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!

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!  

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.

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