Personality: A friendly, affectionate, intelligent and alert breed, the Sheltie craves attention from family and shines when being included in the home.
Suitable for: People who will include their dog in family outings and don’t mind a weekly grooming session.
Favourite activities: Playing ball in the backyard, lounging in front of the TV or going for a walk. Whatever you are doing they want to do too!
Watchdog qualities: Shelties will look after their people and property, often warning strangers with a confident bark.
Backyard requirements: As long as Shelties are given daily exercise and attention they do not need a large backyard.
The Shetland Sheepdog originated in the 1700s from the Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland. Dubbed the Dwarf Scotch Shepherd and later the Shetland Collie, the breed is actually a miniature version of the large working sheepdogs of Scotland and was re-named in 1908 when the Shetland Sheepdog Club was formed in Lerwick. Shetland Sheepdogs stand approximately 14 to 15 inches at the shoulder. These days the Sheltie is rarely used as a working dog but retains many of its guarding and herding instincts.
They make an excellent companion, states Christine Hatzikiriakos, President of the Shetland Sheepdog Club of NSW Inc and fan of the breed for more than 22 years. They are very versatile and wonderful with all ages, but their dream is to jump up on the couch with you, she laughs.
An alert, gentle and intelligent dog, the Sheltie is very tolerant with young children (howe’ver like all breeds, needs to be supervised) and enjoys running around playing ball in the backyard, going for walks or lazing around in front of the TV. Basically whatever you are doing they want to be a part of, too. They are happy-go-lucky dogs, says Christine, very loving, eager to please and easygoing.
Due to their ancestors working life, Shelties also make great little watchdogs and will alert their family to strangers on the property. Christina says they are not aggressive but will stand back and bark if threatened. They are protective of their family so you must take notice when they are making noise, she stresses.
Julie Kaden, Secretary of the Collie and Shetland Sheepdog Club in Tasmania, agrees they are an excellent watchdog and do not miss much at all. They are always vigilant and will instantly alert you to anything unusual, she says. Julie has been breeding the Sheltie for some 15 years and says the perfect person for the breed is someone who has the time to spend with their dog. They have great personalities, they have their own little quirks and are real characters. I have never had two the same, she says with a smile. They are also affectionate and highly intelligent but I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your puppy socialised through puppy classes, obedience and generally getting out and about. If you do this you will have a lovely civilised dog to take walking with you.
Part of the family
Shelties shine when they feel like they belong and love getting their own gifts. Our Shelties really enjoy Christmas as they all get their own present. One of our dogs (who is no longer with us) used to know which one was his, even when we hid it, Julie recalls. He would always find the right present under the tree and would then sit and guard it so the other dogs wouldn’t go near it!
Christine has many fond memories of her dogs and says that whenever she shows them the ribbon they have just won in the ring, they grab it and walk out with the ribbon firmly in their mouth. I think they are little show offs, she laughs.
This confidence and eagerness to please means the breed does wonderfully, not only at showing, but also with other dog sports. They perform well at basic training, such as sit and stand, but they are also very easy to train for obedience and agility, says Christine.
Shelties are not just beautiful; they have brains and its just amazing to watch agility as its such a nice interaction between a person and a dog.
Due to their thick coat, Shelties require a guardian who doesn’t mind spending time grooming their dogs. They malt twice a year and this takes quite a bit of grooming, but a good bath will help to get most of the loose fur out, says Julie.
Otherwise a brush once a week, and a comb through their feathering on ears and legs, will keep them looking beautiful and knot-free.
A generally healthy and hardy breed, the Sheltie is prone to hereditary problems and care must be taken to choose a registered breeder who has taken the necessary precautions.
There are hereditary diseases in the breed such as hip dysplasia and collie eye, says Julie, so when buying a puppy always check the breeder has screened their stock, has hip scored the paren’ts and tested the pups eyes at eight weeks.
Daily: Shetland Sheepdogs love daily attention, affection and exercise. Always provide a balanced diet including fresh meat and vegetables, good-quality commercial dog biscuits, raw bones such as chicken necks/wings, and cool water.
Weekly: Their coat will need a weekly brush. They shed twice a year and at this time will need a daily groom.
Monthly: Heartworm and flea treatments. Ear cleaning and nail trimming.
Regular: Free from doggy odour, Shelties only need occasional baths but will need a bath when shedding to loosen the fur.
Hereditary diseases: Hip and eye problems speak to your vet or breeder if you would like to learn more.
Australian and NZ breed clubs and canine control councils
* Please visit the Australian National Kennel Council website www.ankc.aust.com for the phone number, website and email address of the canine control council or breed club in your state.
* For Shetland Sheepdog clubs in New Zealand please visit the New Zealand Kennel Club website on www.nzkc.org.nz
Want to know more about hereditary problems in dog breeds? Check out www.vetsci.usyd.edu/lida for a comprehensive easy to read explanations on hereditary problems for all breeds.