What to know before acquiring a Sheltie - March 11
The Shetland Sheepdog, or Shelties, is a relative newcomer to the world of purebred dogs. Originating in the Shetland Islands, the breed was first registered in Lerwick in 1908 and with the Scottish Shetland Sheepdog Club in 1909. Subsequently, both these registries and the breed were recognized by the UKC (English Kennel Club) in March of 1909.
First registered there as a Shetland Collie, the name was changed to Shetland Sheepdog by October of 1909 because of objections by Collie fanciers. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in April of 1911.
The Shetland Islands in the Northern Atlantic are a series of small islands exposed to the vagaries of the sea and north winds. They are rugged, rocky and sparse in vegetation. The people who inhabit the islands are also rough and rugged as are some of the animals that hail from there; for example, the Shetland Pony and the Shetland Sheepdog.
It has long been thought that the beginnings of this breed could be traced to influence by a Northern Spitz type dog brought from Scandinavia by the early inhabitants, a King Charles Spaniel, the original Pomeranian and other dogs indigenous to the islands as well as the Scotch Collie. The actual mix of this breed is shrouded in mystery and still debated.
Today, the Sheltie appears in the Herding Group in the USA and the Pastoral Group in the UK. The original purpose of the breed was as an all-around farm dog. The Shelties assisted the crofters where needed, keeping livestock from the gardens, assisting with a twice yearly round-up of the sheep, and as family companions, warning of intruders and visitors and doing whatever else was deemed useful. The tendency to bark is sometimes considered a liability in the breed today. Whatever their task or responsibility, it was necessary for these early Shelties to earn their keep, as the Shetlanders could ill afford to keep any dog simply as a pet.
Shelties are seen today excelling in multiple venues around the world. Some find their place as medical alert dogs, therapy dogs and others assist the handicapped in various ways. The breed excels in agility, rally, herding and obedience as well as in the conformation ring, or simply as someone’s beloved pet and companion.
Looking for a Puppy? Things to Think About.
Health problems in Shelties, in general, are not common. However, the testing of the breeding stock is a recommended to keep the incidence of certain problems to a minimum. It must be remembered that dogs are animals, not machines, and on average, every dog has 4 to 5 defective genes. Congenital and/or hereditary problems will occur no matter how conscientious the breeder.
Concerned breeders of Shetland Sheepdogs are striving to breed healthy Shelties and decrease the incidence of heritable diseases in the breed. Hip dysplasia, thyroid disease, eye diseases, dermatomyositis (Shelties Skin Syndrome), von Willebrand’s disease (vWD), and epilepsy are some of the known health problems of the breed. Although these problems are NOT COMMON in the breed, the Board of Directors of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA) recommends that questions about the health of the dog be asked when considering a Sheltie.
Shelties Colors and Standard
As stated in the standard: Black, blue merle, and sable (ranging from golden through mahogany) and marked with varying amounts of white/and or tan.
Faults: Rustiness in a black or blue coat. Washed out or degenerate colors, such as pale sable and faded blue. Self-color in the case of the blue merle, that is, without any merling or mottling and generally appearing as a faded or dilute tri-color. Conspicuous white body spots. Specimens with more than 50% white shall be so severely penalized as to effectively eliminate them from competition.
Traits and Faults
The Shetland Sheepdog is intensely loyal, affectionate, and responsive to his owner. However, he may be reserved toward strangers. Other Shelties traits include shyness, timidity, nervousness, stubbornness, snappiness, and ill temper.
This breed is similar in size and general appearance to the Rough Collie as the Shetland Pony does to some of the larger breeds of horses. Although the resemblance between the Shetland Sheepdog and the Rough Collie is marked, there are differences which may be noted. The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, alert, rough-coated, longhaired working dog.
Size, Proportion, Substance
The Shetland Sheepdog should stand between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder. Height is determined by a line perpendicular to the ground from the top of the shoulder blades, the dog standing naturally, with forelegs parallel to line of measurement.
In overall appearance, the body should appear moderately long as measured from shoulder joint to ischium (rearmost extremity of the pelvic bone), but much of this length is actually due to the proper angulation and breadth of the shoulder and hindquarter, as the back itself should be comparatively.
Compliments of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association.