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The Furry Critter Network
Shetland Collie Breed Description
Sheltie, Apartment Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Dwarf Scotch Shepherd, Mini Lassie, Miniature Collie, Toonie Dog
Approximately 12-14 Years
Average 4-6 Puppies
The general appearance of the Sheltie is that of a miniature Rough Collie. They are a small, double coated, working dog, agile and sturdy. Blue merle Shelties may have blue eyes or one brown and one blue eye, but all others have dark colored eyes. Their expression should be that of alertness with a gentle and sometimes reserved nature. They carry their tail down low, only lifted when alert and never carried over the back. They are an intensely loyal breed, sometimes reserved with strangers but should not be shy or showing timidness as per the AKC breed standard.
While many are drawn to the Sheltie for their melting expression and beautiful coats, it is their endearing personality that owners find so captivating. Their willingness to please and deep devotion to their family make them a joy to train and live with. They excel at almost everything they are asked, so it is no surprise that these versatile little dogs consistently rank as some of the top canine competitors in the world.
Head: Long and wedge-shaped. Flat, straight skull. Slight stop.
Ears: Small, carried three-fourths erect breaking forward at the tip.
Eyes: Set obliquely in skull, almond-shaped. Dark brown color, though blue or merle eyes are permitted for some merle varieties.
Body: Length slightly greater than height. Muscular and well-balanced. Deep chest with well-sprung ribs. Straight back.
Tail: Carried low. Abundantly feathered. Raised when dog is alert, but never carried above the level of the back.
Hair: Long, straight, harsh. Abundant, short, soft undercoat. Very full mane and frill giving the dog a majestic air. Hind legs are heavily feathered.
Coat: Shades of sable – from golden through mahogany; tricolor - jet black with tan and white markings; blue merle - silvery blue, mottling, merled with black; black and white; black and tan.
Size: Dog: 36 to 40 cm.Bitch: 34 to 38 cm.
Weight: 5 to 10 kg.
Unlike many miniature breeds that resemble their larger counterparts, this breed was not developed simply by selectively breeding the Rough Collie for smaller and smaller size. The original sheepdog of Shetland was a Spitz-type dog, probably similar to the modern Icelandic sheepdog. This dog was crossed with mainland working collies brought to the islands, and then after being brought to England, it was further extensively crossed with the Rough Collie, and other breeds including some or all of the extinct Greenland Yakki, the King Charles Spaniel (not the Cavalier), the Pomeranian, and possibly the Border Collie. The original Spitz-type working sheepdog of Shetland is now extinct, having been replaced for herding there by the Border Collie. The Shetland Sheepdog in its modern form has never been used as a working dog on Shetland, and ironically it is uncommon there.
When the breed was originally introduced breeders called them Shetland Collies, which upset Rough Collie breeders, so the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog. During the early 20th century (up until the 1940s), additional crosses were made to Rough Collies to help retain the desired Rough Collie type – in fact, the first AKC Sheltie champion's dam was a purebred rough Collie.
The year 1909, marked the initial recognition of the Sheltie by the English Kennel Club, with the first registered Sheltie being a female called Badenock Rose. The first Sheltie to be registered by the American Kennel Club was "Lord Scott" in 1911.
The Shetland Sheepdog is loyal, willing and eager to please, making a wonderful companion dog. Docile and alert with a pleasant temperament. Loving, loyal and affectionate with its family, this breed needs people. Socialize it well starting at puppyhood. It is a good guard and watchdog. Sensitive to the tone of your voice, these dogs will not listen if they sense you do not mean what you say, and will also not listen if you are too harsh. They need their owners to be calm, but firm.
Very intelligent, lively and trainable, the Shetland Sheepdog is one of the smartest breeds. Shelties have such a high level of intelligence according to Dr. Stanley Coren, an expert on animal intelligence, the Shetland Sheepdog is one of the brightest dogs, ranking 6th out of 138 breeds tested. His research found that an average Sheltie could understand a new command in fewer than five repetitions and would obey a command the first time it was given 95% of the time or better.With intelligence comes the need to occupy their minds. They like to be kept busy. The Sheltie is above all an intelligent herder, capable both of commanding large cattle and holding small sheep in check. The herding instinct is still very strong in many of them.
They can become suspicious with strangers, especially with children. They may not allow themselves to be touched by strangers and will display noisy persistent barking, as they tell the humans to leave them alone. This can lead to guarding, snapping and even biting.
Brushing two times per week is required, more often during periods of seasonal shedding. Do not bathe this breed more than once per month. Daily walks are necessary.
For the most part, Shelties are athletic and healthy. Like the Rough Collie, there is a tendency toward inherited malformation and disease of the eyes. Each individual puppy should have its eyes examined by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist. Some lines may be susceptible to hypothyroidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, or skin allergies.
Shetland Sheepdogs have four times the risk of other dogs of developing transitional cell carcinoma, a cancer of the bladder.
Dermatomyositis may occur at the age of 4 to 6 months, and is frequently misdiagnosed by general practice veterinarians as sarcoptic or demodectic mange. The disease manifests itself as alopecia on the top of the head, supra- and suborbital area and forearms as well as the tip of the tail. If the disease progresses to its more damaging form, it could affect the autonomic nervous system and the dog may have to be euthanised. This disease is genetically transmitted and recessive, with breeders having no clear methodology for screening except clear bloodline records. Deep tissue biopsies are required to definitively diagnose dermatomyositis. Lay assessment of end-stage dermatomyositis is observed difficulty or inability to swallow, even water.
Von Willebrand disease is an inherited bleeding disorder. In Shelties, affected dogs as a general rule are not viable and do not live long. The Sheltie carries type III of von Willebrands, which is the most severe of the three levels. There are DNA tests that were developed to find von Willebrands in Shelties. It can be done at any age, and it will give three results: affected, carrier or non-affected.
Although small breed dogs do not usually suffer unduly from hip dysplasia, it has been identified in Shelties. Hip dysplasia occurs when the head of the femur and the acetabulum do not fit together correctly, frequently causing pain or lameness. Hip dysplasia is thought to be genetic. Many breeders will have their dogs' hips x-rayed and certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Eyes: The two basic forms of inherited eye diseases/defects in Shelties are Collie eye anomaly (CEA) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
Collie eye anomaly: An autosomal recessive inherited trait which results in incomplete closure of the embryonic fissure; seen almost exclusively in Collies, Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs. CEA can be detected in young puppies by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The disease involves the retina. It is always bilateral although the severity may be disparate (unequal) between eyes. Other accompanying defects (ophthalmic anomalies) may wrongly indicate a more severe manifestation of CEA. CEA is present at birth and although it cannot be cured, it doesn't progress. Signs of CEA in shelties are small, or deepset eyes. That is, the severity of the disease at birth will not change throughout the dog's life. CEA is scored similar to the way hips are.
CEA is genetic, inheritance is autosomal recessive, this means that even a dog that shows no phenotypic signs of the condition may be a carrier. Breeders should actively try to breed this disease out by only breeding with dogs that have "clear" eyes or very low scoring eyes. A CEA score considered too high to breed with may still be low enough not to affect the dog's life. These dogs live happy and healthy lives as pets but should be not used for breeding. The recent development of a DNA test for CEA makes control of this disease much more likely as more breeders take advantage of the test.
PRA can be detected at any time but usually does not show up until the dog is around two years old. Breeding dogs should be tested for genotype for this condition before breeding and only animals found "clear" should be used for breeding. PRA can occur in most breeds of dog including mix breeds. In most breeds it is also an autosomal recessive condition, however it has been found in other breeds to be autosomal dominant and sex-linked in others. As the name suggests, it is a progressive disease which will eventually result in total blindness. Like CEA, an affected dog should not be bred with but these dogs can live happily as pets. Currently there is no treatment for either disease, but as both diseases (CEA and PRA) are hereditary it is possible to eliminate them using selective breeding.
"Don't Shop ... Please Adopt"
If you can’t find the pet you’re looking for on Petfinder, don’t give up. Some shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds, so don’t be afraid to ask! There are also breed-specific rescues for just about every breed, and most of them post their pets on Petfinder. (Petfinder can even e-mail you when a pet that fits your criteria is posted — just click “Save this Search” at the top of your search results page.)
Jeff Gold, Founder, Rescue Me! Animal Rescue Network
Jeff Gold lives in Watkinsville, Georgia on the same property as Rescue Me's Animal Rehabilitation Center, with 18 rescue animals. Shown with him in the photo to the left are Maggie, Izzie and Cortez. In 2003, after learning there was nobody doing boxer rescue work in Georgia, Gold founded Boxertown, an organization which helped find homes for over 500 boxers during its first two years. Based upon this success, Gold came up with the vision for Rescue Me! ― a network which helps all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals find good homes, anywhere in the world. RescueShelter.com is also a free service of Rescue Me! and provides the world's largest and most up-to-date directory of animal rescue organizations for all breeds of dogs, cats and other animals, including a comprehensive directory of wildlife rehabilitators in over 150 countries.