Sheltie Info

The Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is a small to medium sized dog(13 to 16 inches) with medium build carrying a lush double coat that is smoother on the face and legs. Endearing, intelligent and easily trained, Shelties make wonderful family companions and are happiest when they live with their families. They do not do well in isolation and are not appropriate as lone ‘outside only’ dogs.

Shelties are generally a healthy and long-lived breed with an average life expectancy of 13-16 years.

Shelties come in two basic colors: brown and black. Brown shelties are called ‘Sables’, and can range from a golden color to a very dark brown color, sometimes called shaded sable. Black shelties are either ‘Tricolors’(black and white with tan points) or ‘Biblacks’(black and white).

A third common color variant occurs when dogs carry a gene diluting their coat color. The result is the ‘Merle’ appearance.  If this dilution is present in a Tricolor or Biblack, the result is a ‘Blue Merle’ or ‘Biblue’ respectively. If this dilution is a Sable, the result is a ‘Sable Merle’.  All Shelties have some amount of white, generally on the face, legs, around the neck and on the tip of the tail.


Sheltie temperament can vary widely, generally the breed is intelligent, easily trained, loyal and loving with their family members and have high social drive.  Stories are told about Sheltie temperament – ranging from extreme hyperactivity to extreme anxiety and nervousness. Neither extreme is correct nor desirable, and we do not breed these extremes of temperament in our Shelties.

These dogs can be more vocal than some breeds of dog(they are a herding dog!), but this is not necessarily true of all Shelties and given their intelligence and desire to please, Shelties can be easily trained.  Particularly, a single dog can be trained TO bark and are then mostly silent the remainder of the time.

A Brief History

The Shetland Sheepdog is not an old breed, during the eighteen hundreds visitors to the Shetland Islands noticed a small family farm dog that was shepherd-like in general appearance.  It was likely descended from crosses of spitz-like dogs with herding dogs, probably ancestors of the Rough Collie and the Border Collie.  Trade and tourism to the Shetland Islands spurred the production of fluffy little dogs that could be sold to visitors.

Dog breeds thought to be used in the early development of the Sheltie included Nordic spitz type dogs(Norwegian Buhund or the Icelandic Sheepdog), old farm collies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels or some other small spaniel-type dog, Pomeranians, and the show-type Collie.

In the early 1900s show-type Collies were crossed with the Sheltie in an attempt to both recover and introduce some Collie and sheepdog type.  The early history of the breed is marked with some controversy as Collie fanciers of the day were not altogether content with this little dog being called the Shetland Collie and the English Kennel Club called the relatively new breed the “Shetland Sheepdog’.

To the critical eye, the modern Sheltie exhibits a wide variation in type, the breed standard can be interpreted in a several ways resulting in a multiplicity of potentially ‘correct’ Sheltie appearances.

The physical structure of the Sheltie today is significantly different from the little dog more often thought of as a farm mongrel of a hundred years ago.  In the century between the breed’s inception and the modern day, Collie crosses and efforts at solidifying a breed type has produced the appearance of the modern Sheltie.