The harsh climate of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland probably contributes to the small size of its native domestic animals. There's the famous Shetland pony, Shetland sheep and cattle, and the Shetland sheepdog. Often mistaken for a miniature collie, the Shetland sheepdog is a distinct breed.
The sheltie, as the Shetland sheepdog is commonly called, does indeed resemble a small collie. According to American Kennel Club standards, the sheltie matures between 13 and 16 inches high at the shoulder and weighing about 20 pounds. This breed wears a double coat and requires regular grooming. Sheltie colors, similar to collies', may include black, gold and deep mahogany. Blue merle, ranging from a dark pewter to silver tone, is also a common breed shade. Both the sheltie and the standard collie trace their ancestry to the border collie, possibly the most goal-oriented breed in the world of canines.
While usually friendly, shelties can be shy and nervous around strangers. They're smart and obedient but tends to bark a lot. The sheltie becomes very attached to his person or family and so is probably not the best breed for someone who works very long hours. He's not overly energetic, so can make a good apartment dog if given adequate exercise.
This herding dog likes to work; he excels at activities that give him a chance to show off his work ethic. If you're athletic, you and your sheltie can participate together in canine sports, such as agility, obedience, even sheep herding. If you just want a dog that obeys basic commands, the sheltie easily fills the bill -- he's very trainable and eager to learn.
Generally, shelties live between 12 and 14 years. As with any purebred dog breed, certain genetic problems are not uncommon. Like many smaller dogs, shelties may suffer from luxating patellas, or displaced kneecaps. Depending on how serious the displacement, surgery may be required to restore a sheltie's mobility. Dermatomyositis, colloquially called collie nose, appears as lesions and hair loss on the face. If your sheltie has any skin disorders on his face, take him to the vet. Although rare, collie nose lesions can become cancerous. Like his collie cousins, the sheltie is prone to scleral ectasia, a hereditary eye disease causing impaired vision or blindness. Although your sheltie should receive regular heartworm preventatives, he may be sensitive to one of the common dewormers, ivermectin. Ask your vet about effective substitutes for this medication.
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.