When people refer to miniature collies, they're actually talking about Shetland sheepdogs, a breed that does indeed look like a little collie. The breed descends from the collie, originating on the harsh Shetland Islands, the same origin point of the namesake small ponies. Lassie is a cousin, so to speak.
Shelties, as they're commonly called, mature between 13 and 16 inches tall at the shoulder. The breed ranges from 14 to 27 pounds, with males larger than the females. Shelties have a double coat, with the outer hair long and straight and the undercoat furry and short. The sheltie possesses and abundant "mane" around the neck. His tail has lots of hair, with hairy feathering on his legs. Colors include black, sable - golden to dark brown - and blue merle. The last color is a bluish-silver color. Shelties have white or tan in the coats, but the American Kennel Club considers excessive amounts of white a breed fault.
Bred as a herding dog, the Sheltie is fast and agile. Since the odds are that you don't have sheep in your backyard, you can direct that herding energy into sports like dog agility or flyball, at which Shelties shine. Loyal, smart and loving, some Shelties suffer from shyness around new people. While they're a good match for singles and couples, Shelties may be too sensitive for families with young children, although older children taught to approach and handle correctly should be fine. Some Shelties bark a lot. In general, they are good guard dogs.
Shelties don't suffer from many genetic maladies, but with all pure breeds there are some hereditary health issues. Like their collie cousins, Shelties are prone to eye diseases. Your dog could also suffer from displaced kneecaps, known as luxating patella. Surgery can correct this condition if it arises. Don't overfeed your dog -- Shelties are prone to weight problems. Also like collies, Shelties are sensitive to certain common canine medication, including some heartworm prevention drugs. Your vet will prescribe the right medication for your dog.
While your Sheltie can live quite happily with you in a small apartment, he does require a lot of exercise. If you're a couch potato, this is not the best breed for you. If you like to take long walks or runs, the Sheltie is a great companion. Regular exercise also keeps the dog at an optimum weight. With proper feeding, vet care, exercise and love, your Sheltie can be at your side for 12 to 15 years.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.