Shelties are a loyal breed, and as such, they deserve a loyal owner. A lot of thought goes into any breeding program and as such, a new owner should plan just as equally—as loyal as the sheltie and for a lifetime.
Consider everything before you commit to a companion sheltie: a new home, a new partner, children, work schedule, retirement and travel — anything in the future that may prevent you from keeping your sheltie for his life.
Obviously, there may be unforeseen circumstances in which you cannot keep your sheltie, but consider all possibilities in the beginning, always making provisions for any changes within your control so that you can always keep your sheltie companion near your side.
Often times, breeders select dogs with the best and most desirable breed traits and move through family lines in this way, by improving each successive generation with each breeding. Obviously, breeders cannot keep all breeding stock lest breeders would become inundated with a multiple herd that would be difficult to fairly maintain. It is why breeders, such as myself, place a very heavy emphasis on the importance of forever homes.
Breeders should also be mindful to place dogs in forever homes that maximize the sheltie's quality of life along with the lifetstyles and needs of his new home. The only way to do this is to be selective about the home and ensure the placement is a good match.
So how do breeders determine a good home? And how does a good home determine a good breeder? More importantly, how do you determine if a sheltie is right for you and your family?
After making the decision to be a responsible pet owner then comes the decision of choosing which breed is right for you and even which sex, what color, what temperament, etc. There are different breeds for different people and an equal amount of effort should be made in determining which breed is most suitable for your lifestyle. Remember, each dog is an individual and be careful to regard each one as such. The biggest mistake people make is that they assume all individuals of one breed are they same. That assumption is far from accurate!
It is difficult to write about the sheltie when each is as individual as the varying breeds of dogs themselves. But typically, expect a sheltie to follow you around like a lost puppy dog, expect him to be needy, but loyal. Expect him to be watchful of his property. With lots of love, expect him to be the best dog you've ever owned!
While this may all sound good, many shelties demonstrate loyalty through protectiveness. The sheltie accomplishes this by vocally alerting their humans of potential dangers. That is, many are known for being recreational barkers. The leaf in the sky? Predator! Arf Arf! The bird or plane above? Alert! Arf Arf! Oh no! The car! Intruder! Arf! Arf! Chase! Chase! You get the picture. A sheltie can easily become a nuisance barker, especially without discipline or proper training, or if boredom should accompany his lonely moments while you are out shopping for him!
Not all shelties are as brave; some shelties are very timid and will hide under the couch when introduced to anything new to the extreme opposite of a sheltie sporting a terrier temperament , that is, aggressiveness and stubbornness. Neither are considered “correct” temperaments. A sheltie should naturally be reserved towards strangers.
Many people ask me if there is a difference in temperaments between males and females. While again, I think largely of the sheltie as an individual, I do have a section in this website devoted to the nuances of Gents and Ladies.
As you are searching for your first sheltie or tenth, you may find most caring sheltie breeders are as sensitive when it comes to placing their sheltie puppies, as you are about finding a caring breeder!
There is a reason for that:
A breeder wants reassurance that you are the right home for her dogs. Now is not the time to tell a breeder what you think she wants to hear. This is a lifelong commitment that could last as long as 20 years. Answer her questions honestly.
If by some chance a breeder feels you are not the right home for her shelties, listen carefully to her reasons. She knows her dogs best. This is not a reflection against you inasmuch as it may be an incorrect match. Part of a breeder's job is to match the sheltie to each individual lifestyle with each individual sheltie; the goal of course, is to achieve a lifetime placement.
Perhaps her dogs are too active for your lifestyle, or too sedentary. Perhaps her dogs like to bark or chase cars and you live in a busy neighborhood. Maybe her dogs do not interact well with children or strangers. Listen to the breeder openly and carefully—after all, she may be right!
Ask the breeder about their shelties and watch carefully when you visit the breeder's kennel or home. What do you see in the other dogs?
Don't expect her dogs to open up to you the minute you walk in the door, or even before you leave. Instead, observe how they respond to the breeder. This will be a good indication of how your puppy will be, not always, but usually. Note any personality traits you would like to see in your puppy and communicate this to your breeder.
Many unique personality traits are not always environmentally-influenced, some personality quirks are actually inherited. For instance, some shelties grin with a smile while others grin with a snarl. Some shelties will cross their front legs, or lie in a “frog-dog” position with back legs stretched well behind them! Some have their own language and “talk” or “howl” while others “whisper” or even “purr”.
A sheltie typically attaches to one owner, but adapts well to family, too. A sheltie is naturally gentle around children and often becomes the child's perfect playmate; but again, this is very dependent upon the individual sheltie. Some shelties may become intolerant of a small child's unpredictable behavior and snap at the child! Ask if the sheltie has been raised around children or if the sheltie has a tolerant disposition. Shelties intolerant of children will likely always be.
Generally, a sheltie raised with children are suited best to youngsters while those unaccustomed or unfamiliar with children become apprehensive and sometimes fearful of a child's abrupt movements. Ask the breeder if it is okay to bring your children. And, only bring your children if you are able to keep them under control.
Some children, and even some adults, may be intimidated by the sheltie's herding instincts. You may notice your shelties circling around you in an attempt to herd you. Some may go so far as to playfully nip at your heel. This is not psychotic behavior; it is a natural instinct, known as the herding instinct. Learn to trust your sheltie's playful instincts. (Although spinning in fear is another form of "circling" and it would be prudent to ensure you recognize the difference.) Talk to your breeder about this if you have any concerns.
Because of the shelties strong desire to herd, they like to chase anything that moves and some are absolutely ball crazy . I think the perfect toy for the sheltie is a big ball or a tetherball situated in the yard that will keep them occupied for hours.
Shelties are extremely intelligent and energetic. If they are not given a job to do, they can become restless, and bored. Some will not relent to boredom and would rather invent something to do, which can result in destructive behavior, especially if his owner chooses to ignore his charms!
Instead, seek out fun activities to participate with your sheltie. Dog sports such as herding, agility, rally, flyball, freestyle and obedience have become popular pastimes to showcase the sheltie's diverse aptitude. AKC offers you and your sheltie an endless array of possibilities! Seek them out! After all, the training involved to compete at these events oftentimes creates strong bonds between dogs and humans alike. Shelties have excelled as therapy dogs, medical alert dogs, and some have been successfully trained in search & rescue. The possibilities are endless!
These are all examples of different activities, but a sheltie is also very content to just lay on your lap or sleep at your feet. Temperament and the scale of activities to which you can participate with your sheltie largely depends on each individual sheltie and you!
I highly recommend you give your sheltie plenty of room to roam. Some feel a sheltie is suited for apartment living, but I regard it as an optimistic claim. Certainly, a sheltie is a very adaptable breed and could very easily adjust to an apartment lifestyle, but reward him in a secured yard or field. If you live in a flat or similar dwelling, be certain to give your sheltie ample opportunity to stretch his legs.
Shelties are noise sensitive. If you live in a household where there is a lot of screaming and yelling, this will overwrought your sheltie, even if you are not yelling at him. The sheltie can easily detect emotional upset and is very sensitive to the moods of their owners. Shelter heated arguments and loud children away from your dog.
This brings about another area of concern: discipline. Most people have heard somewhere that shelties are soft and to a degree, this is an accurate statement, but it would be more correct if a statement was also made about the sheltie's cunning abilities to manipulate their humans. You disagree and think all shelties are innocent? Ha! Get a pet fish instead and I'll see you next year.
Dogs are social animals that establish an hierarchy from the most dominant (alpha) to the lesser (omega). Alpha is not just a position in a social hierarchy, but in both people and dogs, it's an attitude. Mothers are alpha over their children. This does not mean they do not love their children anymore than it means a dog that has assumed the role of alpha does not love you.
Most dogs are naturally submissive to humans, especially shelties. They want to be lead by a capable leader. They will seek authority from you and wait for your direction. If you are unclear, or inconsistent, and if you do not assume confident leadership abilities, your sheltie is smart and cunning enough to recognize that this is his opportunity to climb the social ladder in pursuit of the alpha position himself. In short, do not let this happen. Adopt the posture and attitude of an alpha, a confident leader, and respectable chief and commander assuring your sheltie that he is in capable hands. (Yes, that is you and you can do this.)
First, treat your dog as your subordinate and stop acting like you're his peasant. This is accomplished with basic obedience commands. Teach your sheltie to sit on the first command, not the tenth. Require he sit to entice affection from you, or for his favorite treat or before you let him outside to play or before you satisfy any of his other wants. This helps to identify you as the pack leader. Take control of your dog. Remember, you (and your family) are the pack leaders.
As you would your own children, teach your dog not only his place, but teach him some manners. Require a down-stay at meal time. Do not allow him to jump on you or others. Do not allow him to growl or claim territory of the couch or other area of your home, foodstuffs, or toys. Establish parameters and make them clear and most importantly, keep them consistent. Reward him only when he obeys; ignore him when he disobeys.
Also, ensure that when you are giving commands, you are giving them as an authoritative and confident figure. Correct your posture, stand tall and speak to your dog in a brisk, firm voice. Never ever hit your dog. Never ever hit your dog. Never ever hit your dog. And three times more and just as importantly, never ever forget to reward a good deed. Dogs taught with positive rewards will return good behavior while dogs taught with aggression resort to violent behavior.
This is the single most reason you must, must, must assume the alpha role. Aggressive dogs are put to death and people are sued for millions when dog owners neglect this responsibility and opt to assume the easier omega role instead. Learn to control your dog. If you cannot do it alone, hire a professional trainer or attend obedience classes with him. It is imperative. Besides,
are shelties, and I
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