Shetland Sheepdog - Official U.K.C. Breed Standard
Revised May 20, 2000
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
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 distinctly feminine.
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 enthusiastic barking.
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
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
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 and black.
Faults: Snipey muzzle; short, receding, narrow or shallow
underjaw; Roman nose.
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. Eye rims 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 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 than withers.
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 for a mature Shetland Sheepdog ranges between 13 and 16
inches. Weight is proportionate to height.
Disqualification: Height above 16 inches or below 13
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