The Shetland Sheepdog, or “Sheltie” as it is commonly called, is a working collie in miniature. However, do not mistakenly refer to a Sheltie as a “minitature collie.” They are their own distinct breed.
Similar to the collie, the Sheltie’s history traces back to the Border Collie of Scotland, which, after being transported to the Shetland Islands (northeast of Scotland) and crossed with small, intelligent, longhaired breeds, was eventually reduced to compact proportions.
Over time, subsequent crosses were made with collies. The breed worked as farm helpers, garden wardens and home protectors, watching over crofters’ cottages, flocks and herds from invaders of all kinds.
When it sees a squirrel, neighbor’s cat, bird, deer or varmint, a Sheltie will alert instinctively and seek to move the critter along. This trait is called being “talkative.” A Sheltie will not usually “talk” unless it has reason, but when it sees something out of the norm its voice can be loud and insistent.
Agile, hardy and sturdy, the Sheltie is much tougher than he looks. A rough-coated, long-haired working dog, he is alert, intensely loyal, sensitive, loving, indefatigable and highly trainable.
Shetland Sheepdogs are considered to be one of the most intelligent of canines. They are among the most successful breeds in obedience trials and excel in agility, herding and conformation.
The Sheltie has a keen sense of intelligence and comprehension. As herders, they look to their handlers for instructions and will watch and listen closely for the next command. They thrive on doing things for you and being praised.
Shelties do not respond well to a raised voice or hand. Some will even drop their ears in shame at the mere reprimand of a finger being pointed at them.
If you want a dog that will stay by your side, get a Shetland Sheepdog. They are loyal, though it’s unusual for them to experience separation anxiety or be neurotic. When you leave, they know it’s their time to go on watch.
So devoted are they to their masters that they can be standoffish and shy to others.
A Sheltie’s coat can be black, blue merle or sable, marked with varying amounts of white and/or tan. Accustomed to the wet, overcast Shetland Islands, the breed developed a long coat with thick undercoat that protects him from rain in winter and insulates him from heat in summer. This requires that the dog be groomed regularly to control shedding and keep him comfortable.
The old expression, “You can’t herd cats,” was never said by someone who owned a Sheltie. He can herd whatever he sets his mind to herd. They are instinctive herders. Shelties have been said to nip at a child’s heels to move him along, but they’re always mindful not to harm those they protect. Nevertheless, not all Shelties like herding. Some could care less, but all are driven to please their master or mistress in a way best suited to the dog’s particular personality, even if that’s acting as a bed warmer.
Shelties are “watch dogs,” not “guard dogs.” They will warn you of things that might be out of the norm, but they aren’t intimidating. As watch dogs, they will sound an alarm at the arrival of something out of the ordinary, then “watch” a burglar enter the house, may greet him happily, then “watch” him leave.
Shelties are easily trained to follow your lead, and if it’s not something you’re concerned about, they’ll settle down beside you and stand by until you have something important to do.