Reprinted with permission
Revised May 20, 2000
Herding Dogs Group
Copyright 2000. United Kennel Club, Inc.
Sometime around 900 A.D., the islands off the coast of Scotland were colonized
by Norse people who brought with them the ancestors of the Shetland Sheepdog.
These ancestors were Spitz-type dogs, probably similar in type to today's
Iceland Dog and the Swedish Vallhund. Over time, the Shetland islanders
developed a small, highly intelligent dog, capable of herding with little or
no supervision. The island's harsh climate required a hardy, small dog with a
thick, weather-resistant coat.
In the 15th century, Shetland became part of Scotland and began importing
sheep from the mainland. The Scottish Collie, then slightly smaller than
today's breed, was crossed with the Shetland dogs to give the island breed a
more distinct Collie-like appearance. Today, the Shetland Sheepdog is a
popular companion and working dog, excelling at all events requiring
intelligence and agility.
The United Kennel Club has recognized this breed since 1948.
The general appearance of the Shetland Sheepdog is that of a Rough Collie in
miniature. A male Sheltie should appear distinctly masculine and a female
The Shetland Sheepdog is affectionate, loyal, highly intelligent and an
extremely willing worker. Shelties may be wary with strangers but are
intensely devoted to their family members, including children and other dogs.
Shelties excel in performance events, and many still serve as working farm
dogs. Shelties make excellent guard dogs, alerting to any intrusion with
Faults: Shyness, timidity, nervousness, snappishness.
Disqualifications: Viciousness; extreme shyness.
The head is refined but proportionate to the size of the body. When viewed
from the side, the skull and muzzle are of equal length, parallel, and joined
by a slight but definite stop. Viewed from the front and the side, the
Shetland Sheepdog's head forms a long, blunt wedge shape.
Faults: Skull and muzzle not parallel or of equal length; stop too
prominent or absent.
SKULL - The skull is flat and of moderate width. The occiput is not
prominent. The skull tapers slightly toward the muzzle. Cheeks are flat.
Faults: Prominent occiput; broad or domed skull; prominent
MUZZLE - Jaws are clean and powerful, with a well-developed underjaw,
rounded at the chin that extends to the base of the nostrils. Lips are tight
Faults: Snipey muzzle; short, receding, narrow or shallow underjaw;
TEETH - The Shetland Sheepdog has a complete set of evenly spaced, white
teeth meeting in a scissors bite.
Faults: Overshot or undershot bite; missing or crooked teeth; teeth
visible when mouth closed.
NOSE - The nose is black, and projects somewhat over the mouth.
EYES - Correct eye color, shape and placement is essential to proper
Sheltie expression, which is alert, intelligent, and gentle. Eyes are medium
in size, almond shaped, and set somewhat obliquely. The inner corner of the
eye marks the central point of the stop. Eye color is dark brown, except that
blue merles, sable merles, and predominately whites with merle coloration on
the head may have one or both eyes blue or flecked with blue. Eyerims are
black. Haw should not be visible.
Faults: Eyes too light, too large, too small, or too round; visible
haw; blue or blue-flecked eyes with any coat color other than merle or
predominately white with merle.
EARS - Correct ear set and carriage are essential to proper Sheltie
expression. Ears are small, moderately wide at the base, and fairly high set,
but not so high as to give a sharp, terrier-like appearance. When alert, ears
are carried semi-erect with the top one-fourth of the ear dropping forward.
Otherwise, ears may be folded lengthwise and laid back into the ruff.
Faults: Ears set too low or too high; erect, drop, bat, or twisted
ears; ear leather too thick or too thin.
The muscular, well-arched neck is sufficiently long to enable the head to be
carried proudly, blending smoothly into well-laid-back shoulders.
Shoulders are smoothly muscled. The shoulder blades are well laid back. The
upper arm appears to be equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at
an apparent right angle. Elbows are close to the body. The forelegs are
straight with strong, but not heavy, bone that is oval in shape. Pasterns are
strong, flexible and slightly sloping. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are
parallel. Viewed from the side, the point of elbow is directly below the
withers, and equidistant from the withers and the ground.
Faults: Upright shoulders; short upper arm; insufficient angulation;
loose shoulders; out at elbows; crooked legs; bone too heavy or too light.
The body is slightly longer than tall, measured from prosternum to point of
buttocks, but the length is derived from good angulation and not actual length
of back. Whether the dog is standing or moving, the line of the back is strong
and level from the withers to the gradually sloping croup. The loin is
moderately short, muscular and slightly arched, with very little tuck-up. The
ribs extend well back and are well sprung out from the spine, then curving
down and inward to form a deep body. The brisket extends to the elbow. Viewed
from the front, the chest is well filled and of moderate width.
Faults: Back too long, too short, swayed, or roached; barrel ribs or
slab sided; narrow or shallow chest; croup too steep or too flat; croup higher
The hindquarters are broad and muscular. In profile, the croup slopes
slightly. The angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the angulation
of the forequarters. The stifles are well bent, and the hocks are well let
down. Hock joint is clean cut. When the dog is standing, the short, strong
rear pasterns are perpendicular to the ground and, viewed from the rear,
parallel to one another.
Faults: Poorly muscled thighs; poorly defined hock joint; hocks
turning in or out.
Feet are compact, well knit, and oval in shape. Toes are well arched and pads
are thick and hard. Nails are strong. Dewclaws may be removed.
Faults: Feet turning in or out; round, splay or hare foot.
The tail is set low, forming a natural extension of the topline. It is thicker
at the base and tapers to the tip. A tail of the correct length extends at
least to the hock. When the dog is relaxed, the tail hangs down naturally or
with a slight upward curve. When the dog is moving or alert, the tail may be
raised slightly, but never higher than the line of the back.
Faults: Tail too short; kinked tail.
The Shetland Sheepdog has a thick, weather-resistant, double coat. The outer
coat is long, harsh textured and straight. The undercoat is soft, short, and
dense. The coat stands away from the body and is noticeably more profuse on
males than females. The neck is heavily coated forming an impressive mane,
frill and apron. The front of the forelegs are covered with short, smooth hair
while the back sides are well feathered. The rump and hind legs down to the
hock are covered with thick hair that forms the characteristic
"trousers." The tail is richly plumed. Hair on the face, tips of
ears, feet and hocks is smooth. Trimming of these smooth areas is allowed.
Faults: Short or flat coat; absence of undercoat; wavy, curly, soft,
or silky texture.
Disqualification: Smooth coat.
Acceptable colors include: black, blue merle, sable, sable merle, and
predominantly white. The black, blue merle, sable, and sable merle are marked
with varying amounts of white, tan, or white and tan trim. Sable ranges from
golden through mahogany. The predominantly white has a sable, black, blue
merle or sable merle head, with or without tan trim, and the body has small
amounts of like-colored markings. White should never predominate on the head
and should never surround the eyes. The ears should also be predominately
colored. When evaluating the relative merit of dogs, faults and merits of
color and markings are always secondary to those of physical soundness and
gait, except that a dog with the serious color faults described below should
never be considered for awards in conformation competition.
Faults: Rustiness in a black or blue merle coat; washed-out colors,
such as pale sable or faded blue; self-colored blue or sable merle with no
merling or mottling.
Serious faults: Predominately white head.
Disqualification: Albinism; brindle; white surrounding one or both
eyes; one or both ears predominately white.
HEIGHT AND WEIGHT
Height for a mature Shetland Sheepdog ranges between 13 and 16 inches. Weight
is proportionate to height.
Disqualification: Height above 16 inches or below 13 inches.
The Shetland Sheepdog is a herding dog that requires an easy, almost floating
movement, agility, and endurance. The correct shoulder assembly and
well-fitted elbows allow a long, free stride in front. The forelegs should
reach well forward without too much lift. Viewed from the front, the legs move
in nearly parallel planes, inclining slightly more inward as speed increases.
Hind legs should drive well under the body and move on a line with forelegs,
with hocks turning neither in nor out. Feet should have no tendency to swing
out, cross over, or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement; rolling
or high-stepping gait; or overly close or overly wide movement are incorrect.
Unilateral or bilateral cryptorchid. Viciousness or extreme shyness. Smooth
coat. Albinism. Brindle. White surrounding one or both eyes. One or both ears
predominately white. Height above 16 inches or below 13 inches.