History of the "Toonie Dog".


"One can not comprehend either the physical characteristics or the mental qualification of any bred...without an adequate knowledge of the native land whence it came...."

                                                                                                                                              Catherine E. Coleman, The Shetland Sheepdog, 1943

Personality and Intelligence


The Sheltie - a special dog. Above average in canine intelligence. A near-human capacity for understanding and compassion.


The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, alert, rough-coated working dog resembling the ideal Collie in miniature.  He appears as a sable (brown), tricolor (black with tan points and white markings), blue merle (merle with tan points and white collar markings), and black or blue bicolor (without the tan points on face and legs).


The breed standard requires the Sheltie to be sound, sturdy, and agile, and therefore he is one of the hardiest of the registered breeds.  His thick, double coat protects him from the elements and enables him to withstand exposure and extremes of temperature.  Although orginally bred as an outdoor dog, he is also happy to be at his master's side as a house pet and adapts readily to apartment style living.


He is grace, beauty of expression and balance; he is also a practical, useful canine.  It is his nature to please and obey, willingly and naturally.  He seems to have an innate sense of politeness and cleanliness, for instance often housebreaking himself. He excells in obedience, from novice to utility, and even in tracking.  The instinct to guard and protect, another trait as old as the breed itself, makes the Sheltie an excellent farm and stock dog..  Some exhibit natural herding ability, while others pick it up readily with training.


His most striking features are his uncanny ability to sense when something is wrong and his extremely strong awareness of property boundaries.  He likes to work; lacking the opportunity to herd animials he may take over the children, keeping them where they should be or at least letting others know if something is wrong.


His working dog instinct lends the Sheltie to inventive ways of pleasing his master - bringing in slippers or the evening paper, or leash as a hint for an evening walk. Kept as a house pet, the dog becomes so much a part of the family that he soon knows the habits, desires and idiosyncracies of his owner.  He is a pleasure to live with; a delignt to own.













Photographed in 1913


Bred by Mr. Loggie of the Shetland Islands.


Considered by all , at that time, to be the best representative of the breed.


At that time the ideal height was 12 inches.


Origins and Size


The (Shetland) Island's first inhabitants were a small, dark race of people, the Picts, who gave the land its reputation for being inhabited by "pixies" or fairies. Later the Norsemen overran the islands, and then the Scots as well, so that today the inhabitants are a mixture of the three races, just as their dogs are a combination of the native breeds of each of these peoples.


Due to sparseness of vegetation and ruggedness of climate, the islands over the centuries have produced every living thing in diminutive size.  Shetland ponies, sheep, and cattle grow much smaller when bred on the islands than do their counterparts on the mainlands.  Likewise the "toonie" (town) or "peerie" (fairy) dogs were reduced replicas of their ancestor, the small working Collie.


For years the islanders' chief occupations were fishing and raising the Shetland sheep, whose long, soft wool made Shetland wool products in demand the world over. A few of the inlets, however, were fertile enough to grow crops, and here the crofters had small farms, generally unfenced. If sheep and cattle wandered to the cultivated fields, it was the toonie dog's responsibility to drive them away from the crops and back to the pasture. This he did with no help for the crofter.


During the summer the herds were ferried to outlying islands and left, often in sole charge of the dogs, with occasional checks being made by the crofter. In the fall, the dogs rounded up the stock and helped bring them back to the mainland. Thus, you see that the early Shelties were used more for driving and protecting than for actual herding.


It is thought that the dogs were originally brought to the islands on fishing fleets of the Norse and Scots. Influence of the Greenland Yakki dogs, the King Charles Spaniel, and both the Welsh and Scotch smaller working Collie was evident in the early Sheltie. He had a thick coat slightly shorter than that of the Collie; semi-erect ears like the Collie, prick ears of the Yakki dog, or drooping ears of the Spaniel. Wavy coats, an influence of the Spaniel, and tails that curled over the back, a trait of the Yakki, appeared frequently.


Most of the original Shelties were somewhat Collie like in appearance. The crofters selected a small animal, because they could see no reason to feed a larger one. The dogs were the crofter's working partners - sharing his life during the lonely hours, sleeping with him, caring for his sheep, guarding his property. This close association with humans, plus the instinct of generations of herding dogs in his genetic makeup, gave the Sheltie uncanny understanding of people and an intense sense of responsibility. The crofters selected for these qualities, as well as for ability to work, stamina, courage, and intelligence, and they succeeded in fixing these traits quite dependably in the breed.


They cared little about the dog's physical appearance, however, so the physical type remained varied.


Iverness Yarrow


The Show Sheltie


In the late 1800's many of the crofts were assumed by large commercial sheep operations that brought in larger sheep from the mainland and larger Scotch Collies with which to work them.


Since he could not handle a herd of 500 or more large sheep, the Sheltie became primarily a lap dog. Pomeranians and other small types were introduced in the breed, bringing with them a tendency to domed skulls and larger, round eyes. This further diversified type and the true toonie dog was in danger of extinction.


In 1908 in Lerwick the Shetland Collie Club was founded in an effort to safeguard the breed. A year later a club was organzied in Scotland. The breed was on it's way to international recognition!


Because of the difference in physical type, there was disagreement from the beginning about a show standard.


The first Shelties were exhibited in the toy group, and ranged in size from eight (8) to twelve (12) inches.


The Shetland Collie Club stated that the Sheltie should be


"similiar to the rough (show) Collie, but in miniature, with the height not to exceed fifteen (15) inches at the shoulder".


The Scotch Club described the Shelties as


"an ordinary Collie in miniature, height about twelve (12) inches".


The Shelties was first benched at Crufts in 1908, and by 1912 they were beginning to make an impression in the show ring, but type and size difference continued to abound. Show Collie type was well established at this time, so Collie crosses were introduced in an effort to improve type. With them came a considerable increase in size.


Some breeders chose to maintain the ideal of twelves (12) inches,


but generally sacrificed Collie type to achieve it. In practice, the desired type and ideal size did not inherit together.


In 1913 the Scotch Club finally altered it's 12-inch height limit to an "ideal" of 12 inches. This was also the approach of the English Shetland Collie club when it was formed in 1914. The English standard described the breed as "having the general appearance of the show Collie in miniature. This appearance seemed to bepreferred, and the Scottish Club soon revised its standard accordingly. For the first time, the clubs were in agreement.


The first Shelties were imported to the US around 1910, but breeding was sharply curtailed during World War I and did not pick up sharply again until the mid 1920's. Early kennels who had tremendous influence on American bloodlines included Catherine Coleman Moor's "Sheltieland", Miss Frederick Fry's "Far Sea Kennels", the Dreer's "Anahassitt Kennels", and Mrs. Katherine Edward's "Walnut Hall".


Fredericka Fry was elected first president of the American Shetland Sheepdog Club (ASSA) when it was founded in 1929, and Catherine Coleman was responsible for writing the first breed Standard. It stood until 1952. The ASSA barred all Collie crosses from the registry, and the Standard called for an "ideal Collie in miniature, height 12 to 15 inches". In 1936 this was revised to ask for an ideal height of 14 1/2 inches and the club adopted a "gentleman's agreement" that Shelties over 16 inches would not be shown.


England too had problems with size and finally the limit was revised to reflect an ideal of 14 1/2 inches for males, and 14 inches for females, with any dog more than one inch above to be severely penalized. The English Standard keeps this ideal height yet today; but in 1959 the American Standard was revised to specify a 13 to 16 inch size limit for either sex.



**From the book "SHELTIE TALK" by Betty Jo McKinney and Barbara Rieseberg; 1985 Revised Edition


     (Awarded Breed Book of the Year - 1985 - Dog Writers Association of America)