by Robert Hudson
Stories from Sheltie Guardians
Becky Casale is passionate about Shelties and has created the immensely popular website Sheltie Planet . I had a delightful conversation with her as well as some other friends who also have a love for Shelties which I will share with you here.
Shelties, (the mini Lassie) are beautiful dogs with a fun personality that will keep you entertained. They have an unmistakable look with with a flowing mane of hair and a slender long nose between soulful eyes.
The Shetland Sheepdog, often known as the Sheltie, is a breed of herding dog that originated in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. The original name was Shetland Collie, but this caused controversy among the Rough Collie breeders of the time, so the breed’s name was formally changed. wikipedia
How long have you been working with Shelties?
Becky I’ve had Shelties for 12 years. I fell in love with my first Sheltie puppy, Howard, in 2008 and the next year we adopted his half-brother, Piper. I became obsessed with them from day one. Soon, I had so many photos and stories to share, I thought they deserved their own website. Virtually overnight, Sheltie Planet was born, and I’ve been researching the breed, writing advice articles, and attending shows ever since.
Shelties are fairly unusual here in New Zealand. I searched all over looking for a rescue, to no avail. Eventually, I found a breeder who was active and said she had a litter ready for re-homing the following week. Of course, their new families had been assigned months ago, so I figured it would be a long wait for us to get a Sheltie of our own.
A few days later, the breeder called with some news. One of her adopters had broken her foot, and could no longer take on a new puppy right now. So it was quite fateful that her assigned puppy, “Toes”, became available to us.
We travelled to South Auckland to the breeder’s kennels. I was super excited, like a little kid on Christmas Eve. I’d never had a puppy before, so I had no idea what was in store, just that I couldn’t wait to hold this little ball of fluff in my arms.
“Toes” was ridiculously adorable. He had gorgeous almond eyes, big floppy ears, and a permanent smile. Here he is on the day we brought him home.
He was shy at first and followed me everywhere. I loved it. I bonded quickly with my new shadow. We decided to name him Howard Woofington Moon, because dogs should get people names too, don’t you think?
After three days, Howard settled in with our family and started to become much more confident, exploring the house and the garden on his own. This was when his personality began to show and we realized we had a very playful, friendly, sociable puppy on our hands.
Describe the first issue you encountered that you did not expect and learned from?
Howard peed and pooped everywhere! Call me naive, but at the time, I had never had a puppy before, and I didn’t realize how often they have to relieve themselves. He would do it in the living room mostly, and it was a mad dash to put him on the newspaper mid-pee so he could learn where it was supposed to go…
Then there was puppy-proofing the house. Howard quickly demonstrated he would chew anything he could get his jaws around, and that first week he destroyed my glasses, the TV remote, and countless socks. Fortunately, the chewing phase disappears as they mature, and now he only chews on his own soft toys.
I was expecting some shyness from Howard, as this came up as a common Sheltie trait in my research. But he just loves pats and attention, whether it’s from house guests or total strangers on the beach. In his mind, he’s a great proud lion, here to protect our family and snuggle up to all our friends.
What do you like best about the breed?
Shelties are really smart for small dogs. They are easily trainable, learning new words in as little as five repetitions, and often very eager to please. They’re also very sensitive, which can sometimes lead to that shyness I mentioned, but the upside is they are very aware of what’s going on around them and comply with the demands of training.
Shelties are also very affectionate. Piper is very different from Howard, and he reserves almost all of his affection for us. This makes us feel very special and I’m never left wanting for a warm Sheltie on my lap in the evenings.
Of course, they’re beautiful too. They have the sweetest, daintiest faces. I love that Sheltie look!
Tell us about the different coat colors and which is your favorite?
There are three main coat colors in Shelties: Sable (tan and white), Black (black, tan and white), and Blue Merle (black, gray and white). They’re all gorgeous to me. I find the patterns and genetics of coat colors really interesting. There are more subsets and even rare varieties like the Color-Headed White, which you can read about at: The 8 Sheltie Coat Colors.
How strong is their herding instincts- are they good around children?
Shelties have a very strong herding instinct which can take the form of chasing other animals like cats, rabbits, squirrels, rats, and all the rest. They’re not the fastest dogs though, and the few times I’ve seen Howard actually corner another animal (once, one of our escaped chickens) he didn’t know what to do with it. He just guarded it and barked. Piper has caught mice a couple of times, where it was game over for the mouse. Cats usually just jump a fence and leave the dogs befuddled.
The herding instinct is fun when playing outside with other dogs. It’s not so fun if you have a nervous Sheltie and the instinct is triggered by a child running close by. Piper used to be extremely nervous of children – we think because he never met any until we adopted him at about nine months old, well past the window of socialization – and would snap at the air behind their heels when they ran. He’s much better now that we have two kids of our own and he’s used to it; he just gives them a wide berth. So I’d recommend Shelties for a family with young kids, so long as the Sheltie doesn’t have any serious traumas in his past which could trigger behavioral issues around children.
In terms of energy and exercise requirements, Shelties are content with 30-60 minutes outside every day, as you would aim for with most breeds. On rainy days when we can’t get out, they play “zoomies” around the house for five minutes, which they absolutely love. I wouldn’t say they have too much energy though. Some breeds, like Border Collies, need a serious amount of exercise to stay sane. Shelties are so small, however, that they do burn out. If we take them out for a two-hour walk they will spend the rest of the day flopped on the couch.
What is the most important thing you would want to tell someone considering a Sheltie as a pet?
With any dog breed, make sure you can commit to walking them every day. It’s a huge commitment over the lifetime of a dog, and not to be taken lightly. They really need that stimulation from the outside world, as well as the physical exercise, and expecting them to be happy roaming the yard isn’t going to cut it.
Specific to Shelties, you should know they’re a breed that likes to be heard! They talk, sing, and most notably, bark. They have an instinct to alert you to everything going on outside the house, from the mailman, to children playing in the street, to passing cats. Barking is their way of telling you there might be cause for concern, so you can usually just check out the noise and say “ok, shh”, and they will feel their job is done. But this takes training. You were warned!
Aside from the barking, which you really want to curb, Shelties are wonderful dogs! They’re smart, sensitive and loving companions and I’m so glad I happened upon this breed all those years ago.
This gorgeous sweetie belongs to Chris Hill “He has an incredible zest for life. Always happy and ready to take on the world and life. He theme song is Don’t stop me now”
Terry Albert has two Shelties.
“Pepper is one of my current shelties (I’ve owned 10 over the years). He was a rescue, and is about as far from a show dog as one could possible get. But the good news is he doesn’t have a double coat, so it doesn’t mat. Happiest dog on earth. Fetches better than any retriever I’ve ever had.““Everyone that met my sheltie Tux said he looked like a skunk, so I got him this halloween costume.”
Pepper loves to herd the horses up and down the fence line, and he’s very noisy at it.
A loyal companion and an affectionate addition to any dog loving family. Do you have a sheltie? Please share your experience with this dog in the comments below.