Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Cosheltie is a hybrid dog breed, which is a mix between the Sheltand Sheepdog and Border Collie. This is an interesting mix, not least because both parent breeds have a lot of shared ancestry. Indeed, a little over one hundred years ago Border Collie blood was introduced into the parent line of the Shetland Sheepdog, and contributes to the latter becoming an established breed in its own rite.

The Cosheltie has an unmistakably collie look about them, with a long nose and intelligent face. They are an athletic breed with a heavy coat and require plenty of exercise. They bond strongly with their owner but can be wary of strangers, and may be inclined to herd together other family members.

About & History

The Cosheltie is a relative newcomer on the scene, and as such, their story belongs to that of the parent breeds.

The Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog hails from the Shetland Isles of the Scottish coast. The exact origins of the breed are not clear, but it seems likely that herding type dogs from Iceland make up part of their ancestry. Intriguingly, in the early 20th century, some Border Collie blood was introduced into what was then known as the Shetland Collies.

The latter being similar to the Shetland Sheepdog we recognise today. However, at the time, breeders of Rough Collies were keen to differentiate between their dogs and the smaller Shetland Collie. After much petitioning, the name of the Shetland Collie switched to the now more familiar, Shetland Sheepdog.

The Border Collie

The Border Collie originates from the hilly, border region between England and Scotland. Whilst their exact origins are unclear, it seems that a Border Collie-type dog has been around some 200 years.

It may be that their distinct ancestors where shepherding dogs introduced by Roman invaders centuries earlier. These dogs were then crossed with hardier Celtic dogs, and those with super-herding skills used to breed the next generation. The name ‘Border Collie’ was officially adopted in the early 20th century.


Hybrid pups may be a true 50:50 of either parent’s looks or they may lean heavily to one side of the family. Long story short, in a litter of hybrid dogs there is no guarantee what each individual will look like.

For those dogs that do meet-in-the-middle appearance wise we can expect them to be a medium-sized dog, with a long snout, heavy coat, and athletic build. These are fine-boned almost dainty dogs, and should have a neat, tucked up waistline and deep ribcage. However their body shape is often obscured by a medium-to-long coat and an extremely thick undercoat. The most common coat colouration is tricolour, but black and white, brown and white, tan, red, and blue merle also being possibilities.

The Cosheltie has a sleek head with narrow cheekbones and a fine, long muzzle. They have a narrow forehead with ears that are either pricked up or slightly folded. The breed has a long straight tail that is festooned with long feathering. Indeed, their appearance is somewhat similar to a small Rough Collie, as they have many ancestors in common.

Character & Temperament

With an ancestry of herding dogs it is no surprise that the Cosheltie has a strong instinct to herd. This means they are liable to want to round up anything that moves, including children and other pets. Another aspect of their working roots is that they are extremely intelligent and highly trainable. Indeed, they thrive when given a task and very much enjoy obedience training to a high level.

On the home front, they are loving dogs that bond strongly to their owner. Indeed, they may use their cleverness to communicate and tell an owner what they want. The Cosheltie may also be protective and result in barking when they feel threatened. Although confident with their owner, they may be anxious or nervous around strangers.


The Cosheltie’s intelligence makes them a dream to train and an ideal match for an owner wanting to take obedience training to a competitive level. In addition, their working background means they have plenty of energy, so combine the two and they also excel at canine sports such as agility or flyball.


The Cosheltie is too young a breed to have established reliable data as to their health problems. However, it is reasonable to assume they may be predisposed to condition prevalent in the parent breeds.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is an inherited disorder which affects the dog’s ability to clot blood. It’s thought around 28% of (US) Shetland Sheepdogs are carriers of the gene coding for Von Willebrand’s; and if both parents are carriers then their pups will develop this blood clotting disorder.

Because affected dogs are not able to form a stable blood clot, minor injuries may result in prolonged bleeding. This blood loss can be so severe that a blood transfusion is required.

Von Willebrand’s patients that require essential surgery can be given a drug, DDAVP, prior to their procedure. This increases production of natural Von Willebrand’s factor in the blood. However, not all dogs respond to DDAVP, and indeed the drug itself is very expensive.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

PDA is a hereditary heart condition caused when a blood vessel present in the embryo fails to shut down after birth. This results in high pressure arterial blood being forced into the low pressure venous system, which puts the heart under strain.

PDA is the most common congenital heart defect found in puppies. Untreated, it eventually leads to heart failure because of the added strain. However, there are a range of surgical techniques available to tie-off the patent blood vessel and create the flow nature originally intended. However, this is specialist surgery and can be costly.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

Unfortunately, collie-type dogs are prone to a raft of conditions that affect their eyesight. CEA occurs in young dogs, and often lead to blindness at a young age. There is no cure and so responsible breeding is important, whereby dogs are screened before mating and only those with healthy eyes used to produce the next generation.


The deep chest of the Cosheltie places them at greater risk of developing bloat. This happens when the stomach flips over on itself and traps gas. The stomach then distends dangerously, leading to shock and a compromised blood supply to vital organs.

Aggressive intravenous therapy is needed to stabilize the patient, followed by emergency surgery to reposition the stomach. Untreated, the condition is fatal. Actions, such as feeding a good quality food and never exercising the dog straight after eating, are key to prevention.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Cosheltie loves to be active and requires one to two hours of exercise per day. Potential owners should note that this means energetic exercise, such as running off lead, playing fetch, or even swimming, rather than a sedate stroll around the block.

This is because for a Cosheltie not only do they need to burn of energy but they also need plenty of mental stimulation to satisfy that busy mind. Not to provide sufficient exercise will result in bad habits, such as barking, chewing, or digging; whilst physical effects include a tendency to become overweight.


The thick undercoat and long fur of the Cosheltie can make them a challenge to maintain. When it comes to grooming this is not a breed for the faint-hearted because they require a daily brushing.

The top coat is relatively easy to deal with as it combs out easily, however the thick undercoat requires systematic brushing in sections or it risks forming into a solid matt. Also important is daily tooth brushing, to reduce the risk of tartar formation and dental disease.

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