Shetland Sheepdog

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the most successful breeds at obedience trials.


Shetland Sheepdog Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Shetland Sheepdog Conservation Status

Shetland Sheepdog Locations

Shetland Sheepdog Locations

Shetland Sheepdog Facts

Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Pack
Fun Fact
Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the most successful breeds at obedience trials.
Other Name(s)
Gestation Period
63 weeks
Bright, energetic, loyal, affectionate, intelligent, playful
Litter Size
4-6 puppies
  • Pack
Shetland, United Kingdom
Shetland, United Kingdom

Shetland Sheepdog Physical Characteristics

  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
  • Multi-colored
Skin Type
12-14 years
15-25 lbs.
13-16 inches

Shetland Sheepdog as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
15-25 lbs
Female weight
15-25 lbs

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The Shetland Sheepdog is a lovable bundle of energy. This tiny member of the herding group was bred in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland to herd sheep, ponies, and poultry. They bred it to be small due to the spartan conditions of the island and the cost of feeding a larger dog. The stock used to breed the dog is unknown, and the breed is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but there was a reference to the little bundles of fur in the early 19th century.

Vocal, full of energy, and playfulness, this dog is an excellent breed for a family pet, especially if energetic children are around to play with the dog. This dog wants and needs your attention! The Sheltie, as it is affectionately called, is smart and obedient and excels at competitive dog activities, too. This dog learns commands quickly and is fun to train.

Shetland Sheepdog Fun Fact 

Shetland Sheepdogs are one of the most successful breeds at obedience trials.

3 Pros and Cons of Owning Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdogs are incredibly smart. By the time they hear a command five times, they are likely to have learned it.They are very vocal dogs, barking at everything for any reason, and while this makes them good watchdogs, it can be a bit like the boy who cried wolf.
Shelties are obedient dogs. After they learn a command, it has been determined that they obey the first time over 95% of the time!The Shetland Sheepdog is wary of strangers. Again, this can be useful in a watchdog, but it means they take some time to warm up to a visitor.
There are very few dogs around that are as affectionate as the Sheltie. They are known to shadow owners and family members from room to room, always looking to see what you are doing.Their affectionate and herding natures make them prone to separation anxiety. It is not good to leave them alone for long stretches of time.

The Best Dog Food For Shetland Sheepdogs

The Shetland Sheepdog has high energy needs and should have a high protein diet. Dry dog food should have meat as the number one ingredient, and that’s why we at A-Z Animals recommend Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paws Chicken Meal.

Shetland Sheepdog Size and Weight

A Shetland Sheepdog is a small herding dog, with males reaching a height of 13-16 inches at the shoulder and weighing 15-25 pounds. The females are slightly smaller.

Height (Male):13-16 inches
Height (Female):13-16 inches
Weight (Male):15-25 pounds
Weight (Female):15-25 pounds

Shetland Sheepdog Common Health Issues

While the Shetland Sheepdog is a generally healthy dog, there are some issues that a potential owner should check with the breeder about. Dogs may sometimes be at risk for a variety of conditions:

Shelties have been known to suffer from some eye disorders, namely Collie eye anomaly (CEA), which is specific to collies and related dogs, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

CEA is a hereditary disorder. It is present at birth but may not be diagnosed until later. Physical indicators include small, deep-set eyes. There is no cure, but the disease is not progressive and will not worsen over time. This disease can be screened for, as a recently developed DNA test exists.

The other disorder, PRA, is also hereditary. This doesn’t typically show up until the age of 2 years. PRA is progressive. After onset, the end result is total blindness. There is also a DNA test for this disorder.

Dermatomyositis is a rare genetic disorder that sometimes affects Shelties at around 4-6 months of age. It initially shows as hair loss on the top of the head, around the eyes, along the forearms, and at the tip of the tail. If it progresses without treatment, it can result in fatal damage to the nervous system. Although it is a genetic disorder, there is currently no test, only an extensive analysis of bloodlines.

Another potential hazard is Von Willebrand disease. This is a bleeding disorder for which a DNA test is available.

Shelties are also prone to a certain type of bladder cancer and hip dysplasia.

Shetland Sheepdog Temperament

The Shetland Sheepdog is known for its energetic, lovable, happy-go-lucky personality. Its herding traits give it a lot of energy and a personality that just wants to please its master. It wants to be with its owner all of the time and can be like a “shadow” going from task to task. It’s usually on its best behavior unless it is ignored or bored, and it is great with kids.

How To Take Care of Shetland Sheepdog 

why do dogs howl

Shetland Sheepdog sitting and howling.

Shetland Sheepdog Maintenance And Grooming 

The Sheltie has a long, double coat of hair. This coat serves two functions: it is water-repellant, and it can regulate the dog’s body temperature. This long coat sheds all of the time, in clumps, mostly, and should be brushed regularly but not shaved. Check for mats of fur behind the ears, elbows, and hindquarters below the tail. Only bathe this dog occasionally.

Besides coat care, check the dog’s ears for buildup, brush its teeth, and clip its nails regularly.

Shetland Sheepdog Training 

Begin training and socialization early with the puppies. The Sheltie loves learning new tasks, and a consistent and organized training regimen will help get the dog acclimated and keep it mentally challenged. These dogs love agility training and excel at it. They are very quick to learn and will do well with short, positive training sessions. They really love to bark, and spending the time to train them to stop barking on command is well worth it.

Shetland Sheepdog Exercise 

They are high-energy dogs and benefit from a lot of activity and playtime. Just including them in daily activities can sometimes be enough to meet these energy needs. They also love to be engaged in doggy sports, which provides an effective outlet.

Shetland Sheepdog Puppies 

The puppy stage is a good time to screen for certain genetic disorders. It is also an excellent time to housebreak, obedience train, and socialize your Sheltie. Puppy Kindergarten is an excellent way to work on some of those social skills.

Shetland Sheepdog And Children

Shetland Sheepdogs are excellent with children. They are gentle and can play for hours, using their energy and the kids’. They are not aggressive and bond very closely with their children.

Dogs Similar to Shetland Sheepdog

Australian Shepherd: A somewhat larger herding dog than the Shetland Sheepdog, the Australian Shepherd is also fun-loving and affectionate.

Border Collie: The Border Collie is an excellent herder and is one of the few dogs that can boast a higher intelligence than the Sheltie.

Collie: This sweet and loyal dog comes from the same part of the world as the Sheltie and may even be a part of its ancestry. The Collie is great with kids and also very intelligent.

Famous Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog has made a few television and movie appearances:

  • Mickey’s Farm, a Canadian children’s show, follows the adventures of Mickey, a Shetland Sheepdog.
  • A Sheltie named Forrest plays Lady in the 2011 movie Kill the Irishman.
  • Finally, in the Lethal Weapon television series, the character “Riggs” owns a Shetland Sheepdog named Sam.

Popular Names for Shetland Sheepdog

  • Finley
  • Rocky
  • Sam
  • Mickey
  • Misty
  • Sadie
  • Sandy
  • Ruby

Related Animals

Two other animals you can find in Shetland are:

View all 306 animals that start with S

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

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How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
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About the Author

Rob Amend is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily covering meteorology, geology, geography, and animal oddities. He attained a Master's Degree in Library Science in 2000 and served as reference librarian in an urban public library for 22 years. Rob lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and enjoys spending time with his family, hiking, photography, woodworking, listening to classic rock, and watching classic films—his favorite animal is a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey.

Shetland Sheepdog FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Shetland Sheepdogs good house dogs?

Shetland Sheepdogs are very trainable and affectionate with the family, making excellent house dogs.

Do Shelties bark a lot?

Shelties are very vocal.

Are Shetland Sheepdogs easy to train?

Among the most intelligent dog breeds, Shelties are very easy to train.

Is a Shetland Sheepdog the same as a Collie?

The Shetland Sheepdog is not the same as a Collie.

Do Shetland Sheepdogs shed?

Shetland Sheepdogs shed quite a bit.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


  1. Animal Kennel Club / Accessed October 18, 2022
  2. Animal Kennel Club / Accessed October 18, 2022
  3. Wikipedia / Accessed October 18, 2022
  4. American Shetland Sheepdog Association / Accessed October 18, 2022
  5. Dog Pregnancy Calendar / Accessed October 18, 2022
  6. Wag! / Accessed October 18, 2022
  7. Pet Educate / Pete / Published September 2, 2020 / Accessed October 18, 2022
  8. Sheltie Planet / Becky Casale / Accessed October 18, 2022