Male vs. Female Shetland Sheepdog: Which Is Better?

Male and female Shetland Sheepdogs looking at each other

Shetland Sheepdogs, commonly known as Shelties, are known to be loyal companions, and you can always trust them to have your back. They’re also highly intelligent and easy to train.

There’s not much difference between male and female Shelties, but the little subtle differences can be what makes them perfect companions for you. Remember that no gender or breed is perfect, so you only have to choose which gender is the best fit for you.

So, which one is better for you, a male or a female Shetland Sheepdog? If you want a clingy Shetland Sheepdog that will always be excited to be on your lap, then get a male. If you want a more independent Shetland Sheepdog that will respect your alone time, then get a female.

This is only a summary of what you will find in this article, and if you read on, you will find that there are many things that differentiate them. Go ahead and see which gender is the best for you!

Male Shetland Sheepdogs


Height: 12 – 16 inches (30 – 41 cm)

Weight: 17 – 27 lbs (8 – 12.3 kg)

Puppy Price: $800 – $1,000

Lifespan: 12 – 15 Years

Build: Larger built with more muscle mass.


  • Playful, energetic, and bright.
  • More maintenance required.
  • Easily get distracted and harder to train.
  • More attention seeking.
  • Easier to socialize with people.
  • More playful and energetic.
  • Less suspicious of strangers.
  • Likes being babied.
  • More stubborn.
  • More aggressive.
  • Clumsy around kids.
  • Tends to protect a territory or whole family.
  • More likely to bond with all family members.
  • Very clingy.
  • A bit messier.
  • Matures slower.
  • Less likely to get along with other dogs or animals.
  • Harder to train him to walk off leash and stay close to you.
  • Loves to please his owner.

Female Shetland Sheepdogs


Height: 12 – 14 inches (30 – 36 cm)

Weight: 14 – 22 lbs (6.4 – 10.3 kg)

Puppy Price: $800 – $1,000

Lifespan: 12 – 15 Years

Build: Slender built with less muscle mass.


  • Playful, energetic, and bright.
  • Less maintenance required.
  • More focused and easier to train.
  • Less attention seeking.
  • A bit harder to socialize with people.
  • Can be slightly less playful.
  • More suspicious of strangers.
  • More independent.
  • Less stubborn.
  • Less aggressive.
  • More cautious around kids.
  • Tends to protect an individual (her owner).
  • Tends to bond with one person in the family.
  • Respects your time alone.
  • Cleaner.
  • Matures quicker.
  • More likely to get along with other dogs or animals.
  • Easier to train her to walk off leash and stay close to you.
  • Slightly less desire to please her owner.

Physical Differences


Male Shelties are usually bigger and heavier than females. They can be 2 inches taller and 5 pounds heavier than an average female. One interesting difference is that male Shelties carry more coats than females, so they require a bit more grooming.


Female Shelties are smaller than their male counterparts, weighing at least around 2 inches shorter and 5 pounds lighter. Their coats are more feminine-looking, with a closer, thinner, and more fitted coat.

Temperamental Differences


One interesting fact is that male Shelties are actually as smart as females. Being the 6th most intelligent breed, the Shetland Sheepdog is known to be more intelligent than most breeds, and it can actually explain why male Shelties can compete with female Shelties in brainpower.

Both genders are equally affectionate, but they do it in totally different languages. Males are prone to being clingy, and they will follow you anywhere you go. They also like cuddling and staying near their owners. Another subtle difference is that male Shelties tend to be like children.

Most owners agree that male Shelties like to be babied, dependent, and will see you as their everything. They’re also highly sensitive, so be sure to scold them gently.

Males are very territorial, and they are also more protective. They have the tendency to bark a lot, especially if untrained. Since Shetland Sheepdogs are naturally herding dogs, training is essential if they are to be your house pets.

Their herding instinct might come into play when there are children running around, and it can lead to biting and nipping in an attempt to “herd” them. This habit should be highly discouraged, as it can lead to major accidents for children.


The love language of a female Shetland Sheepdog is to give you your own space while still being as affectionate as the male ones. They will love getting cuddles and scratches, but they also understand that you want your own time.

While males tend to act like children, females tend to act like your best friend. As long as you care for them, they will always have your back.  Female Shelties also expect affection in return for their love.

While males will love you unconditionally, females tend to want something in return. They will be more independent, and they tend to be more confident and assured in themselves.

Females are also moodier than males. A common example is while Shelties are generally accepting of strangers, females have a habit of getting excited when they’re far and then turn into a scared, barking dog behind your legs when they come near.

Their herding behavior is also more heightened due to their maternal instincts. They see children as needing to be led when walking, and this might be a problem because they might bite if unfollowed.



Shetland Sheepdogs are highly intelligent, and they’re much easier to train than most dogs. Shelties have been found to learn new commands even if they have been taught less than five times, and obey them much faster.

Male dogs might not be as intelligent as the females, but male Shelties are known to close that gap as much as possible. Although they’re highly intelligent, they are more aloof than females and are more prone to being distracted by small things.

This can factor into how much time you need to allot in training your male pup. Males are also very territorial, and they’re prone to bark at every little thing they find odd. This should be corrected by training them to differentiate between friends and strangers.

It is always highly recommended to train your Sheltie, especially if you plan to make them indoor pets or house pets in general. Shelties are herding dogs, and you might notice them trying to herd anything they can, like rabbits and stray wildlife.

They might try to herd unruly children during playtime and this habit should be removed upon training because it can lead to nipping and biting.


In general, female dogs are already known to be more intelligent, and Shetland Sheepdogs aren’t any different. Females are highly intelligent, making them much easier to train, especially because they’re very attentive and alert.

Training is also easier when you have treats instead of just verbal praises because females are known to like getting something in return for being obedient. This also increases the chances of them being more alert in training.

Of course, it is always recommended to train your Sheltie, regardless of gender. Herding dogs should learn how to control their herding instincts and limit it only to animals that can and should be herded.

Health Differences

There are other medical issues that present no inclination towards one gender but are still common in Shetland Sheepdogs. Shelties are prone to dental disease, the most common chronic problem in pets and unfortunately, they are more likely to occur in Shelties than most pets.

This disease starts with a tartar build-up that leads to gum and roots infection. Without prevention, your Sheltie might lose their teeth, or even be in danger of damaged kidneys, joints, liver, or heart. Their lifespan may also decrease by one to three years.

Another health issue is parasites, where all kinds of bugs and worms can get inside your dog’s body, causing pain, discomfort, and even death. This can range from roundworms, whipworms, and heartworms, to something as simple as fleas and ticks.

They can get these parasites by drinking unclean water, being bitten by infected mosquitos, or walking in contaminated soil. There are some cases where it can transfer to you or anyone in the household.

Infections are also a big thing since Shelties are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. Parvo, rabies, and distemper can all be preventable through vaccination, so make sure to keep up with your Sheltie’s vaccination schedule.


Male Shelties are prone to patellar luxation, or the dislocation of the kneecap. A sign of a luxating patella is when he doesn’t want to use his back leg, or he suddenly hops.

This can be easily solved on their own by kicking their leg out to pop the kneecap back in place, and no further medical attention is required.

However, if it doesn’t seem like his kneecap isn’t popping back in place, then surgery is needed to realign the kneecap, especially in severe or continuous patellar luxation.

Epilepsy is also a disease that affects more male Shelties than females. This disease is characterized by constantly occurring fits or seizures. Most epilepsy cases are Idiopathetic Epilepsy, where there is no identifiable cause of the illness.

In these cases, it’s typically difficult to treat as seizure treatment usually treats the underlying cause of the seizure, instead of the seizure itself.


Hip dysplasia is common in female dogs, and this occurs when there is a malformation of the hip socket, where the ball and hip socket don’t fit properly and they grind or rub against each other instead.

When left unattended, it can cause lameness and very painful arthritis. Hip dysplasia is genetic, so make sure you know the medical history of your puppy’s parents.

Obesity is a nutrition-related disorder that can decrease the lifespan of your dog. Females in general are more prone to obesity. Surprisingly, spaying seems to increase the chances of female dogs being obese, and they are twice as likely to be obese as intact females.

As a whole, the frequency of obesity in spayed dogs is 32%, compared to 15% of intact dogs in both genders.

With Children


Shetland Sheepdogs are suitable for kids and are known to be playful and affectionate toward them. Male Shetland Sheepdogs can be a little more energetic and tend to view children as their playmates.

Getting a male Sheltie is good if you have kids that need tiring out or kids that are old enough to handle a little rough playing. However, male Shelties might be a bit too energetic for some kids. They’re known to be too hyper at times and can even outlast the most energetic of kids.

They also have more tendency to bark especially when they’re excited, and this makes some kids uncomfortable.

Their herding instincts should also be observed and trained against. They’re known to chase any fast-moving objects in an effort to herd them, and this can range anywhere from other house pets, to cars, to children.

Although they don’t mean any harm, they occasionally nip and bite unruly children, but this habit can easily be remedied with training.


Females are known to be more naturally inclined towards children. Some owners have observed that even though their Shelties didn’t grow up around children, they are still great around them without training.

You may find your female Sheltie a bit calmer than the male, and this is because their maternal instinct makes them perceive children as being more fragile.

They’re also more decisive about their actions, and if they get tired of playing, they’ll simply just move away and let the children do their own thing. Sometimes, they will just lie down and let the children play with their ears or scratch them, keeping them still entertained.

Females are also prone to chasing fast-moving objects, but they know that any child shouldn’t be herded. Biting and nipping might also be a problem, but again, this can be fixed through proper training.

With Other Dogs


Males are a bit more energetic, leading them to be more sociable. Most owners lose their dogs in dog parks in a matter of minutes because they’re always immediately socializing with other pets. They also tend to readily accept other house pets, regardless of species.

Surprisingly, Shelties actually like their feline companions more than other house pets. Of course, males are still prone to territorial instincts and they are more possessive of their things than females and other breeds, and this might cause them to start fights.

This can be alleviated by socializing them at an early age and keeping an eye out for over possessiveness, which should be never be tolerated.


Females tend to be more apprehensive of other dogs. They need a bit more time to socialize and get used to every dog they meet before they can warm up to them. Like males, they do readily accept other house pets and are partial to feline friends.

However, any dog they see outside their household will count as strangers, and it will take time to get them out and to socialize. While most shyness can be removed through early socialization and training, they tend to take more time than males in getting used to other dogs.

Which Is Better for a Family?

Shelties are suitable for any kind of family since they are loving companions for all members, even children. They’re also very protective, and they will bark if they sense something odd in their territory. Because of their above-average intelligence, they need a lot of mental stimulation.

You need to keep them entertained, or they’ll do it for you in ways that you might or might not like. This might be seen as something of a deal-breaker for some, but Shelties are always known to be more energetic and active, so keep this in mind when looking for one.

Of course, there are also minute details that differentiate the genders, and it’s all a matter of what you’re looking for in a family dog.

Advantages of Male Shetland Sheepdogs in a Family Environment:

  • More energetic.
  • Sociable and friendly.
  • Territorial.
  • Protective.
  • Good for kids who need tiring out.
  • Gets along with other pets easily.
  • Gets along best with female pets.

Advantages of Female Shetland Sheepdogs in a Family Environment:

  • Calmer and quieter.
  • Shy.
  • Careful around strangers.
  • Protective and motherly.
  • Good for younger kids or kids that don’t like rough play.
  • Gets along with other pets easily.
  • Gets along best with male pets.

As you can see, the details that differentiate males and females are small, but it can matter to other families. If you’re looking for a careful Sheltie that respects your alone time and isn’t too energetic, then get a female.

If you’re looking for a Sheltie that loves bouncing around and is active all the time, then you’re best fitted with a male Sheltie.

Which Is a Better Guard Dog?

Shetland Sheepdogs are good watchdogs because they’re always quick to bark especially when something’s amiss in their territory. Make sure to train them properly to avoid this habit turning into a nuisance for you or your neighbors.

Advantages of Male Shetland Sheepdogs as Guard Dogs:

  • Territorial.
  • Best for personal protection, cling to one person.
  • Stronger bite.
  • Bigger build.

Advantages of Female Shetland Sheepdogs as Guard Dogs:

  • Protective because of maternal instincts.
  • Best for household protection, get along with all members of the family.
  • Faster and more agile.
  • Wary of strangers.

Because of their smaller build, females can be more agile than males. They’re also best as protection for the whole family since they don’t cling to just one person. Since they’re careful and shy around strangers, they would always be quick to bark at people and animals that they think shouldn’t be in their property.

Males are also good guard dogs because their bigger size is more intimidating, and they generally have a stronger bite. Their territorial instinct is more heightened than females, so they will always protect their land no matter what. Since they like clinging to one person, male guard dogs are best for personal protection.

Final Thoughts

A bit more on the smaller side, Shetland Sheepdogs are often mistaken as timid little dogs that are just like the others. However, they’re actually the 6th most intelligent dog breed, and they’ve been the trusted companions of farmers in Scotland. They’re also fantastic family dogs since they get along with everyone in the family.

Although gender doesn’t matter as much as temperament and history, they are still important considerations to make your Sheltie perfect and suitable for your family and lifestyle. Regardless of which gender you choose, Shetland Sheepdogs will always be your trusted companion for a long time.

1 comment

CB May 15, 2022 - 12:37 pm

I grew up with both a male and female Sheltie. This description is very accurate. With the exception of the male was far more intelligent. Although our female was a runt rescued off a puppy mill with a couple of health problems that could factor into it (still smart)! The male would take socks off by the toe of us children as a game! He would be so proud! I absolutely adore Shelties as a family dog!


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