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Male vs. Female Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties): What Are the Differences?

male vs female shetland sheepdog featured image

Shelties were bred as herding dogs on the Shetland Islands of Scotland, hence the name Shetland Sheepdog. They are also known as the Shetland Collie, but their name was formally changed when breeders of the Rough Collie protested.

Like other native creatures, the Shetland Sheepdog was raised to be a hardy breed that could survive the meager conditions on their little island.

As they were originally bred for herding, their herding instincts are extremely pronounced today. On some occasions, they are still used for herding today. However, they were largely phased out after commercial farming began to require larger breeds.

When adopting one of these dogs, you may be interested in what gender is the best option. In this article, we’ll take a look at the small differences between male and female Shetland Sheepdogs.

For the most part, these dogs are fairly similar. However, there are slight differences between them. Let’s take a closer look.

divider-pawVisual Differences

male vs female sheltie side by side
Image Credit: Left – JackieLou DL, Pixabay; Right – JackieLou DL, Pixabay

At a Glance

Male Shetland Sheepdog
  • Average height (adult): 13-16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 11-24 pounds
Female Shetland Sheepdog
  • Average height (adult): 13-16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 11-24 pounds

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Shetland Sheepdogs 101

The Shetland Sheepdog is often described as a very small Rough Collie. However, unlike other miniature breeds, this one was not simply bred by selectively breeding tiny Rough Collies. Instead, the original Shetland Sheepdogs were likely of the Spitz-type dog. However, they were then bred with Collies and similar breeds.

Eventually, they developed into the dogs that we know today.

These dogs are incredibly intelligent and trustworthy. They are often described as “shadow dogs,” as they tend to follow their owners around the house. They become extremely attached to their family. Often, they are good with children and adults alike.

However, they are best for active families. As working dogs, they are quite active. They were bred to herd livestock all day long, after all.

This dog is relatively small. They only measure about 8-12 inches tall. Males and females are incredibly similar in size without much deviation. Their breed standard states that they should weigh about 11 to 24 pounds – no matter their gender.

Male Shetland Sheepdog Overview

shetland shepherd-pixabay
Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

Personality/Character

For the most part, male and female Shetland Sheepdogs are generally described as the same when it comes to their personality. You likely will not notice a significant difference based on gender alone. Socialization and training have a much bigger impact on personality than their gender.

With that said, the hormonal differences between males and females may cause some character differences. For instance, intact males are much more likely to perform marking behaviors.

Studies have found that male dogs, in general, are more likely to bite than females. It is unknown if male Shetland Sheepdogs are included in this category. However, it is possible that they may be more likely to act aggressively.

Training

There aren’t many differences in their trainability between genders. These dogs are very intelligent and quite trainable. Therefore, they are quite good at performing in just about any canine sport.

With that said, they do have significant herding instincts. You cannot train these out. For this reason, these dogs may not be best for very small children. If the children run around (like children do), the dog may instinctively try to herd them, which usually doesn’t end up very well.

With that said, they are good with children for the most part.

In fact, these are some of the brightest dog breeds on the planet. They are ranked 6th out of 138 dog breeds according to the book The Intelligence of Dogs. The average male Sheltie can understand a new command in as few as five repetitions.

The male does not require more training in general – nor are they harder or easier to train in general.

Shetland Sheepdog
Image: PxHere

Health & Care

Shetland Sheepdogs are quite healthy in general. They were bred for work, so their health was extremely important during their development. After all, no one wants a sickly herding dog.

These dogs are quite small. Therefore, they are not prone to hip dysplasia – even males are not significantly more prone to hip dysplasia. They simply aren’t large enough for it to matter much (especially when they are bred well).

Hip dysplasia is genetic and has been identified in some lines, though. In these cases, males may or may not be more prone to the condition.

With that said, these dogs are very prone to cancer. Male dogs can get some extra forms of cancer that females cannot get, of course.

Minor Conditions
  • Deafness
Serious Conditions
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Eye conditions
  • Cancer of all sorts

Breeding

Males should be screened for genetic conditions before being studded. The Shetland Sheepdog is prone to quite a few different genetic conditions, including thyroid problems, eye problems, and Von Willebrand’s.

You should X-ray your male’s hips to ensure that they are not suffering from hip dysplasia.

Color combinations can be a problem. Too much white can lead to deafness and similar conditions. Merle males should never be bred with Merle females.

As smaller dogs, these canines often mature quite quickly. Males can often breed by the time they are one year old, though the exact age of maturity does vary.

Pros
  • Healthy
  • Neutered dogs aren’t prone to hormonal mood changes
  • Early sexual maturity
Cons
  • More likely to wander if intact
  • Increased marking behavior
  • Higher bite chance

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Female Shetland Sheepdog Overview

Shetland Sheepdog_JACLOU-DL, Pixabay
Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

Personality/Character

Females are extremely similar to males when it comes to their overall personalities. Usually, socialization will affect a female more than their gender, though hormonal differences can be somewhat important.

Females that are not spayed will regularly go into heat. In some cases, a female’s personality may change during this period. Many owners describe their dogs as more affectionate.

Pregnancy can also cause increased affection.

Overall, females are more prone to these hormonally-linked personality changes than males, simply because their hormones change more often.

Females can wander just like males, but this typically only happens when they are in heat. Males will wander to seek out females during any period of their life, while females typically only see out males when they are in heat.

Training

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are just as easy to train as males. As intelligent dogs, they can learn commands very quickly. Some people claim that females are actually easier to train than males. However, there is no scientific information available on this topic.

Without objective evidence, it is hard to say whether females are actually easier to train or not.

There is some evidence that females are less competitive than males, which may affect training. However, under normal circumstances, the differences will be so small that they are hardly noticeable.

Training may be slightly difficult while the female is in heat, as they may be distracted. However, these periods should not last a terribly long time, so it likely won’t affect your dog’s overall training.

two shetland sheepdogs winning a prize
Image Credit: Lisjatina, Shutterstock

Health & Care

Females Shetland Sheepdogs are extremely healthy. However, they are prone to a few different genetic disorders. Luckily, there are many different tests available for these conditions. Therefore, proper breeding can prevent many of these health conditions.

Females are particularly prone to certain types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer. Of course, males cannot develop this sort of cancer. They don’t have ovaries!

Shetland Sheepdogs are very prone to cancer in general, so females of this breed may be more prone to different types of cancers.

They are very prone to von Willebrand’s disease, which often leads to their death. Sadly, these dogs are very prone to the more harmful types of this disease, which causes serious problems.

Minor Conditions
  • Deafness
Serious Conditions
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Eye conditions
  • Cancer of all sorts

Breeding

Females should not be bred until they reach their full size. Generally, this occurs when they are about 18 months old. However, it can vary from dog to dog.

Typically, females will go into heat before they are full-grown. Technically, you can breed them before they become full-grown. However, this may affect their overall growth. After all, it is hard for a dog to keep growing properly when the female is also trying to grow a litter of puppies.

Females should be tested for various genetic conditions before they are bred. There are many genetic problems that can potentially affect the Shetland Sheepdog, so proper genetic testing is essential.

Pros
  • Lower bite chance
  • Fewer marking behaviors
  • May be less prone to certain conditions
Cons
  • Hormonal changes can change personality
  • Not able to breed until later
  • Can develop specific types of cancer at a higher rate
Merle Shetland Sheepdog
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

divider-pawWhich Gender Is Right for You?

For the most part, males and females are very similar. When you’re picking out a puppy, you likely won’t want to put gender towards the top of the board of considerations. For the most part, these dogs are extremely similar.

The main differences are going to be hormonally linked. Females will go in heat if not spayed, and males will often engage in marking behaviors. Males may also wander more, especially if they smell an in-heat female.

However, if you fix your male or female Shetland Sheepdog, the differences will be far less obvious. Without the larger hormonal difference, the overall personality differences are much less apparent.


Featured Image Credit: Up – K E Walker, Shutterstock; Down – Lisjatina, Shutterstock

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