Shetland Sheepdog

FCI standard Nº 88

Great Britain
Group 1 Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs
Section 1 Sheepdogs
Without working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Tuesday 09 November 1954
Publication of the official valid standard
Monday 19 August 2013
Last update
Friday 23 August 2013
En français, cette race se dit
Chien de berger des Shetland
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
Shetland Sheepdog
En español, esta raza se dice
Perro pastor de Shetland
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd
Shetland Sheepdog


Companion dog and Sheepdog.

General appearance

Small, long-haired working dog of great beauty, free from cloddiness and coarseness, action lithe and graceful. Outline symmetrical so that no part appears out of proportion to whole. Abundant coat, mane and frill, shapeliness of head and sweetness of expression combine to present the ideal.

Important proportions

Skull and muzzle of equal length, dividing point inner corner of eye.
Slightly longer from point of shoulder to bottom of croup than height at withers.

Behaviour / temperament

Alert, gentle, intelligent, strong and active. Affectionate and responsive to his owner, reserved towards strangers, never nervous.


Cranial region

Head refined and elegant with no exaggerations; when viewed from top or side a long, blunt wedge, tapering from ear to nose. Width and depth of skull in proportion to length of skull and muzzle. Whole to be considered in connection with size of dog.
Flat, moderately wide between ears, with no prominence of occipital bone. Topline of skull parallel to topline of muzzle.  
Slight but definite.

Facial region

The characteristic expression is obtained by the perfect balance and combination of skull and foreface, shape, colour and placement of eyes, correct position and carriage of ears.
Tight with black rims.
Jaws and teeth
Jaws level, clean, strong with well-developed underjaw. Teeth sound with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. A full complement of 42 properly placed teeth highly desired.
Flat, merging smoothly into well rounded muzzle.
Medium size obliquely set, almond-shape with black rims. Dark brown except in the case of merles, where one or both may be blue or blue flecked.
Small, moderately wide at base, placed fairly close together on top of skull. In repose, thrown back; when alert brought forward and carried semi-erect with tips falling forward.


Muscular, well arched, of sufficient length to carry head proudly.


Level, with graceful sweep over loins.
Sloping gradually to rear.
Deep, reaching to point of elbow. Ribs well sprung, tapering at lower half to allow free play of forelegs and shoulders.


Set low; tapering bone reaches to at least hock; with abundant hair and slight upward sweep. May be slightly raised when moving but never over level of back. Never kinked.



Forelegs straight when viewed from front, muscular and clean with strong, but not heavy, bone.
Very well laid back. At withers, separated only by vertebrae, but blades sloping outwards to accommodate desired spring of ribs. Shoulder joint well angled.
Upper arm
Approximately equal in length with shoulder blade.
Equidistant from ground and withers.
Strong and flexible.


Upper thigh
Broad and muscular, thigh bones set into pelvis at right angles.
Joint has distinct angle.
Joint clean cut, angular, well let down with strong bone. Hocks straight when viewed from behind.


Oval, soles well padded, toes arched and close together.

Gait and movement

Lithe, smooth and graceful with drive from hindquarters, covering the maximum amount of ground with the minimum of effort. Pacing, plaiting, rolling, or stiff, stilted, up and down movement highly undesirable.


Double; outer coat of long hair, harsh-textured and straight. Undercoat soft, short and close. Mane and frill very abundant, forelegs well feathered. Hindlegs above hocks profusely covered with hair, below hocks fairly smooth. Face smooth. The coat should fit the body and not dominate or detract from the outline of the dog. Smooth-coated specimens highly undesirable.
Sable: clear or shaded, any colour from pale gold to deep mahogany, in its shade, rich in tone. Wolf-sable and grey undesirable.
Tricolour: intense black on body, rich tan markings preferred.
Blue Merle: clear silvery blue, splashed and marbled with black. Rich tan marking preferred but absence not penalised. Heavy black markings, slate or rusty tinge in either top or undercoat highly undesirable; general effect must be blue.
Black and White, and Black and Tan: also recognised colours.
White markings may appear (except on black and tan) in blaze, collar and chest, frill, legs and tip of tail. All or some white markings are preferred (except on black and tan) but absence of these markings not to be penalised. Patches of white on body highly undesirable.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Ideal height at withers: Males 37 cm, females 35,5 cm.
More than 2 1/2 cm above or below these heights highly undesirable.


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.



Detailed history

As its name clearly suggests, this sheepdog is native to the Shetland Islands, an archipelago in northern Scotland characterized by a harsh and humid climate.

These islands are the homeland of the famous small Shetland ponies, but they also shelter sheep with a small size and black muzzle. Who would not be tempted to believe, then, the legend that, in order not to hurt these sheep, we have created dogs of stature less imposing than traditional English sheepdogs? However, the reality is probably more related to chance.

It is admitted that rather primitive dogs had existed for a long time in the archipelago, when, in the first years of the nineteenth century, ancestors of the current Collie were introduced, soon followed by other breeds, of the Icelandic or Norwegian Shepherd type, which were also mixed with native dogs. The crossbreeding of these breeds resulted in a dog already quite close to the current Shetland Sheepdog.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, mating was done with Spitz and probably Border Collies, and so the breeders managed to fix a hitherto unknown breed. In 1908, fans of this new dog decided to create the Shetland Collie Club, then the year 1914 saw the founding of the English Shetland Sheepdog Club. In the standard of the time, it was stated that "the general appearance of the Shetland Collie is approximately that of Collie, in miniature".

The Shetland Shepherds began to be talked about shortly before the First World War. The English navy was training in the north of Scotland, and the soldiers were engaged in landing maneuvers in the Shetland Islands. It was on this occasion that dogs attracted the attention of people who had never seen them before; Shetland were gradually introduced in Scotland and England.

At first, the public believed that Shetland was a Collie in reduction, and we must recognize that the similarity between the two races is flagrant. However, Shetland is absolutely not a dwarf race, the harmony of its forms attests it sufficiently. "It's a pocket sheepdog," declared in 1917 Mrs. Loggie, a British breeder. She has certainly been heard, because the success of this dog is indisputable today. Present in Great Britain, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Shetland, nicknamed Sheltie, is currently the ninth or tenth world race by the size of its workforce.

This little dog is actually a very imposing animal, which is not a gadget. Coming from a region with a harsh climate, he kept the ancestral qualities proper to the shepherd dogs born in the north of Great Britain. It is not at all a luxurious dog, and it does not lend him the aristocratic looks sometimes criticized Collie, larger and more exposed to this kind of criticism.

Very intelligent, Shetland does not need a long education to understand what is expected of him and to behave elegantly. Everything seems natural to him, and that is not his least charm. Very attached to his master, he observes and listens attentively and obeys him spontaneously. This is not a servile dog. With a personality of his own, he knows how to enhance without systematically opposing his master.

Although its current function is primarily that of a pet, Shetland Sheepdog is still perfectly capable, by receiving proper training, of driving a herd. Moreover, some farmers and shepherds are now working their Shetland on sheep. Admittedly, no one seriously plans to make a working dog again, but it shows that he has not become a useless dog at all. In the presence of the Sheltie, it is even highly recommended never to lose sight of his quality of auxiliary man. There are many ways to make him feel that he has his role to play, and it would be a shame to deprive him of this pleasure, pleasure that also very quickly becomes that of the master. "Dialogue" with a Shetland is indeed a very satisfying experience. This little dog knows what he wants, and when he thinks it's preferable, he will take the initiative in many areas. This is how the Shetland Shepherd, relatively alien to foreigners, will not hesitate to face a stranger if he perceives that it is animated with bad intentions. Its small size must not deceive anyone: the Sheltie is a big dog.

Very keen, he needs to exercise regularly so that his lines remain as harmonious as the standard provides. It is therefore necessary to take it as often as possible to the countryside or in a large park so that it can run without restraint. He is never the first one tired in these moments. Its endurance is quite comparable to that of larger dogs. But the Shetland Shepherd knows how to temper his exuberance at the right moment. Back at home, he becomes the calm dog that all masters appreciate (especially when they come back from a walk.)

With him, we never have a bad surprise: he is always in the right mood. So that when one understood the character of a Shetland; there can obviously be some nuances from one subject to another; we are sure to live with the same dog every day. It does not have "moods", if we can use the term usually reserved for humans, but on condition, of course, that his education was properly conducted.

The small size of the Sheltie makes it the perfect companion for people living in apartments, and this is probably one of the reasons for the success of the breed. Dogs who dared not buy a Collie turned to Shetland. But for the reasons mentioned above, this dog would be unhappy if he had to stay locked up. In the presence of children, the Sheltie expresses an affection equal to that which it bears to the adults. Very pleasant company, he shares the playfulness of the smallest, while monitoring them, because it always behaves like a sheepdog worthy of the name. It would therefore be doing him a disservice to equate it with a simple toy. Children who live with such a dog will have to learn to respect it so that it does not become capricious.

The first thing to do when introducing a Shetland home is to establish a climate of trust. This rule is of course valid for all dogs, but the Sheltie is one of those animals that, a little more than others, need to feel understood and loved. If the current passes, the acquired friendship is final. Shetland has the same type of hair as the Collie, but because it is smaller, it is easier to maintain. If the animal is not exhibited, simply brush it well two to three times a week and be sure to keep the white parts bright. However, do not swim too often Shetland (only once or twice a year), because the quality of its fur would suffer.

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