Origin: Scotland / Northern England
Type: Herding dog
Height: Male – 24-26in
Female – 22-24in
Appearance: Collies are medium-sized dogs. Depending on the specific breed the colour and length of coat can vary. Variants include short, flat or long hair, in black, black-and-tan, red, red-and-tan, or sable and white. Most collies have two coats: a thick short undercoat and outer coat of rough and longer hair. Other features; eyes, ears and tails depend on the exact breed.
Temperament: Collies are one of the most intelligent and loyal dogs. They are ideal family pets – gentle, friendly and protective. Their instincts as a herding dog are still strong and you can often see a Collie gather children and other pets, or chase cars. This is a breed that likes company and when upset, lonely or bored they are very vocal about it. Collies do best in an environment where they can be included in all family activities.
Skills: Despite their intelligence collies aren’t the most trainable breed, maybe because their instincts are still so strong. They need a good training program adapted to their specific needs, which certainly includes regular exercise and lots of it. Collies do well in dog sports including herding, obedience and agility competitions or lure coursing..
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Kids: Collies are highly protective, they love children and families in general. Their strong guarding instinct means they can be suspicious towards strangers, especially if they are near the children. They are affectionate and gentle with other animals even if they didn’t grow up together. A lovely breed with great potential but needs strong training and socialisation to bring out the best in them.
Common Health Problems: Some collie types may suffer from genetic defects and diseases like canine cyclic neutropenia or Grey Collie Syndrome. Other common health issues are dermatomyositis, Collie nose, Collie eye anomaly, hip dysplasia, Nodular granulomatous episclerokeratitis, progressive retinal atrophy, drug sensitivity and allergies.
Lifespan: Average 12-14 (depending on the exact breed).
Early training when the puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks old has the best success rates, but dogs between the age of 6 months and 6 years can also achieve excellent results if their owners work patiently with the dog’s slower rate of learning. It is essential that a Collie is socialised with other dogs and people from an early age so that he can grow into a confident well-adjusted adult dog. He should be taken on daily walks and taken to the dog park for playtime. Collies are loyal dogs, devoted to their owners and proper socialisation will prevent fear of strangers, aggression, and dominant issues.
From birth up to the age of two months, puppies are cleaned by their mother. When they get old enough, they imitate their mother and learn to use outside areas to relieve themselves. From eight weeks afterwards, housebreaking and crate training are easy as puppies follow their natural instincts not to use their feeding and playing areas as a relieving area, too. At that age, puppies’ digestive tract also aids successful housebreaking. Five to thirty minutes after feeding, they need to eliminate and all it takes is keeping to a fixed feeding schedule and regular relieving trips to prevent accidents and develop clean habits. The relieving area has to be consistently frequented and it is highly recommended that it is not changed. Having a familiar place to go potty will make the dog more prone to eliminate only in the designated area, as only the smell can trigger eliminating. Verbal praise and treats as rewards are necessary in order to encourage the puppy to use its toilet area accordingly. A dog should never be reprimanded or physically disciplined when he has an accident inside – this will only make him view his bodily functions as something negative. If the dog eliminates inside, he should be given a firm “No” and immediately taken to his toilet area. Housebreaking is a natural process and will be successful if owners keep a positive attitude and remember to correct mistakes only the moment they happen. If they come home and see the dog has had an accident while they were away, telling him off will have a negative effect as he won’t be able to recollect what he has done wrong and will associate his owners coming home with a negative experience.
Crate training should be done gradually and owners need to reassure the dog that his crate is his safe place where he will get a rest undisturbed and be safe during moments of human activity or during road trips. It is best that owners provide two separate crates – one to be used inside the home and one for car rides. A verbal command such as “Crate time” should be introduced and during the first stages of crate training, the Collie’s interest towards the cage should be triggered with a treat placed inside it. Once he goes in, he should be kept there for a few minutes, with the door open and his owners monitoring him. He should not be released if he starts fussing. Owners should wait until he is calm to let him out in order to prevent undesired behaviour in the future. The time which the dog spends inside the crate should be gradually increased from five to ten minutes over the period of a week. Time building should come to about half an hour and always taken to his relief area after prolonged periods in the crate. Once the Collie feels comfortable staying inside his crate for about thirty minutes with his owners in the room, he should get accustomed to being in the crate without his owners in the room. As with the initial stages of crate training, the dog should stay inside his crate for about five minutes without his owners in the room. Again, time building should gradually amount to thirty minutes. If the dog can stay calm in his crate without seeing his owners for that period of time, he will be able to spend hours inside his safe place.
Collies are herding dogs by nature, they need to work, to be given a job. As the Collie matures, his desire to please his owners and anticipate their moods and commands becomes even more evident. Their innate herding ability and enthusiastic nature to take on odd jobs around the house may not transfer to the obedience classes or agility course. Owners need to be patient when training a Collie in obedience, agility, or basic commands. They should never physically discipline their dog as Collies are extremely sensitive to harsh corrections. They have kind disposition and high intelligence that makes them good students. It is recommended that obedience training starts early when the dog is still small and can be picked up. At a young age, puppies don’t produce hormones and are able to focus more intently on their owners, without getting side-tracked the way adolescent and mature dogs would. Proper training based on positive reinforcement methods and consistency results not only in a well-behaved Collie, but is also a confidence booster for the dog. A well-trained dog is ready for any task in the household and in community, or at the owners’ request – agility trials and obedience championships.
As with many other old dog breeds, the exact origin of the Collie is still a mystery. There are opposing views among researches and breed historians as to the precise location of the breed’s genesis. Some theories take the background of the Collie to ancient sheepdogs in Scotland which later migrated to the British Isles. Others suggest the Collie is descendant from different sheepdogs brought to Britain by the Romans. Considering all historical evidence, both theories sound plausible but none has been unmistakably proven. Original specimen of the breed looked very different from the Collie we know today – they looked more like a mix between today’s Rough Collie, Smooth Collie, and Border Collie.
The two varieties of the breed – the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie, have existed for a long time in unwritten history of Scottish and English herding dogs. The Smooth Collie has been bred to the same standard for as long as there have been written breed standards. It was originally used for driving cattle and sheep on their way to the market, rather than guarding them at pastures. Until the 19th century, both varieties were used strictly as working dogs. In the early 1800s, dog fanciers took interest in the breed and started keeping to written standards, which made the breed larger in stature and more refined. At that time Collies were seen in all varieties of colouration and pattern – red, buff, sables, and various speckled patterns. The most popular colours were black, tan and white, and black and white.
The breed grew in popularity in Britain when Queen Victoria brought Collies from her Scotland estate. Soon, Collies were being bred to be shown in exhibitions, not for working abilities. A Collie called “Old Cockie”, born in 1867 is credited with stamping the characteristic type of the Rough Collie and is believed to be responsible for bestowing onto the breed the factors which led to the development of the sable coat colour in the Collie. The Collie Club of America, formed on August 26, 1886, is one of the oldest canine speciality clubs.
A Collie’s diet should include premium-quality dry food and a lesser amount of wet food and meats. The diet can be varied with beef, chicken (no cooked bones), cooked vegetables, steamed rice, hard boiled eggs and some cheese bites as treats. Human food should not exceed 10% of the dog’s meal. Collies need a lot of fresh, clean water – at least 60mm per kg of body weight per day, even in cold weather. What and how much a Collie is fed should be based on the dog’s age, size, activity level, and metabolic rate. Label instructions provide information on starting amount – owners should monitor how the Collie responds to the recommended feeding portions. It he loses weight in the first weeks, he should be fed more; if he gains weight, the amount of food should be reduced.
Collies are generally a healthy breed and require scheduled vaccinations and yearly check-ups at the vet. Potential Collie buyers should ask the breeders what kind of health screening tests the parents have undergone. Reputable breeders consider an eye examination by an ophthalmologist a must as it determines the presence of hereditary or congenital eye disease. Two inherited eye diseases are of a concern to all Collie breeders: Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Using genetic markers in a DNA sample, the tests determine not only if the Collie is affected with PRA or CEA but also detect if the dog is a carrier of the genes. Other tests include blood tests for Canine Brucellosis, Thyroid function, and Von Willebrand’s Disease, as well as x-rays for Hip or Elbow Dysplasia.
The Rough Collie grows a double coat of long, straight hair on top of a softer, furrier undercoat. The Smooth Collie has a double coat which is short and dense on top with a thicker undercoat. Collies’ grooming needs depend on the amount and texture of the coat, the season, and the environment in which the dog lives. A large male, for example, which carries a big coat might need brushing for an hour weekly. The coat of a healthy, well-fed and properly exercise Collie is generally free of mats and tangles. During shedding periods, the coat needs to be brushed twice a week with a pin brush, and a Collie that has access to weeds and stickers, needs daily brushing.
Both the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie need plenty of exercise and a lot of off-leash activities. They enjoy a good game of fetch, catching Frisbees, or chasing a football. Collies have strong instincts to round up people and other animals, so exercises off the leash should take place in a secured area under the owners’ supervision.