Shetland Sheepdogs (“Shelties”) were originally bred by crossing the Border Collie and other Shetland collies, including the Rough Collie, with breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the Pomeranian, the now-extinct Greenland Yakki, and quite possibly others besides. In the 1700s, Shelties were working dogs, mainly aiding farmers by herding sheep and acting as guard dogs. They were eventually introduced to mainland Europe, and by the 20th century they’d come to be considered great family companions.
One Smart Cookie
Hard-working and eager to please, the Sheltie is ranked sixth in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs—sharper than over a hundred other breeds. Coren claims that, on average, a Sheltie can learn a new command in under five repetitions and will obey a command on the first try 95% of the time.
Too Happy to Herd
One of the Sheltie’s most charming habits? The breed is hard-wired to herd. They’ll try to corral humans, other animals, and even cars, so be sure to keep a close eye on them out in the open—never let them run freely near busy streets or roadways.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Shelties absolutely adore their human families. Loyal and protective, they’re excellent with small children. A Sheltie’s defensive instincts make him wary of strangers—he is a guard dog, after all—and he’ll speak up to let you know when new people enter your home. If you’re on the receiving end of a little more protection than you need, don’t worry: your brilliant pup can easily be trained away from this type of behavior in no time.
Work it Out
Shelties are active and inquisitive, and they’ll look to you for daily stimulation to release all that pent-up energy. At least one substantial walk or jog each day, plus a yard to roam, will keep them happy. If you don’t have a backyard, a vigorous game of fetch at the local park should do the trick.
These handsome fellas love to look good. Their long coats should be brushed out daily with a little water to deter dust and prevent matting; an occasional bath is also a good idea. Note that the breed tends to shed heavily each spring and fall—but other than these seasonal sloughs, Shelties are actually rather average shedders in spite of their lush locks.
From a natural farmhand to one of today’s favorite family pets, the clever Sheltie has come a long way!