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Shetland Sheepdogs - 'Shelties'- How to groom, train and get the most out of your pet!

Updated on February 12, 2012
Shetland Sheepdog - Male
Shetland Sheepdog - Male | Source
Shetland Sheepdog - Female
Shetland Sheepdog - Female | Source
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Biting bubbles | Source

How to overcome Sheltie's predisposition for shyness

Shetland Sheepdogs ('Shelties') can be known for their shy, cautious nature. At times they may appear aloof with strangers and if not treated with the sensitivity and gentleness they need, can withdraw and become nervous. I myself got my second Sheltie from a breeder who needed to re-home her after she had been returned for being 'too shy'. When we met her she was hiding under a table and positively quivered when we picked her up and put her in the car for the long trip home. One settled, we realised that this little girl needed a lot of tenderness and patience as this was now her third home (quite a lot of upheaval for an 8 month old puppy!). Our boy puppy adored her from first sight and they hit it off with no problems - they are now best of friends and inseparable.

However her relationship with us human beings took a lot longer to cement. She wouldn't approach us when we beckoned her for a pat, wouldn't eat unless I hand-fed her in my room, and appeared terrified of her harness and lead. The breakthrough came when one day, exasperated with her coyness, I pretended to be a dog and panted and barked at her. Immediately she looked at me as if she'd seen me for the first time and started wagging her tail and licking me. After that, she started to enjoy affection and finally seemed to understand that we wouldn't give her away and began to trust us. She is now the most incredibly loyal dog, who frequently won't eat unless I feed her, waits at the door for me when I'm out and won't take her bone from anyone but me. These qualities are the quintessential traits that dogs are revered for - yet they only emerged once this particular Sheltie felt secure enough to let them show.

Gentleness, patience and tenderness are the best ways to gain this breed's trust. Harsh words and hitting will only cause the dog to fear you and withdraw. It is absolutely unnecessary to 'discipline' this breed in the old fashioned way. Lots of positive reinforcement and a deep, firm voice saying 'Uh uh' is all that is really needed to let the dog know it is doing the right or wrong thing. Typically however, this breed is so in tune with their owner that they intuitively sense what is expected of them and will aim to please. Complete trust and a lack of fear of their owner will bring out the best qualities in this breed. For a dog like my female Sheltie, the only way to have rehabilitated her was to give her the patience, time and love she needed to come out of her shell. The rewards for your patience will be 100 fold and a sweeter dog you'll never find. Their gentleness and sensitive nature makes them ideal for children and other family pets.

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How to groom Shelties

Shelties have a lot of hair! They have a double coat - the undercoat is frizzy and soft and the outer coat is flat and straight. A weekly brush with a good quality comb or brush is essential for removing the undercoat as it can matte and become unmanageable if left for longer than this. Sometimes scissors are the only way to get rid of such mattes - especially in areas such as behind the ears and the back legs and rear. They are not a breed that needs to be washed very often and indeed when you do wash them, make sure it's a hot day and they have the whole day to dry. Give them a vigorous towel dry, making sure to rub back and forth so the hair is aired all the way to the skin.

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How to train Shelties

As mentioned above, Shelties respond best to lots of positive reinforcement, rewards and love. They are an intelligent breed and do not require harsh physical or verbal discipline. A firm, deep 'No' or 'Uh uh' is all that is required to communicate your displeasure to this breed and in fact, any more than this is really overkill as they will get the message loud and clear just from observing you. They have an innate willingness to please and will only withdraw if you make them fear you. They long to please their owners and are highly sensitive dogs who require a loving and kind approach to training.

Training this dog to walk on the lead and not jump or pull was suprisingly easy for me once I got them over their fear of traffic, sudden noises and movement and the lead and harness itself. My male puppy was terrified when I put his collar and lead on so I switched to a harness and desensitised him by draping it over him and letting him feel its weight first. The next day I clipped it on him and let him run around the garden in it for a little while. Once he was used to this, I connected the lead and let him get used to the weight. Eventually I was able to pick up the lead and gently walk a few meters. Slowly giving him exposure to traffic and reassuring him when he was scared has made him a very secure, well-adjusted dog who loves his walks and doesn't have any nervous traits at all anymore. The only time he shows fear is when a large dog stalks him at the park or intimidates him. He then runs to 'mummy' (me) and hides between my legs.

This breed excels in show-jumping and tricks and lives to please its owner. Its loyalty is renowned and it does not have an aggressive bone in its body. I can take bones out of the mouth of my dogs, take food away from them and groom them/administer eye/ear drops etc. with no sign of aggression or annoyance. (Obviously I don't take their bones away for the fun of it, but once I only had one bone and they had to share it!).

Now you and your Sheltie can enjoy the rewards!

Do you think a Sheltie is the right breed for you?

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    • Rufus rambles profile image
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      Rufus rambles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for your comment Tammy. Sorry about the delay in responding. I find Shelties quite trainable when a lot of positive reinforcement is used. This can include patting or food. Gentle encouragement works much better than a more direct and disciplinary style. With too much yelling or forceful 'training' they simply become fearful and sometimes even paralysed with fear. This puts them into a state of anxiety and does not promote learning. This breed is willing to please and very much attuned to their owner. Try using food treats as a reward to a command correctly followed. Gently push them into a sitting position while using a hand signal and they will learn. Randomly giving treats works better than giving one each and every time. Good luck!

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      Tammy 4 years ago

      Thanks for the info..i have a 9 month old female who has become stubborn to commands..need advice

    • Rufus rambles profile image
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      Rufus rambles 4 years ago from Australia

      Thanks so much Mary, yes Shelties are a lovely breed. The only issue is their huge amount of hair! Next time I think I'll choose a dog like yours that doesn't shed! Thanks again for your feedback.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      As a dog lover myself, I really enjoyed this Hub. Your dogs are beautiful. This is a gorgeous breed, I think. I have a Miniature Schnauzer that is the Queen of my House. I've written Hubs about her. I am allergic to dogs so that's one reason I chose that breed. Her hair is soft and fine, but not does shed at all.

      I voted this Hub UP, etc.

    • Rufus rambles profile image
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      Rufus rambles 4 years ago from Australia

      @wetnosedogs: Thanks for your comment - that's funny you mention dogs thinking someone else's food tastes better! It is so true! Both my dogs eye the other one's food and try to swap while I'm not looking!

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Such sweet animals! I can take away food from my dogs too and they just accept it.(they aren't shelties, though) My youngest dog is greedy(and showing it on her body) and i just have to take away bowls of uneaten food and ask her where jenny's food is. She knows where it is, but someone's elses always taste better to her, I guess.

      Enjoyed learning about shelties.

    • Rufus rambles profile image
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      Rufus rambles 5 years ago from Australia

      Thanks Nature by Dawn. It's so nice to hear from other people who appreciate this beautiful breed!

    • Nature by Dawn profile image

      Dawn Ross 5 years ago

      Extactly right information about Shelties being shy. I love Shelties and had one growing up as a girl. She was completely in tune to me, tolerated the other family members, and was completely terrified of strangers. She was super intelligent and the best dog ever!

      Thanks for sharing information on this great dog breed!

    • Rufus rambles profile image
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      Rufus rambles 5 years ago from Australia

      @Laura Matkin: Yes my boy Sheltie used to freak out when I tried to brush him. He still hates it on his back legs, and baths are an interesting experience - you would think I was pulling teeth! I don't even attempt the hair dryer - that would send him into shivers of terror! But they are such adorable creatures these little quirks make them cuter I think!

    • Laura Matkin profile image

      Laura Matkin 5 years ago from Laceys Spring, Alabama

      Very Useful information! I trained a Sheltie once who had a FIT when brushed. I never saw anything like it before or since. Amazing, considering as it was only 12 weeks old. It would bite, scratch and jump wildly when stroked with even a soft brush. It got past the phobia by 16 weeks thank goodness!

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