Shetland sheepdogs resemble small rough collies. They are often mistakenly referred to as "miniature collies," "miniature Lassies" and "toy collies." Potential owners seeking to purchase or to adopt a Shetland sheepdog should do thorough research on the breed to ensure they have chosen the best breed for themselves or their family.
Shetland sheepdogs, also known as Shelties, are small dogs that are nearly identical in appearance to a rough collie. The American Kennel Club (AKC) website says that the standard Sheltie size is anywhere from 13 to 16 inches in height, with a weight between 14 and 27 lbs. However, as expected, not all Shelties will fall within these guidelines. Sheltie coat colors can range from sable, bi-black, tri-color and blue merle. Shelties may also have a full white coat or mostly white coat with a colored head and patches. These dogs genetically normal, despite being superficially similar to puppies produced by breeding two blue merle Shelties together. Puppies from breeding a pair of blue merle Shelties are typically white with faded markings and may be deaf, blind or both.
The collie and the Shetland sheepdog are both descendants of the border collie. To create the Sheltie, the border collie and a small breed of dog known as the Yakkin, were bred together. By the 1700s, the Shetland sheepdog had come into existence. Shelties were specifically bred to protect and herd sheep on the Shetland Islands. By 1909, this breed was officially recognized in England. By 1911, it was also recognized by the AKC.
Shelties are loyal dogs that are ideal as companions or for families. These dogs require early socialization with different people and children of ages to prevent behavioral issues later in life. Shetland sheepdogs are considered to be the sixth smartest dog in the world and are easily trained. Shelties are also good guard dogs and will sound off at any intruders or unusual noises within the home. Some Shelties may be more reserved toward strangers, but with proper socialization, they will quickly warm up to guests who are visiting their home. Unwanted traits in a Sheltie may include timidness, nervousness, excessive shyness, stubbornness or a general ill-tempered manner.
Shetland sheepdogs require regular exercise and can live in any type of housing--including apartment living--as long as daily exercise is given. These dogs are a generally healthy breed, although they may suffer from certain diseases, such as collie eye anomaly, hypothyroidism or issues with displacement of the kneecap. Shelties are also known to gain weight easily if overfed. An owner can expect her Sheltie to live up to 15 years or more if properly cared for.
Shelties require regular grooming to prevent matting of their fur. Their long fur coat is a double coat, meaning that there is a dense undercoat accompanied by a long, protective overcoat. The undercoat sheds twice annually--once in the spring and again in the fall. However, their coat protects well against water, dirt and mud; so grooming is much easier than expected and regular bathing is minimal.