Shetland Sheepdogs - Shelties - in Israel
People in Israel are very excited about the Shetland Sheepdog ('Sheltie') breed. But that's because they either know them from abroad or they've seen a rare one here and decided that this is the breed for them.
In the tens
An educated guess is that at the moment there are perhaps 30-40 Shelties living in the whole of Israel. That's compared to hundreds of thousands of Golden Retrievers (one of the most popular dogs here). Seeing a Sheltie 'dance' along a sidewalk – because they seem to dance rather than just walk – is a sight to behold and always attracts attention.
The closest comparison here is the Rough Collie, but a lot of people don't know the name of that breed either – so these little dogs are often called 'Mini-Lassie'. Clearly there's still a long way to go to make the breed more familiar.
Local breeding and imports
Usually there's a problem when somebody is enthusiastic about wanting a Sheltie puppy, because supply is very erratic. Sheltie litters are few and far between. For relatively long periods there won't be a single Sheltie puppy available on the market. If a Sheltie enthusiast is looking during this ’empty' time, the only fast solution is to find a breeder abroad and arrange a personal import.
That's what happened to me 14 years ago when I was looking. It took me a year to find my Sheltie (Casey) in Toronto, Canada, and persuade the breeder there to agree to send him to Israel. Today the process is much easier!
Sheltie owners in Israel
Families will know about Shelties because one of them came from abroad, or they know somebody here who already has or had one. Any Sheltie in Israel is sure to get the 'Royal Treatment' because the breed is so rare. Shelties will be pampered and intensely loved and usually the owners will spare no expense to keep them in top condition. For many years to come the breed will always be 'exotic' and fascinating to the Israeli public.
Adjustment to climate
It needs to be clearly stated: the life of a Sheltie in Israel is not the easiest. Carrying that heavy fur coat around in the heat and humidity is a burden – as with other long-coated dogs here. Yet much can be done to make their lives more comfortable:
1) Air-conditioning – For around three months of the year (mid-June to mid-September) having air-conditioning is a MUST for Sheltie owners in Israel if they live in the muggy center of the country and not in the cooler North.
2) Times of day – If the Sheltie is taken out in the early morning and then after 4pm, he/she will miss the main heat of the day. The final outing can be in the late evening. Again, this is the routine for the hot summer months. Winters are the real 'pleasure' times for Shelties.
Under no circumstances should a Sheltie owner ever leave a Sheltie outside an air-conditioned house or apartment all the time (i.e in a yard or garden). I always say to prospective owners "If you want a dog that's going to stay outside all the time, choose another breed – don't bring a Sheltie and then punish it."
3) Frequent combing – As a result of the heat, Shelties in Israel will lose a lot more of their inner coat than if they lived in a colder climate. Constant combing of the coat allows more air to reach the Sheltie's skin and cools him/her down.
Encouraging Sheltie ownership
I have a great love of Shelties and created this site (www.sheltie.co.il) to encourage more people to find out about this wonderful breed. Now that my beloved Casey has gone after 13.5 years I'm devoting more effort to expanding the site.
The site explains the origins of Shelties, their characteristics, how to groom them and how to deal with medical problems as they get older. Casey was the model in many of the photos for this site.
The purpose of the English page is to appeal to English-speakers in Israel but equally to present our situation to overseas breeders and stimulate their support. I'd like to encourage such breeders to view Israel as a land of opportunity for an expanding population of Shelties. There are many Poodles, Spaniels, Terriers and other small breeds around. Why not Shelties as well?
If you're a Sheltie Breeder and would be interested in selling Sheltie puppies for direct personal import to Israel, please contact me. I'd be glad to add your detail to our Links page.