The sweet, intelligent, and loyal Collie is a Scottish legend.
- Dog Breed Group
- Herding Dogs
- Life Span
- 10 to 14 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Collie dog breed is a native of Scotland, mostly of the Highland regions but also bred in the Scottish Lowlands and northern England, where she was used primarily as a herding dog. She is a sensitive and intelligent dog, known for her undying loyalty and amazing ability to foresee her owner's needs. She is a great family companion, and is still a capable herding dog.
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In the 1950s television series Lassie, you knew that the Collie would come to the rescue, whether Timmy was trapped in an abandoned mine or had fallen into a well. After all, the star of this long-running show wasn't just any dog. She was Lassie, a Collie dog.
To be sure, the adventures of Timmy and Lassie are fun to watch. But they're fiction — aren't they?
Well, according to those who know and love the Collie breed, the fictional accounts of television Lassie aren't too far off the mark. The real-life Collie is an extremely intelligent, sensitive dog who is known for her uncanny ability to know when something is wrong. True stories abound about this breed coming to the rescue of people and animals.
Heroics aside, the Collie is a medium-size (50 to 70 pounds) dog, easy to train, devoted to and protective of her family, and friendly with people outside the family circle as well. Known for being playful and gentle, she makes an excellent companion for children.
Although the Collie is good-natured and friendly, she can be suspicious of strangers, especially if they approach the children in her family. She's a good watchdog — she will bark — but she is not aggressive.
The beautiful Collie has two distinct looks: full coat (known as the Rough variety) and short coat (known as the Smooth variety). The television star was a Rough Collie, as was the star of the 1943 movie Lassie Come Home, which inspired the television series.
Today, the Collie is more likely to be a pampered pet than an all-around farm dog. She adapts well to a variety of home environments, as long as she has plenty of daily exercise. She enjoys relaxing around the house with her family, as well as running and playing outside with the kids. Her herding instincts are still strong, so it's not unusual for the Collie to gather children and pets, chase cars, and bark.
In addition to her herding ability, the loyal Collie excels as an assistance or therapy dog. She also does well at such canine sports as herding trials, agility, obedience, and lure coursing.
The movie and the television series made the Collie a popular dog in the United States. Unfortunately, her extreme popularity leaves her open to the bane of all favorite breeds: unscrupulous people who breed with no regard for temperament, health, or conformation.
As a result, some Collies have serious health and temperament problems. If you are considering a Collie, you must be extremely careful from whom you purchase or adopt a puppy. Buy only from a reputable breeder. Never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Reputable breeders breed with temperament in mind and perform various health tests to ensure that their breeding dogs don't pass on a predisposition to genetic diseases.
- The Collie is usually quiet unless she has a reason to bark. However, if she is left alone too often or if she is bored, she will bark excessively.
- Both varieties need grooming, but the Rough Collie especially needs regular brushing to keep her coat clean and free of tangles.
- Many Collies are sensitive to medications including ivermectin, the drug used in heartworm preventives. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian before giving your Collie a heartworm preventive or any other drug.
- Be careful from whom you acquire a Collie. The Collie's popularity has given rise to unethical breeders acting with no regard for temperament, health, or conformation. To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Collie is a native of Scotland, primarily from the Highland regions. She has been called Collis, Colley, Coally, and Coaly, names that probably derive from col or coll, the Anglo-Saxon word for black. Some historians think, however, that the name comes from the colley, the Scottish black-faced sheep, that the Collie dog used to guard.
Original Collies were closer in size and shape to today's Border Collies, and they were predominantly black. Herding ability was more important than appearance, so the dogs varied a great deal in looks.
Stone Age nomads brought dogs to what is now Southern England, and from these came a hardy, intelligent dog used to herd sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs. Some historians say that the Collie's particular ancestors were brought to the British Isles by Roman conquerors, some two thousand years ago.
Queen Victoria is credited with saving Collies from obscurity. In 1860, she visited her Scotland estate and fell in love with the good looks and gentle temperament of the Collies she saw. She brought some back to England, and thus began the first Collie fad.
It wasn't long before the dogs were shown and bred for good looks rather than working ability. They first were exhibited in 1860 at a dog show in Birmingham, England, in the generic class known as "Scotch Sheep-Dogs."
One Collie, named Old Cockie, who was born in 1867, is credited with the characteristic type of the Rough Collie known today, and she is believed to be responsible for introducing sable coat color to the breed.
In 1879, the first Collie was imported to the United States. The Collie Club of America was formed on August 26, 1886, which makes it one of the oldest canine specialty clubs.
Males stand 24 to 26 inches tall; females are 22 to 24 inches tall. Collies weigh 50 to 70 pounds.
The well-bred Collie is sweet, friendly, and gentle. She is a family dog and enjoys being part of all household activities. Especially fond of kids, she enjoys playing with them and protectively watching over them.
If those qualities weren't positive enough, the Collie tops them with her intelligence and loyalty. This dog is smart and learns quickly.
And her devotion? She would probably swim through shark-infested waters to save her owner (just like Lassie).
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, the Collie needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Collie puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Collies are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Collies will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Collies, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Dermatomyositis: An inherited autoimmune skin disorder, this malady causes lesions and muscle problems. Studies indicate that perhaps 70 percent of Collies (both Rough and Smooth) could be carriers. Research currently is being conducted to identify the genes that carry this disease.
- Collie Nose: Also known as nasal solar dermatitis, this is a condition in which the skin of nose peels, oozes, and may lose color. If left untreated, it can be painful or develop into cancer. Collie nose is managed by limiting exposure to sunlight, using sunscreen, or tattooing with black ink to protect against harmful rays.
- Collie Eye Anomaly: This inherited condition can sometimes lead to blindness. The condition causes changes and abnormalities in the eye. These changes can include choroidal hypoplasia, an abnormal development of the choroid (an inner coat of the eyeball); coloboma, a defect in the optic disc; staphyloma, a thinning of the sclera (the white outer coat of the eyeball); and retinal detachment. Collie eye anomaly usually occurs by the time the dog is two years old. There is no treatment for the condition.
- Progressive Retinal atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, dogs become night-blind. As the disease progresses, they also lose their daytime vision. Many dogs adapt well to limited or complete vision loss, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Nodular Granulomatous Episclerokeratitis (NGE): Also called nodular fascitis, fibrous histiocytoma, or Collie granuloma, this condition is thought to be an immune disorder. It eventually causes damage to the cornea. Many Collies with Collie nose also have NGE. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory and/or immunosuppressive medications.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can cause pain and lameness. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Allergies: Quite common is dogs, there are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Drug Sensitivity: The Collie is known to react to such drugs as ivermectin (found in heartworm control medication), anesthesia, and insecticides. Consult with your veterinarian before giving your Collie any medication or using flea or tick control products.
The Collie lives comfortably in the city or the country, as long as she has enough exercise. A brisk, daily walk and yard play are sufficient. Mostly, she wants to be with her family, meaning she is not a candidate for a backyard lifestyle.
If left alone for too long, she tends to bark excessively. While some barking is normal in this herding breed — that's how she warned the shepherd of wolves — she will bark her head off when she's bored, lonely, or otherwise frustrated. Excessive barking can be avoided by letting the Collie join in all family activities, and by keeping her mentally challenged with ongoing obedience training or dog sports.
Training the Collie is a breeze, but — like any dog — she needs early socialization to prevent her from becoming timid. She also benefits from obedience training; a "Quiet" command should be a part of every Collie's training program.
Recommended daily amount: 2 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
For more on feeding your Collie, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The Collie has two coat types: Rough (long hair) and Smooth (short hair). The Rough Collie has an abundant, straight outer coat that is harsh to the touch, and a soft, furry undercoat that is so thick it's difficult to see the skin when you part the hair. The Smooth Collie has a short, dense, flat outer coat with a thick undercoat. Both varieties shed moderately.
The Collie comes in four colors: sable (think Lassie), tricolor (black with white markings and tan shadings), blue merle (silvery blue and black), and white (predominately white with markings).
The amount of grooming necessary for the Collie depends on the variety. Overall, the Collie is a clean dog, with minimal doggie odor. The long, full coat of the Rough Collie needs thorough brushing twice a week (even more frequently to keep her looking Lassie-like). Brushing once a week is sufficient for the Smooth Collie.
Bathe as needed, usually every six to eight weeks. Many owners opt to pay a professional groomer to brush and bathe their Collie, especially the Rough variety, because the coat is so thick. Novice owners may find brushing challenging, though practice and instruction from a Collie breeder or skilled groomer can keep this from becoming a discouraging chore.
Trim the Collie's nails once a month, and check the ears once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Also wipe them out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems.
Brush your Collie's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Begin accustoming your Collie to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
The playful Collie is known for her love of children, even those she wasn't raised with. She's highly protective of the kids in her family, watching over them and keeping them safe from danger, just like Lassie did for Timmy.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The Collie is also protective of and gentle with other pets in her family. She's an affectionate, tender guardian, willing to watch over baby rabbits, chicks, or goats.
Collies are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Collies in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Collie rescue.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Collie.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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