What is it about Scotland’s remote and beautiful Shetland Islands that produces such adorable animals…including the tiny, shaggy Shetland Pony and of course the sweet, fluffy Shetland Sheepdog, aka the Sheltie? According to the American Shetland Sheepdog Association, the Sheltie has its origins in both small, Spitz-type dogs brought to the Shetlands from Scandinavia, as well as working sheepdogs (like the Border Collie) brought over from Scotland.
The Sheltie was originally a working dog, trained to work with the cute little native Shetland Sheep of the islands. Yes, more Shetland animal cuteness! Shelties performed different tasks than traditional herding dogs like the Border Collie. They were more sheep “drivers” than herders. They also stayed with the sheep when they roamed the more remote parts of the islands during the warmer summer months. They protected the lambs from birds of prey with loud barking!
Over time, an increase in English visitors to the scenic Shetland Islands led to significant interest in these perky little working dogs. The modern history of the breed as we know it today began when English breeders began to cross the dogs with Collies to give them their fluffy coat and distinctive look. Today’s Shelties are thought to have about 50% Collie blood in their makeup.
The Sheltie is alert, intelligent, loyal, and affectionate. They are very closely bonded with their human family, but can be somewhat shy and timid around strangers. That gorgeous coat is actually a double coat. The outer coat has long, straight hairs and the undercoat is short and very thick. The ruff and tail are impressively fluffy. The coat comes in a variety of colors, often mixed with a good amount of white.
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Their liveliness and eagerness to please their owners make them great agility dogs. You’ll often see Shelties at agility trials. Their background as working sheep dogs comes in handy at herding trials, too. They are particularly strong in the “fetch” and “gather” style of herding. If you’re interested in participating in agility and herding trials, the Sheltie just might be the perfect breed for you!
To learn more about the Shetland Sheepdog, check out the website of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association.
- AH Printing