Text & Graphics by Nanna Holt Kjaer (February 2003)
Shetland Sheepdogs, Shelties for short, are
a small herding breed from the
Shetland Islands. Like most herding breeds
they are fast in both body and mind.
Shelties are easy to train and eager
to please which makes them ideal for
obedience, agility and other performance
If you are thinking about adding a Sheltie to
your family, first be sure to
check that they really are the breed for
you. 'Cause once you go see those
adorable pups, you'll need an iron will
to leave without taking one home.
The Shetland Sheepdog resembles the Rough Collie,
except they are smaller.
Close examination of the two breeds, however,
does show quite a few differences
both in appearance and in temperament. And they are two seperately recognised
The official breed standard states what a Sheltie
should look like.
The English Shetland Sheepdog Club
description with graphic illustrations and photos.
The Danish Shetland Sheepdog Club
offers a Danish translation with colour photos.
Shelties can vary quite a lot when it comes to
size; it is not uncommon to see
Shelties both well over and under the size
range specified by the standard.
There is also a considerable difference between
the American and the English
type, and the American Kennel Club has set
up its own breed standard. The
American type tends to be heavier in bone
and head than the English.
See the American standard with link to a video clip of the Sheltie.
Shelties are very affectionate to their loved
and trusted ones. If they could
choose, I think they would go everywhere
with their people and be with them
every minute of their lives. Luckily
it is to a large extent possible to take
your Sheltie with you a lot of
the time, because Shelties are small, sweet and
biddable. They rarely make
a nuisance of themselves.
Their one problem tendency is their love of barking!
(Especially if you have a
whole group - that's my excuse, anyway).
It seems as natural to them as breathing:
or perhaps more accurately:
Some Shelties can be wary of strangers. So if you want
a dog that will happily
bound up to people you meet in the street and leap
onto your visitors' lap to
be petted, then this might not be the breed
for you. Some Shelties love all people though, so you can find all sorts.
Shelties are usually quite sensitive dogs. They react
strongly to the owner's mood and
emotions. This sensitivity also means
that Shelties can get upset if you shout,
cry or argue. If however, you have a good bond of trust with your Sheltie, this sensitivity means that your Sheltie will seek to comfort you when you are upset..
See the best description of
I have ever read. This is an absolute must-read for Sheltie
Shelties (and most other dogs too, I imagine)
need to know you love them. It is
only too easy to break a Sheltie's spirit
by being harsh. The key to making
your Sheltie the happy, confident and
loving pet, that it is in his nature to
be, is to use training methods
based on motivation in the form of play, food
and having fun with you,
his or her favourite person.
are charming, gay, happy little people. Their big desire in life is
please you, and very quickly they will adapt themselves to your mood. Be
a day when you are alive and bright and ready for anything, so too will
Sheltie. If you are feeling a little less alert and happy your
dog will fit
into your moods - their one desire, as I have said, being
Osborne (Shiel): The Shetland Sheepdog, 1977
Karin Olsson has written a wonderful article about working with the Shetland
Many people I meet think that I groom my Shelties
every day. This is nowhere
near the case. Normally, grooming is done every
two weeks, but then it is also very thorough. Only during shedding
periods do they get a daily once-over.
I always moisten the coat with a water
spray before grooming, because I think it is beneficiary, and in any case, it
helps prevent loose hairs flying all over the place.
One thing I do pay a lot of attention to, is
their feet. I cut their nails and
the hair between the toes every week.
It is imperative that you do not allow
your Sheltie to walk around on long
nails. Long nails cause the dog's legs to
over-flex and this puts a lot of strain
on the joints. Too much hair between
the toes gives splayed feet and thus
ruins the dog's natural shock absorption.
I think that compared to their size, Shelties
are too light to wear down the
nails on their own. So if you want to keep
your Sheltie in peak condition into
old age, don't ever neglect his feet.
How much they wear down the nails on their own depends very much on the
surfaces they are exercised on. My dogs walk and run mostly in woods, on gravel
paths and on grass.
love at first sight - my affair with the Shetland Sheepdog started
ago, when I was a child.... The Sheltie
to me has everything - he is the right size, big enough to be hardy
enjoy country walks, but small enough to be tucked under your arm in
emergency - and certainly small enough to sit on your lap.
Norman (Francehill): The Complete Shetland Sheepdog, 1998
My Shelties get at least 2 hours worth of walking every day. Daily walking is essential for having a satisfied dog that is easy to live with.
Because I have a whole group they can provide
a lot of additional exercise themselves by
playing in the 1800 m2 garden. The play
chase with quick swerves and changes of
direction really builds up muscle
I also spread/hide small pieces of food in the
garden and house for them to
find. Something that exercises the mind.
And then of course there are sessions of learning
or maintaining obedience and
!!!!!! See also my article about keeping your sheltie fit!!!!!
My dogs are fed a raw food diet, called BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food
or Bones And Raw Food). I have been feeding this way since February 1999. The
idea is to try and imitate a diet of prey, so the main ingredient is RAW meaty
bones with a sideline of vegetables, entrails, fish, yoghurt, cottage cheese
The internet is full of information about this diet. Just do a search on BARF.
My feeding regime is based on two books by Australian vet Ian Billinghurst:
Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs
Grow Your Pups with Bones: BARF Programme for Breeding Healthy Dogs and Eliminating Skeletal Disease
(You can click on the book titles to go directly to Amazon and buy these.)
Other BARF books I feel comfortable mentioning are:
The Barf Diet: For Cats and Dogs
, Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones
and Raw Meaty Bones: Promote Health (P)
The first one is a new one by Billinghurst. The second two are by another veterinarian who also recommends feeding your dog a raw diet based on meaty bones.
I fed a kibble diet for years prior to BARF, so I also have a couple of
pointers about dry dog food. ONE: Shelties rarely need the amounts stated on
the food packaging. Shelties can easily become too fat, which is definitely not
healthy for them. Ribs should be easy to feel when you brush your hand along
the dog's sides.
The low food intake also means low vitamin intake, so I would recommend
supplementing with vitamins, especially vitamin C and powdered Kelp.
The quotations on this page are from breed books written by famous English
Some of these can be found in my Amazon bookshop.
Prices are no different than normal; I just get a small referral fee from Amazon.