What is NOT to love about Shelties? Well, not much! If you’re looking for a new family dog there are, of course, lots of fantastic breeds to choose from. Your mileage from this list may vary, depending upon what is important to you & your unique family dynamics.
I put together my personal top 10 list of reasons why I think this breed is the perfect companion. Sheltie lovers can already relate to most of this!
(Insert David Letterman drum roll.)
10. Shelties Are Small
I’m not a big dog kind of person. Big dogs are strong. Big dogs can be intimidating. Many big dog breeds drool. Big dogs cost more than smaller dogs. Big dogs have big tails that knock you in the knees & swipe things off coffee tables.
Then there is that issue no one likes to mention about how dogs greet each other by sniffing. That can make for embarrassing moments when your dog’s head is already at a your houseguest’s inseam!
Personally, I think Shelties are the perfect-sized dog. Normally standing at 13-16 inches tall and weighing 15-23 pounds, they’re light enough to pick up and cuddle. They are small enough to play with young children and yet generally large enough to not be injured by a child. Their size often reassures those who are normally afraid of dogs.
9. Shelties Are Gentle
Shelties were bred to herd. Not to fight, retrieve or hunt. They are more of a diplomatic sort. They like to problem solve & work things out. This innate tendency lends them to be naturally ‘soft’ when interacting with people. Shelties are acutely aware of people’s body language, their position in relation to you & are very attuned to moods.
Shelties will generally either whine, gently nudge you with their nose or brush you with their whiskers when seeking attention. My Tyler likes to stand with his head between my knees while Im preparing his meals at the kitchen counter. If I’m wearing shorts, all I’ll feel are whiskers on each side of my knees. He likes to let me know he is there – ready & waiting for dinner!
Shelties often will place a toy next to you vs. dropping it on your toes. Shelties can also be more gentile with their toys than other breeds. Toys in our house have been handed down to new ‘siblings’ many times over. We have some stuffed toys that are over 10 years old!
Shelties are also known to hop up next to you & wait to be offered a seat vs. just barging in & plopping down on top of you. How polite of them!
8. Shelties Are Quirky
Have you ever seen a Sheltie stare at fish? Have you ever heard a Sheltie howl? My childhood Sheltie hated sewer grates and refused to walk near one. My beloved Trevor would only run laps around the room counter clockwise… squeaking a toy all the way. No one has ever accused this breed of not having personality!
Shelties possess a lot of joie de vivre. They love to amuse you & make you laugh. If you encourage them, you can bring out their silly side!
7. Shelties Are Expressive
If you pay attention, Shelties will show you the many different ways they display their emotions through body language – and via their vocal chords! Yes, they are known for their high pitched barking, but they can be trained to curb their bark, speak on demand, and even sing! (We are still working on that trick!) However do note that Shelties were definitely designed to be heard and not seen!
Why do Shelties bark a lot? Well, Shelties have lots to talk about! They crave lots of interaction with their humans and will stay by your side all day long just to be close to you. (That means following you everywhere…that includes the bathroom too.)
As soon as it’s time to do something different, like have dinner or go for a walk, they’ll tell you about it. Our seven-year-old Sheltie Toby is a particularly bossy Sheltie at dinner time. He will put his head on whatever couch, chair or knee is nearby and grunt and squeak while looking at you. No need for a clock. He will remind me exactly when it’s dinner time.
Do dogs smile? I know for sure Shelties do! When a Sheltie is happy, their eyes sparkle and their mouth opens wide and they start to huff at you. You will also notice they pull back the corners of their mouths when they smile vs just panting. I could get Trevor to smile on cue by asking “are you smiling?” and then touch the corner of his mouth. He loved this game! The Sheltie smile is a wonderful thing to behold!
It’s very easy to communicate with these expressive creatures once you tune into their body language!
6. Shelties Are Playful
Shelties love to dash and play. As with most dogs, look out for the play bow, where a game of chase ensues, rushing round the house or yard wearing their ecstatic Sheltie grins. This game is usually played between dogs but you can initiate it as a human too. Try it! I bet your Sheltie will be over the moon!
While they generally take to retrieving Frisbees and the like, Shelties do prefer the chase portion of the game more than the return! Trevor would stand just a foot away wanting me to throw him the Frisbee. Once caught he would let me reach over and take it back, eager for the next toss! Trevor also loved to look for toads on our driveway after an evening rain. He would stand over them waiting for them to hop away! He got so mesmerized that after a while all it took was us to say ‘Trevor, where are the toadies?’ and his head would immediately turn down toward the ground, scanning for his little friends.
If you want to see something really cute, get some doggie safe blow bubbles. Most Shelties go nuts chasing these magic elusive things and trying to eat them to make them pop!
5. Shelties Are Great Companions
What happens when you mix intelligence, loyalty and sensitivity? You get an amazing friend! Shelties yearn to be with you always, even when that means doing scary things like going into the water, which for most Shelties can be terrifying (although not all fear the wet stuff, some of them love it.) The cruelest thing a person can do to a Sheltie is to make them live outside & away from the family.
These sweet animals are 100% guided by your companionship, so they really do get upset or sad when you leave the house without them. I definitely wouldn’t recommend such a bonded breed if you travel a lot. When you take on a Sheltie, you take on a new best friend and you’ll need to accommodate their needs into your life.
As I said before, Shelties will follow you into the bathroom if you don’t stop them. As a Sheltie owner you’ll get used to that sort of thing :)
When my mother-in-law comes to visit she can’t quite get comfortable with the fact that the dogs stare at her. She always asks me why they do that! Sheltie lovers know that just comes with the territory and it means they just want to communicate with you!
4. Shelties Are Sensitive
Being so intelligent, Shetland Sheepdogs are incredibly sensitive to their environment. In a watchdog capacity, they will alert you to any unusual activity going on outside or inside the home. That means cars, neighbors pets, wildlife and even children playing. Our Sheltie Tyler will even go so far as to growl at a dropped sock on the stairs or a coat on the back of a chair. If it is something different or out of the ordinary you bet we hear about it! You can train your Sheltie to curb any excessive barking reaction, but they are
still extremely motivated to stay on watchdog duty!
3. Shelties Are Beautiful
The first thing you notice about a Sheltie is just how stunningly beautiful they can be. They also come in a range of different coat colors, so there is a color to please just about everyone!
Although often met with shrieks of “Look a little, Lassie!” or the infamous saying that makes Sheltie folks cringe round the world…”Look, at the miniature Collie!” Really, it is easy for the untrained eye to tell the difference between a Sheltie and a Rough Collie when stood side-by-side. Both beautiful in their different ways, but Shelties have a very different facial profile than Collies. Besides the size difference, well-bred Shelties have a more fox-like appearance.
2. Shelties Are Intelligent
As the world’s 6th most intelligent dog breed, Shetland Sheepdogs are considered extremely intelligent.
Originally bred to tend flocks of sheep on their own, they have exceptional decision making skills. They learn new commands in as little as a handful of repetitions and have the capacity to learn hundreds of spoken words. They are also very curious to explore, which makes them easy to train.
I recall a fun story about Trevor & how he trained US to give him what he wanted. Several years ago on a trip to VT, we came across a bell manufacturer who made reproduction antique horse sleigh style jingle bells that came on a leather strip for your door. I loved the soft, sweet chime they made so we bought one for our back door. Every time the door would open, the bells would sound. Nice, right?
Well one afternoon my husband & I are in the kitchen talking about something & Trevor left to go into the mudroom that has that back door. We were talking & heard the bells chime. We stopped talking, looked at each other & leaned around the corner. There was Trevor standing by the door looking at us. I said, ‘what’s up Trevor, did you ring the bells?’ He turned around and gently touched the last bell on the string with his nose then turned to face me again, smiling. I laughed and asked if he needed to go potty & he did his happy dance and rang them a 3rd time. I got the hint and lavished him with praise (and took him out of course!). Such a smart man!
From that point on he rang the bells on his own when he wanted to go out…or if I asked him to do it for me. I never had to train him. He just figured it out on his own! This is one of my sweetest memories of Trevor and the bells still hang on the door today. I will always leave the tarnish on that last brass bell from all the wet nose touches as a happy reminder of him & our time together.
1. Shelties Are Loving
The perfect sized lapdog, many Shelties love to cuddle in your lap and enjoy hours of stroking and belly rubs. Some dogs are so content that when you stop, they reach out and pull your hand back to keep stroking! In most cases, Shelties are notoriously loyal and loving with their owners, while reserved around strangers, which makes your relationship with them extra special.
I’ve had many a stressful day at work only to come home to a bouncy, barky, smiling, over-the-top-excited-to-see-you Sheltie. All my problems melt away once I can hug one of my boys.
We’ve formed strong attachments with our Shelties because of the attention we give them. Mental stimulation is important for this breed. Do that and they will give their heart, soul and all four paws to you; paying you back 1000 fold!
What are YOUR top 10 reasons for loving Shelties?