Shetland sheepdogs, also called shelties, are excellent working dogs and pets. Appearing as small collies, shelties come in multiple colors and have an average lifespan of 11 to 15 years. With regular exercise, shelties can make loving, loyal and fun additions to your family for a dozen or so years.
Characteristics and Lifespan
Shelties will typically live 11 to 15 years with proper care. Shelties innately herd so you must be careful your sheltie does not put himself in danger by herding cars or larger animals without supervision. The average sheltie is about 13 to 16 inches tall and weighs 11 to 30 pounds. Shelties are active dogs that require a lot of exercise or a job to satisfy their herding instinct. With enough exercise, they can live a happy life in a variety of living situations.
Your sheltie will love you! He is loyal, willing to please and works hard to do so. A good listener, your sheltie is obedient and easily trainable with a pleasant, happy temperament. A smart breed, shelties react to the tone of your voice and can be shy or nervous with strangers. Strangers must exercise caution with shelties as they may bark loudly and even bite unfamiliar people. Because of the breed's intelligence and herding instinct, he requires a lot of activity.
Generally, shelties are healthy dogs with few serious physical issues. However, they may have some genetic health issues. These conditions include hip dysplasia, a skin condition called dermatomyositis, genetic eye defects, thyroid issues and kneecap displacement. Shelties gain weight easily and obesity can be an issue. Lastly, shelties may carry the MDR1 gene, which causes fatality if given certain medications. Shelties have thick coats that require frequent brushing and can become matted and dirty if not managed.
Finding a Sheltie
Reputable breeders sell shelties. Occasionally you may find an adoptable purebred sheltie through a rescue or shelter, but most in rescue are sheltie mixes. You can contact the American Shetland Sheepdog Association for a breeder referral. The ASSA can also assist you in locating a local sheltie rescue. Generally, dogs from breeders are more expensive but you can meet the parents and will know your dog’s history. Rescuing a dog is less expensive and you’ll get the satisfaction of adopting a homeless or shelter dog in need.
Francine Richards is a licensed multi-state insurance agent with years of human resources and insurance industry experience. Her work has appeared on Blue Cross Blue Shield websites and newsletters, the Houston Chronicle and The Nest. Richards holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Maryland.