Male vs. Female Shetland Sheepdog: Which Is Better?

Male and female Shetland Sheepdog on a grass field

So you have already decided to take home a Sheltie for a pet, but have you thought about getting a male or a female Shetland Sheepdog?

Much like with other dog breeds, male and female Shetland Sheepdogs have differences. Hence, it would be wise for aspiring Shetland Sheepdog owners to learn about their differences before taking home a Sheltie.

Male Shetland Sheepdogs are more affectionate and clingier than females. Males also sport thicker coats which means they require more frequent grooming. Meanwhile, female Shelties are easier to train than males because they mature earlier. Both male and female Shelties are intelligent and loyal.

In this article, I will discuss the differences between male and female Shetland Sheepdogs regarding trainability, health condition, and behavioral compatibility toward other people and pets. Let’s start!

Physical Differences

Male and female Shetland Sheepdog smiling

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

Similar to other dog breeds, male Shetland Sheepdogs tend to be slightly bigger and heavier than their female counterparts but only by a few inches and pounds.

Hence, the differences in size and weight among male and female Shelties are sometimes barely noticeable. 

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standards, male Shetland Sheepdogs should stand between 13 and 16 inches and weigh around 15 to 25 pounds. 

Male Shelties also usually have more muscular and bulkier structures than female Shelties.

Shetland Sheepdogs also differ in their coats. Male Shelties tend to carry thicker fur than female Shetland Sheepdogs. Hence, they require more frequent grooming to manage their loose fur. 

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Female Shetland Sheepdogs usually grow a bit smaller and lighter than male Shelties, but only by a few inches and pounds. 

In general, they may also grow from 13 to 16 inches tall and weigh between 15 and 25 inches. However, you should expect female Shelties to be at the lower ends of the breed’s height and weight ranges. 

They also have more feminine appearances and softer features. Female Shetland Sheepdogs require less grooming than male Shelties because they have less fur. Their coats are also thinner and more fitted than the males’.

The groomer of my dogs, who has had over 10 years of breeding experience, can attest to this. He has had a lot of Sheltie fur parents come over to his place and has groomed almost an equal number of male and female Shelties.

He has mentioned that though both male and female Shelties do take time to groom due to their thick and beautiful flowing coats, female Shelties take a shorter time to groom as their coats are easier to manage.

Temperamental Differences

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

There aren’t many differences between male and female Shelties in terms of their temperaments. Both are considered to be great family pets with good dispositions. 

In general, Shetland Sheepdogs are affectionate and loving dogs. However, many dog owners argue that male Shelties are more showy and clingy than their female counterparts. 

They like to shower their owners with attention and are very fond of cuddling. Male Shelties tend to follow their owners anywhere they go. They surely love scratches and being petted. 

Nonetheless, they are also highly sensitive, so owners should discipline and train them carefully. They also do not like getting scolded. 

Male Shetland Sheepdogs are also more territorial and protective, especially if they aren’t neutered. They tend to do territorial marking and bark a lot.

Same-sex aggression could also be observed among male Shelties, especially with the untrained ones. Hence, you should properly socialize and train your Shetland Sheepdog puppy if you plan to make it a family pet. 

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are also affectionate, although they show it differently than males. Unlike male Shetland Sheepdogs, female Shelties are more independent and less clingy. 

They love their owners but are less likely to beg for attention. It is more than enough for them to sit idly and watch their owners do their thing. But of course, they also expect to be petted and cuddled from time to time.

Nonetheless, female Shelties are more prone to mood swings due to hormonal changes when they are in heat. 

These hormonal imbalances may cause some female Shelties to become more clingy during their heat cycles while others become more sensitive. Spaying a female Sheltie may help in tempering these behavioral issues. 

Female Shelties are also believed to have higher herding tendencies than male Shelties because of their maternal instincts. They often try to herd children and other pets while they play or walk. 

Behavior and Training

Female Shetland Sheepdog during training

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

Shetland Sheepdogs are highly intelligent pooches. They are ranked 6th among all canine breeds in terms of cognitive abilities. This is why they are easy to train and can easily pick up commands.

In general, male dogs are considered to be far less superior in terms of cognitive abilities, according to some studies. But this is not to say that male Shelties are not intelligent dogs. 

Male Shetland Sheepdogs are just as smart as female Shelties. It’s just that they reach maturity later than female Shelties, which could affect their trainability. 

Nonetheless, male Shetland Sheepdogs are still considerably easier to train than other dog breeds.

Also, as mentioned earlier, male Shelties are slightly more sensitive than females. This should be considered when training a male Sheltie. 

The best way to train a male Sheltie is by positively reinforcing good behavior. This training method is done by giving a dog a treat whenever it exhibits good behavior or follows a command.

Aside from territorial tendencies, Male Shelties can also be very vocal. They might bark around strangers or when they are in an unfamiliar place or situation.

Same-sex aggression is also observed among male Shelties. This happens when two male dogs assert their dominance over the other. 

Nonetheless, these undesirable behaviors are corrected through early socialization and training.

Intact male Shelties also mark their territories. You might notice them urinating or marking spots around your home more frequently compared to neutered male Shelties.

Here is a video on how Shetland Sheepdogs are professionally trained:

How to Train a Sheltie : Dog Training That Works

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are easier to train than male Shelties. This is because female Shelties mature earlier than their male counterparts. Female dogs are also considered more alert and focused than male dogs.

Hence, you should expect a female Shetland Sheepdog puppy to pick up commands faster than a male Shetland puppy of the same age. 

Female Shelties are also easier to manage during training because of their smaller physique and body structure. 

However, they could be difficult to control when they are in heat. The hormonal changes during the female Shelties’ estrus cycle may affect their mood and personality.

If you don’t plan to breed your female Sheltie, it is advisable to get it spayed by a professional veterinarian. A spayed Sheltie will no longer go in heat. 

Hence, you won’t have to worry about it getting mood swings or other unwanted behaviors like marking its territory.

Health Differences

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

Male Shetland Sheepdogs are healthy dogs in general. However, they are prone to developing various health issues.

Canine hip dysplasia is one of the leading common health problems for male Shetland Sheepdogs. 

This joint-related problem is characterized by the abnormal development of the joints in the hip. This condition is debilitating and causes excruciating pain to dogs. 

Male Shelties are also prone to health issues such as cataracts, hemophilia, and hypothyroidism.

Intact male Shetland Sheepdogs also have higher chances of developing reproductive-related health problems such as testicular tumors and other prostatic diseases.

By undergoing surgical neutering, the risks of your Sheltie developing these health issues are reduced significantly. 

However, newer studies suggest that neutering, when done at the wrong age, might also increase the risk of a dog developing joint-related problems and cancer. 

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Female Shelties are long-lived dogs. They have a lifespan ranging from 12 to 14 years. However, similar to male Shelties, females are also prone to developing hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, and hemophilia. 

In addition, female Shelties are also at risk of developing reproductive-related health issues that are common for bitches.

One of which is pyometra, or the infection of the uterus. Pyometra is a condition that is caused by hormonal changes during the heat cycle of a female dog. 

This health problem is fairly common for female dogs that aren’t spayed. Common signs of this condition include vaginal discharge, fever, and lethargy. If left untreated, this infection could be life-threatening. 

Unspayed female Shelties also have higher chances of developing mammary tumors, ovarian cancer, follicular cysts, and mastitis.

Spaying, the surgical procedure of removing a female dog’s reproductive organs, could reduce the chances of a female Sheltie developing the aforementioned health issues. 

With Other Dogs and Pets

Female Shetland Sheepdog with another dog breed

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

In general, male Shelties can get along pretty well with other dogs and pets, especially if they are properly introduced at a very young age. This is why early socialization is integral in molding good behavior in dogs.

Nonetheless, same-sex aggression could be observed among male Shelties. If you have two male Shelties at home, they might become aggressive towards each other as they assert dominance. 

Male Shelties are also said to be more territorial than female Shetland Sheepdogs. They might become defensive when unfamiliar people and pets go near their spaces.

They can also become overly protective and possessive of their owners and things if not properly trained. This is something you would not want your male Sheltie to develop as it grows.

Since they are herding dogs, male Shetland Sheepdogs may also try to herd and chase smaller pets or animals around the house when their instincts kick in.

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Although female Shetland Sheepdogs live well with other dogs and pets when properly socialized, they are sometimes a bit more reserved and aloof than males. They might not be that welcoming to unfamiliar pets and dogs. 

Same-sex aggression is more frequently observed with male Shelties, but females can sometimes become aggressive towards other female dogs in the same household.

Introducing them to other pets and animals at an early age will help in correcting these undesirable behaviors. 

Their territorial and overly protective tendencies may also become heightened when they are in heat or pregnant. 

Female Shelties may also become aggressive after giving birth. This behavior is quite normal for mother dogs since their maternal instinct is to protect their pups. 

The herding abilities of the Shetland Sheepdog breed are also evident among females. Like male Shelties, females might also try to chase and herd smaller animals and pets around the house.

With Children

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

Male Shetland Sheepdogs love children. They are playful and cheerful but, at the same time, gentle around them. They surely enjoy the energy and attention they get from kids.

However, male Shetland Sheepdogs can become too energetic sometimes. Adult supervision is needed whenever a Sheltie plays with kids to avoid accidents.

They might also try to herd children, although this behavior could be corrected through training and early socialization. 

Nonetheless, male Shetland Sheepdogs are excellent playmates for children overall. 

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Meanwhile, female Shetland Sheepdogs are perceived to be calmer and more gentle than male Shelties around children. This may be because of their natural maternal instincts.

They are also playful and cheerful, although not as energetic as their male counterparts. Oftentimes, they just let the children play or pet them when they are not in the mood to play.

Although they mean no harm, female Shetland Sheepdogs may sometimes nip and bite children while they play. Nonetheless, these herding behaviors could be easily resolved since female Shelties are intelligent and easy to train.

Pros and Cons of Male and Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Male and female Shetland Sheepdog in the woods

Male Shetland Sheepdogs

Owning a male Shetland Sheepdog has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages. 

One of the advantages of having a male Shetland Sheepdog is that you’ll live with a very affectionate and playful dog. 

If you are looking for an energetic pet that loves cuddling and playing, then a male Shetland Sheepdog is a good choice for you. 

In addition, male Shelties are highly sociable and friendly. They get along pretty well with children, other dogs, and pets, especially if they are properly introduced.

They are also considered intelligent dogs, which is why they are easy to train. 

Meanwhile, one of the downsides of owning a male Sheltie is that you’ll need always to give them attention. They are needy for attention and are very dependent on their owners.

Furthermore, they also tend to get easily distracted because of their playfulness. Hence, they require more time to train than female Shelties.

Male Shelties also tend to become territorial sometimes and too protective of their family members. Other people dislike the highly vocal personality of male Shetland Sheepdogs. 

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of male Shetland Sheepdogs:

More playful and energeticToo energetic
Affectionate dogsTerritorial and too protective
Suitable for families with childrenBark a lot
Highly sociable and friendlyNeedy of attention
Intelligent dogsGet distracted easily
Get along well with other petsRequire frequent grooming

Female Shetland Sheepdogs

Aside from having an affectionate and charming dog, owning a female Sheltie has many advantages. Their independent and calmer personalities are a plus point for many dog enthusiasts.

In addition, their maternal instincts make them good pets for families with children. They also get along well with other pets that are part of their family. 

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are also considered to be easier to train than male Shelties because they mature earlier and are more focused. Hence, they require less time to be trained.

Nevertheless, there are also some cons to owning a female Sheltie. 

One disadvantage is that they are prone to mood swings because of the hormonal changes they experience during their estrus cycle. They are also more aggressive when they are pregnant and after giving birth.

Although they easily accept pets that belong to their family, Female Shelties are aloof towards unfamiliar people, other dogs, and pets. 

Here is a summary of the pros and cons of female Shetland Sheepdogs:

Calmer and quieterCan become territorial sometimes
IndependentProne to mood swings
More intelligent and easier to trainTend to become aggressive when pregnant and after giving birth
Behave well around childrenAloof towards unfamiliar pets and animals

Should You Get a Male or Female Shetland Sheepdog? 

The answer to this question depends on your preferences and type of lifestyle. However, there are a few pointers you can keep in mind.

If you want a clingy, affectionate, and cuddly dog, then a male Shetland Sheepdog is the perfect choice for you.

Male Shelties are highly sociable dogs that can get along very well with children and other pets. They are also perfect for active owners since they are playful and highly energetic.

On the other hand, if you are a busy person, you might favor the independent, calmer, and quieter disposition of female Shetland Sheepdogs. 

They are also very intelligent and easier to train. Aside from that, female Shetland Sheepdogs require less grooming than male Shelties. Hence, less maintenance for you.

However, you should note that female Shelties are prone to exhibiting mood swings, and they are a bit aloof to strangers and other animals outside their pack.

Frequently Asked Questions

Male and female Shetland Sheepdog on a wooden bridge

Are Male or Female Shetland Sheepdogs Calmer?

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are perceived to be calmer than male Shelties. They are also quieter and tend to bark less than male Shelties. Hence, they are a good choice of pet for people who like peaceful environments.

Are Male or Female Shetland Sheepdogs More Affectionate?

Male and female Shetland Sheepdogs are equally affectionate dogs. However, they show it in different ways. 

Male Shelties tend to be cuddly and clingy to their owners. They show their love to their family members by always wanting to get involved in everything their owners do. 

Meanwhile, female Shelties are a bit less showy. They also like cuddling and getting petted, but they would patiently wait for their owners to give them attention instead of begging for it. 

Are Male or Female Shetland Sheepdogs Easier to Train?

Female Shetland Sheepdogs are easier to train than male Shelties. But this does not mean, though, that male Shelties are not intelligent dogs. 

In fact, both male and female Shelties are considerably easier to train than other dogs. The primary reason why female Shetland Sheepdogs learn faster than male Shelties is that they mature earlier. 

Final Thoughts

Knowing the gender differences of the dog you want to take home is an integral part of ensuring that you get to choose the perfect dog for you and your family.

Differences in temperament, physical appearance, and health conditions can be observed in male and female dogs, but this is not the only factor you should consider in choosing your pup.

Environment, training, upbringing, and genetics can also influence the demeanor and physical appearance of a dog. The same is true with male and female Shetland Sheepdogs.

If you own a male or female Shetland Sheepdog or have any encounter with this breed, share your experiences and stories in the comment section!

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