Dog Health & More
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.
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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.