Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Key Differences Explained

Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies are extremely similar—most of their differences, even, are minute. Still, a distinguished eye can tell these dogs apart. Shetland Sheepdogs make great family pets because they’re very intuitive when it comes to human moods and needs. Border Collies are incredibly energetic and need tons of exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. Let’s take a closer look at these pups to see what differentiates the breeds!

Comparing Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie

Size, appearance, and lifespan are main differences between Shetland Sheepdog and Border Collie.

Shetland SheepdogBorder Collie
Size13-16 inches, 15-25 pounds18-22 inches, 30-55 pounds
AppearanceVariety of coat colorsWider variety of coat colors and markings, may have wavy fur
Lifespan12-14 years12-15 years
TemperamentGreat with young children and dogs, wary of strangers, very protectiveGenerally friendly toward strangers, moderate guarding instincts
Energy LevelHighVery high
Tendency to barkVery highHigh

Key Differences Between Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies

The key difference between Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies is their size. Border Collies stand several inches taller and weigh about double what Shelties do.

Other things that vary between these breeds are their lifespan, appearance, temperament, energy level, and tendency toward barking.

Let’s dive deeper into these breeds and find out more!

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Size

Types of heeler dogs - Border Collie
Border Collies are larger, weighing up to 55 pounds.


Shelties are 13-16 inches tall and weigh 15-25 pounds. Border Collies stand 18-22 inches tall and weigh 30-55 pounds.

This means Border Collies will be more expensive to feed, and they might need higher dosage of medications—leading to higher veterinary bills. They may also be more difficult to lift or control on a leash.

However, Border Collies will also have more stamina while exercising and may scare off threats a little easier than Shelties due to their larger stature.

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Appearance

Both dogs have long double coats, but a Border Collie can also have a short coat. These are known as smooth Border Collies, while long-hairs are known as rough Border Collies.

Shelties come in the following colors as accepted by the breed standard:

  • Black and white
  • Black, white, and tan
  • Blue merle, and white
  • Blue merle, white, and tan
  • Sable merle, and white

Border Collies come in an even wider array of colors, including:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Blue merle
  • Brindle
  • Gold
  • Red
  • Sable
  • Sable merle
  • White and black
  • White and red
  • Red merle
  • White and blue
  • White and blue merle
  • Lilac
  • Saddleback sable
  • White and red merle
  • White ticked

Border Collies can also have the following markings:

  • White
  • MerleWhite markings and ticked
  • Tan points
  • Merle
  • White markings, tan points, and ticked
  • White markings and brindle points
  • White markings, brindle points, and ticked

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Lifespan

Oldest Dog: Bramble the Border Collie
Border Collies live longer, averaging 12-15 years.

Lucia Horvath Photography/W3schools

Despite being larger dogs, Border Collies live slightly longer lifespans on average. They live 12-15 years, while Shelties live 12-14 years.

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Temperament

Shelties are great with dogs and children, but they can be wary of strangers. This is because they have very strong guarding instincts. These instincts can lead to fear toward strangers, excessive barking, and aggression. It’s important to socialize your dog at a young age to prevent these behaviors. After all, you want to have a dog who feels confident in the world!

Border Collies love people, even strangers! They have some protective instincts, but not as much as Shelties. They aren’t as good with children or other dogs, either. Slow introductions and supervision are necessary with both breeds but even more important with Border Collies to ensure peaceful coexistence for everyone in the household.

Watch that your Border Collie doesn’t try to herd your children or smaller pets. While this might sound like a useful task, part of their herding instincts involves nipping heels—which can be painful, especially for little ones, and should never be tolerated even when the dog is a puppy.

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Energy Level

Shetland sheepdog outside
Shelties are slightly less energetic but still require plenty of daily exercises.


Shetland Sheepdogs have high energy levels and need plenty of exercise in the backyard alongside a daily walk.

Border Collies also require these things, but more of it—whether through vigorous exercise or a job to keep their mind occupied. They also benefit from plenty of mental stimulation because they’re an intelligent, working breed.

You can accomplish this through playing games, purchasing puzzle toys, or creating your own homemade enrichment activities. Even something as simple as sprinkling their kibble on the grass outside is a simple and easy way to give their minds and bodies some activity!

Shetland Sheepdog vs Border Collie: Barking Tendency

Lastly, both of these dogs are prone to excessive barking—but Shelties are even more likely to bark at everything they see!

Though it may sound counterproductive, teaching “speak” early is incredibly helpful. Only when your dog can bark on command in a controlled environment can you teach “quiet,” or to stop barking—and this will be vital.

Ensuring your dog gets plenty of exercises and not leaving them alone for long periods, or putting them in the yard by themselves, will also help. If these breeds are bored, they’re likely to find their own fun—and it’s very likely going to involve “talking” to the mailman or anyone else walking down the street!

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