Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) Exercise Needs Guide

Shetland Sheepdog on a leash

The Shetland Sheepdog, often known as the Sheltie, is a small, active, agile and intelligent herding breed. They originated from the Shetland Islands of Scotland and can be very excitable but are willing to please.

The Sheltie is extremely smart and easy to train. They often excel at dog sports such as agility. Although they are active outdoors they make excellent house dogs as long as they are getting the exercise and mental stimulation they require.

How much exercise does a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) need

The Sheltie requires at least one hour of exercise every day, but more is better, or they will become frustrated. This can result in destructive behavior, nuisance barking, and even escaping. Due to their intelligence, they require plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment.

There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Sheltie dog every day.

  • 1. Daily walk
  • 2. Purposeful Activity and Free Play (see Sheltie exercise ideas below)
  • 3. Mental stimulation

This recommended exercise quantity and ideas are for a healthy adult Shetland Sheepdog. The exercise needs of a puppy are different as they are still growing. The wrong quantity and type of exercise can cause injury to a puppy with growing bones and joints. See the bottom of this post for more about how to exercise a Sheltie puppy.

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. See the bottom of this post for more on the exercise needs of an older dog.

Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) walking

The daily walk and outdoor time are essential for a Sheltie not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Sheltie to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across. It also provides social enrichment, improves their bond with you and is a good training opportunity.

The length of the daily walk should ideally be 30 minutes or longer, up to an hour. This can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.

In general, Shelties are obedient and good off-leash. If your Sheltie is prone to run away you can use a long line or retractable leash. Shetland Sheepdogs are usually social with other dogs if they are socialized young. However, as they have a strong herding drive they may try to herd other dogs.

Sheltie exercise ideas

Fetch

Playing Fetch with your dog is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Many Shelties love to play with balls. Even if your Sheltie isn’t ball orientated you can still play fetch using their favorite toy.

Dogs can play this for hundreds of throws. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. As Shelties are smart and very trainable they can be taught to use one of these. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs

Herding Balls

Herding balls are an excellent way for herding dog breeds to burn off energy while catering to their natural herding instinct. It is like sheep herding without the sheep and is similar to the herding dog sport Treiball.

As these breeds were bred to chase and control moving objects. Teaching your dog to play herding games will actually reduce their desire to herd people and other dogs as herding breeds often do.

This is a review of two of the best herding balls for dogs. These balls are virtually indestructible and because they are made of hard plastic or rubber your dog is unable to bite them, so they have to push them instead.

Jolly Ball

The Jolly Ball was the original herding ball for dogs and is inexpensive. It is made from hard plastic and is virtually indestructible. However, some dogs are able to scratch the surface with their teeth or claws which can leave sharp ridges on the toy. It can also be filled with water or sand to add weight to give more resistance to the workout.

The Jolly ball also comes in a range of sizes from 4 1/2 inches to 14 inches so you can choose the size that is best suited to your particular dog. A further option is the Jolly Soccer Ball if you want to be able to kick it yourself. This ball floats on water and will not puncture.

Red Jolly Ball for dogs

Virtually Indestructible Ball

Blue Virtually Indestructible Jolly Ball

The Virtually Indestructible Ball is super tough and is slightly more expensive. It also comes in a range of sizes to suit your particular dog.

View Virtually Indestructible Balls on Amazon

Flirt Pole

A flirt pole is like a big cat tickler with a stick, rope and a lure or toy attached to the end. Move the lure around in circles or in all directions along the ground and your dog will chase it. Works with the dog’s natural prey instinct so it will provide plenty of mental stimulation too. For a full guide to flirt pole exercise for dogs see here.

View Flirt Poles on Amazon

Backyard Agility

Shelties are exceptionable at this type of activity. Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon. You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.

Stair Exercise

A good energy burner and muscle strengthener if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.

Walking upstairs or a hill strengthens the legs as the full bodyweight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.

Dog toys that move on their own

There are many dog toys available that roll and move about on their own. The movement of the toy is engaging for a herding dog like the Sheltie and provide enrichment and get them moving.  See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.

The Wicked Ball is a good example of this type of toy. If your dog is ball mad then the Wicked Ball is the ultimate moving dog toy for them. The magic ball runs and bounces all by itself and the LED light adds another level of engagement for your dog. No App or remote controller required.

It has several settings such as the Intelligent Companion mode. In this mode, the Wicked ball has 10 minutes of play and 30 minutes of rest. If your dog pushes or hits the ball it starts the play cycle again. It also has three reaction modes (gentle, normal, active) so you can set it to suit your dog’s mood.  Due to its obstacle avoidance system (collision sensor), it doesn’t get stuck in tight spots.

The Wicked ball is durable and dog safe and is also waterproof so it can be played with when swimming. It also has a treat hole for dogs that are food motivated.

View the Wicked Ball on Amazon.

Mental stimulation for a Shetland Sheepdog

All dogs need an outlet for their minds, especially highly intelligent breeds like the Shetland Sheepdog. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.

Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Sheltie to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills.  Try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.

In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Sheltie to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.

Scenting and nose games

Shelties, like all dogs, have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.

Chew Toys

Provide your Sheltie toys with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.

Shelties are generally a lighter or moderate chewer so select chew toys that aren’t too hard.

For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.

Learning

Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. The Sheltie learns quickly and is eager to please. Teach them new commands, tricks, and even games. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.

Food enrichment

Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Sheltie to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.

Enrich their environment

Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.

Sheltie puppy exercise needs

The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Sheltie. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.

Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. Any activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.

The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys.

Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need. Socializing any dog young is important.

As your Sheltie puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.

The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Sheltie puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.

Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.

For more on exercise for your Sheltie puppy read “How to exercise your puppy

Exercise for an older senior Sheltie

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.

Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.

Summary – Sheltie exercise requirements

The Shetland Sheepdog, or Sheltie, is an active and intelligent herding breed. They require at least an hour of exercise and activity every day, but more is better. This should include one or two walks of 30 to 60 minutes and other free play and activity.

In addition, due to their intelligence, a Sheltie requires plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment to challenge their minds. Mental exercise can help tire a Sheltie out just as much as physical activity.

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