About Shetland Sheepdogs

History: The actual origin of the Shetland Sheepdog is lost in the mists of the Shetland Islands, a group of about 100 small islands lying about 200km off the northern coast of Scotland. It is a land of rugged, rocky coasts with coastal storms sweeping over the entire islands at frequent intervals. The climate is harsh and damp.

For years the islanders’ chief occupations were fishing and raising the Shetland sheep and here the crofters had small farms, generally unfenced, and it was the sheltie’s responsibility to drive the sheep away from the cultivated land and back to the pasture. During the summer the herds were ferried to outlying islands and often left in the sole charge of the dogs.

In the fall, the dogs rounded up the stock and helped bring them back to the mainland. The dogs were the crofters’ working partners, sharing his life during the lonely hours, sleeping with him, caring for his sheep, guarding his property. The crofters selected small dogs because they could see no reason to feed larger ones.

This close association with humans, plus the instinct of generations of herding dogs in their genetic makeup, gave Shelties an uncanny understanding of people and an intense sense of responsibility. The crofters selected for these qualities as well as for ability to work, stamina, courage and intelligence and they succeeded in fixing these traits quite dependably in the breed.

They cared little about the dog’s physical appearance, so the physical type remained varied.

In the late 1800s larger commercial sheep operations began to take over and since the sheltie couldn’t handle a herd of 500 or more sheep, the sheltie became primarily a lap dog. Other small types of breed were introduced into the breed which further diversified type. By the early 20th century a number of breeds had been introduced which would eventually culminate with what we today know as the Shetland Sheepdog.

Physical Characteristics: They are a small, alert, double-coated, agile and sturdy working dog. An abundance of coat, mane and frill with a sweet head and expression. They appear as sable (brown), tricolor (black with tan points and white markings), blue merle (merle with tan points and white collar); bi-black or blue bi-colour (no tan markings).

Personality: Very devoted to their families with an enormous capacity for love and affection; they are not usually outgoing towards strangers; highly intelligent, ranking 6th out of 132 breeds tested; it is his nature to please and obey, willingly and naturally; a polite and clean dog, eager to learn and work. They are a sensitive breed and should never be given harsh corrections. The sheltie is exceptionally trainable and responsive, which make him an ideal companion and outstanding worker in obedience and agility.

Maintenance: This is a long-coated breed that sheds annually or semi-annually. The coat needs to be thoroughly brushed 3-4 times a week to avoid matting.