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Shetland Sheepdog (aka Miniature Collie): Everything You Need to Know

miniature collie


The Miniature Collie is an adorable herder that looks like a larger Collie, except it’s not. In fact, the Miniature Collie is actually a Shetland Sheepdog. The mistaken identity is common because let’s face it, who wouldn’t think that this little guy doesn’t look like a smaller version of a Collie? If you are looking for a Miniature Collie of your own or are new to the breed, here is everything you need to know about the Miniature Collie. We will take a look at their history, characteristics, traits, and how to take care of one. We’ll even look at how to get one of your very own.

What is the Miniature Collie’s History and Background?

As mentioned, the Miniature Collie isn’t a cute little version of the regular sized Collie breed. Instead, it is a whole different breed. According to Puppy Toob:

Miniature Collies aren’t really Collies at all. These are actually Shetland Sheepdogs that are descendants of the Border Collies of Scotland. They resemble Collies, just smaller and are also referred to as Shelties. Border Collies were transported to the Shetland Islands where they were bred with other, smaller purebred dogs until the ultimate result was a smaller dog than their cousin, the Border Collie.

These dogs were bred for something they’re still good at today – farm herding. They have tons of energy, they’re small and compact, they are loyal to their owners, and they are loud at barking. All of these traits are perfect for herding and they became known for taking care of herds and helping run the farm with their human owners.

They have a high pitched bark that would alert their family to any intruders – whether it be a stranger, birds, or other animals.

Their intelligence, by the way, is pretty impressive. An animal intelligence expert, Dr. Stanley Coren, has listed them in the top 10 of intelligence when compared to other dogs. In fact, they’re almost in the top five, coming in at number six. At least 95 percent of the time these dogs understand and can perform a command even after only being told it a total of five times or less.

What Does the Miniature Collie Look Like?

The Miniature Collie is a smaller dog in the herding group. He stands around 13 to 16 inches tall and weighs in at 14 to 27 pounds with the male being the larger size. He has an undercoat with a luxurious mane at the neck. The Miniature Collie has a lot of color variations including sable, black, blue merle, golden, brown, and bluish-silver. There is also white within the coat, and sometimes tan as well.

The reason many people get them mixed up with a version of the Collie is that they look alike. To make it more confusing, this breed is a descendant of the Collie, coming from the Shetland Islands. To make it a little more simple, think of Lassie. Lassie is a cousin to the Shetland Sheepdogs or Miniature Collie.

One interesting takeaway is that the Shetland Islands where they come from is known for their other miniature animals like the miniature pony. The reason this is is because in that area, vegetation is sparse and the conditions are harsh. This led to smaller livestock. And what better way to herd small livestock than with a smaller size of dog?

What About Show Dog Standards?

To give you a better idea of the look and characteristics of the Miniature Collie (or Shetland Sheepdog), here is what the show standards include from the AKC.

The general appearance should be symmetrical in shape with males having a masculine appearance and females looking feminine. The dog should be sturdy, sound, and alert.

The colors of this breed are:

  • Black and white
  • Black, white, and tan
  • Blue merle and white
  • Blue merle, white, and tan
  • Sable and white
  • Sable, merle, and white

It seems that the AKC will take off points if there is too much of the white markings in the colors. The coat should be luxurious and abundant. The acceptable colors are listed and dogs with more than 50 percent white markings may be disqualified. Also, brindle colors are disqualified.

The head should be refined and wedge shaped with an alert, intelligent, and gentle expression.

The gait is smooth and effortless. There should not be jerky movements or any stiffness.

All other areas should be uniform and in-tune with what the breed represents. The stance is regal and sturdy and the teeth straight and with none missing. Running stance should be even and graceful.

How to Care for the Miniature Collie

Much of the care for a Miniature Collie is similar to other breeds but there are always variances in health concerns. For instance, while these are usually healthy dogs, there are a couple of things that should be looked for as part of health tests. These include a hip evaluation and an eye exam or evaluation.

Some Miniature Collies are prone to things like hip dysplasia, epilepsy, thyroid disease, von Willebrand’s disease (vWD), dermatomyositis, eye diseases, and gallbladder mucoceles. None of these conditions are a definite but they are health risks to be aware of.

With regular vet visits and keeping up with preventable issues, your Miniature Collie should be a healthy dog – on average. One thing to consider is to invest in pet insurance. Not only does this prepare you for unexpected medical costs but it is ideal for any medical emergencies, should you have one.


Like most dog breeds, the Shetland Sheepdog does well on high-quality food. Make sure that you look at the ingredients before you choose a food and meat should always be the first ingredient. Some dogs do well on grain-free food but that depends on what your Miniature Collie needs on whether you choose that route or not.

Do make sure to get appropriate food like senior food for older dogs, puppy formula, or food for overweight dogs.


The Miniature Collie has a huge coat and as suggested by the AKC:

The Sheltie has a profuse double coat that sheds considerably. The outer coat consists of long, straight, harsh hair, while the undercoat is short, furry, and very dense. Owners must be prepared to brush the coat weekly, and more often during shedding season, to help in removing at least some of the loose hair before it drifts all over the house. Be sure to check for mats behind the ears, under the elbow on each front leg, and in the “pants” under the tail. Shaving the dog is not recommended, because the coat protects against sunburn and heat as well as cold. The Sheltie needs a bath only occasionally. The nails should be trimmed regularly.

Another thing to know before you get a Sheltie is referenced by Dogtime:

Shelties have a long, dense, furry coat and shed heavily. Lots of people don’t realize just how much loose fur they’re letting themselves in for, and many Shelties are given up to rescue groups every year because they shed. Be sure that you and your vacuum cleaner can handle that much hair.


When it comes to exercise, the Sheltie is an incredibly active dog and needs a lot of exercise and interaction. They do great in activities like agility, tracking, obedience, and herding. They are intelligent and love to please. They can do well in the city as long as they get the exercise they need. A couple of hours a day of exercise is ideal for your Miniature Collie.


Like any breed, training is crucial in having a well-adapted dog. Make sure that your Miniature Collie gets plenty of socialization and obedience training. These are highly intelligent dogs and train well as long as they are given the opportunity and knowledge.

One thing to know is that these dogs, as mentioned, do bark loudly. This is an area you may want to focus on so that you don’t have an overly vocal dog in your apartment or in times when it is not appropriate.

Also, make sure your Sheltie is in a fenced-in yard or is on a leash when in public or in an area not contained. This is because they love to chase things. Remember, they’re natural herders so you don’t want your dog to get loose and get hurt.

Life With the Miniature Collie

Having a Miniature Collie in your life will be a real joy. These are dogs that are full of intelligence and loyalty and live to around 13 years of age. Here are a few things to know.

According to Puppy Toob:

Mini Collies are not necessarily the best breed of dog with children. While they are known to be very loving dogs, they tend to get a little nervous around kids and should be socialized at a very young age, how to behave, tolerate, and interact with children. If Mini’s are raised with children from puppyhood and monitored when around children, they should do just fine, however, children should be taught how to treat dogs and good behavior around dogs, such as, no pulling tails, ears, hitting, screaming, and other behaviors that can cause aggression or nervousness in a dog.

This doesn’t mean that under no circumstances should you have a child and a Sheltie. But do be aware of interaction between the two and always be in the same room like mentioned by Puppy Toob.

Getting Your Own Miniature Collie

The best thing you can do for any dog is to adopt a rescue. Along with sites like PetFinder, Sheltie’s have their own group called Sheltie Nation. There you can find Miniature Collies that need a loving home. This site is more of a search engine where you find Sheltie’s that are closest to you. Remember that rescuing a dog will change its life and yours.

If you cannot find a rescue, you can also look for a breeder. Make sure to research the breeder’s credentials first. Look at their site, find reviews, and use sites like the AKC Puppy Finder which lists approved breeders who have been vetted. There, you can look at breeders, club members, dog size, if they have puppies, champion bloodlines, photos, and refine your search by male or female and distance to you.

Choosing a Miniature Collie is an excellent idea for many people. These dogs are loving, loyal, and smart. They’ll keep you energetic and as long as they have ample exercise, they can live most places. While they can be shy around people they’re not familiar with, this helps them become a good watch dog and they’ll alert you to intruders. They’re typically healthy and love having a job to do.

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