Its origin lies in the Shetland Islands, which lie north of Scotland and to which it also owes its name. The breed standard for the Shetland sheepdog is very precise in terms of size and stipulates an ideal height of 37 cm for males, while the bitches should be 35.5 cm tall if possible.
Sheltie’s Character, Upbringing, and Attitude
The physical resemblance of the Sheltie to a Rough Collie is striking. A smaller image of the larger relative? no The Shetland Sheepdog, as the breed with the standard number 88 is officially called, is unique in character and charming expression.
The supposed miniature version cuts a good figure in the barren and rough homeland of the ancestors. The Shetland Islands in the North Atlantic off Scotland, originally belonging to Norway, require and shape a frugal and powerful type of working dog.
Like the Shetland pony and the island’s sheep, it is of comparatively small size. The shelties measure between 33 and 39 centimeters at the shoulder. The four-legged friends, who weigh a good five to nine kilograms, need food that corresponds to their growth and keeps feed costs low.
Border collies and immigrant Greenland dogs from whalers form the core of the Sheltie ancestors. Crossbreeds, among others, from King Charles Spaniel, the Spitz, and the Rough Coated Collie are attributed to the breed. The fast and agile herding dogs keep flocks of sheep together and prevent them from tackling the crops. They work on pony and cattle herds. The tough working dogs are also welcome as court guards.
The Kennel Club formally recognizes the Shetland Sheepdog breed in 1914. Well before the start of demand in Germany, in the middle of the 20th century, pedigree dogs have valued pets in England and America.
When, in the 16th century, fishing boats and whalers regularly traded in the Shetland Islands, they brought with them black and tan King Charles spaniels, “yaki” dogs from Greenland or Iceland, and also spitz herding dogs from the Scandinavian countries. Since all dogs were allowed to move freely on the islands during the short port stay, encounters and crossbreeding with the native dogs of the islanders naturally took place.
The Shetland Sheepdog is related to the other Collies either directly or through common ancestors. The descendants of these “seafarers” with the native island dogs proved to be extremely willing to work and lively, so they were initially called “Toonie” – dogs.
The word ‘toon’ means ‘town’ and ‘tun’ was the Norwegian term for a farm, suggesting that these dogs proved to be excellent working dogs both in town and on the farm. The Shetland Islands are quite barren and full of rocks. The climate there is harsh, rainy, and cool and there wasn’t very much suitable land for farming and animal husbandry. So the islanders raised animals that didn’t need very much food to survive.
Breeding goals such as intelligence and docility always rank before appearance – except for a size that is adapted to the task and the possibilities of the owner. And yet it is its appearance that makes the Sheltie stand out at first glance.
Their small horses, sheep, and cattle are now world-famous and were looked after by the also quite small shepherd dogs. In addition, the Shetland sheepdog had to guard the house and yard, protect fields and gardens from voracious sheep and keep rats and mice short.
The lush coat shows a pronounced mane and long hair on the neck. It defies the weather and is as easy to care for as it is attractive. The long and abundant topcoat hardly picks up dirt. The predominant coat colors are brown-grey, tricolor, or blue-marbled, but also black-and-white and black with tan markings. Keeping the long coat as attractive as possible requires a regular grooming schedule that includes weekly and very thorough brushing.
Irregular combing and brushing are sufficient to care measures, apart from changing the coat twice a year when the undercoat falls off. The undercoat is soft, very dense, and adequately protects against the cold. The sheltie’s armpits, dog’s ears, and pants deserve some attention. Particularly thorough combing prevents the fur from matting in these areas.
The attentive guard reports unmistakably events that he considers potential dangers. So that the bred warning does not become a permanent warning bark and the norm, the dog owner has to show the intelligent animal that less is more.
The Sheltie learns quickly and with great willingness to do so. It adapts to people’s living environment without hesitation. Regardless of its age or lifestyle, the dog seeks contact. Cleverly and happily he accepts the given tasks. They are mandatory, the bundle of energy in the house only stays satisfied and relaxed when it is busy and challenged.
The Sheltie wants to be useful, romp and run. However, today flocks of sheep to tend will remain the exception. Modern everyday life creates an adequate balance by being used as a therapy and rescue dog. The little companion can prove itself in dog sports. Here he waits for orders and wants to show what he’s made of.
Whether agility, obedience, dog dancing, or flyball, he shows his agility with spirit. Joggers, cyclists, and riders who are accompanied by their four-legged friends appreciate the low hunting instinct and the endurance of the breed. Children don’t want to be without their patient, unforgiving and persistent playmates.