This distinct and adorable little dog has been a popular favourite for many years. The “Sheltie” as they’re affectionately referred to in Australia, looks like a miniature Rough Collie, originated on the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland. These islands are renowned for their rugged beauty and the other miniature breeds the people of these islands have bred, such as the Shetland pony and sheep. The Shetland Sheepdog has been the result of crossing Rough Collies with spaniels and other Spritz breeds from passing fishing ships boats over many centuries.
Shetland Sheepdogs were only recognised as a breed in 1914 and are regarded as elegant, agile and intelligent working dogs. Their long coat, finely shaped heads and well proportioned legs make this breed extremely attractive. Shelties are around half the size of their Rough Collie cousins and are an extremely loyal and affectionate dog. Their working dog background makes them quick learners and they enjoy participating in agility training and other forms of recreational and competitive activities.
Shelties make good watch dogs and will alert owners to strangers on the property. They can be quite timid with people and dogs they are not familiar with, so it is important that they are well socialised from a young age. Your Sheltie will needs lots of attention so you will need to be able to commit to providing this type of dog with lots of time for pats and an opportunity for a good run every day. Being a smaller dog they don’t need the same amount of exercise as their full sized cousins but they do enjoy having a run every day to burn up a bit of energy.
The long Sheltie coat doesn’t take a lot of grooming to keep it in good condition. A thorough brush once a week will keep it looking well groomed Obviously the more time you are able to put into grooming, the better it will look. Shelties have a double coat, meaning they have a soft under coat mixed with longer coarser hairs which make up its outer coat. This provides them with great insulation in their native colder climate. Keep an eye on them in our harsh Australian summers though and make sure they can keep cool so they don’t suffer from heat exhaustion.
Shelties have a long life expectancy, living between 12 and 16 years. They don’t have many health problems, however their miniaturisation has led to some ailments. Australian breeders are generally very thorough in ensuring Australian Shelties are in good health but you should always ask if the dog you are purchasing has had its eyes tested for Progressive Retina Atrophy. They can also suffer from hip dysplasia. Shelties can have problems with tooth decay so make sure your furry friend has lots of raw bones to chew on. However, keep an eye on their diet as Shelties are prone to weight gain.
Shelties shed twice a year so be prepared for hair on the carpet. Keeping up with the brushing will help in remove the excess hair before it ends up on your upholstery.
Shelties don’t need a big back yard and are a great quiet companion for older people and a wonderful gentle pet for families. Sheltie’s are popular in Australia so if you become a fan you’ll have no trouble finding a club of like minded pet owners.