Shetland Sheepdog: Training, Breed Information and Health Care

A Shetland Sheepdog is a strikingly gorgeous dog that is famous as one of the most beautiful and rewarding family dogs you could ever train and keep. They love people and can’t stand to be away from them, and they contribute a lot of personality to a family.

In addition to all this, they’re very athletic and fit. Shetland Sheepdogs, or Shelties, as they’re called, are a kind of dog that starts to feel like a “regular person” pretty quickly, instead of a dog.

Below the breed and care information, I’ll get into Shetland Sheepdog training advice.

Breed History – Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog was named for the Shetland Islands north of Scotland, where they originated. At that time, as the name suggests, they were sheep herders.

Nowadays, Shetland Sheepdogs are more commonly kept as pets, and their popularity is undeniable.


Appearance – Shetland Sheepdog

If you’ve ever seen the classic TV show “Lassie,” you’ve seen a dog very similar to a Shetland Sheepdog. Lassie was actually a Collie, but they’re very similar breeds in every respect.

The most noticeable thing about Shetland Sheepdogs is the fur coat. It’s very long, soft, and doubled, with a large mane around the head. The mixed shades of a Shetland Sheepdog’s coat are among nature’s finer beauties. The colors are usually a two-tone mix of black, sable, blue merle, tan, and white, with vast, dramatic patches of color. The coat should be brushed about three times a week, and it will shed.

A Shetland Sheepdog’s head is long and distinctive, longer than a Collie’s but otherwise very similar. They have relatively small ears, and almond-shaped eyes.

A fully-grown Shetland Sheepdog will stand about 13 to 16 inches when measured at the shoulder, give or take a few inches due to widespread differences in breeding.

Social Temperament – Shetland Sheepdogs

A Shetland Sheepdog is every bit as beautiful on the inside, as the outside. They adore humans, and they’re loyal and smart enough to be a welcome addition in any home.

Here are a few notes about the social temperament of Shetland Sheepdogs worth knowing:

  • If you visit a breeder whose Shetland Sheepdog puppies are nervous, hyperactive, desperate creatures, you’re probably dealing with a very bad breeder.
  • As with any dog breed that bonds extremely closely to humans, Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to separation anxiety. You don’t want to leave a Shetland Sheepdog alone for long periods, and you should exercise and play with them before leaving the house to avoid problem behaviors.
  • Although they are friendly dogs, they will be suspicious of most strangers, owing to their sheep dog heritage. This makes the Shetland Sheepdog a natural watchdog.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs are a good choice for families with children, but they need proper socialization training before the children and puppy are left alone together.
  • Your Shetland Sheepdog puppy will enjoy any game that seizes their herding instincts, such as fetch and chase.

Unique Health Problems – Shetland Sheepdog

A good breeder knows to check every dog for health problems, and only to breed the dogs that won’t pass on hereditary complaints. This is yet another reason I strongly recommend going with a breeder whose reputation you can verify.

The healthy Shetland Sheepdog will live at least 12 years of active life.

Here are the things to know about, and ask your breeder or veterinarian about, when considering a Shetland Sheepdog:

  • Please spay or neuter your Sheltie to avoid an unwanted litter.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to more eye diseases than the average dog breed
  • The right kind and amount of dog food is essential for long-term health.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs can contract Von Willebrand’s disease, a failure of the blood to clot in cuts.
  • Liver and kidney problems somewhat more common in Shetland Sheepdogs than other breeds.
  • Thyroid disease, a glandular dysfunction, occurs in some Shelties.
  • Skin diseases and infections are not uncommon with Shetland Sheepdogs.
  • Leg problems can usually be bred-out of Shetland Sheepdogs, but can arise without heredity.

Shetland Sheepdog Training

Like most dogs bred for work, a Shetland Sheepdog wants to be trained. They learn quickly and bond deeply with their alpha all throughout the obedience training process, and they’re smart enough to learn all sorts of cool dog tricks and agility sports. Shelties are very commonly enrolled in obedience competitions.

Never correct your dog harshly or scare them with scolding. Walking away and briefly denying them social interaction the second they do something wrong is an excellent, effective punishment when punishment is necessary. They learn best by being praised for the right behaviors.

When working on your Shetland Sheepdog’s training regimen, keep the following in mind:

  • They’ll learn quickly, so long as you use effective obedience training methods.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs are among the easier dogs to house train, but you still have to follow a consistent, proven potty training program.
  • The “come” command is a life-saver for a dog like this. Shetland Sheepdogs are bred to protect and herd, which means they will wander off to investigate things – sometimes at their own risk.
  • Also, make sure you do thorough leash training with your Sheltie, for the same reasons, before you ever let him or her off-leash in public.
  • Shetland Sheepdogs can jump very skillfully. This presents two problems for you: jumping up on your family and visitors, and jumping over your fence. Click those links to see how to prevent or solve those issues. your family and visitors, and
  • You may also want to read about how to stop excessive barking, because that’s the most common behavior problem reported by owners of Shetland Sheepdogs.

You just can’t help but love Shetland Sheepdogs, because of how strongly they’ll love you. All throughout the Shetland Sheepdog training period, you’ll grow closer and closer. Enjoy it!

Learn about training dogs at home, or go back to choosing the right dog breed.

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