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Shetland sheepdog close up

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Herding group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 13-16 inches
  • Weight — 15-25 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Long & flowing double-coat
  • Coat color — Several shades, including blue merle, bi-blue, bi-black, black, and sable.  The coat may have patches of white fur. Puppies are typically lighter and grow into their color.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Very vocal
  • Life span — 12-15 years
  • Temperament — Agreeable, social, family-oriented
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Scotland

Shetland sheepdog fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Shetland Sheepdogs Charlie; Oliver is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Shetland Sheepdogs love Bella, then Sadie.

  • Also called Shelties and Toonies, Shetland sheepdogs are intelligent herders with a lot of energy. They do well at dog sports and flyball—activities that let them exercise their minds and bodies.
  • Shelties are excellent service dogs and therapy dogs because of their intelligence and trainability.
  • Because Shelties can be so vocal with a loud and piercing bark, training your Sheltie to stop barking on command is important.
  • Shelties with a merle coat often have either two blue eyes, or a blue and amber or brown eye.
Three Shetland sheepdogs

Shetland sheepdog temperament and characteristics 

A loyal and gentle companion, Shelties are typically a great family dog. Like any other dog or breed, there is a range of Sheltie traits and personalities, but generally, they are happiest and healthiest when they are with their people because they love the companionship. As a matter of fact, Shelties that are left alone for long periods may experience separation anxiety.

While a Shetland sheepdog might be ideal for the family, many Shelties can be reserved with strangers. They aren’t overly aggressive, but they will be sure to alert their family to the presence of a stranger. It’s important to allow your Sheltie time to adjust to new people or dogs and not leave them unattended until you can be sure your Shetland sheepdog is comfortable.


The Shetland Sheepdog is a medium-sized breed with a beautiful double coat. The coat comprises a short, thick undercoat and a longer outer coat that is straight or slightly wavy. According to the AKC breed standards, their gorgeous coats come in many colors, including black, blue merle, and sable (ranging from golden through mahogany). The coat may be marked with varying amounts of white or tan. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, the common coat color for the Shetland Sheepdog is (27%) black.

Common Shetland sheepdog health problems

Overall, Shelties are a healthy breed that don’t experience many health problems. This depends on breeding and environmental factors, but the right puppy should be relatively healthy well into adulthood. Here are four potential health problems for Shelties.

  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) . This inherited condition impacts some dogs and can cause visual problems. It’s typically diagnosed by two years old—your vet can help identify CEA early so that you can be prepared and proactive in treating this common Sheltie condition. Dr. Bruce Armstrong, DVM says “Board certified veterinary ophthalmologists can perform CERF certification or OFA certification on Shelties when they are young.”
  • Hip dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when the thigh and hip bones don’t fit together correctly. It’s common with bigger dogs and doesn’t always show clinical signs.
  • von Willebrand’s disease (vWD). An inherited bleeding disorder , vWD interferes with the ability to form clots needed to stop bleeding from a wound.
  • Hypothyroidism. This metabolic disease is often marked by extra weight, lethargy, and changes in the skin and coat.

👉 Looking for a supplement for hip dysplasia? Explore our vet recommendations!

Cost of caring for Shetland sheepdogs

The costs of a healthy Sheltie can range from less than $30 to over $120 a month, depending on numerous factors. Smaller Shelties that get groomed at home and require smaller food portions cost less when compared to larger Shelties. Additionally, costs can go up for Shetland sheepdogs that have health problems.

One of the best ways to ensure you pay less is by investing in pet health insurance. This can help reduce your out-of-pocket costs when or if your Sheltie develops any health problems common to the breed. Because many insurances work by reimbursing your vet visit post-appointment, developing a pet-friendly budget and creating a pet savings account is a good idea, too.

Shetland sheepdog in leaves.

History of the Shetland sheepdog

Like some other smaller breeds of popular animals, like the Shetland pony or Shetland sheep, Shetland sheepdogs come from Scotland’s Shetland Islands. This island chain is just south of the Arctic Circle. Shelties were bred with collies for herding and protecting sheep on farms.

Shelties found their way across the United Kingdom and England in the 1800s, and were a source of controversy between breeders and the Kennel Club. Eventually, clubs in Scotland and England agreed that a Sheltie should look like a miniature collie. In 1909 and 1911, Shetland sheepdogs were recognized by England’s Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club, respectively.

Today, Shelties are very popular in the United States. Ironically, they are rare in the Shetland Islands, but collies are common.

Caring for your Shetland sheepdog

Caring for a new puppy can be overwhelming. Unless you have paperwork from the rescue or breeder, you’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule vaccinations. We can help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And, while it’s never fun to think about your dog getting lost, it’s best to be prepared—FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag to help keep track of your pet.


While Shelties do fine indoors and can be laid back, they were bred to be a working dog despite their smaller size. It’s important to dedicate time every day to provide plenty of exercise for your Sheltie.

Training and exercise go hand in hand with Shelties. But, for pure exercise, a walk around the block, fetch, or a game of chase is a great way to bond with your dog and also let them get the exercise they need to prevent destructive behavior due to boredom and pent-up energy.

Lastly, Shelties are from a colder climate. While how your Sheltie will do during a hot summer depends on the individual dog, it’s best to keep an eye on them to ensure that your Sheltie isn’t overheating.

Shetland sheepdog on a walk


It cannot be overstated that Shelties shed—a lot. Their thick double coat has long, straight, harsher hair on top with a fluffier and denser undercoat. Owners should be prepared to give their Shetland sheepdog a good brushing at minimum once a week, and several times a week during shedding season. It’s important to routinely check behind the ears, front elbows, and hindquarters for matted fur.

In addition to brushing your Sheltie’s long beautiful hair, you’ll want to routinely trim their nails. And, as you check for matted fur, it’s a good time to see if they need an ear cleaning as well. Lastly, plan on routine teeth brushing as part of your dog’s ongoing dental health.

Diet and nutrition

Like any other dog breed, Shelties do best on high-quality commercial dog food. Choose a dog food designed for medium-sized dogs and follow your vet’s guidance on nutrition and portions. Generally, a Sheltie will eat 3/4 to 2 cups of dog food daily, divided into two servings.

Two popular trends today are grain-free diets and homemade dog foods. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Grain-free isn’t better. Scientifically, grain-free dog food doesn’t benefit your dog any more than a diet with grains as an ingredient. Unless your dog has a grain allergy, it’s fine to feed them food with grain as an ingredient.
  • Homemade diets aren’t cheaper. Homemade dog food appeals to pet parents who want to save money and avoid additives. But, it’s comparable in cost, takes a lot of time to prepare and store, and doesn’t always provide the same nutritional benefits as high-quality, store bought dog food.

Training your Shetland sheepdog

As a highly intelligent working breed, Shelties do well with training. They enjoy pleasing their owners and can pick up new tricks quickly, particularly when treats are used. Explore our expert dog training tips for some tricks on training your pup. Your treat will be a well-mannered Sheltie!

👉 Shelties are very sensitive, so avoid harsh reprimands.

Because they are so intelligent, Shelties do well with agility courses. Consider setting up in your backyard or apartment to engage both their mind and body. You can also find agility courses and professional trainers near you.

Shetland sheepdog on a swing

Breeds similar to the Shetland sheepdog

Not quite sure that a Shetland sheepdog is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Border collie. Shelties are more or less smaller versions of Border collies. So, if you’d like a bigger dog with the look and personality of a Sheltie, consider a Border collie.
  • Bergamasco sheepdog. Like Shelties, this dog is a herding breed and extremely good with families. Unlike Shelties, though, they require very little grooming once they reach adulthood.
  • Papillon. For those that like a Sheltie’s coat and coloring but want something smaller, a Papillon is a great option.

Frequently asked questions

Do Shelties bark a lot?

When appropriately trained, no. Shelties make excellent guard dogs because they will alert their family to the presence of a stranger, but if they aren’t trained correctly, they can be very vocal and persistent with their barking.

Are Shetland sheepdogs high maintenance?

Shetland sheepdogs, or Shelties, are a perfect balance of low and high maintenance. They don’t require strenuous, intense exercise but need attentive grooming due to their double coat. Because of this, they do well with families that have time but not free access to a lot of space.

Is a Shetland sheepdog the same as a Collie?

No, although Border collies were used when the breed was first developed. Scottish farmers bred collies with smaller dogs to create an efficient herding dog for their sheep. The result was a breed that looked and behaved very similar to a Border collie, but is more compact in stature.

Is a Shetland sheepdog a good first dog?

Whether or not a Sheltie is a good first dog depends entirely on the person and situation. Shelties are great for those with time for grooming and are looking for an inside dog. For those that need a dog that can keep up on a hiking trail and don’t want to spend too much time with a brush and clippers, though, Shelties aren’t the best option.