Collie: The Ultimate Guide


If you ask any four-legged fan who the most famous dogs in the world are, they’ll get a far off wistful look in their eye before answering with little, or no hesitation “Scooby-Doo, Pluto, and Lassie”. And while Great Danes, and whatever Heinz-57 variety of pup Mickey’s best friend is, have captured the imagination of generations of fans, they can’t hold a candle to the fame of the dog that became the first canine movie star in history, Lassie.  Even though she was genuine Hollywood royalty, the role of Lassie wasn’t the Collie’s first brush with fame, as this gentle, intelligent, and affectionate working dog had already won the heart, and mind of Queen Victoria, and soon after cementing its place in the Queen’s household, the Collie became a favorite pet of the wealthiest families in England. 

Collie

And from there, the Collies’ fame spread far and wide until it became a staple family dog from sea to shining sea.  Which was a pretty good turn up for the books from this humble, farm and sheep dog from the Highlands of Scotland.

Almost as soon as we saw Lassie appear on Saturday morning television, we fell in love with Collies. There was nothing this beautiful, regal dog couldn’t do. Trapped down a well? Caught by a cave-in? It didn’t matter what happened to the hero of the show, his best Collie friend would always rescue him.

And like us, you probably decided when you saw Lassie, that one day you’d have your own pal who could rescue you if you got lost in the wilderness or stranded halfway up a mountain.

That’s why we’ve put together this all-inclusive guide to one of the brightest, friendliest dogs in the canine kingdom so that you’ll know everything you ever need to know about Collies before you invite your very own wonder dog to join your family. It’s time for Lassie to come home…

Collie Key Facts

You’re not alone in wanting to give a Collie a home, as these dignified, bright dogs who want to please their owners and can adapt to any type of family life, are the perfect house dogs.

They’re the four-legged companions that we all want, and deep down, know that we deserve. But caring for, and looking after the needs of a Collie is slightly different in the world than they are on the big screen. 

That’s why we thought it best to start off by talking about some of the everyday Collie things that you’ll need to think about before we venture any further into the minutia and four-legged knowledge that are part and parcel of ensuring that your soon-to-be best friend will live a long, healthy and happy life. 

Average Lifespan

While we’re on the subject of long lives, Collies usually live between twelve and fifteen years. It might not seem incredibly long, but to your Collie, it’s everything, and they’ll need you to be as committed to them, as they are to you.  

Minimum Exercise (per day)

Don’t be fooled by their endlessly sweet disposition, underneath that sublime fur coat, the Collie is still a working dog and needs at least two hours of exercise every single day.

The best way to do it is half it, and take them for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, and if you can think of some interesting and involving games to play with your Collie while you’re out, they’ll adore you even more. As they are incredibly clever dogs, Collies need to put their gray matter through its paces as well as pushing their muscles to their limit. 

Coat Length

The length of their coat depends entirely on whether they’re a Rough or Smooth haired dog. Rough-haired Collies have a long coat, and Smooth haired Collies have much shorter fur coats. 

Minimum Cost Per Month

Including the pet insurance that every owner needs, and the average cost of wet and dry dog food, a Collie should cost a minimum of between one hundred and ten and one hundred and twenty dollars per month. 

Appearance

We know what you’re thinking, why do you need to know this? Everyone knows what Lassie looks like, so everyone obviously knows what a Collie looks like, don’t they? That’s true, but as promised we’d leave no stone unturned, and we won’t.

Which is why we think everyone needs to be reminded about the sublime, and innate beauty of this slim, lightly muscled dog, whose fur can either be brown, white, sable, black, or tri-color. 

The sable color is more common in the smooth-coated variety of this long muzzled dog, whose ears always point skyward and whose tail never stops wagging, than in its rough-coated sisters and brothers,  but it can appear in both long and short-haired Collies. 

Size

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has classified the Collie as a medium-sized herding dog. 

Average Height

Males tend to be taller than females, and usually stand twenty-four to twenty-six inches tall at the withers (the space between the shoulder blades), while females are usually twenty-two to twenty-four inches tall. 

Average Weight

As the males are taller, they also tend to weigh more and are usually between sixty-five and seventy-five pounds while females usually weigh between fifty-five and sixty-five pounds. 

Temperament

Collies are gentle, affectionate, and fiercely intelligent dogs who are totally devoted to their families. Athletic and agile, they also react to the slightest noise or disturbance and warn their families about any potential threat almost before they appear, which has helped to further the breed’s reputation for having a “sixth sense” for danger.

While their vocal response to said “danger” makes them an ideal watchdog, the Collies’ placid nature and love of people means that they’re not exactly valued or prized as guard dogs. 

Apartment Living

As long as they have sufficient exercise, Collies are more than content to just spend the rest of their days lounging around with, and in the company of their families, which means that they’re ideal apartment dogs. They don’t need a lot of room, and as long as there’s somewhere for them to stretch out and sleep, they’re happy. 

Good For Novice Owners

If a first-time owner makes sure that a Collie gets enough exercise, then they’ll have an easy life with their new best friend. Collies have an incredible gift for letting people know what they want and when they want it without being obstinate, demanding, or wilful. In other words, they’re a perfect dog for a first-time owner. 

Sensitivity Level

Collies are extremely clever dogs, and are incredibly sensitive. They don’t respond well to being chastised or punished harshly, but they revel in positive reward-based training and praise. 

Tolerates Being Alone

They’re also prone to separation anxiety and don’t like to be left alone for extended periods of time.

They bond closely with and are devoted to their families and unless they’re taught from an early age that you will always return, their fear of being left can manifest itself vocally (meaning that they’ll bark and bark until you come home) or in the sort destructive behavior that will reduce your home furnishings to rubble. 

Tolerates Cold Weather

They were born and bred in the Highlands of Scotland, so Collies are used to, and can cope admirably well with cold weather.  That doesn’t, however, mean that they can live outside. They can’t, Collies are house dogs and can’t be left to live in a kennel in a yard. 

Tolerates Hot Weather

Collies are fine in warm weather, but if it gets too hot they’ll need to go inside as they can suffer from heatstroke. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your Collie. 

Affectionate With Family

Dogs don’t come much more affectionate than the gentle Collie, and they love to cuddle with the families that they are devoted to. They are perfect family dogs. 

Kid-Friendly

And one of the main reasons why they’re such great family dogs is their natural affinity with and love of children. They’re tolerant, playful, and affectionate with children, and are also protective of the youngest members of their “packs”. Regardless of how old your kids are, your Collie will be utterly besotted with and devoted to them. 

Dog Friendly

Providing that they’re properly socialized, and spend time with other dogs while they’re young, Collies will be fine with other canines. They are, to coin an often overused phrase “lovers not fighters”. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

Even though they’re friendly, gentle dogs, Collies can be wary of strangers and can seem standoffish with them. It’s linked to their protective behavior, and as long as they’re introduced properly, Collies will be friendly to almost everyone they meet. Almost because, there are always exceptions to the rule, and even Collies can have a bad day. 

Health & Grooming

While they’re generally healthy dogs, Rough and Smooth Collies are susceptible to some genetic disorders, which we’ll discuss a little further on. But before we do, we’ll take a look at a couple of additional day-to-day things that can be a problem for some first time owners. 

Shedding

Do Collies shed? Absolutely they do, and while they tend to lose a little here and there throughout the year, they are seasonal shedders.

Every year, without fail, Smooth and Rough Collies will shed an insane amount of fur around their “birthdays”, so it’s something that you’ll need to be prepared to deal with as, and when, it happens. 

Drooling

It isn’t all bad news though, as even though they shed, they don’t drool. Collies might cover you in unwanted fur, but they’ll never drown you in a tsunami of dog saliva and drool. 

Grooming

Here’s where it gets interesting, as, despite the fact that they do shed a lot seasonally, they don’t need to be groomed professionally in order to prevent the shedding from becoming a problem.

A weekly thirty-minute session with a firm brush that gets to the roots of their fur should be enough to prevent your home from being subsumed in unwanted, and excess Collie hair. 

General Health

Collies are generally hardy, healthy dogs that don’t suffer from any causal ailments and can, and do take life in their stride. 

Common Health Problems

  • There are, however, a number of genetic conditions that can plague the breed and these include Dermatomyositis (a disease that causes skin lesions and muscle wasting and is carried by around seventy percent of all Rough and Smooth haired Collies)
  • Collie Nose (which gradually strips the skin from Collies nose in sunlight and can lead to the development of cancer, but can be treated with steroids and by tattooing the affected area a darker shade which reduces the damage that UV light can do)
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (which can’t be treated and eventually leads to premature blindness) and drug sensitivity. Collies are sensitive to anesthetics, insecticides, and heartworm medications, all of which your veterinarian can and will talk to you about if you ask them. 

Potential For Weight Gain

Collies love to eat as much as the next dog does, and will if given the opportunity readily pile on a few pounds.  If they do get a little too chunky, their weight problem can increase the likelihood that they’ll develop arthritis and other joint issues, so always make sure that you keep a close eye on what your Collie is, and isn’t eating. 

Trainability

Collie

All dogs, even the gentle and obedient Collie, benefit from being properly trained and socialized from an early age, so it’s important to enroll your dog in the relevant classes as soon as you bring them home. 

Easy To Train

Collies are notoriously easy to train, but as they’re working dogs, they can also be distracted by their genetic programming. With Collies though, it’s easy to overcome as they respond well to positive reward-based training and should quickly pick up, and learn what you expect and want from them. 

Intelligence

They’re also noted for being one of the most intelligent breeds of dog in the canine kingdom, which means that they can pick up new things fast and should easily develop an instant and familiar rapport with you. They will listen to you, they will do as you tell them to, and will show you what true devotion really means. 

Potential To Bite

Collies are gentle, noble dogs, and as long as they’re socialized and spend time around other people and other dogs they are unlikely to ever bite. Biting is a last resort for them, and one that they will rarely if ever use. 

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

They can be incredibly vocal dogs and will bark to warn their families about any potential “danger” ( for instance, people coming to the door or passing their house in the street) or perceived “threats”, and if they’re left alone for too long, they’ll bark out of fear and insecurity. Collies will, and do bark a lot more than other dogs do. 

History

Collies, or more specifically Rough and Smooth haired Collies, are first thought to have become natives of Scotland more than two thousand years ago when they were introduced to the Highlands by Roman Legionaries.

They soon became herding dogs used by Scottish Farmers, and when Queen Victoria first saw them on a trip to Scotland,  she immediately fell in love with the dogs. They became denizens of the Royal Household, and the rest is history. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the breed in 1885 and the Collie is one of the longest established and most beloved breeds of family dog in America that isn’t native to the continent. 

Costs

Rough and Smooth haired Collie pups are far from inexpensive, and if you do purchase one from a reputable breeder recommended by the AKC (American Kennel Club), you can expect to pay anywhere between twelve hundred and eighteen hundred dollars for a Rough haired youngster.

Smooth-haired puppies cost slightly less, but they’re still far more expensive than a pooch that you’d pick up from the pound. 

Talking of the pound, before you do lay your hard-earned cash down for a Collie pup, it’s worth phoning Collie Rescue Kennels and your local shelter to see if a dog in their care needs a home.

And as we always say, it won’t just be the dog you bring home from the pound that’ll be eternally grateful to you, your bank balance will too, as it’s far more affordable to adopt a dog than it is to shop for one. 

Collie Fun Facts 

  • The most famous dog in cinematic history, Lassie, was a Rough haired Collie. She was and is the world’s first canine movie star. 
  • President Lyndon Johnson owned a Collie called Blanco.
  • The dog heard howling on the Pink Floyd song Sheamus which appeared on their nineteen seventy-one album, Meddle was a Collie that belonged to Steve Marrit from Humble Pie. And the dog’s name? It was Seamus. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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