June 26, 2017

Introduction to the Collie

Most people probably picture a dog like Lassie when they think of the Collie. Actually, Collies can be both rough-coated, like Lassie, and smooth-coated, with a shorter coat, in the United States. Dogs with both kinds of coats are varieties of the same breed.

In some other countries dogs with the different coat types are considered different breeds.

Collies were originally bred for herding in Scotland. They are very smart, gentle, loyal, eager to please, and usually easy to train.

Collies are good-natured and sensitive. They often seem to read your mind. They are very good with children and make wonderful family dogs.

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Collie History

There are numerous collie-type dogs in Scotland and northern England. The dogs may be a landrace breed (native, indigenous). They have been used as farm and herding dogs for hundreds of years. The word “colley” may be a pet Gaelic word for dog (càilean and cóilean), or it may refer to a kind of sheep in Scotland (black-faced coolley sheep found in the Highlands). Most collie-type dogs are light in build with a white mantle over the shoulders. They are usually medium-sized dogs with a head and muzzle that are fairly long and pointed. In the 19th century breeders began to specialize with the dogs more and they branched off into the Border Collie, the Bearded Collie, the Collie (Rough and Smooth), the Shetland Sheepdog, the Australian Shepherd, and various other sheepdogs, all from the same original collie-type dogs . The breeds have different working styles and some of them are favored more for work today, such as the Border Collie.

One theory about the Collie’s early history (originally called the Scotch Collie, to distinguish the breed from some of the other collies and sheepdogs) is that large, strong Scottish sheepdogs were interbred with small, nimble Welsh herding dogs. Later, English breeders saw some of the progeny working at the market in Birmingham and bred the dogs with their own sheepdogs. Appearance was not the most important trait – the resulting dogs had both smooth and rough coats which have remained in the breed. Some people speculate that the elegant Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) was added to the breed at some point because of the Collie’s long, narrow head, but there is no record.

The dogs remained mainly working dogs until Queen Victoria saw them at Balmoral Castle and took a fancy to the breed. Afterwards, Collies became very fashionable dogs for the upper classes. Collies were particularly favored at dog shows and breeding for shows somewhat changed the look of the breed. They are no longer used much for serious herding in the UK. However, there has been a strong interest in herding, working, and performance events with the Collie in the United States and some other countries.

The first rough Collie was imported from Britain to the United States in 1879. The Collie was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1885. The Collie Club of America was founded in 1886, making it one of the oldest breed-specific clubs in the United States. Today the Collie is the 35th most popular breed in the United States, out of nearly 200 breeds and varieties.

Collie Health-Related Issues

Like many sheepdogs (and the Whippet), the Collie can have the mutant Mdr1 gene. This can cause a dog to have a sensitivity to Ivermectin and similar drugs. Dogs who have this gene can easily overdose if they are given Ivermectin and related drugs. There is a test to screen your dog to see if he has this gene. Talk to your vet about this issue in Collies. You will probably want to use a heartworm preventive that does not include Ivermectin.

Collies can also have Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) which is an eye problem that can exist in many kinds of sheepdog, to varying degrees. In this condition the eye fails to develop correctly and blindless can result. PRA – progressive retinal atrophy – is another eye disease that can occur in Collies and lead to blindness but it is less common.

Collies can also have canine cyclic neutropenia. This is a cyclical blood disorder that is normally fatal to puppies that are affected. This condition is also called “gray Collie syndrome” since it can give a gray or beige coloring to affected puppies. If a puppy survives, they normally have immune system problems and don’t usually live longer than three years.

Hip dysplasia can also occur in Collies, as it can in many large breeds. However, it is not usually a frequent problem in Collies.

Other issues which can occur in Collies at times include epilepsy, hypothyroidism, bloat, and allergies.

If you are thinking of breeding your Collie, the Collie Club of America recommends the following health tests:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) DNA test

Optigen rcd2-PRA results registered with the OFA. First Generation Offspring of tested dogs eligible for Clear By Parentage

  • Multiple Drug Sensitivity

Washington State University Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology Lab test results registered with the OFA. First Generation Offspring of tested dogs eligible for Clear By Parentage.

Other health tests are optional since the problems do not occur widely in the breed.

Remember that most dogs do not major have health problems. Breeders work diligently to test and screen their dogs so they produce healthy puppies. But no one can completely guarantee that every dog will be healthy throughout their lifetime. If you are interested in getting a puppy or dog, be sure to talk to the breeder about their dogs and their health guarantees.

Collie Temperament

Because of their wide exposure on TV, in the movies, and in books, most people have some idea of the Collie temperament. They are very much the way the breed has been portrayed by Lassie, though perhaps without some of the dramatic situations. They are gentle, intelligent dogs and they make outstanding family dogs. They are usually devoted to one family, and they are especially good with children. They can be protective but they are not aggressive.

Collies are typically calm dogs but they can be vocal, like many herding dogs. You may have to train your Collie not to bark so much, especially if you live in the suburbs or in an apartment. They are usually relaxed around the house.

Early socialization is recommended in order to prevent Collies from being shy. They usually enjoy training and they do very well in obedience classes. They can excel in obedience, agility, rally, and other dog events. They like to please people. Collies can be sensitive dogs so they do best if you use gentle methods.

Collies usually get along well with other pets, including other dogs. Collies do require plenty of regular exercise and they enjoy doing outdoor things with their people. They are great dogs if you live in the suburbs or in the country, though they can adapt to life in the city.

In case you are wondering, a Collie probably can save you if you fall down the well.

Collie Grooming

Grooming a rough-coated Collie is a little more work than grooming a smooth-coat. The rough coat needs to be brushed regularly. It can pick up seeds and sticks, so you need to check it to remove the debris. Brush down to the undercoat to keep the coat from matting. Rough-coated dogs are inclined to mat, especially behind the ears, around the neck and throat, and in the pants area, so brush these areas often and carefully. Shaving the coat can ruin the texture and the coat may not grow back as it was before. Dogs that are spayed or neutered can also have a change in coat texture.

Smooth-coated Collies are easier to groom but they still need to be brushed regularly. In both cases, make sure that you brush down to the undercoat since it will be shedding, especially in the spring and fall.

With both varieties, bathe regularly and use a conditioner that is suitable for the dog’s coat and skin.

Otherwise, grooming a Collie is similar to grooming other dogs. You will need to check and clean your dog’s ears, keep his nails trimmed, and maintain his teeth in good condition.

Collie Fun Facts

  • The original Lassie in the movies was a dog named Pal, owned and trained by Rudd Weatherwax. The first Lassie movie was the 1943 Lassie Come Home, co-starring Roddy McDowall and Elizabeth Taylor. Pal was originally sold as a pet quality Collie because of his markings. Pal was a male dog playing a female role but no one seemed to notice. Pal made six more Lassie movies and filmed the pilot for the 1954 TV series. Nine generations of Weatherwax dogs played Lassie.
  • Lad: A Dog is a 1919 novel by Albert Payson Terhune based on the life of the real-life rough Collie owned by the author named Lad. The novel was a bestseller in both adult fiction and children’s fiction. The book has sold over a million copies and was made into a Wagner Brothers movie in 1962.
  • Collies make excellent therapy dogs.

Common Collie Mixes

Popular Collie mixes include crosses with other sheepdogs, crosses with Labradors, and crosses with the German Shepherd. These are all very smart breeds and similar in size to the Collie so the resulting puppies are usually very smart and attractive.

FAQs

What is a their Life Expectancy?

Collies typically live 14 to 16 years.

Are they easy to train?

Collies are exceptionally smart and easy to train. They like to please you and they learn fast. According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, the Collie is ranked at # 16 – among the “Excellent Working Dogs.” These dogs understand new commands after 5 to 15 repetitions and obey the first command 85 percent of the time. Border Collies, Poodles, Labs and some other breeds rank slightly higher, but Collies are a little more relaxed than some of the breeds at the top of the list.

Do they shed a lot of hair?

Yes, they do shed a lot. This is true of both the rough-coated and the smooth-coated dogs. They will “blow” their coat in the spring and fall, meaning they will have a huge shed as they get ready for summer and winter. It helps if you brush often so the hair doesn’t pile up in the house.

Do they make good apartment pets?

Collies can adapt and live in an apartment but you will need to be dedicated to making sure your dog gets plenty of daily exercise. Collies are large, active dogs and need plenty of exercise. They can be vocal but it’s possible to train your dog to be quieter.

Are they good with Children?

Collies are very good with children. They can be protective but they are not aggressive toward visitors. Your children will have a dog friend to play with and they will be safe. As always, it’s a good idea for you to supervise your children when they play with any dog. Teach them how to safely interact with dogs.

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Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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