Shetland Sheepdogs

a Shetland Sheepdog standing in a field of flowers looking off into the distance

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as Sheltie, is known for being gentle, friendly, and good-natured. Shelties fall into the Herding Group of dogs. They look similar to a related breed known as Collies, but are smaller. The Shetland Sheepdog is an energetic, athletic breed.

They need a moderate amount of exercise, with lots of room to run and play. Because they are known to chase other animals for herding, they will love a fenced-in yard that they can run around in.

Shelties are intelligent, obedient and agile. Affectionate and loyal, they do make excellent pets, companions and therapy animals. Shelties often exhibit one of two personality types; timid and calm or active and aggressive. It’s impossible to know which one you’ll get until you spend some time with them.

The timid ones will run away from strangers and the active ones will most likely bark at them. Shetland Sheepdogs will benefit a lot from early socialization training. They are fast learners when training is approached with both persistence and positive reinforcement.

Shetland Sheepdogs are very loyal and loving, and will form strong bonds with their family. They are also very affectionate, and will seek out human contact whenever possible. Because their breed is a working breed they are very athletic and agile, making them a great choice for active families.
Shetland Sheep Dogs are very smart and trainable, making it easy to teach them tricks. They are also very calm and laid back, making them a great option for those who are sensitive to loud noises.

When choosing a Shetland Sheepdog puppy, you can expect to pay between $500-$1,500 for a healthy pup.

Shetland Sheepdog Information

  • Average Height: 13 to 16 inches
  • Average Length: 14 to 17.5 inches
  • Average Weight: 15 to 25 pounds
  • Coat Type: Double
  • Coat Appearance: Long
  • Coat Colors: Sable, ranging from golden to mahogany; black, and Blue Merle, White
  • Grooming Needs: Moderate
  • Shedding: High Shedding
  • Brushing Requirements: Once a week, or daily in the spring
  • Sensitive to Touch: Not with family but with strangers, yes
  • Excessive Barking: Yes
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Yes
  • Good Pet: With early socialization and training, yes!
  • Safe with Children: With training
  • Good with Other Dogs: High
  • Good with Other Pets: With training
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: No, they need to exercise and play outside
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Training: They are intelligent and quick learners, so training them is easy
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
  • Weight Gain: Moderate
  • Health Concerns: Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), Hypothyroidism, von Willebrand’s Disease, Canine hip dysplasia, and Dermatomyositis.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Physical Appearance of Shetland Sheepdogs

a Shetland Sheepdog laying on a rock outside by a forest with mountains in the background

They have a compact and muscular body. Their head has a somewhat wedge shape to it. Their skull and snout are of equal length. The neck is muscular and slightly arched. They have a deep chest and muscular back. Shelties have a long and fluffy tail.

They have powerful jaws with a well-built lower jaw and rounded chin. They have medium-sized almond-shaped eyes that are a dark color. The ears are small and flexible. In some dogs their ears will stand erect with the tips gently bent forward, in others one or both ears may be folded forward.

Shelties have a double coat. Their undercoat is short and dense while the outer coat is long and fluffy, but also fairly stiff. The stiffness lets the overcoat stand out. The hair on the ears, feet, and head is smooth with a layer of dense hair around the neck. The legs are fluffy with deep and rough paws.

Their coat can be one of three color groups – sable, black, and blue merle. The sable ranges from golden to mahogany. The coats can have varying amounts of white and may or may not have markings on them.

Temperament of Shetland Sheepdogs

There are two main personality types that Shetland Sheepdogs have. The first is a timid and fairly calm type. They will generally be afraid of strangers and may attempt to run and hide if someone they don’t know visits. They generally find courage by barking if there is a barrier between them and the stranger. If the barrier is removed they will usually become quiet and try to run and hide.

The other personality type is a lot more active and even aggressive at times. They are usually very loud and will bark at most things. They are much more active and enjoy running around in the space they have. They don’t seem overly aggressive with children but they do enjoy jumping up on them. Depending on the age and size of the child they could be repeatedly pushed over by this while playing with this personality type.

Shetland Sheepdogs as a whole are energetic, intelligent and playful with their family. They are affectionate and form strong bonds with the owners.

To get their affection strangers should be ready to spend a lot of time building their trust. It may take several weeks to win them over, but after they have won their affection Shelties look quite happy to see them with each future visit.

Training a Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland-Sheepdog puppy running away

Shelties are intelligent and most comfortable around their owners. Their comfort really helps with training them. Some Shelties can be really stubborn and it will take you longer to train them. With some patience and persistence you will be able to train them to become well-behaved. 

If your dog feels safe and with their owners they trust they can learn things faster, sometimes within a few repetitions. To get the best results be persistent with them and use positive reinforcement techniques with them.

Obedience Training Classes

Obedience training classes are a great way to help them learn some basic instructions. Obedience training isn’t just for your dog, it also helps owners learn to teach and control their new dog. These classes can teach you as an owner the best ways to teach your puppy. The amount of time you spend trying to stop your Sheltie’s excessive barking can be a lot less if you know the best way to teach them. Because Shelties love barking, with or without obedience training you will likely spend a good deal of time teaching them to be quiet.

Early Socialization Training

Early socialization is absolutely necessary for Shelties. They need exposure to different sounds, places, people, other dogs, and pets right when they are a puppy. By being exposed to so many things it will help interact more confidently with others and not be so skittish with strangers or other dogs.

Kennel Training

Kennel training works very well for Shelties. If done right they will see the kennel as their safe space, and a place that they can relax and sleep. Most dogs enjoy small spaces and will find a sense of security while inside it. Getting them comfortable in a kennel early on will save you a lot of headaches. You know that they can’t get into trouble while you’re sleeping or at work if they’re in their kennel. It’s also a great place for them to dry off after they come into the house when it’s wet outside.

Clicker Training

The Shetland-Sheepdogs is watching what is ahead

Shelties are known to be a bit stubborn, especially as puppies. They need to be trained to understand what is good behavior and what is not OK. Clicker training will help them understand what is good behavior. Clicker training has you make a noise with the clicker when the desired action is done. In addition to the click you’ll give them a treat, at least while you train them. Every time your dog hears the click they’ll know they did a good job and you are happy. 

If your dog misbehaves, try not to punish them because it can discourage them. Instead, remember the clicker training and divert their attention to something else. You might have to do this several times to make the Yorkie understand that they are not supposed to do the undesired activities.

Their Compatibility with Children

Again there are two different personality types with this breed. The first type will likely warm up to the children slowly. They may not be a lot of fun to play with right away but they will warm up over time and become much more playful. The other type is the more energetic and a little more aggressive type. They will be much more playful from the start, but could be a bit much for smaller children. The more aggressive personality likes to jump a lot more, and might bark too much for your children to be comfortable with.

It might not be obvious which type they are at first glance. If a particular type is a concern you may want to spend some time trying to play or interact with them. After spending an hour or two you can get a better sense of which personality they are.

If you don’t know what type of personality your dog has, an adult should supervise the first few interactions between them. After you know what type you have you can help your child to understand what types of playing the dog will enjoy and how to become their best friend.

Shetland Sheepdogs have a habit of running behind fast-moving things because of their herding instincts. If you see them running after your kids, you will want to stop them from doing it. Their chasing is normally the type of interaction that leads to them jumping into children.

Best Climate for Shetland Sheepdogs

2 Shetland Sheepdogs sitting in a field of flowers looking at something in the distance

Shelties have good tolerance to both cold and hot climates. Their heavy coat helps them withstand cold temperatures better than many other breeds. Because this dog breed hails from Scotland, they were mostly engaged in herding activities that involved staying outdoors. Their ancestors were comfortable staying outdoors in icy cold temperatures. In the winter months you will have no problem taking them out for walks in the cold.

Though Shelties would like to stay in colder climates, they can also handle moderately hot temperatures. They tend to shed off an almost unbelievable amount of fur in the spring. All the thick, dense undercoat sheds off and they do well even into the high 80s or lower 90s. Just make sure you have plenty of water for your Sheltie. If you see them panting excessively make sure they have enough shade and water or keep them inside your home until it cools down.

The Attention a Shetland Sheepdog Needs

Most Shelties need a lot of attention, but for most this need is met just by being in the same room with their family. They like to spend all their time being in the same room with their family. They are the kind of dog that will follow you around the house. Often you will see them lying in the corner of a room observing or listening to their family.

They have high energy needs and like to run around and play. If you want your Sheltie to be happy, make sure they are walked and played with as often as you can. Ideally they need 30-45 minutes of time each day moving around, walking, chasing a ball or even just tug of war.

If you have a family that spends most of the day away from the home, then a Sheltie is not for you.

Health Issues

Overall, Shelties are a healthy dog but like all dogs, there are certain health conditions to be aware of. Common health conditions that Shelties can have are digestive and dental diseases.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that can make walking, getting up or laying down difficult and painful. When a dog has hip dysplasia, their hip socket fails to fully cover the ball portion of their thigh bone. The looseness between the hip and leg bone leads to partial or complete dislocation of their hip joint and can cause pain and stiffness. In most cases, medication and exercise restrictions are advised by the vet. Over time the condition could become severe enough that your vet might recommend surgery to correct it.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a hereditary eye disorder that affects many dog breeds, but particularly Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation that affects the development of their eye, resulting in abnormalities in their retina, choroid, and sclera. Diagnosing CEA can be done through an ophthalmologic exam, which can include a fundus examination, electroretinography (ERG), or an ultrasound.

CEA is a serious condition that can cause blindness, and it’s important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian if you think that they might be affected. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preserving their vision and preventing further damage.


Hypothyroidism is a common health condition in dogs that causes weight gain, behavioral changes, skin and coat problems. The condition occurs when a dog’s thyroid gland isn’t creating enough thyroid hormones to regulate their body’s metabolism. 

The thyroid gland is located in their neck, close to the windpipe. The gland is responsible for regulating the metabolism. When the thyroid becomes underactive their metabolism slows down and hypothyroidism occurs.

Hypothyroidism is caused by two diseases. One is lymphocytic thyroiditis, an immune-mediated disease where the dog’s immune system mistakes the thyroid as foreign and starts attacking it. We don’t know why this happens but lymphocytic thyroiditis is the most common reason for hypothyroidism in dogs. 

The other disease that causes hypothyroidism is idiopathic thyroid gland atrophy where their fat tissue replaces the normal thyroid tissue. The cause of this disease is also unknown.

95% of hypothyroidism is caused by these two diseases, and the other 5% by rare diseases like thyroid gland cancer. Whatever the cause, the symptoms and treatments of hypothyroidism are usually the same.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a hereditary disorder that affects a dogs’ blood clotting process. It’s caused by an inherited deficiency in the von Willebrand factor, which is a protein that helps platelets stick together to form clots and stop bleeding. vWD can cause excessive bleeding during surgery as well as spontaneous bleeding from their nose, gums, and other parts of their body.

Symptoms of Canine Von Willebrand’s Disease

The most common symptom of Von Willebrand’s Disease is excessive bleeding. The excessive bleeding can be seen in the form of nosebleeds, gum bleeds, and other types of spontaneous bleeding from their body. In some cases, dogs might also have blood in their urine, vomit blood, and cough up blood.

Dogs with vWD could have prolonged bleeding during surgery or after injury.


Dermatomyositis is a rare autoimmune disorder that affects dog’s skin and muscles. It’s known for causing skin and muscle inflammation, which can lead to pain, weakness, and difficulty moving.

Diagnosing dermatomyositis usually involves a physical examination, blood tests, and skin biopsies.

Dermatomyositis is a serious condition that can be difficult to manage, but with proper treatment and care, dogs can lead happy and healthy lives.

Periodontal Disease

Domesticated cats and dogs can get periodontal disease if their oral health is not taken care of. Periodontal disease is a tooth and gum condition that can become serious in a few ways. One of the biggest problems is that this disease can destroy the gums and teeth of your pet if left untreated.

Another major problem if the bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream. Plaque build-up in the mouth can damage the gums and let bacteria enter the bloodstream. If this happens it can cause kidney and liver diseases and narrow their blood vessels which can lead to heart problems.

an image with a red Shetland-Sheepdog

One of the easiest ways to prevent periodontal disease is to regularly brush your pet’s teeth. More than likely they won’t like it, but regular brushing is the best way you can prevent plaque buildup in your pets mouth.

Bathing, Coat, and Cleaning

Due to the long and dense coat, special care will be needed to take care of your Shetland Sheepdog. They need to be brushed once a week, and daily in the spring. During the shedding season it is not uncommon to brush them for 20-30 minutes at a time. Daily brushings will remove the loose hair and also help fix and keep their fur from matting. its best to only use a pin brush to comb the fur on their body.

Use a small slicker brush to untangle the fur behind their ears and behind their legs. The fur behind their ears, and behind their legs may tangle often, and is more sensitive when being brushed than the rest of their body.

Their outer coat is water repellent and sheds dirt. They will only need a bath when they are dirty. They will need a high-quality dog shampoo when they are bathed.

Their nails will need to be trimmed once a month. Shorter nails will prevent damage to your floor and hurting family members when your Sheltie is playing with them. Having short nails also makes it easier to walk if they walk on smooth surfaces like hardwood or linoleum. If their nails get too long their pads don’t get enough grip on the floor and they can have a difficult time walking. The same thing can happen if the fur growing with their paw pads gets too long.

To make sure your dog’s teeth are healthy, their teeth should be brushed once a week. If you don’t feel comfortable brushing your Shetland Sheepdogs teeth, schedule a visit to your vet every six months and have them do it.

Every week it is important to check their nose, paws, and other areas of your dog while brushing them for signs of redness or other infections. If you see any signs of infection, call your vet immediately.

Feeding A Shetland Sheepdog

a close up of dog food

Shetland Sheepdogs are high energy dogs that need high quality dog food to maintain their energy levels. An adult Sheltie needs 1 to 2 cups of high-quality dog food split between 2 feedings. The exact amount of food your dog needs will depend upon how active they are during the day. An active dog will need more food than one that laid under a tree all day.

To keep your Sheltie from gaining weight, if they don’t eat all that you give them then put the bowl away until their next feeding time. Taking the bowl lets them eat all that they want, but not more than they need.

Avoid feeding table scraps to your Shetland Sheepdog. If you want to feed them people food, consult your vet before giving them any. They are a small breed and don’t need a lot of food. Eating more than what they are supposed to can cause them to put on weight or lead to negative health conditions.

Shelties can quickly gain weight if over fed. Always monitor how much you feed them and adjust it if you can see that they are gaining weight.

Related Questions:

How did the Breed Originate?

As the name suggests, the Shetland Sheepdog hails from the Shetland Islands of Scotland. They were used to keep hungry birds and sheep away from the gardens of farmers. The Shelties were also used for herding sheep. The original Shetland was a Spitz-type dog. This was gradually crossed with several smaller breeds.

Present Shetland Sheepdogs closely resemble the Rough Collies. The American Kennel Club officially registered the Shetland Sheepdog in 1911.

Do Shetland Sheepdogs Make Good Therapy Dogs?

Due to their strong emotional connection with the owners, they can be great therapy dogs. The Shelties are smart and trainable and can quickly learn to do many things. Shelties are also used as medical alert dogs and service dogs.

What are the Main Differences Between Male and Female Shelties?

One major difference between males and females is that males are taller and heavier than females. With regards to shedding, the females shed more than males. Unspayed females can shed more heavily than spayed female Shelties. This means even more brushing to take care of their frequent shedding. As for the personality, everything is similar for both males and females.

How Popular are Shetland Sheepdogs?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has them ranked as the 25th most popular dog.

Author Profile
A woman with curly hair holding a cat.
Contributing Author & Social Media Expert

Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.