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14 Incredible Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

shetland sheepdog standing

Every dog has their own characteristics and personalities that make them lovable in their own unique way. The Shetland Sheepdog, aka the Sheltie, is no different! Shelties are intelligent, affectionate, and downright beautiful dogs with an interesting history. There is much to know and discover about the fascinating Sheltie, which reinforces why they are so popular in the first place.

Here, we discuss 14 incredible facts about the beloved Shetland Sheepdog!

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The 14 Facts About the Shetland Sheepdog

1. They Come From the Shetland Islands of Scotland

Shetland Sheepdogs got their name from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, where they originally came from. Located in the northernmost region of the country, the Shetland Sheepdog was isolated and generally unknown to the rest of the UK until the 20th century, when they were imported to the mainland.

2. Their Small Size Is a Result of Adaptation

The Shetland Sheepdogs are small to medium-sized dogs that stand at 13 to 16 inches in height and weigh around 15 to 25 pounds. Their size comes from the living conditions of their island of origin. Because of the harsh environment and scarcity of vegetation in the region, the Shelties were bred to a smaller size in order to adapt and survive.

tricolor shetland sheepdog
Image Credit: Lisjatina, Shutterstock

3. They Have an Interesting Ancestry

The Shetland Sheepdog has an interesting ancestry. They are said to be a mix of the native Spitz-type dogs from the Shetland Islands and Rough Collies brought from mainland Britain in the 19th century. The native Spitz-type dogs of the islands were small, agile, and able to withstand the harsh weather conditions of the region, while the Rough Collies were brought to the islands to help with sheep herding.

4. Shelties Are the Epitome of Herding Dogs

Small and compact, the Shelties were athletic and intelligent herding dogs that aided farmers in the harsh conditions and rugged terrain of the Shetland Islands. Today, Shelties are now mainly sought after for companionship, but they still have their strong herding instincts and will still try to herd anything—including you!

Shetland sheepdog, collie, smile with big mouth_atiger_shutterstock
Image Credit: Atiger, Shutterstock

5. They Were Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1911

Because of their size, intelligence, and loving nature, the Sheltie quickly gained popularity as a breed. They were recognized by the UK Kennel Club in 1909, and eventually, by the American Kennel Club in 1911.

6. Shelties Are One of the Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

Shelties were highly favored and easily gained popularity for their reliability as herding dogs. Shelties are one of the most intelligent breeds of dog and, according to a psychologist who ranked dogs’ intelligence in 2006, Shelties were ranked number six1!

Shetland Sheepdog playing with ball
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

7. They Are Athletic and Versatile Dogs

Shelties are also highly trainable and eager to please, making them suitable for different types of activities and training. The Shetland Sheepdog is a versatile and athletic breed of dog that is capable of excelling in various activities, including obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and therapy work. Due to their agility, speed, and ability to change direction quickly, they are well-suited for sports that require such attributes.

8. Shelties Require a Lot of Exercise and Stimulation

As athletic herding dogs, Shelties have a lot of energy to burn. They require regular exercise and daily stimulation to prevent health and behavioral issues. Shelties need daily walks and playtime to burn off energy and tire them out. They can easily get bored, so be sure to keep your Sheltie engaged!

Image Credit By: the_scruffy_sheltie, instagram

9. Shelties are Energetic but Adaptable

Shelties have high levels of energy stored in their compact, athletic bodies. In short, they love to move! However, Shelties can also adapt to living in apartments or small houses, provided they receive ample amounts of exercise and stimulation!

10. They Make Excellent Family Dogs

Aside from their ability to be great working dogs, a large factor why the Sheltie gained popularity is because of the love and companionship they provide to families! They work great with active households and also work well with children. They can also get along with other pets, even cats! They also crave companionship and don’t do well if left alone, so be sure to give your Sheltie lots of love and attention.

shetland sheepdog having treat
Image Credit: Nehris, Shutterstock

11. They Are Reserved Towards Strangers

Shelties may be loving and affectionate to their families, but they may be reserved toward strangers. They aren’t necessarily aggressive dogs, but they remain cautious and protective of their families. Early training and socialization is essential to ensure your Sheltie behaves appropriately around strangers.

12. Shelties Can Be Loud and Vocal Dogs

Another thing Shelties are known for is how loud and vocal they can be. In other words, they bark a lot! They are highly communicative and barking is a way for them to express their excitement or anxiety. If not properly managed through training, excessive barking can be a problem when they reach adulthood.

Image Credit: evantoddmedia, Pixabay

13. They Make Great Watchdogs

Because of their cautious nature and high tendency to bark, Shelties make great watchdogs. Their protective nature keeps them alert and suspicious towards strangers, and they will bark to alert their owners of potential dangers.

Shelties are not aggressive dogs, but they are very loyal and devoted to protecting their families.

14. They Prefer Cooler Temperatures With Their Double Coat

The Shelties have a thick double coat that helped them to keep warm in the cold climate of the Shetland Islands, where they originated. This double coat consists of a top layer that protects them from the elements, and an undercoat that provides warmth in cold temperatures. This double coat sheds a lot and requires regular brushing to keep healthy.

Because of their double coat, Shelties can easily be at risk of overheating, so it’s best to keep them cool!

Shetland Sheepdog
Image Credit By: nessithesheltie, instagram

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Shetland Sheepdogs are beautiful and intelligent herding dogs that also make excellent family dogs. Small and compact in size, Shelties are loved for their personality and energy, making them one of the most popular dog breeds in their size class. Although they are no longer primarily used for herding, Shelties will still have their herding instincts and natural protective instincts for their families!

Featured Image Credit: Sarah Böhm, Pixabay

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