Collies are one of the most loved breeds of dogs. They are made popular by Queen Victoria and famous by the Television series ‘Lassie.’ And to all accounts, the way Lassie is portrayed is not too different from a real Collie – as they are very intelligent, sensitive, and protective of their families. Male adults reach a height of 24-26 inches, and females a height of 22-24 inches. Males weigh 60-75 pounds at maturity, and females 50-65 pounds.
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 14-16 years
Allergies: Not Hypoallergenic
Temperament: Loyal, Intelligent, Gentle, Friendly, Sensitive, Protective
Every breed has an origin story; some are quite fascinating and take us back to a different time.
It is thought that Collie’s ancestors were brought to Great Britain during the reign and rule of the Roman Empire. The Roman dogs would have been interbred with local dogs, and herding dogs would have been bred to manage the huge amount of livestock in the hills and fields. Scottish sheepdogs were large and aggressive, whereas Welsh sheepdogs were smaller, faster, and friendlier. The English breeders crossed these with their sheepdogs to get different types.
Queen Victoria met Collie on one of her trips to her Scottish home of Balmoral Castle and fell in love with the breed. She brought some back with her to England, and they became very popular as fashionable pets. She even entered a couple of collies in the Westminster Dog Show in 1878, making the Americans interested in them. Today they are not generally used for herding in the UK, as the Border Collie is more popular as a working dog, but in the US and Europe, they are still used in some areas as working dogs.
Find out the personality you can expect from this breed.
Like Collie’s portrayal in ‘Lassie,’ they are very gentle in temperament and great with children. They are protective of their owners, intelligent, and have an uncanny sense of when something is wrong. Eager to please, they are easy to train, and they also adapt well to different living styles. They love to be with their family and make great companion dogs.
Each dog is certainly unique, but every breed also has certain characteristics encoded into its DNA.
The Collie has a very well-proportioned body, with an intelligent face and a graceful bearing. The head looks like a wedge, with a long muzzle, which may be there because of a cross with a Russian wolfhound, the Borzoi, although historians cannot say for sure. The rough Collie has a beautiful long-haired coat, although there are also smooth variations.
Adapting well to different lifestyles, the Collie does well so long as she has enough daily exercise. An apartment is probably not going to be enough room for her, though, as she is a large dog and needs to have some space. She should not be kept outside because she loves to be with people, but she can be OK out there for a cool climate. Collies are sensitive to heat because of their thick coat, so they should have shade and water available in hot weather. If they are left alone for too long, they might bark a lot.
Collies are known for their friendliness and are great with kids – they enjoy active play and are affectionate and gentle. They aren’t aggressive with strangers but do tend to be protective and watchful, especially over children. They bark at strangers, but some can be trained not to bark. Other pets will be fine with a Collie, as they are gentle with all of them – although they do still possess a herding instinct, they may try and herd pets or children.
A weekly brushing is important – especially with Rough Collies, to prevent matting. Spayed females will shed a large amount once a year. Otherwise, they shed three months after their heat cycle. Males shed around the time of their birthday. So they may need some extra brushing at these times. Grooming should be given regularly – usually every 6 to 8 weeks and their coat might need to be trimmed from time to time. Their nails should be trimmed once a month, and their teeth brushed two or three times a week. Their ears should also be cleaned and checked for signs of infection regularly.
This breed is eager to please, intelligent, and trains easily – they have been used as search and rescue dogs and service dogs because of these traits. They are sensitive, so they do best with positive and rewarding training. Otherwise, they can become edgy. Besides basic obedience, they also do well in agility competitions, herding, and barn hunting. They may nip at heels in play but aren’t generally aggressive. They can be trained to be “quiet” and stop barking.
Regular daily exercise is important for Collies, as they are quite active. A medium-sized fenced-in yard is ideal for them to run around in, and they can be taught to fetch. But they are quite adaptable and happy to relax with their families too.
Proper nutrition is key to raising a healthy dog, especially during its early days.
Collies can be fed a good quality kibble by themselves or in combination with wet canned food. Ensure that the main ingredient in the dog food you buy is meat, and be aware that cheaper food may contain more fillers. Feeding your dog a raw diet can be very good, although some do better on it than others. But if you give them raw meat, be aware that it carries a risk of Salmonella and other hazards, and make sure that they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need.
Start by feeding your puppy whatever their breeder was feeding them, then transitioning to new food over two weeks so that their stomach doesn’t get upset. From 8 weeks of age, they should be given four meals a day, then three meals a day when they get to around four months old. Once they are six months old, you can transition them to two meals a day. Collie puppies are classed in the medium range for dog food.
If your Collie is allergic to some food in her diet, it will probably show her itching, scratching, getting sick, or having diarrhea. If this happens, it might be good to try an elimination diet along with some allergy medication if your vet recommends it. Organic food can also reduce the number of potential allergens since there are fewer additives. Table scraps can be given but may cause stomach upset, and rich or heavily seasoned food should be avoided.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 2-3 cups of high-quality food, divided into one or two meals a day.
Take into account how much activity they get and their metabolism when you figure out how much food to give them – as it does vary for individual dogs. Don’t exercise your Collie for 2 hours after feeding him, or he may be at risk from bloat, which is where too much air enters the stomach, and it twists and cuts off blood supply to vital organs. Some Collies may be fine with one meal a day, whereas others do better with two – so it is best to see what fits your dog.
Common Health Concerns
None of us want even to imagine the one thing, but it’s important to be informed on the common breed-specific issues.
Some Collies are born with a genetic mutation that makes them sensitive to multiple drugs. It is now possible to test your Collie with the MDR1 test for this gene – and it might be well worth doing since it is estimated that 3 out of 4 Collies in the US have this mutation. They are known to be sensitive to anti-parasitic drugs, anti-diarrhoeal, and anti-cancer drugs. If they are treated with one of these, there is a risk of death.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is another breed-specific condition, and breeders should check all their puppies and their breeding parents for this condition. There is no treatment for it, and it can lead to blindness. Collie Nose is another health issue that can affect them and is usually related to sunlight – where too much sun can make their nose peel and develop cancer if it’s not treated. Another eye disease they are prone to is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), where they start by losing their night vision and then progress to losing their day vision. However, they can do well with vision loss if used to the home they live in.
How to Get One
Are you interested in procuring this breed for yourself or your close ones? Here are some helpful resources.
Rescue Groups: Tri-State Collie Rescue, Texas Collie Rescue, Freedom Collie Rescue
Breed Organizations: Collie Club Of America
Above are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about Collies.
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 several 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.