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Shetland Sheepdogs, or as they are more commonly known, Shelties are a wonderful breed for just about any home. It is tempting by many to call these little beauties miniature Collies, but they are not. Although they resemble the Collie they are not miniature Collies.

The resemblance comes, of course, from their common ancestor, which was a herding dog bred in the British Highlands similar to the Border Collie of today. Because of the terrain and climate of the Shetland Islands, this breed of Collie was bred to a smaller size for the farmers in that area. The need for a dog to herd smaller livestock brought us the Sheltie. The Shetland Sheepdog was bred down in size from the Rough Collie (Lassie) and the Border Collie. The terrain on the islands is rugged, the climate is harsh, winter is long and crops were sparsely grown due to the terrain so livestock, mainly sheep became the livelihood of the farmers of these islands and this small breed of dog came to be.

These Lassie look-a-likes were left on the islands alone because of their intelligence and ability to herd without their master being there. The islands were used only for pasturing and the owners of the livestock would make inspections as needed to check on the livestock. Not only have the Shelties received their name from the Shetland Islands, but the diminutive ponies we know as Shetland Ponies came from these islands as well.

The Sheltie is double-coated for warmth and weatherproofing. Their long, flowing outer coat repels the cold rain and blocks the wind. Their undercoat, which is very soft and almost like wool, insulates them. The small size of the Sheltie along with their agility make them very suited for herding sheep in rocky and rough terrain. Being small, they also do not require a lot of food nor do they take up a lot of room.

The Sheltie although not a miniature collie as many would like to think, does however very much resemble one as I have mentioned. In actuality, there is no true miniature Collie breed. The reference and confusion comes in because of the vast similarities between the two dogs and the common ancestry. There are some great differences in the appearance of the Sheltie and the Collie though. The main difference is the head of the Sheltie and its size. It is long, and more squared off, not narrow or pointed and long as the Collie. The Sheltie also of course is smaller than the Collie with the standard for the breed being from 13 to 16 inches in height at the top of the shoulders and weighing from 14 to 25 pounds whereas the male Collie is from 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighs from 50 to 75 pounds. Bitches are generally smaller thus the broad range of size and weight. Sheltie bitches generally run from 13 to 14 inches, weigh from 14 to 22 pounds and males 14 to 16 inches, and weigh from 20 to 25 pounds for the standard.

The Sheltie is very well loved also for its lovely soft and thick coat and colors. From the most common sable and glossy black colors to the marbled merle colors of diluted black or sable, each with white markings. These colors are also, of course, the same colors that you will find in a Collie. The sable can be a pale or deep gold or have black mixed in. The black and merle coats may also have tan or an almost butterscotch color. One of the prettiest markings on the Sheltie would be the white collar and chest, white legs, and sometimes a white blaze on the face. Some of them with the white blaze on the face can be very thin at the nose widening to the top of the skull or just the opposite. I've also seen some with a wide blaze at the snout, none in the middle and then wide again at the top of the skull and sometimes they will have no blazing.

With Shelties, you will find that you must brush them to keep the coat free from tangles and to maintain its luster. Shelties generally only shed once or twice a year, but the shedding can be kept at a minimum with some effort on your part. If you brush and comb daily you will seldom ever notice the shedding.

Shelties are as I stated earlier a herding breed, and like other dogs in the herding group, they need something to do. Shelties really want to please and really want to be doing something. If a Sheltie does not have a herd of sheep to round up, then they will round up the kids for you and this is fun to watch.

The only time Shelties will actually become yippy and yelping is when they are bored. In other words, don't get a Sheltie if you are going to just keep the dog in the house and never do anything with it. They need to be stimulated. They need to be loved and they need to be exercised. Just like most people want to do have something to do, so does the Sheltie. In addition, what they want most to do is please their master. Shelties that are well bred will be highly intelligent, very responsive, and very devoted to their family. Some people do not think Shelties would make a good watchdog, but they do. Shelties are generally very suspicious of strangers and will keep one at bay. Some Shelties are timid, but in a case of protecting their loved ones they will do just that: protect!

They are a very playful breed and love to run and chase and be chased as well as playing ball and frisbee. So couple their desire to play with their desire to please and you have an excellent companion for a family. Speaking also of a Sheltie's desire to please makes them very easy to train. Shelties are so willing to learn and please that at times it seems they actually try to anticipate what it is that you want them to do. This of course could get them in trouble.

Please be very careful when you get a Sheltie that you do not buy from a pet mill, pet store, etc., because you could run into some real problems. Shelties (or any dog) that have not been bred properly can be shy; nervous, timid, almost scared of every thing, and biting can be a problem. Poorly bred dogs can also have severe medical problems. Also, if someone is trying to sell you a puppy and they want you to take them at 6 to 8 weeks of age, steer clear from them also. Puppies should stay with their mom until at least 9 to 10 weeks of age. This way mom has had a chance to train them and the breeder has had a chance to help you with house breaking, etc.

Shelties have some medical concerns as do every breed; so do not think that they are the only ones with problems. Moreover, not all problems happen to them. Some of the problems you could have with them would be an eye disease that could cause blindness. In addition, some are susceptible to heart disease, and in some hearing problems. However, these conditions are also viable to any other breed.

All in all the Sheltie is very adaptable to just about any living situation. Small enough for apartment dwellers, and spirited enough for farms. A Sheltie simply needs to be loved, walked, and given something to do. Love your pet and they will give you years of devotion.