Before getting into the specifics of the Sheltie energy level, I’d like to mention something about dogs in general. For those looking for a low energy companion, your best bet is an older dog, regardless of the breed.
Any healthy puppy that I know of, needs running, playing and blowing off steam on a regular basis (as in daily).
If you have more than one pup, you can give them a nice, big, fenced-in backyard to run and play together.
In order to express their Sheltie energy, my guys play tag, conduct elaborate mock attacks of each other, and just running around for no good reason.
Watching them race around at top speed is quite a sight.
I’m not sure how they decide who is the chased and who are the chasers, but they mysteriously make a unanimous decision and they are off!
I also get out and throw the Frisbee or ball around. Nothing formal, just getting them to run and be active. Being herders, they love to chase the Frisbee. I usually end up being the retriever. They have me well trained. Lots of Shelties can, however, enjoy the retrieving part of the activity.
There are lots of other ways to play with your Shetland Sheepdog. It’s a great way to build a relationship with your best buddy and address the Sheltie energy level at the same time. If you need some creative ideas try looking here: Play & Games
Most people take their dog for a walk. And I guess that’s ok, but generally, it can make for a frantic activity, not a pleasant past time if it is the only outlet for all that energy.
If you can play a little fetch or Frisbee to get some of the pent-up Sheltie energy out of them first, you’ll find a better behaved animal at the other end of the leash.
Depending on how much freedom your Shetland Sheepdog has to go out and run, you may notice a slow build up of cabin fever. They go from well behaved pups to finding reasons to wrestle in the house with each other, bounding around, and causing havoc.
That’s when I know, rain or not, mud or not, they have to get outside to blow off steam.
When I first get home from work and go downstairs to let them out of their individual kennels, I see a pack of pups bouncing straight up, off all fours like a bunch of Mexican jumping beans. Pure energy. Barking is also part of it. They are pretty frantic to get out and moving.
Once quiet enough, I let them out in the fenced back yard to relieve themselves and use up that Sheltie energy. There’s also something to be said for fresh air and sunshine to calm them down.
When they come in for the evening, they find a suitable spot and crash. As the saying goes “A tired dog is a good one.”
With any activity in the home, at the outset they are very excited, full of energy and bouncy.
Shelties do well in Agility or Flyball. They are fast and responsive. Not quite as explosive in the ring as a Border Collie, but then they are easier to handle in everyday life.
I am in awe of people able to handle Border Collies. Those guys need a job all the time from what I’ve been told.
Here's a Yankee Sheltie with owner, Deb Pitzer in an Agility competition:
Shelties on the other hand do have an “off switch”. While they love activity, they can also be happy playing couch potato on many a day. To get started in either of these activities, read up on the how-to: Agility and Flyball
"OH, BOY!!! Hi, Hi, Hi, Say Hi to me! No, me!”
That would be my guys.
Some visitors find the Sheltie energy overwhelming in large numbers.
But within say, 5-10 minutes if told to chill out, they will settle down, lie down and go to sleep. Until you move. J Then it’s a whole new ball game
If only one or two are with me, they are much more civilized and calm. But even the pack, after about 5-10 minutes they settle down.
Dogs, except maybe the coach dogs, are generally not hardwired for long distance running. They do things in spurts. Just watch them when they are outside off the leash. Run, stop, run, stop.
If you are a runner and you want your Shetland Sheepdog as a partner, you have to build up his stamina just like you do. You need to watch his foot pads for wear and keep his nails short so he can move without pain.
It’s also necessary to wait until they are fully grown before putting that kind of stress on the joints. For a Shetland Sheepdog, that would be about 1 ½ to 2 years old.
They do well in Obedience competition as well, though that isn’t so much a physical exercise as a mental one. Here's an example of Rally O, the less formal of the two types. Notice the little traffic cones placed on the floor.
They have signs instructing the handler what needs to be done, "turn 270 degrees", "stop", "right turn", etc
Here's an advanced level of the traditional Obedience:
Well, need I explain that if you have a few sheep or ducks, that training a Shetland Sheepdog to herd would be great exercise and what the breed was originally developed for.
You can find excellent resources to get started here: Herding
And just for fun.... (Hey, it's about herding!)
Think the two of you could be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? Show off your talents with dance! Competing in this sport gives the both of you a nice work-out. And here is a training course available to put the Sheltie energy level and smarts to use.
(As someone with two left feet, it's not my cup of tea but it may be yours.)
A Sheltie is a happy and active dog with an “off” switch. Unlike other breeds like labs or golden retrievers who (my golden retriever breeder/mentor taught me) need 8-10 miles exercise a day to stay healthy, the Sheltie can do with much less.
They start off as young, very energetic pups. As they mature they becomes less excitable, calmer more accommodating to a sedentary life but always in need of some physical activity on a regular basis. As an owner it’s up to you to find a way to let your pup work off that Sheltie energy in a positive way.
What ways have you used?