Also including information on raw feeding, canine epilepsy, positive training, and lots and lots of Sheltie hair!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Is a Shetland Sheepdog Right for Me?
What type of homes do shelties thrive in?
Active homes that are willing to not only include the Sheltie in daily activities, but also dedicate a significant amount of personal time to the Sheltie to take care of its mental and physical exercise needs.
Are shelties good with kids and other pets?
Like any breed, they can be good with kids and other dogs, but not all Shelties are. If raised with kids that know how to properly handle a dog, they are a kid's best friend. But grabby or pushy kids are generally not accepted well by Shelties.
How much exercise do they need?
They are working dogs, so need a lot of physical exercise every day (more than just a walk or two). They also need a JOB ... some structured, routine activity that allows them to use their brain. If you are considering getting a Sheltie, decide whether you are interested in participating in agility, flyball, obedience, rally-o, tracking, herding, therapy dog, freestyle, etc. for the life of the dog. If you fail to give a Sheltie a mental job to do, you may run into a dog that is destructive or develops unstable obsessions or behaviours.
How much do they eat?
Not a lot. They are very easy keepers and will gain weight very quickly if fed too much food or poor quality food. Effort needs to be taken to ensure that the Sheltie does not get overweight, as they pack on the pounds very easily.
Do they shed a lot?
Yes. There is no way around it, a Sheltie will shed. Grooming is not difficult and can be done at home, though does require some dedication to keep the coat and dog healthy and clean.
Are they easy to train?
Yes. They are a very biddable breed, willing to work with and please their owner. Training a Sheltie does not, and should not, require force or threats, or else may result in creative a nervous dog that "shuts down" under pressure. Positive training techniques and a light hand are preferred.
How much will they sleep? How long can they be left home alone?
These two questions can be answered together. The amount of time that they sleep and the amount of time that they can be left alone are directly proportional to the amount of time you spend working and training with them. My evenings and weekends are completely full of training and competition time with my Shelties. As such, they are happy staying at home for 8 hours while I am at work during the work day. But if I did not spend the large amount of time training and working with them that I do, they would be very antsy and unhappy being at home alone during the day. Shelties are people focused dogs and bond very tightly to one or two special people in their lives. They should not be kept separate from their people.
Do most shelties have a lot of health problems?
Shelties are generally healthy and hearty dogs IF you purchase the dog from a reputable breeder. Be sure that the breeder has done testing for hips, eyes, thyroid, and von Willebrand's. Epilepsy is also somewhat common, along with skin and coat issues.
Are they one person dogs or family pets?
All of the Shelties that I have had have been VERY bonded to me, but content with the other members of my family. They are not overly social or accepting of strangers.
Do they still have strong herding instincts?
Many still do. They will attempt to round up all their toys, other dogs, people, etc. If not given an appropriate outlet (refer back to the mention of a JOB) this can manifest itself in nipping and obsessive behaviours.
Are they big barkers?
Generally yes, though it can somewhat be managed with training. But it is quite rare to have a completely silent Sheltie. Even the Shelties that I have had that do not technically bark, are big talkers.
Other points that I am always sure to mention to anyone considering a Sheltie ...
- Shelties require serious and intense socialization very early on in life and extended throughout adulthood. Shelties have a tendency to be fearful, shy, and timid and if that is not addressed very early on it can get way out of hand. Scared Shelties tend to tuck tail and run, and you will not catch up with a scared Sheltie. You just need to hope that it eventually gets its wits back in order and finds its way home. I have known too many Shelties that have not had proper socialization and exposure to "real life" that get startled and bolt from their owners. Only a few stories wind up with a happy ending.
- Shelties require a delicate balance between strong and confident training, and a soft hand. Shelties do not respond well to harsh training methods and will shut down completely if someone is too rough with them or if adversive training techniques are used. Smack a Sheltie once and it is nearly impossible to regain its trust. That said, they do need a solid, confident owner to bring them to their full potential. And knowing that Shelties are sensitive is no excuse to avoid training all together.
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