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Miniature Shelties

If you hear the terms “Miniature Sheltie”  “Toy Sheltie” or “Teacup Sheltie” used by a breeder,  you should be running the other way! 

There is NO such thing as a miniature Sheltie, toy Sheltie, or teacup Sheltie, period.  These terms were made up by unethical breeders trying to sell small Shelties.  If you would like a small Sheltie, you are better off just looking for one from a good breeder. There is often a range of different size Shelties produced within a litter.

Someone who is claiming to have “Miniature Shelties”, “Miniature Collies” or “toy-size” dogs either does not truly know anything about what a Sheltie or Collie is, or is purposely deceiving you.  Regardless, this is not a breeder from which you should be buying a puppy.

There are also unscrupulous people who breed Shelties with other “toy” breeds to create a Sheltie mix, which is then advertised as “miniature Shelties”. Of course the resulting puppies look very different than what the Shetland Sheepdog Breed Standard calls for. There are other backyard breeders who breed runts to get smaller Shelties with each generation. Neither is a healthy practice and these small Shelties often have more medical problems than the normal sized Shelties because of their size AND the fact that the breeder’s primary focus is size and not health or correct structure.

A major reason for this teacup dog fad is the desire to create designer dogs– dogs created for their novelty value. This type of breeding always happens in puppy mills (which supply pet store puppies) and through backyard breeders.  These operations are only profit driven. This is bad for Shelties as a whole because they’re diluting the quality of the Shetland Sheepdog breed, as these miniature Shelties fall short of AKC standards.

Unethical breeding also produces a laundry list of health problems. Most Shelties they have created will have shorter lifespans after expensive vet bills and owner heartbreak. These bad breeders also think they can charge inflated prices that can be in the thousands! Did you know this the price range you’d pay for a high quality show dog from a breeder that adheres to AKC standard? For that price you might as well go direct to a respected breeder!

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Miniature Shelties Have Health Problems

While not exclusive to Shetland Sheepdogs, or even dogs in general, the act of miniaturization often has a negative effect on health and temperament.

Some of the problems that may be encountered are both genetic and congenital in these dogs:

  • Hydrocephalus (Water on the brain) – causes bulging eyes, unsteadiness, vomiting, and seizures.
  • Weak bones prone to breaking.
  • Hypoglycemia- this requires lifelong medication.
  • Open fontanels – soft spot from the cranial bone not forming.
  • Portosystemic shunts – Abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver.
  • Cardiac problems
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Blindness
  • Luxating patellas
  • Legg–Calvé–Perthes Disease: osteonecrosis of the femoral head.
  • Digestive problems

PLEASE educate yourselves before buying a tiny puppy whether it is a Shetland Sheepdog or any other breed.  You could be in for months or years of heartbreak not to mention staggering veterinarian bills!  [/stextbox]

If you come across someone who is claiming to be part of a Toy Sheltie Club and/or have “Toy Shelties” , all they are doing is breeding under-sized Shelties. Often these people will claim that these dogs are rare and worth more money…do not believe it! These dogs are worth no more than any other pet-quality Sheltie.   (That size Sheltie was never the standard and would have been far too small to effectivley herd the Shetland Sheep and cattle on the islands. It was necessary for early Shelties to earn their keep, as the Shetlanders could ill afford to keep any dog simply as a pet.)

For the sake of your future dog’s health exercise extreme caution when you hear the terms, “miniature”, “toy” and “teacup” used in the same sentence as the word “Sheltie”.  You may inadvertently end up supporting the unethical (and illegal) practices of back yard breeders and puppy mills. If you really want a small dog, please choose breed from the AKC recognized Toy Group.


  1. Lucienne May 10, 2023 at 3:46 am - Reply

    I have had small Shelties all my life and they’ve been happy and healthy. This year I purposely went to the few breeders over the US who love the more petit versions of Shelties (under 13” ) and these breeders breed gorgeous healthy smaller Shelties that are 10 to 15 lbs.

  2. Lauren Van Praag December 19, 2019 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    My daughter bought her Sheltie in California. She was a tiny puppy and now at 2 1/2 she is a tiny girl. Her top weight has been about 9 1/2 pounds and her height no more that 91/2 inches. She came with papers but this was not a main concern for my daughter since this was not her focus. She is very healthy thus far but I always worry about her. People ask if she is a miniature but I tell them there is no such thing she is just very small. I have done a lot of research and I am aware of the health concerns and of course she is spayed. Is there any thing else we should be aware of. Is it possible that she is just small?

  3. Sandra June 15, 2018 at 2:52 am - Reply

    I know I have had people ask me if my Sheltie is a miniature collie, and I tell them no that is is a Sheltie. Some people still don’t understand that there is a difference between Shelties and Collies. I had one guy came out and called me a liyer. Told be that it was a made up breed just to get smaller Collies. What are gonna do, some people need to lear their breeds of dogs before they start calling a horrible dog owner. I love my Shelties.

    • Tara Lawrence-Stuart August 17, 2018 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Sandra, we have a Sheltie who is about a third smaller than the AKC standard (i.e. 13″ to 16″ high at the top of the sboulder); Missy is almost 12″, and built to scale. She is a “blue merle” in color with white points and chest, and snappy black eyes!. About 12 years ago, when she was about three years old, a friend who got into trouble gave her to us so we don’t know her lineage except my friend, Tracy LePage, in San Diego, who raises champion Shelties, confirmed that Missy is indeed a purebred Sheltie and that they come in all sizes. She told me this breed’s history of originally being smaller than the show dog standard. Her Shelties are up to 15″ tall and of course look quite abi bit larger proportionately than Missy. She assured me that Missy is probably not bred upward in size but certtainly doesn’t have the “toy” look, and wasn’t purposely bred to be “toy.” She is just small with the perfect dainty miniature conformation of a female Sheltie which is often mistakenly called a “miniature Sheltie” or a puppy. Her brothers in the same litter might even be somewhat bigger. Missy is now a lovely little grande dame of 15. The fact that she is female may be why people think she’s a miniature. Tracy told me that if she were male she would look more bulky and masculine. In a book about The Shetland Sheepdog breed, it is noted that they look distinctly masculine or feminine. So if your Shelties are smaller than a show dog’s standard, don’t allow anyone to try to say your dogs are “miniature Collies” or, if your dogs are kind of small, “toy Shelties.” There are some freaky experimental manipulative breeders who are producing dogs who are unhealthy and skewed–poor little things–and are advertised, and sold(!) for thousands of dollars as toys and other bogus breeds. These con artists don’t love or respect dogs at all. Keep on loving and kindly educating inquisitive or ignorant people, be patient, and don’t let them get to you.

      • C Dix April 22, 2019 at 12:24 am - Reply

        These are not slightly smaller shelties; they are as small as Pomeranians ( and probably bred with too!)

    • William Craven January 3, 2020 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Shelties are a collie breed. They were originally called Shetland Collies. Many AKC breeders have Shelties smaller than 13” tall that are called miniature Shelties. They have no more health issues than taller Shelties.

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