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Shetland Sheepdog

An energetic multitasker, the Sheltie is intelligent and devoted.

Shetland Sheepdog Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Herding Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
12 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

Canines of the Shetland Sheepdog dog breed  stood guard for farmers in the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, keeping hungry birds and sheep out of the farmer's garden, and they served as herding dogs as well. Today they're excellent family companions and superstars in dog sports.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Shetland Sheepdog Names
More Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    The small, active Shetland Sheepdog (nicknamed the Sheltie) was once a Scottish farmer's best friend: sounding the alarm when anyone approached the property, barking at birds and other animals to shoo them from the garden, and later, with crosses to Scottish herding dogs, keeping the sheep flocks in line. While at first glance they look like a smaller version of the Rough Collie, the two are distinctly different breeds.

    Shelties are loving companions for all members of the family, including the kids, but they can be reserved or even shy around strangers. Because of their protective nature, they're quick to bark if they sense that anything's amiss in their territory. Training is essential to keep this trait from becoming a nuisance. On the upside, they make excellent watchdogs. You just have to teach them some discrimination.

    Ask any Sheltie owner, and they'll probably tell you how smart their dog is. According to Dr. Stanley Coren, an animal intelligence expert, that's more than pride of ownership talking. In his studies of the intelligence of 132 different dog breeds, Shelties ranked sixth in intelligence by being able to understand a new command after being told it fewer than five times on average, and obeying commands the first time they were given at least 95 percent of the time.

    Because of their intelligence, willingness to please, and athletic ability, Shelties excel at performance events. In their size group, Shelties typically dominate the field in agility. They're also exceptionally good in competitive obedience, flyball, tracking, and herding.

    In fact, Shelties have a reputation for being a little too smart for their own good. This is a breed that needs a job. Without plenty of mental stimulation, Shelties quickly become bored and will invent their own entertainment, which may or may not be to their people's liking.

    Shelties retain a strong herding instinct. You'll find that your Sheltie will enthusiastically chase and try to "herd" squirrels, rabbits, and children, running around them, barking, and nipping. Shelty owners should discourage this habit, especially with children, because it can lead to biting. Never let your Sheltie herd unless it's in a herding class with appropriate subjects such as ducks or sheep.

    Shelties are relatively inactive indoors and can handle apartment living if they're walked daily and aren't recreational barkers. Otherwise, they need a fenced yard where they can play safely and be prevented from seeking out animals, people, or cars to "herd."

    Shelties have a long, dense, furry coat and shed heavily. Lots of people don't realize just how much loose fur they're letting themselves in for, and many Shelties are given up to rescue groups every year because they shed. Be sure that you and your vacuum cleaner can handle that much hair.

    Shelties can be a good choice for a working person as they'll stay home alone contentedly, provided they get their fair share of attention when their people are home. They thrive in an environment where they're given companionship, playtime, training, and quiet patting. Your love they'll return tenfold.

  • Highlights

    • Many Shelties are very vocal, and they have a loud, piercing bark. To keep your relations with neighbors friendly, it's important to train your Sheltie at an early age to stop barking on command.
    • Expect your Sheltie to shed profusely in the spring, and sometimes at other times in the year.
    • Shelties are extremely intelligent and like to have a job to do. They can be stubborn, however. Make training fun and allow them time to make up their own minds to do what you want them to do.
    • Shelties have a lot of energy and need to be able to run. They thrive on activities such as agility and flyball, where they get both mental and physical exercise.
    • Shelties have been popular family dogs for many years. Because there's a big demand for puppies, there are many poorly bred Shelties for sale. If you're looking for a puppy, make sure you find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments. To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees.
  • History

    The Sheltie hails from the rugged Shetland Islands, which lie between Scotland and Norway, about 50 miles north of Scotland and a bit south of the Arctic Circle. These islands are also home to other small breeds of animals, such as Shetland Ponies and Shetland Sheep.

    For many years, the Shetland Sheepdog was called the Toonie, taken from the Norwegian word for farm. Farmers bred the dogs, crossing the Border Collie with smaller dogs, to herd and protect their flocks of Shetland Sheep. Some speculate that one of the tasks of Shetland Sheepdogs was to protect the small sheep from birds. Indeed, many of today's Shelties seem to have a passion for chasing birds, and some even try to chase airplanes and helicopters flying overhead.

    In the early 1800s, the Sheltie was brought to England and Scotland, where he was described as a miniature Collie. On the Shetland Islands, the farmers started breeding their small Shelties to be even smaller and fluffier, so they could sell them to visitors to the islands. It's rumored that a Prince Charles Spaniel (a variety of English Toy Spaniel) and some Pomeranian dogs, left on the island by tourists, were crossed with the native sheepdogs.

    There was so much crossbreeding that by the end of the 19th century, islanders realized that the original type of dog was disappearing. There was much dissension about what the original dog had looked like, however, and how to get back to it. Some breeders believed they needed to crossbreed with Collies in order to regain the original type, some felt that they should breed only the existing Shelties who were closest to the original type, and others continued to crossbreed indiscriminately with other breeds to develop small, pretty pets.

    Shelties of all three types were entered in dog shows in the early 20th century, up to World War I. In 1909, England's Kennel Club recognized the breed. Altogether, 28 Shelties were registered that year as Shetland Collies (rough). Four of them still appear in the pedigrees of many modern champion Shelties: two males named Lerwick Tim and Trim and two females named Inverness Topsy and Inga. The first Sheltie to be registered by the American Kennel Club was Lord Scott in 1911.

    Collie breeders in England were unhappy about the name of the breed, however, and protested to the Kennel Club. This led to the change of the name to Shetland Sheepdog.

    The Shetland Sheepdog stirred up controversy both in Great Britain and the United States for many years, with rumors of crossbreeding and long-running disagreements about what the breed should look like. As a consequence, many Shetland Sheepdog clubs were formed to support the different viewpoints. Finally, in 1930 the Scottish and English Clubs got together and agreed that the dog "should resemble a collie (rough) in miniature."

    U.S. breeders imported Shelties from England until the 1950's, but by that time, American and British Shelties had begun to diverge greatly in type and size. Today, almost all Shetland Sheepdogs in the U.S. are descended from dogs that were imported from England between World Wars I and II.

    As the breed became more well known, its numbers increased in the U.S. In the 1970s, their popularity exploded and Shelties appeared on the American Kennel Club's list of the ten most popular dogs in 12 of the next 15 years, peaking in the early 1990s. Today the Sheltie ranks 20th in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.

    And how is the Sheltie faring in his native Shetland Islands? Ironically, he's fairly rare in his rugged homeland — the breed has been replaced by the Border Collie.

  • Size

    The Shetland Sheepdog stands between 13 and 16 inches tall at the shoulder, but it's not unusual for them to be over- or undersize. A typical Sheltie weighs about 22 pounds, but a large one can weigh as much as 35 or 40 pounds.
  • Personality

    The Sheltie is intensely loyal, gentle, and sensitive. There's a wide range of personalities in the breed, from outgoing and boisterous to calm and sedate to shy or retiring.

    It's normal for Shelties to be reserved with strangers, but steer clear of dogs that seem overly timid or nervous. If you're choosing a puppy, it's fine if they don't always come right up to a stranger, but they should be happily curious and ready to make friends with someone who sits down on the floor with them.

    Whatever their personality, Shelties prefer to be with their people at all times and will follow them from room to room during the course of the day.

    Like all dogs, Shelties need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Sheltie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

  • Health

    Shelties are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Shelties will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.

    In Shelties, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, thyroid, and von Willebrand's disease and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal.

    Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.

    The following problems are not common in the breed, but they may occur:

    • Hypothyroidism occurs when the body can't maintain sufficient levels of thyroid hormones. Signs include weight gain, thinning coat, dry skin, slow heart rate, and sensitivity to cold. As hypothyroidism is a progressive condition, if you notice any of these signs, have your dog checked by your vet. Hypothyroidism is easily managed with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog's life. Because this is a disease of middle age, asking the breeder about the thyroid status of your puppy's grandparents may give you a better idea of whether the problem occurs in the breeder's lines.
    • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is an inherited condition that can lead to blindness in some dogs. It usually occurs by the time the dog is 2 years old and can be diagnosed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Usually both eyes are affected, but not necessarily to the same degree. Those dogs with minor anomaly make fine pets and usually do not lose their eyesight. Those that are more severely affected may lose their eyesight within a few years of diagnosis. There is no treatment for CEA, but blind dogs can get around very well using their other senses. It is important to remember that this condition is a genetic abnormality, and your breeder should be notified if your puppy has the condition. It is also important to spay or neuter your dog to prevent the gene from being passed to a new generation of puppies.
    • von Willebrand's Disease is an inherited blood disorder caused by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII antigen (von Willebrand factor). The primary sign is excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery. Other signs, such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding in the stomach or intestines, may also be present. Most dogs with von Willebrand's disease lead normal lives, however. If you feel this is a concern, your vet can perform tests to determine if your dog has it or not.
    • Canine hip dysplasia is a condition in which the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Screening for hip dysplasia can either be done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or by using the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs that have hip dysplasia shouldn't be bred. Ask the breeder from whom you get a puppy for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and found to be free of problems. If your dog displays signs of hip dysplasia, talk to your vet. Medication or surgery can help.
    • Dermatomyositis is an inherited disorder that can cause skin lesions and, in severe cases, affect the muscles. DM primarily affects Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs, although dogs in other breeds have been diagnosed. Some dogs never show any signs of the disease, but pass it along to their offspring. Signs are varied. Skin lesions may appear on the head, ears and front legs. There may be extensive hair loss and scarring on the face and ears, as well as on the legs and the tip of the tail. The only way to diagnose DM is through a skin punch biopsy evaluated by a dermapathologist. There's no test yet for dermatomyositis, which is thought to be one gene with variable expression, meaning that a dog can carry it without showing signs of it.
  • Care

    Although Shelties were bred to withstand harsh weather conditions, they love their people and should live indoors with them as part of the family.

    While they can be relatively inactive indoors, Shelties were bred to be working farm dogs and need ample exercise. They enjoy going for walks, playing fetch with the kids, and running around the dining room table. Afterward, they'll help you hold down the sofa.

    Because of their small size, Shelties can do well in an apartment if their people are committed to providing daily walks and playtime, as well as training them not to bark incessantly.

    This requires finesse. Shelties can have their feelings easily hurt by harsh treatment. Instead of yelling at your Sheltie for barking, acknowledge his alert ("Thanks for telling me about the squirrel in the yard") and give a verbal reprimand only if he continues barking. In general, Shelties respond best to positive reinforcement such as praise, play, and food rewards.

    Try to keep training interesting for your dog. Shelties can become bored easily, and see no point in repeating an exercise multiple times if it was done correctly the first time.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 3/4 to 2 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

    How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    Keep your Sheltie in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Sheltie, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    Shelties have a double coat. The undercoat is short and dense, causing the longer, harsher topcoat to stand out from the body. The hair on the head, ears, and feet is smooth, but the mane and frill (the hair around the neck and on the forechest) are abundant. The legs and tail are furry as well.

    You'll see three basic colors in the breed, all with varying amounts of white and/or tan markings:

    • Sable, ranging from golden to mahogany
    • Black
    • Blue Merle (blue-gray with black)

    A Sheltie who's more than 50 percent white or who has a brindle coat won't do for the show ring, but his color doesn't affect his ability to be a great companion.

    The Shetland Sheepdog's beautiful coat requires, at a minimum, a thorough weekly brushing with a pin brush. Be sure to get right down to the skin, and never brush a dry coat. Use a spray bottle to mist it as you go to prevent damage to the hair.

    Pay special attention to the fine hair behind the ears, which tends to tangle. If you find a mat in this area early, it can usually be brushed out with a small slicker brush.

    Your Sheltie will need extra brushing during shedding season. Males and spayed females generally shed once a year, while unspayed females shed twice a year, a couple of months after each estrus period.

    A proper Sheltie coat — a harsh outer coat and soft undercoat — sheds dirt and repels water, so Shelties need baths only when they get really dirty, which varies from dog to dog.

    Trim nails once or twice a month. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and protect your shins from getting scratched when your Sheltie enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Dental hygiene is also important. Brush your Sheltie's teeth at least two or three times a week to keep his breath fresh and prevent tartar buildup and periodontal disease. Daily brushing is even better.

    Start grooming your Sheltie when he's a puppy to get him used to it. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

  • Children and other pets

    Shelties are excellent family companions, especially when they're raised with children who know how to handle dogs respectfully.

    As with any dog, always teach children how to approach and touch dogs. Supervise all interactions between dogs and young kids to prevent biting or ear pulling from either party. Never leave dogs and young children alone together.

    When it comes to other dogs, Shelties have a definite preference for their own kind, even if they don't live with other Shelties. On first introduction, they seem to recognize other Shelties as kindred spirits and are usually immediately friendly and willing to play. They tend to be standoffish with new dogs of other breeds, however. They can get along with cats, once the cat puts the Sheltie in his place for trying to herd him.

  • Rescue Groups

    Shetland Sheepdogs are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Other Shelties end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. If you're interested in adopting an adult Shetland Sheepdog who's already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Not usually

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Very

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • A lot!

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Sometimes

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Low

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Not particularly

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Extremely

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • High

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • High

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Not usually

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Fairly good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Sometimes

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Very high

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • Moderate

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Sometimes

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Very High

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • High

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Moderate

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Moderate

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Very high

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Miniature

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Very high

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Poorly

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Not so well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Low

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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