Shetland Sheepdogs were bred to herd sheep and help around farms in Scotland and the Shetland Island areas. As with many of the herding and working dogs, this means there were two characteristics that were desired: intelligence and companionship.
This still holds true today in the breed. Shelties are very intelligent dogs and desire to have a job. If mental stimulation and a task are not provided, it may provide its own, to dismay of the owners! These are quick and athletic little dogs, so they do well in agility trials.
They desire to be with the owner and will follow you about the house as you perform tasks and jobs around the house. They are quick learners; some sources indicate a very high (95%) response to first time commands! Rarely, do commands need to be repeated more than five times before the dog understands what is expected. while they learn quickly and easily, they are also very sensitive.
Do not be harsh with your dog, they will respond much better to praise and treats, rewarding positive behaviors. This makes them a great dog for first time owners. Shelties also like to play and interact with the owners, so there is an immediate payback for the attention they are given. The breed tolerates being alone, as long as it gets adequate attention when the owners return home.
While the Shetland Sheepdog is small, 11 to 24 pounds and 13 to 16 inches tall, they are very alert and make good watch dogs. They are not prone to barking, unless there is a reason to bark. They tend to be a little reluctant to meet strangers, but accept children well. Children usually enjoy playing with Shelties, as they like fetch.
Remember that this breed is a herding dog and at times the herding instinct will take over. Your Sheltie may try to herd children, other pets, squirrels, cars etc. This could lead to biting, so it is best to train the dog that this is not acceptable behavior for a pet. Apartment dwelling is fine for the dog as long as it gets some regular exercise daily and you should plan on about 30 minutes exercise minimum.
Ideally a fenced yard is great for the Sheltie to run and play. After a good romp in the yard or a vigorous game of fetch, Shetland Sheepdogs will be happy to help you hold down the couch for the rest of the evening.
the coat of the Sheltie is variegated in a variety of colors and combinations. Show dogs cannot have a large amount of white, but they still make great companions. The coat is a double coat and they do shed.
Make sure your vacuum will handle large amounts of fur. The rough outer coat repels water and dirt, so frequent baths are not needed. However, frequent brushings are required to keep the outer coat from matting. Pay close attention to behind the ears as the fur has a tendency to really mat in this area. Plan on brushing your Shetland Sheepdog at least two to three times a week.
As with all dogs, keep the toenails clipped and brush the teeth about once a week. It is not recommended that Shelties be shaved, as it can damage the skin and the dog may not regrow the fur. The breed is healthy and typically lives for 12 to 15 years. As with most collie related breeds, vision can be a problem and the Sheltie is no different. This is more pronounced in the merle color schemes.