mackland shetland sheepdogs shelties puppies south africa 

my story in shelties south africa

A Sheltie is a very difficult dog to breed! My dogs are not perfect by any means, but I am always striving to learn more and improve my lines. I have set certain goals and criteria for the standard of my dogs, and I hope one day to achieve everything that I have set out to.

After researching the health of the Sheltie, I was horrified to find that very few breeders in South Africa did any testing. There is a fair amount of testing available to the Sheltie breeder in SA, and a whole lot more overseas. I decided to make this a priority, and try and reach my goals with healthy dogs!

My aim has always been to breed healthy Shelties, with good conformation, but that are also able to compete in the disciplines ie “do a job”.

I began with a dog from a good kennel in Germany, English type, with the idea that I would work her and find the perfect male for her, and hopefully have a litter or two. Her workability turned out to be fabulous.

 shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

I could not find a tested male in SA that suited her, and the owners of any that I looked at were not keen on spending any money on testing. I took it upon myself to test a couple of other people’s males myself, in the hope that I could catch a break, but I wasn’t that lucky. Of those that I tested, not only were there no genetic CEA Clears, there were no Carriers either! ALL were Affected for CEA. So I decided to import a male from the same kennel in Germany – one that I was advised as suitable for my girl by their breeder. He was, in fact, very similar to my girl, and going by my Border Collie knowledge in breeding type to type, I agreed. The litter was born, 5 pups, but it was a difficult birth so I decided to spay my girl and keep a daughter. While the litter was healthy and well bred, I knew that I lacked something in my dogs. So I decided to research some more and learn a bit more.

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

I keep going back to my aims:

Health, temperament, drive, structure, trainability & conformation

Although I was excited about my first litter, and I was happy with the overall quality when it came to structure and size of the puppies, I was disappointed with the temperaments. The pups were a bit weak in temperament, being a bit more reserved than I like. Their bone was also quite fine. I came to the conclusion that I needed more substance and stronger temperaments, so I decided to take the plunge and Import a Canadian bitch with the idea that I would add her to my English line and create more of a happy medium. My English dogs are fine boned, with weaker personalities, but they also have some outstanding qualities that I wanted to keep. Expression was my number one criteria to maintain here, and also the workability, together with their cheeky and mischievous natures. Other things such as size, long arched necks, great tailsets and tail lengths were assets that I didn't want to lose either.

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

Breeding my English boy to my Canadian was not on the cards, I realized after numerous tries, so I had to go elsewhere and put her to another Canadian. Although the litter was nice, and also healthy, the litter showed no uniformity that I was so used to in Borders. First of all, the sizes varied from under -to over-sized, temperament and workability were all different, and the overall structures varied. I had very mixed feelings about this, as I felt that I was going nowhere.

I was also not sold on the Canadian look of the sheltie – but I was totally in awe of the stable temperament, though! What worried me most was the head and expression of the Canadians – the eyes were rounder, harder and changed the “sweet” melting sheltie expression that I had grown to love. The muzzle was also very strong, and although I do want a stronger muzzle, together with a deeper underjaw, I was not ready for the added depth of head that it gave me. This to me, was the ultimate sacrifice, and I decided to try and avoid it in future. I loved the stronger bone and sturdier structure, though, and hoped to keep some of this. But sadly none of this was possible and I ended up with the line coming to an end.

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

So, I decided to go the slightly milder route and import a finer American bitch. This, it seems, was the right thing to do, for me to work towards my goals. I got a lovely sized bitch, quite small, with a more moderate head, and relatively pretty expression. Her depth of head was still on the heavier side, but a huge improvement on where I have already been. I love her outgoing nature – she loves people, and is a very easy going little girl. I was planning on perhaps putting my English boy to her  to see how that turned out.

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

Meanwhile, the English girl that I had kept from my first litter was coming of age to be bred, and I started thinking what to try there. I knew that I wanted something a little “more” added to her, so started looking in Australia for a nice mix. I found a lovely boy, and was planning on importing semen from him. He was from a kennel that I had been looking at because the breeders had exactly the same aims as me – to breed a mixture of American and English lines, and try and keep the sweet expression and workability. They then offered me the boy’s half-brother! I had a look at him and was so impressed. I really liked what I saw and said yes. He arrived and I was overjoyed to see that he had exceeded all of my expectations – I loved him!

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

So, for my breeding program, I was left with 2 English, 1 light American and 1 mix to work with in the end. I felt that I was finally on stage 2 of my breeding learning curve!

The year 2016 was good to me, I did 2 matings – I decided to rather try the light American to the Australian mix and the English to Australian mix. By using the same male on 2 bitches, I could get an idea of what he produced to 2 different types of shelties. That gave me one litter of a more English mix, and one litter of a more American mix. I loved both litters, and feel that I am much closer to my final aim. I am still working on it. The more English litter has quite a nice look to it, but the size has crept in a bit, so I need to remember to try and keep this down in future.  The light American girl produced a lovely litter, nicely sized and with good conformation – I will do a repeat of this combination! It certainly produced more of what I am aiming for, even if some of the pups were a little strong in head!

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

2017 was the time for round 3, and by now I know that I am getting closer! I have noticed a few things that have crept in that I should keep an eye on – the first being the straight topline (not to be confused with a level back as the standard says). The sheltie topline starts at the tip of the ears to the end of the tail – it is a graceful sweep of lines and curves. My American’s have levelled out quite a bit, so I will be aiming at making sure their toplines improve. This, together with the refined head that I am sometimes getting are priorities at the moment, but my original goals remain in place – sweetness of expression, health & workability, and also the stable temperament.

shetland sheepdog puppy sheltie south africa

2018 started off with a bang, as I raised my 2017 litter over the Christmas holidays and into 2018. This litter has exceeded my expectations, and perhaps I finally have my mix girl to go forward with. I have been wanting a daughter from my Australian import for quite a while, and it seems that I may have the one!

2018 so far is an exciting year, with 1 litter born (a mix), and one new arrival at Mackland. My more UK boy was used by another breeder to her Canadian bitch, and I could not resist a puppy from this. Welcome to my delightful Story!

So, at present, I have a number of first and second generation mixes, and I think in future this will remain Mackland’s signature “look” as I plan to gain uniformity by breeding only mixes together.

It’s all coming together nicely!