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The Shetland Sheepdog - When Only a Sheltie Will Do

Aug 17, 2007
The Shetland Sheepdog - sometimes called a Sheltie - has often been described as a "miniature Lassie." Shetland Sheepdogs are not the Collies made popular on the TV series, but do look like smaller versions of that breed. It's likely that the Shetland Sheepdog is directly descended from the Rough Collie. As a rule, these are very intelligent dogs, well suited as house pets.

The Shetland Sheepdog is a fairly small dog, usually ranging only to 20 pounds or less. So why would anyone want a miniature version of a herding dog? It actually makes very good sense if the animals you're herding are also small. These dogs were probably used for herding small animals for many centuries. This history and breeding makes them ideal for obedience, agility and field competitions today, though they have not been completely eliminated as working dogs. Some people who raise miniature animals still use the Shetland Sheepdog as their herding dogs.

Because the animals being herded by the Sheltie were usually very small, these dogs were taught to be more gentle than most herding breeds. That teaching has spanned the centuries and makes the Shetland Sheepdog a popular family dog. These canines tend to be extremely tolerant in almost any situation, though the guarding instinct is also intact.

The coat of a Shetland Sheepdog really does resemble that of a Collie. The care is not as difficult as you might expect, even if the Sheltie spends time outdoors. As a rule, the dog is careful about keeping himself clean and will worry out sticks and burs he can reach. There's still the need for regular brushing, though most recommend that this dog not be over brushed. Remember that these dogs were bred for the rough outdoor life of a herding dog, so they have a thick double coat. Most dogs shed that under coat a couple of times each year. Regular brushing will help with the shedding.

That excessive tolerance of family and close friends is not afforded to strangers. Some owners report that their Sheltie simply refuses to let strangers touch them. It seems that early socialization and behavior training will go a long way toward making the Shetland Sheepdog act the way you prefer. Because of their tendency to bark - a lot - some people use these dogs as watchdogs in their homes or apartments, depending on them to bark whenever someone approaches.

The selective breeding of these dogs included the quest for plenty of stamina. They were required to stay with the herds for long hours, often remaining alert overnight while the human herders slept. They require exercise, though it may be easier to get than you expect. The small size of these dogs means that they can romp and play indoors without being overly destructive, and they're more than willing to do that. They still need some outdoor playtime and walking.

If you're looking to add a Shetland Sheepdog to your family, beware of those who mass produce puppies. These were among the breeds that became a fad a few decades ago and some breeders have lines that are simply not suitable for family life.
About the Author
For more information on Shetland Sheepdogs and other Popular, and not-so-popular breeds of dogs, visit The Herding Dog Directory
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