Shelties have a double coat, which means that they have two layers of fur that make up their coat. The long, rough guard hairs lie on top of the thick, with a soft undercoat. The guard hairs are water-repellent, while the undercoat provides relief from both high and low temperatures.
The English Kennel Club describes three different colors: "tri-colour, blue merle, and sable (ranging from golden through mahogany), marked with varying amounts of white and/or tan. Essentially, however, a blue merle dog is a genetically black dog, either black, white, and tan (tricolor). In the show ring, blue merles may have blue eyes; all other colors must have brown eyes.
Sable. Shelties are brown or tan, with coats ranging from pale lemon or ginger through mahogany. The darker ones usually have black guard hairs over the brown. These are called "shaded sables" or "tri-factored sables." Some sables, both light and dark, have a red cast to their coats, hence the term "red sables." Sables usually have white markings, but these may range from very prominent to almost non-existent. Regardless of the amount of white, or the amount of black or red cast, all brown Shelties should be registered with the AKC as sables.
Black. Shelties are registered with the AKC as tri-colorswhen they have varing amounts of white and/ or tan. A tri consists of a body color of black with small amounts of tan on the face and possibly the legs, with white, thus the reference to tri-color.
bi-blacks when they are marked with white only. When black Shelties have a coppery cast to their coat, this is called "rusting." Rusting (which is often aggravated by exposure to the sun) is faulted in
the show ring, but in no way affects a Sheltie's value as a pet or
performance dog (e.g. one who competes in agility, obedience, tracking, herding, etc.).
Blue merle. Shelties are genetically black dogs, whose coat color has been modified by the merling gene. This makes them appear to be dappled silver and black, usually with black patches. Blue merles also differ from other Shelties in that they may have blue or brown eyes (or one of each), or merle eyes, which appear to be both brown and blue. This does not indicate any vision deficiency. Blue merles are also usually marked with varying amounts of white, and may or may not have tan markings. Those without tan markings are called
Bi-blues. There are two kinds of white Shelties. One type is the color-headed white. "White factor" determines the Sheltie's so-called "Dutch" or "Irish" markings (the white collar, bib and cuffs) which are associated with Lassie but are not required for the show ring. Some heavily white-factored dogs have white haunches and legs, a huge white collar, and completely white shoulders and forelegs. Such a dog may have so much white on its body that only a "saddle" or a few patches of color remain. Its head, however, contains no more white than any other Sheltie's might. (This is similar to what is called parti-color in other breeds). At present, the AKC Standard severely penalizes any show Sheltie that is over 50% white, which prevents them from earning championships. Color-headed white Collies have long been accepted in the show ring, and some fanciers argue that color-headed white Shelties should not be discriminated against in the show ring. In any event, these color-headed whites are completely normal. They compete at non-AKC shows, and AKC welcomes them in obedience, agility, and other AKC sports. Color-headed white Shelties are entirely suitable as pets.
Shelties of all colors make equally satisfactory companions. There is no connection between a Sheltie's temperament or trainability and its coat color. Although the sables continue to be popular
with the public, many breed fanciers prefer the blue merles and tricolors