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Is a Sheltie For Me?
From an anonymous sheltie lover
If a sheltie is the most appealing breed to you and if the needs of a sheltie
fit in with your life style, then for heaven's sake don't miss out on having one of these
wonderful dogs. But here are some things you should consider first:
- A sheltie needs time with its human. If you are a person who works all day and
then goes out all evening and leaves town on the weekend, forget it. Shelties can be wacko
if they don't get human companionship. On the other hand if you work all day and then most
evenings go home, your sheltie will be waiting for you tail wagging and thrilled to see
you. Non-stop love.
- A sheltie needs room to run. A fenced yard is a must. Somewhere that your
sheltie can go out for at least 2 hours a day and run. A place where you can play fetch,
and frisbee and chase. The fence is a must because sheltie are a herding breed and thus
are attracted to chase moving objects such as cars, bikes, running children etc.
- You will need to be willing to put aside an hour each week or two (at the
minimum) to groom your sheltie. It is important to keep the dead undercoat pulled out with
thorough combing or shelties will develop skin irritations.
- If you can't stand a dog that likes to bark while it is running in the yard,
think long and hard before choosing a sheltie.
Shelties are beautiful, smart, willing, loving dogs. If the 4 items listed
above are not a problem for you then by all means, seek out a good breeder as soon as you
So you STILL want a sheltie?
Well, an excellent place to start is by reading the AKC Shetland Sheepdog standard. This site
is from the AKC and will give you the official information on the Sheltie. This
site, the Sheltie FAQ, is
an extensive site of sheltie info with other various links concerning things to look for
when considering adding a sheltie to your home.
- What is a sheltie?
- Sheltie is short for Shetland Sheepdog, a herding breed that
originates from the Shetland
Islands near Scotland, and has been bred in the US since the early 1900's. Shelties
are often called "miniature collies" by the non-initiated, as they look like a
rough collie in miniature, but they are actually a totally separate breed with
differences in structure and temperament.
- How big are shelties?
- The standard for shelties states that they should measure between 13" and
16" at the shoulder. Most fall into the upper half of this range. Shelties were once
crossed with the larger collie to improve the breed and large shelties will still be found
today as a result. It is not unknown for a sheltie to approach a small collie in size.
Small shelties are more rare, but will show up in a litter as well.
- Is there such a thing as a miniature sheltie?
- Absolutely not. If you run into someone who is claiming to have
"mini-shelties", all they are doing is breeding under-sized shelties. Often
these people will claim that these dogs are rare and worth more money...don't believe
them! These dogs are worth no more than any other pet-quality sheltie. If you would like a
small sheltie, you are better off just looking for one from a good breeder...there are
often small shelties produced in a typical litter. Someone who claims to have miniature
shelties either does not truly know anything about what a sheltie is, or is purposely
deceiving you. Either way, this is not the type of breeder to buy from.
- What type of temperament do shelties have?
- The temperament of the sheltie is what has endeared him to so many owners. They
are usually loyal and affectionate with their owners. Shelties are known to be easy to
train, and this is often due to their desire and willingness to please. Shelties almost
seem to train themselves at times. They are ever willing to do your every wish and
ecstatic at the praise they receive. Shelties are relatively sensitive, and do not need a
hard hand when training. They are not soft, though, and will stand up to criticism. A
sheltie with the classic temperament is a bit standoffish with strangers, but not
unfriendly. There is a much wider range in temperament in modern shelties than there used
to be, and personalities will range from quiet, stay-at-home dogs, to active extroverts.
Unfortunately, due to their popularity, more shelties are being bred in puppy mills and by
inexperienced, unknowledgeable breeders. These dogs often have very poor temperaments,
with characteristics such as fear-biting, excessive shyness, nervousness, or extreme
hyperness. Do your sheltie a favor, and have him or her altered.
- What are some problems associated with having a sheltie?
- This is a good question to ask yourself if you are interested in getting a
sheltie. No breed is right for everyone, and all breeds have strong and weak points. First
off, the sheltie is a long-coated breed. While his coat does require less care than some,
you should expect to spend a minimum of 1-2 times a week brushing him which may take 1/2
hour to an hour depending on how full a coat he has. During shedding seasons, you may want
to brush him every day to keep the hair-level on the carpets down.
the sheltie is a barker. The amount of barking varies with the individual dog and often
with the number of dogs. Barking is often learned from other dogs, and a house with a
number of shelties is invariably a noisy one. If you are persistent, though, you can often
teach your dog to be quiet once they have done their job and sounded the alarm. I have
some tips on how to do that on my Barking
Dogs page. And if all else fails, you can get your dog de-barked.
Finally, you should expect to spend some time exercising your sheltie. This is
a working breed, and while they will adjust to living in apartments, etc. better than
larger breeds, they do need to spend time running off that excess sheltie energy every
day. This may mean taking a walk, or maybe just throwing a tennis ball in the house. But
consider doing obedience, agility, or other dog sports with your sheltie. A sheltie enjoys
nothing more than getting to work and spend time with you and you will have a much closer
relationship with your dog. For more help on choosing a breed, try the Breed Selector.
- What coat colors are there in shelties?
- There are many references out there that cover color inheritance in great
detail, so I will be brief here. Shelties have two basic colors: sable and black. All of
the colors seen in shelties are variations on these two colors. Most shelties have some
white on them; sables in particular often have a large white collar as well as white feet
and a white tip on the tail. The sable-and-white is sometimes referred to different names
according to the amount of black color in the coat, or the shade of sable. Thus you will
hear terms like "mahogany sable" and "red sable". They are all
genetically sables, though. The blacks come in black, tan and white, called a tricolor, or
a black and white, called a bicolor. Another variation on black is a blue merle, in which
the black color is diluted out unevenly across the dog, causing the coat to have a
bluish-grey color. Blues also have the white and tan (called a blue merle) or just white
(called a bi-blue). Other colors are more rare than these, and involve more discussion of
genetics than I wish to cover. Refer to the book Sheltie Talk or other sheltie
reference books for more material on coat color genetics, and check out my sheltie photo page.
- Where can I get Sheltie Talk?
- Talk to just about any sheltie breeder and they will tell you to get this book.
An award-winning breed book, it contains tons of pictures, info on sheltie
characteristics, genetics, breeding, grooming, health care, training, and much more! To
purchase this book, contact Alpine Publications at 303-667-2017 or 1-800-777-7257. This
book can also be purchased from Care-a-Lot at 1-800-343-7680. Alpine also publishes a good
book on grooming the sheltie for confirmation called The Illustrated Guide to Sheltie
Grooming. OR just follow these links to order Sheltie Talk,
Grooming and help support this website at the same time!
- Okay, I'm sold! Where do I get my very own sheltie?
- Do not, do not, do not get a sheltie (or any dog, for that matter) from a pet store! Shelties should be bred
in a clean home by an experienced breeder who checks their stock for genetic disorders,
and gives the puppies all the necessary medical attention and socialization they need.
Shelties being bred should be screened for eye problems, hip dysplasia, and
thyroid function. Beware of breeders that tell you things like "Oh, that doesn't run
in my dogs," or "That test isn't accurate." That is a pretty good sign that
they have some problem in their dogs. Many breeders test for VWD (a bleeding disorder) as
well, but there have been a lot of problems with getting good test results, and many
breeders no longer test for vWD. But be sure to ask about the incidence of it in the lines
you are looking at.
Also be wary of breeders that want you to take the puppy home real early, like
6 weeks old. Not only is this illegal in many states, it also can have long-term
repurcusions for the puppy. Even though they may be weaned, it is at this age that puppies
learn to socialize and relate to other dogs by playing with their littermates. They learn
bite inhibition and begin to relate to humans as well. Don't let a breeder talk you into
taking a young puppy; that is a sign they may not have been prepared for how much trouble
a litter can be and just want them out of the house!
There are a few ways to locate a reputable breeder. You
can check your local newspaper,
but you won't always know if the people selling puppies there know what they are doing or
not. You can go to dog shows in your area, and talk to the sheltie people there. A good
way to find a breeder is to contact the American Shetland Sheepdog Association and get a
list of breeders in your area. Their address and contact number is:
American Shetland Sheepdog Association
Corres. Secretary, Mr. George Page, 1100 Cataway Pl., Bryans Road, MD 20616
Breeder Contact, Mrs. Joyce Kern, 1879 Cole Rd., Aromas, CA 95004 (408) 726-1660, e-mail: email@example.com
Autumngold Shelties has a list of sheltie breeders. The list is
growing very fast, and includes info on each breeder. Also check my list of online breeders. You'll find
another excellent page on buying a puppy at Sparkshite Shelties.
Another good possibility is sheltie rescues. These are shelties that for some
reason or another, were not able to stay with their owner and need a new home. Check the rescue home page for more info,
Dorothy K. Christiansen, ASSA Rescue Network Coordinator at (815) 485-3726,
evenings, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Why shouldn't I breed my sheltie?
- People want to breed dogs for a lot of reasons. Some of the more common ones
among unexperienced people: My dog is so special, I want another just like him; I want my
kids/family/me to experience "the miracle of birth"; I want to make some money
selling the puppies; S/he has this long, fancy pedigree so s/he must be a champion-quality
dog and *should* be bred. Let me address some of these reasons:
of all, all shelties are special! There are lots of other people already breeding dogs
that are every bit as special as yours. Your parents are probably very different from you;
dogs are individuals as well, and breeding a dog is not likely to produce a bunch of
little clones of your "special dog". As far as the miracle of birth, buy a
guppy! They're much cheaper, cleaner and if something serious goes wrong, the emotional
distress is not as severe (unless you get *very* attached to your guppies). Seriously,
there are better ways of experiencing Nature at work than bringing more dogs into the
world. Far too many are experiencing the "tragedy of death" in shelters
everyday. Breeding is a dirty, messy, job at times, especially as the puppies get older.
Many people get tired of these little 'bundles of joy" that make constant noise, pee
and poop all over the place, etc. and try and get rid of them as soon as possible.
Temperament problems are often the result.
Next, we have the money-desiring people. Any reputable breeder will tell you
that you cannot make money breeding dogs if you are doing it right. Skimp on the vet care
of the mother and puppies, feed low-quality food, skip the genetic screening, save on stud
fees by breeding to some local male of low quality, and maybe then you will make a little
money. This is assuming the puppies don't have to be put down for some disease or health
problem. Breeding dogs is a BIG responsibility and you need to ask yourself if you are
willing to put in the time and money to do it right, and especially in the event that
something goes wrong.
As far as a pedigree, all that that means is that the parents of your dog and
their parents, etc. were shelties. No more, no less. Even a dog from a champion bred to a
champion can have all kinds of faults that mean s/he should not be bred. Think twice
before you breed your dog. There is no shortage of shelties out there, and many have to be
put to sleep for lack of homes; unless you truly feel you are improving the breed, let
other people do the breeding and have your dog spayed or neutered. If all this doesn't
discourage you, be sure to read my information
on breeding as well. The Dog Zone also has a good article on spaying and neutering.
- I still want to bred my sheltie. What types of things do I need to do first?
- Since I am never going to convince everyone that they shouldn't breed, let me at
least try to educate you on what you should do if you ARE going to breed.
of all, do your homework! A good place to start is AKC's Getting Started in Dog Breeding. Learn the breed standard, go to shows and learn to
recognize good/bad faults in the dogs. Many people on the sidelines of the sheltie ring
are breeders that do not handle their dogs themselves and are more than happy to help
indoctrinate a novice. Preferably, find a breeder willing to "take you under their
wing" and teach you about the breed. It is very important to learn how to
"cross-fault", meaning to breed a dog who is weak in one area to a dog that is
strong and can compensate for the weakness.
If you are new to breeding, you will probably want a bitch rather than a male
dog. Studs can make poor housepets, and require a bit more experience to manage. Trying to
find people to breed to your unproven stud can be difficult as well. Don't rush into
buying a dog, and try to have a breeder whose opinion you value evaluate your prospective
dog. As usual, be sure all the proper screening was done on the parents, and that they are
good representatives of the breed.
Most people do not breed on the dog's first heat. They are still young, and
pregnancy is rough on dogs, just as it is for people! By the time the dog has her second
heat, she will be of a better age, and you will have had time to do the necessary genetic
screening. As mentioned earlier, shelties should be checked for hips, eyes, vWD, and
preferably thyroid function as well. All of these have fairly high incidences in shelties,
enough that you should be sure that you are not introducing them into the breed even more.
Check with your vet for the proper procedures for testing.
I am not going to go into the actual breeding procedures here, or puppy care.
There are many, many good books out there, but again, I strongly encourage you to find an
experienced breeder to help you out and give advice.
- My sheltie's ears don't tip? What can I do?
- About 1/3 of a sheltie's ear should tip forward. Many shelties have prick ears,
that is, ears that stand straight up. Once the dog is 6 or 7 months old, there is not much
you can do to correct this, but if your sheltie is still a puppy, you can help train the
ears to tip correctly. The book Sheltie Talk (discussed above) has a whole chapter
on training ears. My personal preference with prick ears is to weight them with
antiphlogistine. This is an item which usually has to be special-ordered from a pharmacy
(it's used as a poultice in people), but is not very expensive. You just take a little of
it and stick it to the ear, until you get the right amount of tip, then powder it, so the
part that faces out doesn't stick anymore. The color is almost unnoticable on most
shelties, and the dogs don't seem to be bothered by it much. Another popular product is
Speed Sew. This is a fabric glue that can be used for a couple of different things, such
as pulling the ears up on top of the head if they are too wide-set. Speed Sew can be
ordered from Highland Enterprises, P.O. Box 28076, Station 16, Lakewood, CO 80228;
303-988-7316. It is $4.50 per tube + $2.00 shipping. They also sell a remover, Savvy soap,
for $5.00. You can get the two together for $10.00.
An alternative is
ear tape, which is imported from Japan and is rapidly gaining fans. You can get more
information or order it from Triumph
Shelties. Another product you can try is Tear Mender.
For more detailed information, read this article on ear gluing.