as to keep them (and hungry birds) from munching away on the farmers’ vegetable gardens.

Over the course of the 19th century, Shelties were intentionally crossed with other small breeds to diminish their size. As a result, by the turn of the 20th century the Sheltie appeared in so many different types, that extensive crosses were made with Rough Collies in order to bring uniformity to the breed.

The Sheltie became increasingly popular on the British mainland. But it was only after the name 'Shetland Collie' was changed to 'Shetland Sheepdog' following complaints from Collie breeders that the Sheltie received official Kennel Club recognition. Prominence in the US caught on soon after, and the AKC registered its first Sheltie in 1911.

After the 1st World War, selective Show-Collie crossbreeding took place, which had a lasting effect on the development of the Sheltie as we know it today.

Breed facts

FCI: Sheepdogs and Cattledogs - Group 1
KC: Pastoral Group AKC: Herding Group
black, merle, sable, tricolour
View colour distribution
Agility, Herding, Obedience, Rally Obedience
The Sheltie’s sensitivity and intelligence also make it a great service and therapy dog.
Great Britain
Small to medium
Coat type
Long, harsh and straight with a soft, dense undercoat


The Shetland Sheepdog is a healthy and robust breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, they can be prone to eye conditions such as Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) and Sheltie Progressive Retinal Atrophy.

Shelties can also exhibit the MDR1 gene defect, which causes a hypersensitivity to flea or tick repellents, anaesthesia as well as heartworm medicine like Ivermectin. If administered, affected dogs can develop mild to severe symptoms of poisoning, so it’s important to consult your vet about alternative treatment options.

Other health conditions that are known to occur in the Sheltie are Hip Dysplasia, Von Willebrand disease, as well as Dermatomyositis (DMS).