The Shetland Sheepdog is a versatile dog hailing from a small island off the coast of Scotland.
Described as “obedient herders”, the Shetland Sheepdog originates from the Shetland Islands where they were traditionally used by farmers as to herd sheep, ponies, and poultry.
The Shetland Sheepdog is often dubbed the “Toonie dog” by locals in the Shetland Islands, while their breed name is commonly abbreviated to “Sheltie”.
The breed were originally registered as the Shetland Collie with the Kennel Club in the UK in 1909 before their name was changed to the Shetland Sheepdog.
Registered with the American Kennel Club in 1911, the Shetland Sheepdog has grown in popularity over the past 100 years and they’re now ranked as the 28th most popular breed in the United States.
Shetland Sheepdogs have a reputation for being extremely intelligent and excellent trainers – but we’re going to take a a close look at the Sheltie pros and cons.
In this article, we’re going to examine the Shetland Sheepdogs pros and cons, as well as hearing from some Shetland Sheepdog owners.
Shetland Sheepdog Pros
Shetland Sheepdogs are a convenient size if you want an athletic and smart dog in a small package. The Sheltie will grow to a size between 13 and 16 inches and weight between 15 and 25 pounds. These Scottish dogs won’t take up a lot of room in your home seeing as they’re petite. Shetland Sheepdogs could make a good apartment dog provided you’re willing to give them sufficient mental and physical stimulation.
As a versatile sheepdog, it should come as no surprise that Shelties are smart dogs. They’re considered the sixth most-intelligent dog breed in the world behind the Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever and Doberman Pinscher. In theory, they should understand new commands in five repetitions or less and obey the first command 95% of the time, according to The Intelligence Of Dogs. Shetland Sheepdogs will excel as your companion once they’ve been taught basic obedience. If you fancy entering your Sheltie into some agility sports, your sheepdog will likely excel.
One Reddit owner explained that his Sheltie is highly intelligent and perceptive.
He’s super intelligent. You can basically just talk to him and watch as he tries to figure out what you want, and most of the time he gets it right.
During our research into the Shetland Sheepdog breed, we noticed a reoccurring theme amongst Sheltie owners. The breed tends to be very in tune with the emotions and moods of their owners. For instance. if you’re having a tough day, your Sheltie will be able to perceive this and adjust their behaviour accodingly.
A Sheltie owner on Reddit shed light on how her dog behaves when she’s feeling under the weather.
The things I love about my little guy are quite a lot, he’s got such a sweet personality…Shelties are intuitive in my opinion. Mine will lay in bed with me all day if I’m sick and keep quiet.
Alastrine made a similar observation about the Shetland Sheepdog breed.
They are extremely intelligent and in tune with your emotions. They’ll 100% pick up on what you’re feeling, and they tend to adapt to whatever mood you’re giving off (“you’re lazing on the couch? Okay, cool, I’m gonna laze with you until you get up”).
Standing at a height of up to 16 inches, Shetland Sheepdogs won’t make intimidating guard dogs. However, the breed tend to be quite alert and unafraid to sound the alarm if something seems off. Shelties will tend to bark if they see someone approaching the home or if they hear a knock at the door. If you like the idea of your dog being a guardian of the home if only as a watchdog, the Shetland Sheepdog could be an option for you.
The American Kennel Club write on their website: “They [Shetland Sheepdog] like to bark and tend to be reserved toward strangers’ which are two qualifications of an excellent watchdog.”
Foome shared some examples of what makes her Shetland Sheepdog bark on Reddit.
Mine reacts to beeps, buzzers, car doors slamming, the doorbell, the phone sometimes. And quite often things we don’t even hear.
Shetland Sheepdogs are described as affectionate and sensitive dogs by the American Kennel Club. The organization gives them a five-star rating for being affectionate with the family and good with young children. These small dogs can make excellent companions for a young family. They can develop a deep bond with the other members of the household. Some Sheltie owners revealed that their sheepdog will gravitate towards one family member more than the others but will still get along with everyone in the home.
As a small breed, it’s important to educate young children on how to handle the breed. You should never leave a child alone unsupervised with a Shetland Sheepdog or any breed for that matter.
Andrij recommended the Shetland Sheepdog as a perfect family dog.
I would highly recommend them for family homes, especially with kids. If it’s for a single person home who works, it may not be a good fit for either of you.
Murdoc went on to add that Shetland Sheepdogs have an excellent temperament.
Shelties will bond to the human that walks and trains them. They will be affectionate and love your entire family. BEST DOGS EVER. They have a good temperment. All my shelties have been protective of our family members.
Social with other dogs
Shetland Sheepdogs have a reputation for being social dogs that will be friendly with other canines that they meet. If we refer to the American Kennel Club’s website, they give them a five-star rating for being good with other dogs. Shelties can also excel in a home with cats and other pets, but every Shetland Sheepdog will be different so it may not be the case with every member of the breed. It’s a good idea to socialise your Sheltie pup as much as possible to prevent any timidness.
Shetland Sheepdog Cons
Bark a lot
Shetland Sheepdogs have a reputation for being loud dogs. They like to bark a lot! While some Shetland Sheepdog owners have successfully managed to train this trait out of their dog or temper this instinctive desire to bark, not everyone has enjoyed the same success. If you’re thinking about adding a Sheltie to your home, you’ll need to consider this tendency to bark and whether you’ve got the time to train your dog. For prospective Shetland Sheepdog owners who live in an apartment or close to their neighbours, you should be prepared for some noise complaints if your Sheltie is an excessive barker.
A Sheltie owner shared their experience working on the barking.
My experience has been that they tend to bark mostly after disruptive noises (i.e., doorbell, fireworks, etc.) or the entry of guests. The most effective training method to curb the barking in my experience has been to reward them when they don’t bark after disruptions. For example, when someone knocks at the door, do not answer it immediately, but instead bring them to a corner of the room and sit them down while hushing them. After the barking stops, give them some attention and pets or a treat. Your guests can wait. Again, shelties are highly intelligent and will learn quickly.
Shelties have earned a reputation for being somewhat fussy eaters when it comes to their dog food. We noticed a lot of Shetland Sheepdog owners reference the fact that their Sheltie has a sensitive stomach during our extensive research on the breed.
As someone who has two dogs who are picky eaters with sensitive tummies, I believe fresh dog food meals can provide a potential solution. You can check out the best dog food companies in the USA here and in the UK here.
If you do adopt a Sheltie with a sensitive tummy, it’s a good idea to take out pet insurance and be prepared to clean up some messes that will invariably arise.
An experienced dog owner described her Sheltie as having a much more sensitive stomach than other breeds she’s lived with.
Mine has the most sensitive stomach I’ve ever encountered. I grew up with a golden retriever and a Bernese who could eat anything and be fine (seriously, the Berner stole and ate a pair of leather gloves) so it was an adjustment for sure.
Dallas eats his kibble and one kind of treat. I’m very careful about anything else, because it’s impossible to tell what won’t sit well – he’ll eat anything, but whether or not it’ll make him sick is anyone’s guess. He’s also very high stress, so if things are out of the ordinary it can cause tummy problems as well.
Require lots of exercise and stimulation
If you’re an active person who likes to exercise, the Sheltie could be a great workout buddy. However, if you prefer to spend your free time in front of the TV or lounging in your garden on the deck chair, Shetlands may not be the right breed for you. They require a lot of exercise – Wag Walking suggest as much as 45 minutes of exercise a day. These dogs are incredibly smart so providing them with an outlet to work their highly intelligent brains is just as important as exercise.
A Sheltie owner emphasised the importance of exercise and stimulation on Reddit.
They require exercise and stimulation to keep them busy or they will tear stuff up to keep themselves busy, especially when younger.
Another Sheltie owner warned that insufficient exercise will lead to destructive behaviours.
They need regular exercise since they’re herding dogs, and don’t do well staying in the house all day. Mine were both chewers until they were about 2 years old, and boredom led to destructive chewing, so it’s best to keep them active.
Lots of Shetland Sheepdog owners describe their canine companions as velcro dogs. This term denotes a dog that will follow their pet parents everywhere in the home. You can forget about privacy!
A Reddit user shared his experience with his velcro Sheltie!
I call him my velcro dog. He’s intensely attached to me, never leaves my side. But not in a neurotic way. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to find him sharing my pillow and he insists on sitting next to me on the couch when we watch TV.
Just like the Corgi breed, there are some instances where Shelties will fall foul of their herding instincts and attempt to herd smaller members of the family. This is partly why it’s important to keep an eye on your Shetland Sheepdog when they’re mingling with children. As sheepdogs, Shelties have an underlying instinct to herd.
A Sheltie owner joked that sometimes her dog’s herding instinct does come in handy.
They love to run due to the herding instinct, and if you have any small critters in your yard, they’ll hunt them. The herding instincts also come in handy with kids, as they often try to keep them from things they think are dangerous.
A common theme amongst Shelties appears to be anxiety. This can range from full blown anxiety to a slight nervousness. It can take the form of separation anxiety, anxiousness around new people, animals or situations or fearfulness of loud noises such as fireworks. It’s a good idea to try to socialise your Sheltie pup from a young age to get them accustomed to different people and situations. Of course, you could always contact a dog behaviourist or trainer to help.
Andrij described the Sheltie breed as very anxious.
They’re very anxious, they stress easily, they can bark a lot, they’re so smart they need daily if not hourly play and involvement, and their metabolisms mean they need to run everyday.
Another Sheltie owner described an extreme case of nervousness.
I was mostly put off by their tendency to be skiddish and nervous and avoidant – one of them so much that it drove her to have trouble with chronically peeing in the house.