Shetland Sheepdog


History & Origin

A relatively young breed, the Shetland Sheepdog hails from the Shetland Islands. Due to the climate and other factors, animals there are small yet hardy, as they are bred for survival in a difficult climate. Similarly, the dogs native of the islands were also small in size.

General consensus has it the small, native dogs were bred with Border Collies, Spitz Dogs, Pomeranians, and King Charles Spaniels, amongst others. As there are no fences on the islands, dogs bred indiscriminately and were not used to tend sheep, as such, but rather to drive them to wherever they needed going. Besides driving sheep, they were also tasked with scaring off birds of prey and keeping the sheep safe.

The Shetland Sheepdog had to go a long time without having a proper name because of many regarding them as mongrels due to their mixed and varied bloodlines. By 1914, however, the Shetland Sheepdog’s mixed ancestry seemed to settle down, resulting in the dog as we know it today. No cross-breeding took place after this.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) acknowledged the Shetland Sheepdog breed in 1911.

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The Shetland Sheepdog makes an excellent family pet. He loves taking part in family activities. They are not dogs to be left outdoors, however, but need to be an integral part of the home.

Although smaller than most sheepdogs, the Shetland Sheepdog is a working dog. He needs activity and mental stimulation. His intelligence demands it. They excel at any game that provides mental stimulation, such as fetch, or finding the ball.

A breed regarded as high-strung, they do not do well in emotionally tense environments. Peace and love are what they need, with a lot of fun activities thrown in for good measure.

Shetland Sheepdogs get along well with other animals, while their soft, sweet nature allows them to get on with anyone. They do tend to be reserved with people they do not know. In order to build up your Shetland Sheepdog’s confidence, proper socialization needs carrying out from a young age.

This breed often develops separation anxiety when apart from their family for long periods. This leads to bad behavior such as excessive barking, chewing on whatever it can, and all sorts of neurotic behavior.

Younger children’s rough play bothers a Shetland Sheepdog. They are better off in families with older children.

This breed loves to please and is easily trained. Never be harsh towards your Shetland Sheepdog. He does not take well to any rough treatment.

shetland sheepdog


nutrition and feeding


Your Shetland Sheepdog puppy’s lifespan is between twelve to fifteen years if taken good care of. Here are a few things to remember when caring for your pup.


The high-energy Shetland Sheepdog needs a high protein diet that is full of nutrients in order to grow up and stay healthy. Their ideal weight is determined by touch. If their ribs stick out, they are underfed. If you can’t easily feel their ribs when stroking them, they eat too much. You should be able to feel their ribs without too much effort.

The breed does well on commercial dog food if you make sure it is high-quality and contains all the nutrients and minerals this breed needs. Be careful of cheaper, popular brands. They usually contain fillers that make the dog feel full while supplying none of the vitamins and minerals the breed needs.

Raw feeding, for this breed, as with most other dogs, is the best. It is a diet with many benefits.

The benefits of a raw food diet include the following:

  • Your dog’s oral hygiene is better
  • His stools are smaller and less smelly
  • He has better digestion
  • His coat and skin are healthier with a smaller chance of developing skin problems
  • Less fat and more muscle
  • A stronger immune system
  • Degenerative diseases become less problematic
  • Staves off arthritis and improves the condition in dogs

Although there are many good, high-quality brands of commercial dog food available on the market, a raw, natural diet is usually best. Where possible, if opting for a commercial diet, try including raw food on a regular basis.


Your new puppy will grow very quickly. His food needs to take his growing needs into consideration.

A puppy should eat the same food he had at the breeder. If wanting to change his diet, do so gradually over a period of a few weeks. Their tummies are tender and not able to make sudden changes. A sudden change in diet leads to an upset tummy and possibly vomiting.

If feeding your puppy commercial dog food, make sure it is breed and age appropriate. Food meant for an adult dog does not do well with a puppy. They have different dietary needs.

Feed your puppy according to a schedule. It makes potty training easier. A young puppy needs three to four meals a day. By the time he is six months old, however, two meals a day are fine.

The amount of food your puppy needs depends on his growth and weight. Never do free feeding. Free feeding is where a dog has food available right throughout the day. This encourages over-eating and obesity. Obese dogs tend to develop health issues such as diabetes or heart problems. Keeping his weight under control leads to an active, healthy dog that needs fewer visits to the veterinarian.

Always have a bowl of fresh, clean water at hand.

coat and grooming


Size and Coat

The Shetland Sheepdog The Shetland Sheepdog , due to its size and build, resembles a miniature Collie. They are not Collies, though, but a separate breed entirely.

When measured from the withers to the floor, males and females are similar in size. They stand at 33 cm to 41 cm and weigh in the region of 9kg to 11kg. This is not a large breed of working dog by most standards.

Shetland Sheepdogs have a tapered muzzle and domed head sporting two large, almond shaped eyes. They have a heftier build than Collies. These dogs have a double coat.

They have a relatively long, rich, lush coat. The only dog that has a similar coat coloration is the Collie. Their coats come in hues of black with a merle pattern or sable. They usually have white markings included.

A Shetland Sheepdog that has more than a fifty percent white coat is not up to show dog standards and not acceptable in any show ring. The white markings need to be less than fifty percent of the dog’s coat.


A Shetlands Sheepdog’s grooming needs are not that difficult. You do, however, have to be persistent.

Their double coat consists of a longer guard coat and a shorter undercoat. These pups need brushing about every four to eight weeks to remove the loose undercoat hairs. They need more regular brushing during spring and fall (autumn) when they shed much more.

Bathing your puppy with a good quality dog shampoo is essential. Dogs prone to allergies or skin problems should be bathed with a hypoallergenic shampoo. A conditioner helps keep his coat in great, shining condition.

Adding a paw palm to their paws keeps them soft and free of cracks, especially after running over rough terrain. Nails need regular clipping if your pup leads a more sedentary lifestyle. Working dogs’ nails file down naturally. Owners who do not wish to clip their dog’s nails need to take them to a doggy parlor or veterinarian. The procedure is quick and relatively cheap.

Eyes need checking for signs of infection or something in them. Flush them out with water if anything is seen.

A damp cotton wool ball is great for cleaning ears. Any discharge or discoloration indicates an infection. Take your puppy to the veterinarian as soon as possible to have it checked out.

Remember to take your puppy for his shots at the veterinarian. These are for his protection against disease and to keep him healthy and in great shape.



Exercise, Energy, and Activities

Your Shetland Sheepdog puppy is part of an active dog breed that needs a lot of exercise. Large areas for running are essential. Although adaptable to any condition, they need taking for regular walks and runs if living in an apartment. A house with a moderate sized yard is their ideal home.

Shetland Sheepdogs need mental and physical stimulation. They do best with an owner that can take them along when running. Their high level of intelligence and willingness to please make them easily trainable. They excel in just about any dog sport around. This includes sports such as flyball, agility, obedience, rally, herding, and tracking.

The breed also makes excellent therapy dogs, visiting the elderly or infirm in medical centers. Their gentle and loving temperament make them firm favorites for this kind of job, while their beautiful looks and soft eyes beg a cuddle and attention. They thrive when they have something to do and look forward to.

Leaving them alone for extended periods, whether in the yard or home gets them into trouble. Their tendency towards separation anxiety causes excessive barking and destructive behavior.

Training and Sleep/Rest

The breed is easily trainable because they are intelligent and willing to please. They do best with a reward system. This means giving them a reward when they do something right. Never be harsh with your Shetland Sheepdog puppy. You will end up with a dog that is scared of its own shadow!

One of the first things your puppy needs when you bring him home is socialization with his new family. This means people as well as other pets.

Right there at the top of the list, possibly next to socialization is potty training.

Scheduled potty training is the easiest way of teaching your dog where and when to go do his business. The best times for taking him out is about fifteen minutes after a meal. A puppy’s tummy is small and his digestive process is fast! Other times he needs taking out are first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at 30 minutes to one-hour intervals during the day. The times between going to potty lengthen as he gets older and learns bowel and bladder control.

A puppy needs a lot of sleep. He is a growing baby. Babies grow while sleeping. A puppy sleeps about 19 hours a day and more. Do not worry about it. It is perfectly normal. He will sleep less as he gets older and becomes more active.



Health Issues

Health wise, the Shetland Sheepdog is a healthy breed. No breed is without possible health issues, however. It is important you purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder able to give you the health history of your dog’s parents. This helps you make an informed decision when selecting a puppy.

A few of the health issues most common with the Shetland Sheepdog breed include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Easily managed with medication, hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland is not able to supply the correct amounts of hormones needed.
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • An inherited condition similar to hemophilia in humans. Most dogs with this problem usually live long, healthy lives if treated properly.
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Although mostly inherited, the condition can be caused due to injury. Surgery usually rectifies the problem.
  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA)
  • The condition is inherited. It could lead to blindness. Both eyes are not usually equally affected. Dogs, however, make use of their other senses to compensate for their lack of sight.

The health issues mentioned are the most common health problems in the breed. Very few Shetland Sheepdogs are actually affected.

To Sum Up

A vigorous, healthy, fun loving breed, the Shetland Sheepdog is highly recommended for active families with older children. They learn easily and are very adaptable to any situation. Although they can live in apartments if given enough attention, mental stimulation, and exercise, a home with an enclosed yard is preferable.

Besides their willingness to learn and work, the Shetland Sheepdog excels in different sports while its gentle nature makes it excellent as a therapy dog.

Don’t wait any longer! There are puppies for all!

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