Shetland Shepherd : temperament, care

A singularly active, intelligent, but also very sweet dog

Belonging to the category of sheep dogs, the Shetland Sheepdog, or the Shetland Sheepdog is a cute dog and very attached to its human companions. It turns out to be an excellent companion animal, with a sweet, intelligent and active character.

The Shetland Shepherd is a sheepdog that can easily be confused with the Scottish Shepherd, also given the origin. Originally, it was selected as the keeper of the sheep flocks on these islands off Scotland.

The original selection was made from border collies crossed with the Icelandic Yakkin.

Classified as a shepherd dog, the shetland sheepdog also represents an excellent companion animal, as well as a guard dog and champion of agility dog . It is a very beautiful and elegant dog.

In Italy there are several farms, but this breed continues to remain quite unknown and not very widespread. Temperamentally this dog is calm and sweet. However, it tends to be slightly wary of a first approach towards strangers.

Character and behaviour of the Shetland Sheepdog

The character of the Shetland Sheepdog is that of an alert, strong and active dog, it is delicate and intelligent. Its temperament is very affectionate and loyal to its master. It has a reserved demeanour with strangers, but is never nervous.

Selected tailored to the specific needs of the territory from which it originates, this breed has gained followers all over the world due to its extraordinary character, its great adaptability and its easy handling.

Active, vigilant and cheerful, it is a dog that is very easy to live with and that is suitable for any owner. Thus, today removed from its traditional herding functions, the Shetland Sheepdog has become a companion dog par excellence.

It is a breed of spectacular beauty and a perfect character both for family life and for work.

In fact, Dr. Stanley Coren, a world expert in animal behavior, ranks it sixth in intelligence out of a ranking of 132 breeds, which gives an idea of ​​its enormous potential.

  • Energy: Medium / high level. You need to take long walks every day and always be busy with some task.
  • Temperament: It is cheerful, outgoing, friendly and affectionate. Very intelligent and with a great capacity for learning, it loves to please its master. It does not present obedience problems.
  • Adaptability: High. It lives well in any environment, but may tend to herd children or vehicles.
  • Sociability: High. Very affectionate with its family, it feels like one more. It loves human company and can actually be loud and troublesome if left alone a lot.
  • Health: Good. You can develop eye conditions.
  • Longevity: High. Live between 12 and 15 years.
  • Utilization: Grazing and guarding.
  • Utility: Very reliable. Shepherd, guardian and companion dog. Excellent in mini agllity and flyball, as a therapy dog ​​and assisting in rescues.

Is it a good family dog?

It is an extraordinary family dog, a companion with a fantastic character, which undoubtedly constitutes its great heritage, even though its beauty is the first thing that draws attention.

Kind, friendly, affectionate, sensitive, loyal and haughty, this dog is one of the most intelligent dogs with a greater capacity for learning. Its response to training is magnificent, as it is always eager to please its owner and has no obedience problems.

Despite being originally a working breed and even being used to working alone, the Shetland Shepherd needs contact with people, loves human company and wants to always be close to its family.

The “sheltie , a diminutive by which the race is also popularly known, fully trusts the humans, whom it has as a reference, and it is no problem giving them the role of dominant leaders.

It is content to be part of the family and to be taken into account for any activity undertaken in the family nucleus.

How do you behave with children?

In general, it is very affectionate with its family, of which it comes to feel like one more, and if it is well socialized from puppyhood it becomes a trusting and friendly dog ​​with everyone, a pet that rarely causes problems with people or with other animals.

However, some specimens may be suspicious of strangers, especially children, who are sometimes perceived as a threat rather than a company.

Obviously, it does not represent a danger to anyone, but, for prevention, it is not advisable to leave children alone with the dog, in order to avoid any incident.

Can you live with other pets?

Very sociable, friendly and of good character, this dog does not usually present problems of socialization with other people or with other animals or pets, whether they are also dogs or belong to another animal species.

Shetland Sheepdog puppies stand out for their extreme vitality and their eternal desire to play.

If they are going to live with the family, at this stage it is important to properly train them so that they do not develop the tendency to herd children or vehicles in their environment, something common due to its shepherd dog instinct.

Can you live in an apartment or in the city?

The Shetland Sheepdog is characterized by its great adaptability. Therefore, you have no problem living in a city flat or apartment. Of course, you must have your daily dose of walking and exercise to have a healthy and balanced dog.

Can the Sheltie be left alone?

If there’s one thing it really hates, it’s being left alone. It needs the permanent company of its family and if it is left alone for a long time, it ends up developing a nervous, destructive and noisy behaviour, with continuous barking, which can even result in the appearance of aggressive episodes, totally alien and undesirable.

A solitary and poorly socialized dog does not allow itself to be touched by strangers, it becomes shy, elusive and noisy, losing much of the charisma that has made it one of the favorite dogs of many families.

In fact, some experts point out that the breed is prone to suffering from the small dog syndrome, a kind of depression suffered by some specimens of small breeds that, having been treated as one more member of the family and having been very spoiled, lose their awareness of their own canine nature and they stop feeling like dogs to begin to believe that they are just another human, an equal within the family.

So, if they are left alone they feel abandoned and go into depression, and at other times they develop excessive dominant tendencies, trying to become leaders, which translates into aggressive attitudes and disobedience.

All of these negative behaviours can be easily avoided through continued and effective work with the dog. It is not that it needs a very strong hand to guide them, it can be educated by anyone, but you have to be constant and consistent, and always try to do things the same way.

Physical characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog

The general appearance of the Shetland Sheepdog is that of a dog of small constitution, it is symmetrical, proportionate, active and of great beauty, without showing signs of heaviness or coarseness. Delicate and intelligent, it is always alert and its expression is sweet.

How is the Sheltie breed physically?


It is a dog with an elegant and light body, very harmonious and proportionate, with the skull and the muzzle of the same length. With a rectangular body structure, it measures longer than it is tall at the level of the withers. Shows abundant and long fur all over the body, except on the face

Its head is shaped like a long truncated wedge, the upper line of the skull is parallel to that of the muzzle, with a slight but defined stop. The nose is rounded and ends in a black truffle

The eyes are medium in size, almond shaped and set obliquely. They are dark brown in color, except in the case of blackbird blue specimens, in which one or both eyes can be blue or streaked blue.

Its ears are small, moderately wide at the base, and are set fairly close to each other on top of the skull. When the dog is at rest, it carries them thrown back, but when it is attentive it brings them forward and carries them semi-erect with the tips drooping forward.

The Shetland Sheepdog has oval feet , with strong and robust foot pads. The toes are close together and arched.

The tail is inserted low and with abundant hair, the dog usually wears it down, drawing a slight curve, although in movement it can carry it somewhat raised. It reaches the hocks.


It has a long, rough and smooth outer coat, and a dense short and smooth undercoat. The fur is more abundant on the mane and chest, and on the forelegs it shows fringes.

The undercoat has a short, soft and smooth fluff, while the outer coat is long, rough and smooth. It shows abundant hair on the mane and chest, but is short on the face.


The Shetland Sheepdog comes in three basic shades:

  1. The light or dark Elizabethan: which includes shades ranging from pale gold to dark mahogany.
  2. The tricolor: which is deep black on the body with bright tan spots
  3. Blackbird blue: which includes light silver, speckled or mottled with black, although sometimes with spots of intense tan color.

Black with white and black with tan are also possible colorations.

Sheltie breed standard

  • Origin: United Kingdom.
  • Other names: Shetland Sheepdog / Berger des Shetland.
  • Size: small / medium.
  • Height at the withers: between 35 and 40 cm for males and between 33 and 38 cm for females.
  • Weight: between 7 and 10 kg for males and between 5 and 7 kg for females.
  • Head: It is elegant, and seen from above or from the side, it is shaped like a long truncated wedge, which tapers from the ears to the nose.
  • Skull: Of width proportionate to the length of the skull and muzzle, it is flattened, moderately wide between the ears and does not show any occipital protuberance.
  • Nose-frontal depression (stop): Slight, but defined.
  • Muzzle: It is quite rounded.
  • Nose: It is pigmented black.
  • Jaws: They are clean and strong, with firm lips. The teeth are healthy, regular, complete, well placed and with a scissor bite.
  • Eyes: They are set obliquely, are medium and almond-shaped. They are usually brown in color, although they sometimes appear blue in the specimens with a blue blackbird mantle.
  • Ears: set close together in the upper part of the skull, they are small and are semi-erect with the tip bent forward.
  • Neck: Muscular and well arched, long enough to carry a proud head.
  • Body: Rectangular in structure, the back is straight and the rump gradually descends towards the hind limbs.
  • Back: It is muscular and strong.
  • Chest: Deep and well lowered to the elbows, the ribs are arched.
  • Tail: Set low, reaching to the hocks and curving slightly upwards. When the dog is in motion, it can be carried somewhat raised, but never on its back or curled up. It is provided with abundant hair.
  • Forelimbs: They look straight when viewed from the front, and are muscular and strong. Shoulders: The shoulder joint is well angulated.
  • Forearms and arms: They are the same length and the pasterns are strong and flexible.
  • Hind limbs: They are muscular and with strong bones.
  • Legs: They are broad and muscular, with the femur attached to the pelvis at a right angle.
  • Knees: Of marked angulation.
  • Hocks: Parallel seen from behind, well lowered.
  • Feet: They are oval, with strong pads and arched and close toes.
  • Movement: Agile, collected and graceful movement, it is driven with the hind limbs, trying to cover the maximum extension with the minimum effort.
  • Coat: Double-layered hair, on the outside the hair is long, rough and smooth, while on the inside it is short, soft and smooth. It has abundant hair on the mane and chest, and showy fringes on the forelimbs. The hair on the face is short.
  • FCI Classification: FCI No. 88.  Group 1 – Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs). Section 1- Sheepdogs.

Shetland Sheepdog Education and Training

It loves to feel useful and to have its time occupied in any activity, because, in any case, a true shepherd dog instinct still beats within them. In some specimens this is much stronger than in others and can be translated into a real desire to hunt and control things.

In case this is the case, it is very important to train the animal from a very young age to remove its fondness for nibbling on people’s feet or the wheels of any type of moving vehicle, as this will avoid serious problems or serious accidents in the future.

Another consequence of this latent instinct as a shepherd dog is that it sometimes develops a very strong territorial character and this leads to behaviour problems.

The best way to educate them well and keep them balanced is to provide them with a task to do. Of course, long walks in the street, the park or the countryside are essential. And, much better if several members of the family participate in them, but there are a whole series of very varied activities in which this dog also excels.

For example, it is a real spectacle to see them evolve on the agility and flyball courts adapted for small breeds, disciplines in which it is one of the most skilled dogs.

He also excels in dancing with dogs or in geese herding contests . Some specimens have been trained to detect drugs and work in airports , where they reach places that are not or not accessible to other larger dogs. For this reason, they also begin to work with them in disaster rescue teams .

However, in the extra-sports activity in which they stand out the most is in assisting as a therapy dog , especially with elderly people, to whom they manage to smile back thanks to their natural happiness and jovial character.

Despite its size and deceptively delicate appearance, this dog also stands as an extraordinary guardian .

It is true that protection cannot be expected from an animal with the physical characteristics of the Shetland, but due to its lively temperament, always alert, and its obsession to always be aware of everything that happens around it, it manages to warn efficiently with its characteristic bark of any strange presence.

Sheltie health and diet

The Shetland Sheepdog is a healthy dog. It may suffer from some eye conditions, as is the case with other Collies, but otherwise its health is very good.

A being a small breed, it is very lon-Gevo so, with basic veterinary care, is a healthy and active partner for many years.

With food, it is advisable to be careful, since it tends to gain weight, as it is generally a dog with a good appetite.

It is true that it is an active breed, but its small size reduces its energy needs, so it is convenient to watch the amount of food and not be tempted to give it scraps from the table, no matter how much you ask for it using your comic expressiveness.

Shetland Shepherd : Care

The feeding of this dog does not usually require special attention. As a companion animal, it can be fed good quality generic dog food.

In the case of sports performance, however, you can opt for nutritional supplements. In this circumstance it is however advisable to administer other foods under the advice of the veterinarian. Usually this dog does not tend to put on weight, as long as you provide it with movement and exercise throughout the day.

Under optimal conditions, these specimens have an average life expectancy of around 12-15 years. Like other dog breeds selected by man, it can suffer from some hereditary diseases. This is the case, for example, with disorders such as hypothyroidism, eye diseases and displacement of the patella.

Another aspect that should be watched is the care of your hair. Its outer coat is long and abundant, with a dense short and soft undercoat, which means that the coat must be kept clean and well brushed to avoid its breakage and the appearance of undesirable knots.

The grooming demands of the breed are high if you want to keep it in good condition, in principle a couple of good weekly brushings and a regular bathing program are enough, and you should not be lazy in this regard, because the more you take care of yourself its mantle, the more beautiful its external appearance will be.

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