Canine Breed Spotlight: Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

A look at the Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie)

Dog breed group: Herding/working

Average life span: 12-13 years



This breed was originally known as the “Shetland Collie” but the Rough Collie breeders did not like this name, so the name was changed to the Shetland Sheepdog. This breed is commonly known as the Sheltie. This breed originated in the Shetland Islands (between Scotland and Norway), these islands are also home to other small breeds of animals, such as Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep.  Even though this breed originated in the Shetland Islands, nowadays they are fairly uncommon there. This breed did not originate by selective breeding of small Rough Collies until a miniature version was established. The Sheltie was bred by crossing Border Collies and Rough Collies with smaller Spitz-type dogs and possibly Spaniels and Pomeranians.


Shelties are known for their soft, sweet, polite temperament. They usually get along well with other people and animals. They tend to be quiet and reserved, but this trait can sometimes make them a bit timid around strangers. Socialization is important with this breed so that they don’t become too timid or shy or get separation anxiety. They are very loyal to their owners.



  • They can be neurotic and high strung if not properly socialized. They also can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone too often.
  • They can be loud barkers and like to chase everything that moves. This is due to their instinctive herding behaviors.
  • They require frequent grooming. They shed a lot and need their fur brushed to keep their coat smooth and shiny.

Health concerns

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs have varying incidences of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Here are some health concerns that more commonly affect the Shetland Sheepdog.

Hypothyroidism can be a health concern in this breed. It is a hormonal disorder in dogs in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.

Bladder cancer caused by a transitional cell carcinoma occurs more often in Shelties than in most other breeds.  Transitional cell carcinomas an are aggressive and malignant type of cancer.

Multi Drug Resistance 1 (MDR-1) is a gene mutation that can be found in herding breeds. This mutation makes them sensitive to certain drugs at dosages that are normally safe. Dogs that carry a double mutation are more sensitive than those that carry a single mutation. If dogs carrying this mutation are given certain medications it can result in severe neurological reactions, including tremors, disorientation and blindness and it may also be fatal. Testing is available to see if your Sheltie is carrying this gene mutation or not.