Several coat colors exist. There are three main acceptable show colors, sable (ranging from golden through mahogany), tricolour (black, white, and tan) and blue merle (grey, white, black, and tan). Bi-Blues (grey, black, and some white) and bi-blacks (white and black) are less common but still acceptable. The best-known color is the sable, which is dominant over other colors. Shaded, or mahogany, sables can sometimes be mistaken for tricolored Shelties due to the large amount of dark shading on their coats. Another name for a shaded sable is a tri-factored sable and white. This names comes from the breeding of a shaded sable, which is a tri-color to a sable and white, or a tri-factored sable to another tri-factored sable. Another acceptable color in the show ring, but much less seen, is the sable merle, which can often be hard to distinguish from regular sables after puppyhood. Double merles, the product of breeding two merle Shelties together, can be bred but have a higher incidence of deafness or blindness or retardation than the other coat colors.
The size of a Sheltie (at the withers) can range from being undersize (under 13 inches) to being oversize (over 16 inches.) The average height of a Sheltie is 14-15 inches.
The Shetland Sheepdog is an outstanding companion dog and is intensely loyal. It is lively, intelligent, trainable, and willing to please and obey. Shelties are loving, loyal, and affectionate with their family, but are naturally aloof with strangers and might not appreciate being petted by someone they do not know; for this reason Shelties must be socialized extensively. Some can be quite reserved and some have varying degrees of shyness. Although they are excellent family pets, Shelties do especially well with children if they are raised with them from an early age; however, their small size makes it easy for a child to accidentally injure them, so supervision is necessary.
Shelties have a reputation as vocal dogs, but that might be undeserved. Ill-bred dogs often display a terrier-like personality--hyper and yappy, always on the go--but can just as easily be overly timid and may become a fear-biter. The intelligent Sheltie can be trained to be an excellent watch dog, and not yappy, giving two or three barks to alert its owner to a person at the door.
Unlike some dog breeds, males and females make equally good pets. The main difference is that males tend to have more impressive coats, and unspayed females will 'blow' coat after every heat cycle. Males should appear masculine, females feminine.
The herding instinct is still strong in many Shelties. They love to chase things, including squirrels, ducks, and children. When people are milling around the yard, Shelties sometimes try to "herd" the people into a group by running around, barking, and nipping at heels. This tendency appears most when children run around the yard in a group. Shelties love to run in wide-open areas. The space should be safe and they should not get too far away.
Shelties usually love to play. They do best with a sensitive, yet firm, owner. The Sheltie is, above all, an intelligent herder and likes to be kept busy, although their activity level usually coincides with their owner's level. Shelties also are very smart, making them highly trainable. Shelties are very good with children. They are sometimes mistaken for collies, but there is a big difference: the shetland sheepdog is much shorter.
Care should be taken when using gasoline powered yard care equipment in the presence of Shelties. Particular attention must be given during the starting process of weed-eaters (also known as lawn trimmers) and chain saws. The strong herding instinct quickly comes into play, but subsides just as quickly as the Sheltie finds that his/her job has been done.
Shelties have a high level of intelligence. According to Dr. Stanley Coren, an expert on animal intelligence, the Shetland Sheepdog is one of the brightest dogs, ranking 6th out of 132 breeds tested. His research found that an average Sheltie could understand a new command in less than 5 repetitions and would obey a command the first time it was given 95% of the time or better
Like the Rough Collie, there is a tendency toward inherited malformation and disease of the eyes. Each individual puppy should have his eyes examined by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist. Some lines may be prone to hypothyroidism, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, or skin allergies.
As with all dog breeds, diet should be monitored and adjusted as needed as many nonworking Shelties can overeat and easily become obese. Also, be sure not to feed Shelties food scraps as they are easily susceptible to uneasy stomachs.
The expected life span for Shelties is between 12-15 years.
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