A small/medium-sized, graceful and dainty dog, the Shetland Sheepdog has an attractive, long coat with a profuse mane around the neck and chest, and abundant feathering (longer hair) on the legs and tail. The coat comes in several colours, patterns and combinations – see the breed standard for details. Adult males stand at approximately 37cm and females at 35.5cm. The weight of a fully grown Sheltie ranges from 6-12kg.
Taking its name after the Shetland Isles off the north-east coast of Scotland, where he developed as a breed, the Shetland Sheepdog breed (or 'Sheltie') worked as a sheepdog in sometimes very demanding conditions. Originally thought to be a mixture of many types of dog, including a Spitz-type and a Scottish Sheepdog, a small Rough Collie was introduced to the mix by a native Shetlander called James Loggie to produce the modern Sheltie. Mr Loggie went on to become the first secretary of a Shetland breed club in 1908.
The Sheltie may look glamorous and graceful, but he is also a strong, active working breed with oodles of energy. Utterly devoted to his owner, he can be standoffish with those he doesn't know. A Shetland Sheepdog is ever alert and will feel the need to tell you if anything catches his attention; this could be a problem if you have near neighbours and/or you are unable to control his vocal tendencies.
As with many breeds, the Shetland Sheepdog can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
A minimum of an hour's exercise is needed daily, though the energetic Shetland Sheepdog will happily take more. As well as walking with his owner, this dog enjoys training and has done well in many of the canine sports, including agility, obedience and flyball.
Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.
The Shetland Sheepdog is a fairly high-maintenance coat, with a long, straight top coat and a short, fluffy, thick undercoat. Daily attention will stop the task of grooming becoming too onerous – ensuring that you remove tangles promptly before they become a problem.