Shetland Sheepdogs are a beautiful breed. One that has an elegant look, but is as playful as a child. It is a very intelligent and alert dog. Always loyal to the owner, always there for a snuggle and a smile. I’ve owned three of them; each with a distinct personality.
As far as history records show, Shelties originated from the Shetland Islands, which are to the north of Scotland. These islands tend to produce smaller than average living things, because of the limited food and the difficulty of the climate. The first people known to live on the islands were small and dark, known as the Picts. This race is where the fables and fairytales of pixies or fairies comes from.
As far as the Shetland Sheepdog goes, it is believed to be a mixture of other breeds. Collies are a distantly related ancestor, which most Shelties look like. But other breeds were brought to the island that helped in creating the smaller dog. This mixture includes the Greenland Yakki dogs and the King Charles Spaniel. The traits from these dogs can still be seen in Shelties today. For example, the thick coat of the Collie, the wavy coat of the Spaniel, and the tail that curls over the back from the Yakki. No matter what all was bred into them, the purpose was to create a small dog that was excellent at herding and protecting livestock.
Shelties have a fantastic personality. They are eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. It’s never necessary to harshly discipline them. This breed is so sensitive that if you are harsh towards them, they will go cower in a corner. This isn’t something you want to happen.
The breed is very tuned in to it’s owner’s emotions and well being. When I lost another dog to old age, if I hadn’t have had my Cassie, I’m not sure I would have pulled through. As I grieved this loss, Cassie quietly laid beside me, keeping her head on my chest. She too, was grieving the loss, but tried her best to be there for me. I’ll never forget the look of love and understanding in her eyes.
When it comes to strangers, the Sheltie is not aggressive, but will be aloof. It does not seek attention or affection from people it doesn’t know. We have never worried about our Shelties biting anyone because when people come into the house, the dogs go find a place to hide. If it’s someone they know, though, they are more than happy to greet them at the door.
Shelties are versatile, too. They can happily live inside or outside. What is important is making sure that you play and socialize with your dog. They want to be a big part of the family. Our youngest, Denver, is never to be left out. He is always at my side reminding me that he needs his daily cuddle time. At first, he may appear hyper; wiggling his body all around, but the minute I start to pet him, he calms down. If my hand stops moving, he picks it up with his muzzle telling me he isn’t finished yet! He can be very demanding and bossy at times, but that’s part of his charm.
On the other hand, Aspen wasn’t like that. We lost him in June of 2014, at the age of 12. His entire life, Aspen preferred to be at my feet. He was never demanding or bossy about anything. He was always glad to see us after we’d been gone for the day. He never strayed far from my side. Although, he didn’t really like our son, but I think that is because Aspen came first. In a way, he may have been jealous of the baby. He tolerated him, but I could always tell Aspen preferred adults. Losing him has been very hard on the family. He was such a quiet presence; one that we miss dearly.
Shelties can live 10 to 15 years, although 12 or 13 is more common. They do require a lot more up-keep than other breeds. Brushing is necessary at least a couple times a week, if not more. The thick undercoat particularly needs detangling. It is also necessary to trim the coat to help cut down on tangles and messes. As with any dog, you’ll want to keep those toenails cut, also. Feeding isn’t a problem; they don’t eat more than 1 to 2 cups of food a day. Depending on the dog, that may even be too much. When it comes to bathing, one to two times a month is all that is needed. Mine tend to have dry skin, so I also use a moisturizer for that.
Overall, I would say this is one of the most beautiful breeds. They come in different colors, too. Sable (brown) and white are the most common, but they can also be tricolor. This means they are black with tan points and white markings. Blue merle is a color I find to be breath-taking! It’s almost a true blue color, with black, white and grey scattered throughout the coat. And finally, you can find them in a black or blue bicolor without the tan coloring.
No matter what the color is, the spirit is usually the same: ready to please! It’s a very loving, affectionate dog and fits in well with all types of families. They can still be used as a herding/working dog, but most people just keep them as companions. So if you’re looking for that special dog, you might want to check out the Shetland Sheepdog. I can tell you this: I absolutely love mine!