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Border Collie vs. Shetland Sheepdog: Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: September 6, 2022 | 8 min read | 2 Comments

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Adopting a new furry friend, but can’t decide between the Border Collie vs. the Sheltie? These two breeds look similar, which can be easy to understand why you might think they are the same dogs. But Nope, they aren’t the same dog at all. These breeds could easily be mistaken for one another, as they both originate from the Collie. But they are two distinctly separate breeds.

Both breeds have distinctly different personalities, but they also have similar physical appearances and traits. Before you settle in on either breed, it’s important to know which breed is better for which type of family. It’s also important to understand what type of exercise commitment you’ll need to make when welcoming one into your home.

So just how similar and different are the Border Collie and the Sheltie from one another? From their histories to their personalities and appearances. As well as their grooming needs, training requirements, and overall health. We’ve got it covered. So, as they say in Scotland, let’s take a look at these wee bonnie pups!

Breed Comparison

Border Collie

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 27-55 Pounds
  • Temperament Smart, Work-Orientated, Energetic
  • Energy High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Shetland Sheepdog

  • Height 13-16 Inches
  • Weight 15-25 Pounds
  • Temperament Playful, Energetic, Bright
  • Energy High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-14 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up


The Border Collie and the Sheltie both hail from across the pond in the United Kingdom, namely Scotland. But what else do their histories share in common? Taking a look at their past will not only help you understand more about their breed purpose, but it can also help you to know how they are likely to be as family pets.

Border Collie

Border Collie with Stick
Border Collies are a well-known herding dog breed.

The Border Collie’s forefathers were a mixture of Roman and Viking herding dogs. The main component of the Collie is the Icelandic Sheepdog. With so many herding dogs thrown into the Collie mix, it is unsurprising that he is now considered to be one of the best herding dogs on the planet today. He is also frequently cited as the most intelligent dog breed in the world.

The Border Collie comes from Scotland, and in particular, the border of England and Scotland. The word ‘collie’ means sheepdog in Scottish. And this is what gives him his name, the Border Collie. He is one of the most admired sheepdogs across the world. And because of his sweet temperament, he is also a popular family companion pet, although not as popular when compared to the Golden Retriever.

Shetland Sheepdog

Sheltie Dog
Shelties originate from the Rough Collie, and come from Scotland.

The Sheltie is also from Scotland, but from the colder and rocky little islands called the Shetland Islands. Their actual name is the Shetland Sheepdog, but the term “Sheltie” was adopted as a nickname. The Sheltie is also known as the Toonie dog because the word ‘toonie’ means farm in Scottish.

Shelties were used as overall farmhands, as well as sheepherders. They were bred down from their cousin, the Rough Collie (not the Border Collie), to be much smaller. All so they wouldn’t eat as much because food on the Shetland Islands was scarce.

Little is known about their history because the Shetland Islands were almost inaccessible. They lived in isolation until the 20th century. According to the AKC, the Sheltie is one of the most successful dog breeds in obedience classes. Because we humans are obsessed with all things miniature, the Sheltie is now a much-loved family pet. And he is more popular in America compared to the Border Collie.


Sheltie Dog with Border Collie
The Sheltie and Border Collie look similar but are completely different breeds.

The Border Collie and the Sheltie look similar-ish, but they are easy to tell apart. The Shetland Sheepdog, just like Shetland Ponies, are teeny tiny. The Border Collie is a medium-sized dog, and the Sheltie is a small-sized dog. So small that often the Border will be twice the weight of the Sheltie. They will also be several inches taller too. This in itself is enough to tell them apart, but also a big factor for families trying to decide between the two.

Their coats are similar in their appearance in that they are dense but fine and soft. But the Sheltie is the fluffiest for sure. They both have double-layered coats. And their outer jacket is weather-resistant to keep their bodies warm and dry. The Sheltie looks more like a ball of fluff, whereas you can see the Border Collie’s shape.

The Sheltie is white with brown, blue, merle, sable, and red tones. Compared to the Border, which is usually black and white in color. But also enjoys the colors black, blue, merle, sable, lilac, brindle, gold, and red, all with different patterns. Both breeds can also have blue eyes, although rare.

The Sheltie has a longer and pointier muzzle than the Border Collie, whose muzzle is much more proportionate in shape. The Sheltie’s ears are smaller and placed further back on his head. Compared to the Borders ears, which are larger and drop down to the side of his neck. Both are distinct-looking dogs, but they are just as smiley and cute as one another.


Border Collie and Shetland Sheepdog Together Near Door
Both breeds are active and have high energy levels.

The main differences in their personalities come from their original breed purpose. The Border Collie was bred to be a sheepherder, and that was his sole purpose. The Sheltie was a sheepherder too, but he was also a general farmhand, including protecting the farm. As such, the Sheltie can be a protective dog, and he is very vocal too. If you are seeking a canine alarm bell, you can’t go far wrong with the Sheltie. Compared to the Border Collie, who is quieter.

The Border Collie isn’t as protective as the Sheltie. Instead, he will stand by his master but stare at those who he doesn’t know. He is very aloof with strangers, and it takes a very long time for him to feel comfortable around them. The Border is more reserved, compared to the Sheltie, who isn’t at all.

They are both lots of fun, but the Border Collie is the more serious pup for sure. He would rather sit in class with you learning new tricks all day or herding sheep. Compared to the Sheltie, who likes more variety, and to have just as much fun, if not more, compared to serious work. With their families, they are both super loving and caring to everyone in their household.

Both the Border Collie and the Sheltie will do well in a multi-pet household. Just as long as they are socialized well as a pup. They will also do well with children in the home too. The Border Collie being the serious herder that he is, will sometimes forget where he is. And he will try to herd other animals and little children. If he starts this, you need to discourage it.


Two Herding Dogs Outside
Both Breeds have very high energy and exercise needs.

Both the Sheltie and the Border Collie need a lot of exercise. As sheepherders and farmhands, they have lots of working energy that needs to be put to good use. Otherwise, it will be put to bad use, and they will likely destroy your belongings out of boredom and again try to herd you.

The Border Collie needs 60 to 90 minutes of exercise every day, and it needs to be intense if you want to wear this pooch out at all. The Sheltie needs less activity than the Border, at around 45 to 60 minutes. But again, it needs to be much more intense than the average canine, especially for a wee little guy. He is much smaller than the Border, and so his short legs tire quicker.

If you have a job to do, you can be sure that both of these guys will try their damned hardest to do it for you. And they will both appreciate being worked and exercised hard. This means that you need to mentally stimulate them throughout the day on top of their daily exercise. Either through interactive playtime, training sessions, or providing them with challenging toys.


Two sheepdogs outside training
Both breeds are extremely intelligent and can pick up on training easily from a  young age.

The Border Collie and the Sheltie are both intelligent dog breeds. They both do well in training, obedience, and agility. Of course, the Collie is the most intelligent, but we don’t think the Sheltie is far behind. This means that they are both ideal for first-time dog owners. However, first-time dog owners should not underestimate how intense these guys are.

And just like all dogs, they need to be shown the doggy ropes for them to grow into the well-behaved and balanced dogs that we all know and love. They both need to be socialized well from a young age. The Sheltie, because he can be overprotective if not. And the Border, because he might become too shy, so you need to build his confidence up.

Research the positive reinforcement training method, and it’ll be a breeze for both of these guys and their owners. It is likely that these guys will both be motivated by praise and objects rather than food. A Collie named Chaser is recognized as one of the most intelligent dogs because she knows the commands and names of over 1,000 items.


Healthy Sheepdogs Exercising
Both the Border Collie and Sheltie are healthy dog breeds.

The Sheltie and the Border Collie are relatively healthy dogs. They both enjoy a long lifespan, with the Border enjoying just one more year than the Sheltie, on average. For these guys to stay healthy, they need to keep up with regular veterinary checkups, eat top-quality nutrition, and be exercised adequately.

They are both prone to a condition called hip dysplasia, which is where the hip socket does not form correctly. And they should also be screened for various eye concerns such as progressive retinal atrophy, collie eye, and cataracts.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but they are the most common health concerns that affect them. So if you are about to welcome one of these guys into your life, you should make yourself aware of them and the associated symptoms to look out for.


Shetland Sheepdog and Border Collie Outside
Both breeds have very specific nutritional needs.

As the smaller pup, the Sheltie will eat between one and two cups of food every day. The Border Collie eats more than this, at around two and a half cups of food. Because they are so active, you need to be careful when you feed them. To avoid bloat, never feed them immediately before or after exercise.

As hardworking dogs, they should be given high-quality dog food to provide them with a well-balanced diet. As well as ensuring that they have enough energy to keep them going for their day ahead. Especially the Border, or actual working dogs. Look for kibbles with omega fatty acids in, as this will keep their coats healthy and lush. The Sheltie might need a kibble specifically designed for smaller breeds as he has a much smaller mouth.


Sheltie and Border Collie on Beach
Be prepared to regularly clean up loose dog fur with both breeds.

Their grooming similarities or differences are determined by the Border Collies coat, and Border Collies shed equally when compared to the Sheltie. The Border Collie has the choice of either a short or long jacket. If the Border opts for a shorter jacket, he will only need to be brushed once a week. However, if he has a longer coat, he will need to be brushed two to three times a week. Which is the same as the Sheltie, who only has one choice of coat, super fluff!

They are both moderate shedders throughout the year, and during the shedding season, they become heavy shedders. Expect hair hurricanes around the home with either of these breeds about. You should bathe these guys once every 12 weeks or so, but never any more than this as you risk damaging their natural coat oils.


Sheltie and Border Collie Puppies
Expect to pay about $1,000 for either puppy from a reputable breeder.

The average price of a Border Collie puppy from a reputable breeder starts from around $1,000 and the Sheltie is roughly the same price. Before you jump in head first, be sure to research your breeder and ensure that they are both reputable and ethical. Avoid any breeder who will not let you meet the pups or their parents, or cannot show you the paperwork.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, after reading this guide, we have made their differences and similarities much easier for you to understand. And even more importantly, we have helped you realize which one might be the better suiter for your family. Because they both need different types of families for sure.

The Sheltie is the smaller pooch, with less intense energy needs. He could happily live in an apartment, whereas the Border Collie couldn’t. The Border Collie needs access to fresh air and a private yard. But more importantly, he needs a really active family who can keep up with his intense workaholic personality. Whichever Scottish pooch you decide to side with, know that they are both equally gorgeous, loving, and fun for the whole family.

Dog Standing in Front of Herd of Sheep

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