Few herding dog breeds are more recognizable than the loveable Collie, popularized by the canine movie character, Lassie. Friendly and easy to train, the Collie makes a wonderful companion for individuals and families alike. This breed originates from Scotland and Wales, and is sometimes referred to more specifically as the Long-Haired Collie or the Rough Collie. The American Kennel Club ranks the Collie’s popularity at number 40 out of 193 dog breeds.
Though numbers aren’t exact, it’s guessed that the Collie breed originated sometime in the 1700s or earlier. Collies were used as sheepdogs for centuries, and that aspect of their history has carried through to today, giving them a characteristic intelligence and devotion to their owners.
Appearance of Collies
The Collie is a medium-large dog, measuring 22-26 inches in height, with males usually on the taller side. Though they’re classified as large by the AKC, Collies are relatively slim and light compared to many other large dogs. Collies are usually in the range of 40 to 70 pounds, with weight varying depending on gender and adherence to different breed standards.
The coat of the Collie can be divided into two different groups – that of the Smooth Collie and that of the Rough Collie. Smooth Collies have relatively short fur, about 1-2 inches in length, and though their coat isn’t long, the thick undercoat needs weekly brushing to stay well-maintained. They shed profusely twice a year, and brushing will be needed at this time.
Rough Collies have substantial amounts of long fur, and will need brushing 2 to 3 times a week to avoid matting and health problems from their dense coat. Minor trimming along the lower legs and feet as well as rare baths during shedding season can help lessen the work needed to maintain a Collie’s coat.
Collies are gentle and kind by nature, and they generally get along fantastically with kids. They make good family dogs and can be amazingly loyal to all members of the house. Collies are usually friendly without being too gregarious and intense in their approach, making them good with children. That said, it’s still a good idea to supervise young kids and dogs to make sure everyone is getting along.
Collies are usually pretty good with other dogs, though their history in herding can give some Collies the urge to chase or group together smaller dogs and cats. It’s a good idea to socialize Collies early and get them used to a variety of creatures, otherwise they may struggle to get along with smaller animals.
Due to their loyal nature, Collies may also act as watchdogs to the family, barking at strange animals or people. This can turn into a noise issue if the Collie isn’t trained on when to bark and when to be quiet. Though Collies don’t usually have aggression issues, it’s a good idea to keep alarm barking to a minimum in yards and on walks to keep them from being perceived as a dangerous dog.
Because of their sheepherding history, Collies are intelligent dogs that generally enjoy listening to and interacting with their owners. Collies love to learn, so it’s recommended to give them stimulation through training. This can aid in good behavior, help build bonds between dog and owner, and create a happier, healthier dog.
Collies are sensitive dogs, usually fairly attached to their owners and uncomfortable with being apart. Separation anxiety can be a problem for Collies. Their sensitivity can make them nervous in chaotic situations such as travel, which may prompt extra barking. If the owners can control the noise level of their Collie and stay close to their dog, this can keep the Collie happy and calm in a noisy or crowded situation. Their obediency makes Collies fairly good candidates for travel.
CARING FOR A COLLIE
It’s important to know how to care for a Collie so that health or behavior issues can be avoided altogether. Staying on top of health and exercise can be particularly valuable for Collies, and training and nutrition are important topics to delve into for this breed as well.
Because coat quality is so intrinsic to the health of a Collie, nutrition is a significant topic of concern for proper care of this breed. Recommendations for Collies are to feed a high-quality diet that contains mostly meat. Since this breed can suffer from food allergies, it may be a good idea to avoid grains like corn, soy, and wheat in dog food and treats.
Collies require a moderate amount of food, usually between 2 to 3 cups of dry food a day. Since Collies have some risk of bloat, it’s better to feed this amount over the course of several servings multiple times a day. Regular feeding of smaller amounts can be achieved with an automatic dog feeder as well.
Though not as active as some other large dog breeds, Collies still require a moderate amount of exercise with regularity. With this breed, it’s important to work out not just the body but also the mind, so it’s suggested to avoid leaving Collies to roam the backyard for all their exercise requirements. Daily walks, puzzle toys, or aerobic games can help provide a Collie with enough stimulation to keep it healthy and happy. Try to come up with new activities to engage in with your dog on occasion. This can also help curb boredom barking. This kept in mind, Collies are usually quite good at balancing activity with rest, and enjoy relaxation with their family as well.
Collies are easy dogs to train, though their high intelligence may mean that they need more training than other dogs in order to stay mentally stimulated. Obedience or agility classes are a good option for a more structured way of keeping your dog trained and entertained. For more casual options, new tricks and fetch are also good activities to do with your Collie. Commands to speak and be quiet are particularly important for the training regimen of a Collie. If your dog knows when noise is or isn’t allowed, this can help prevent excessive barking overall and help you put a stop to barking in progress.
The Collie breed is a moderately healthy one. Though most Collies will be free of genetic issues, it’s important to ask your breeder for health clearances and certificates on a few diseases that Collies can be prone to. The American Kennel Club recommends a PRA Optigen DNA Test and a MDR1 DNA Test. It’s important to avoid Collie eye anomaly, and it may be a good idea to check for hip dysplasia and von Willebrand’s disease as well. If genetic issues can be avoided with good breeding and careful checking, the Collie will probably be a quite healthy dog.
Since this breed has a longer list of rare, but potentially-significant genetic conditions, it’s good to monitor your Collie for signs of health problems. Keep watch for issues with eyesight, teeth, and skin of your Collie. Itchy skin or hair loss may be dealt with through a change in diet, but it’s important to see a vet for advice as well as to rule out other causes.
Other potential health conditions that Collies may be more prone to include: allergies, coat issues from matting, Collie Nose (akin to sunburn damage), Dermatomyositis (an inflammatory skin condition), Epilepsy, Nodular Granulomatous Episclerokeratitis, Progressive Retinal atrophy, Joint Disease (from too-fast growth), Lupus, Cancer, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, Drug Resistance, Hernias, Hemolytic Anemia, and Thrombocytopenia.