Collie

Table of Contents

collie portrait
Get ready to meet the star of the canine world – the ever-charming, intelligent, and energetic Collie! With their trademark Lassie looks, these graceful beauties are more than just a pretty face. Their keen instincts, exceptional loyalty, and unmatched versatility make them the perfect companion for families, farmers, and adventurers alike.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Collie is best suited for individuals or families who appreciate an intelligent, versatile, and loyal companion. They thrive with owners who can provide mental and physical stimulation through activities like obedience training, agility, or herding trials.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMECollie
OTHER NAMESRough Collie, Smooth Collie
ORIGINScotland
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT22-26 inches
WEIGHT50-75 lbs
LIFESPAN12-14 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK39th
collie sitting on a hill
Photo: Diana_OCarroll/Getty Images

Appearance

The Collie is known for its striking appearance and elegant poise. This medium to large-sized breed boasts a strong, well-proportioned body that exudes both grace and agility. Males typically stand between 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder, while females measure slightly smaller at 22 to 24 inches. In terms of weight, males range from 60 to 75 pounds, with females weighing between 50 to 65 pounds.

One of the most notable features of the Collie is its distinctive head, which is described as a “lean wedge” shape, with a smooth and flat skull. The muzzle narrows slightly towards the nose, giving the head a refined appearance.

The ears are medium-sized, set high on the head, and carried semi-erect with the tips folding forward. This unique ear carriage contributes to the breed’s alert and intelligent expression.

Collies possess expressive almond-shaped eyes that come in various shades of brown, with the exception of blue merle Collies, which may have blue or partially blue eyes. The eyes are set obliquely, adding to their keen and friendly gaze. Their well-developed cheeks and slight but distinct stop give the breed a gentle and approachable look.

The Collie’s body is slightly longer than it is tall, with a deep chest and well-sprung ribs. Their well-developed loin and muscular hindquarters allow for effortless movement and impressive athleticism. The breed has a long, straight tail that is carried low when relaxed and raised slightly when the dog is excited or in motion.

Perhaps one of the most iconic features of the Collie is its luxurious double coat. There are two varieties of Collie coats: the Rough Collie, which has a long, abundant, and harsh-textured outer coat, and the Smooth Collie, which has a short, dense, and sleek outer coat.

Both varieties have a soft, dense undercoat that provides insulation and protection from the elements. Collies come in a range of colors, including sable and white, tri-color (black, white, and tan), blue merle (a marbled mix of gray, black, and white), and white.

Overall, the Collie’s unique combination of physical characteristics creates a breed that is both visually stunning and highly functional. Their elegant appearance and keen expression reflect the intelligence, agility, and versatility that have made Collies beloved companions for generations.

two collies sitting on grass
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Temperament

The Collie’s temperament is an enchanting blend of intelligence, sensitivity, and devotion, making them a beloved breed for countless dog enthusiasts. They are often described as friendly, affectionate, and eager to please, which has earned them a reputation as outstanding family companions. Their gentle disposition and innate love for children make them especially well-suited to family life.

One of the most striking aspects of the Collie’s personality is their intelligence. Often regarded as one of the smartest dog breeds, they have an uncanny ability to understand and communicate with their human families.

Their keen instincts and sharp intellect make them highly perceptive, allowing them to quickly assess situations and respond accordingly. This mental prowess, combined with their natural curiosity, makes them a joy to interact with and a constant source of fascination for those who share their lives.

Collies are known for their loyalty and devotion to their families. They form strong bonds with their human companions and take their role as protector very seriously. This protective nature extends not only to their immediate family but also to other animals in the household, making them excellent companions for multi-pet homes.

However, it is important to note that Collies can be reserved or wary around strangers. While they are typically not aggressive, they may display caution or aloofness when meeting new people. Early socialization is crucial to help them develop confidence and trust in unfamiliar situations.

Another hallmark of the Collie’s temperament is their sensitivity. They are highly attuned to the emotions and needs of their human companions and often seem to possess an almost intuitive understanding of their feelings.

This empathetic nature makes them wonderful therapy or emotional support animals, as they can provide comfort and companionship to those in need. However, their sensitivity also means that they may become anxious or stressed in response to tension or conflict within the household. It is essential to provide a stable, supportive environment to help your Collie thrive emotionally.

Collies are generally good-natured and get along well with other dogs, provided they have been properly socialized. They are not typically aggressive or overly dominant, making them suitable for multi-dog households.

However, their herding instincts may sometimes cause them to attempt to “round up” other pets or even children by nipping at their heels or barking. While this behavior is usually harmless, it is important to monitor these interactions and provide guidance as needed.

One potential challenge of the Collie’s temperament is their propensity for vocalization. They are known to be a talkative breed, often using their voice to communicate with their human family members or express their excitement.

While some people find this endearing, others may find it disruptive or annoying. Training and mental stimulation can help manage excessive barking, but it is important to recognize that vocalization is a natural part of the Collie’s personality.

collie's face close up
Photo: Waldek Dąbrowski / 500px/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for a Collie is one that caters to their physical, mental, and social needs while providing stability and comfort.

Ideal Owner

As highly intelligent and energetic dogs, they thrive in an environment where they can engage in regular mental and physical activities. Collies are well-suited for pet parents who are active, committed to providing mental stimulation, and able to spend quality time with their furry companions.

Collies form strong bonds with their families and enjoy being involved in family activities. They are excellent with children, making them a great choice for families with kids of all ages. However, it’s important to teach children how to interact with dogs respectfully and supervise their interactions to ensure the safety and well-being of both the child and the dog.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Collies generally get along well with fellow canines and can even coexist peacefully with cats, especially if introduced at a young age. Their herding instincts may lead them to try corralling smaller pets, so proper training and supervision are necessary to manage these behaviors.

Physical Environment

In terms of physical environment, Collies can adapt to various living situations, including suburban homes with fenced yards, rural farms, or even city apartments, provided they receive adequate exercise and mental stimulation. A secure outdoor space where they can run and play is highly beneficial, but daily walks and interactive playtime can also meet their exercise needs in an urban setting.

Climate Adaptability

Collies can tolerate a range of temperatures, but there are some precautions to consider regarding extreme weather conditions. Their double coat provides insulation against cold weather, making them well-equipped for colder climates. However, it’s essential to monitor them during freezing temperatures and provide a warm, sheltered space to avoid frostbite or hypothermia.

In hot climates, Collies can be prone to overheating due to their thick coat. Pet parents should ensure that their Collie has access to shade, fresh water, and air conditioning during hot weather and avoid vigorous exercise during the warmest parts of the day.

collie sitting on grass in the park
Photo: Koljambus/Getty Images

Grooming

Collies, known for their luxurious coats, require regular grooming to maintain their health and appearance. Grooming needs may vary slightly depending on whether your Collie has a Rough or Smooth coat, but both types will benefit from consistent care. A well-groomed Collie not only looks beautiful but also feels comfortable and experiences fewer health issues related to poor coat maintenance.

Coat Care

For Rough Collies, with their long and abundant outer coat, it’s essential to brush them at least two to three times a week to prevent matting and keep their fur looking its best.

A slicker brush, pin brush, and metal comb are useful tools for this purpose. Start by using the slicker brush to remove loose hair and tangles, followed by the pin brush for a thorough comb-through. Finally, use the metal comb to ensure that all mats and knots have been eliminated. Pay special attention to areas prone to matting, such as behind the ears, under the legs, and around the neck.

Smooth Collies, with their shorter and denser coat, require less frequent brushing – usually once a week. A slicker brush or bristle brush can effectively remove loose hair and dirt while distributing natural oils throughout the coat. Despite their lower maintenance requirements compared to Rough Collies, Smooth Collies still benefit from regular grooming to keep their coat healthy and shiny.

Both coat types shed seasonally, typically in spring and fall, during which time daily brushing may be necessary to manage the increased shedding and prevent excessive hair buildup in your home.

Bathing your Collie every 6 to 8 weeks is usually sufficient unless they become dirty or have a specific skin condition requiring more frequent baths. When bathing, use a gentle dog shampoo and conditioner formulated for their coat type to avoid stripping natural oils and causing skin irritation. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as any leftover product can cause itching and discomfort.

Dental Care

Dental care is another essential aspect of grooming for Collies. Regular teeth brushing with a canine toothpaste and toothbrush helps prevent plaque buildup, bad breath, and periodontal disease. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth daily, but even a few times a week can make a difference. In addition to brushing, dental chews and toys can help maintain oral health.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is crucial for maintaining your Collie’s comfort and preventing injury. Check your dog’s nails every two to three weeks, and trim them as needed using a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper designed for dogs.

If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance. Regular walks on pavement can also help naturally wear down the nails.

Ear Care

Lastly, it’s essential to check and clean your Collie’s ears regularly to prevent infections and ear mites. Use a gentle ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls to wipe the outer ear canal, being careful not to insert anything deep into the ear.

smooth collie playing with its ball
Photo: PetrBonek/Getty Images

Exercise

Collies are an energetic and intelligent breed, requiring regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. As descendants of working dogs, they have a natural drive to be active and engaged, making it essential to provide them with appropriate outlets for their energy.

Exercise Amount & Types

A daily exercise routine should include at least one to two hours of physical activity. This can be divided into multiple sessions throughout the day, depending on your schedule and your Collie’s individual needs. Engaging in a variety of exercises will help keep your Collie stimulated and prevent boredom.

Walking and jogging are excellent ways to meet your Collie’s exercise requirements. These activities not only provide physical benefits but also offer valuable opportunities for socialization and exposure to new environments. Incorporating off-leash play in a securely fenced area or dog park allows your Collie to burn off excess energy while interacting with other dogs.

Interactive games like fetch, tug-of-war, and hide-and-seek are enjoyable ways to engage your Collie’s mind while providing physical exercise. Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys can also be used to challenge their problem-solving abilities and offer mental stimulation during downtime.

In addition to physical exercise, Collies benefit from consistent mental stimulation and training. Regular training sessions, incorporating obedience commands and trick training, will help keep your Collie’s mind sharp and focused.

Dog Sports

Collies excel in various dog sports and competitions, which provide both physical and mental challenges. Agility, obedience, herding trials, and rally are popular choices that cater to the breed’s intelligence and athleticism. Participating in these activities strengthens the bond between you and your Collie while enhancing their skills and confidence.

Exercise Precautions

It’s important to monitor your Collie’s energy levels and adjust their exercise routine accordingly. Puppies and senior dogs may have different exercise requirements than adult Collies, so be sure to consult your veterinarian for guidance on appropriate activity levels for your dog’s age and health.

rough collie on agility course
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Training

Collies are renowned for their intelligence and trainability, making them an excellent breed for first-time dog owners and experienced trainers alike. Their eager-to-please nature and strong desire to work with their human companions contribute to their reputation as a highly trainable breed.

When it comes to training a Collie, positive reinforcement techniques are the most effective approach. This breed responds well to praise, treats, and play as rewards for good behavior.

Since Collies are sensitive dogs, harsh training methods or punishment can be counterproductive and may damage the bond between you and your dog. Instead, focus on building trust, communication, and mutual respect through reward-based training.

Early socialization is crucial for Collies, as it helps them develop confidence and adaptability in various situations. Expose your puppy to different environments, people, and animals from a young age to ensure they grow into well-rounded, well-mannered adults. Puppy training classes can be a valuable resource for teaching basic obedience skills and providing structured socialization opportunities.

Collies excel in advanced training and dog sports, such as agility, obedience, herding trials, and rally. These activities not only showcase their impressive skills but also provide mental stimulation and strengthen the bond between dog and owner.

If you’re interested in participating in competitions, consider enrolling in specialized training classes or working with a professional trainer who has experience in the specific sport.

Consistency is key when training a Collie. Establish clear expectations and boundaries, and maintain them throughout the training process. This ensures your Collie understands what is expected of them and helps prevent confusion or frustration.

One potential challenge when training a Collie is their propensity for vocalization. They may bark excessively due to excitement, boredom, or anxiety. Addressing this behavior early on and providing appropriate outlets for their energy can help manage excessive barking.

smooth collie at a dog show
Photo: Kyle Reynolds/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

A well-balanced diet is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your Collie. Providing appropriate nutrition will support their energy levels, maintain a healthy weight, and ensure they receive the necessary nutrients for optimal growth and development.

What to Feed & How Much

When choosing food for your Collie, look for high-quality commercial dry, wet, or raw food that follows the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food meets the specific nutritional requirements for your dog’s age, size, and activity level.

It’s essential to consult your veterinarian for personalized recommendations on the most suitable diet for your Collie, as individual needs may vary.

The amount and frequency of feeding depend on your Collie’s age, weight, and activity level. Puppies generally require more frequent meals to support their growth and development.

It’s common to feed puppies three to four times per day until they reach six months of age, after which you can gradually transition to two meals per day. Adult Collies typically do well on two meals per day, while senior dogs may have different dietary requirements based on their health and activity levels.

Monitor your Collie’s weight and adjust their food intake as needed to prevent obesity, which can lead to various health issues. Regular exercise and portion control play a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight.

Treats

Treats can be an excellent tool for training and rewarding good behavior but should be given in moderation to avoid overfeeding. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats or use small pieces of your Collie’s regular kibble for training purposes.

Water

Fresh water should always be available for your Collie, ensuring they stay hydrated throughout the day. Clean their water bowl daily to prevent bacterial growth and refill it with fresh water as needed.

two collies sitting with cherry blossoms background
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Health

Collies are generally a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. However, like all breeds, they may be predisposed to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential concerns can help you take proactive steps to maintain your Collie’s overall health and well-being.

Some common health issues associated with Collies include:

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): A genetic eye condition that affects the development of the eye and can lead to vision problems or blindness. Regular eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help monitor for any signs of this condition.

Hip Dysplasia: A hereditary condition where the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to arthritis and mobility issues. Maintaining a healthy weight and providing regular exercise can help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disorder that causes gradual vision loss, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye check-ups can help detect PRA in its early stages.

Allergies: Collies can suffer from various allergies, including food, environmental, and contact allergies. Symptoms may include itching, redness, and skin infections. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your Collie has an allergy to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.

Multidrug Resistance Gene (MDR1): Many Collies carry a genetic mutation that makes them sensitive to certain medications, which can cause severe adverse reactions. It’s essential to inform your veterinarian if your Collie has this gene mutation so they can prescribe appropriate medications.

To keep your Collie healthy, provide a balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs, as recommended by your veterinarian. Regular veterinary check-ups, including routine vaccinations and preventative care, are crucial for early detection and treatment of any health issues.

In addition to a healthy diet and veterinary care, regular exercise and mental stimulation contribute to your Collie’s overall well-being. By staying informed about potential health concerns and taking proactive steps to maintain their health, you can help ensure your Collie enjoys a long, happy life by your side.

rough collie sitting against nature background during sunset
Photo: Koljambus/Getty Images

History

The Collie has a rich history that traces back centuries. Originating from the British Isles, specifically Scotland and Northern England, Collies were initially bred as working dogs for herding sheep and cattle. The name “Collie” is thought to be derived from the old Celtic word “colley,” which means “useful” or “faithful,” reflecting their role as indispensable companions to shepherds.

The exact ancestry of the Collie is not entirely clear, but it is believed that they descended from various herding breeds brought to Britain by the Romans around 2,000 years ago. Over time, these breeds intermingled with native dogs, eventually giving rise to the distinct Collie lineage.

Early Collies were smaller and more agile than their modern counterparts, with their primary purpose being to herd livestock efficiently. They were known for their keen senses, quick reflexes, and exceptional ability to work in challenging environments, such as the rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions of the Scottish Highlands.

In the early 19th century, Collies began to gain recognition outside their traditional working roles, thanks to Queen Victoria’s admiration for the breed. During her visits to Scotland, the Queen became captivated by the beauty and intelligence of the Collie and brought several dogs back to her royal estate.

This royal endorsement sparked widespread interest in the breed, leading to its eventual refinement and standardization. Collies were selectively bred for their appearance and temperament, resulting in the elegant and graceful dogs we know today.

The Collie’s popularity continued to grow throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, with the breed making its way to the United States in the late 1800s.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Collie in 1885, and the breed quickly gained a loyal following. The Collie Club of America, one of the oldest breed-specific clubs in the United States, was established in 1886 to promote and preserve the breed’s unique qualities.

The Collie’s prominence in popular culture further cemented its status as an iconic breed. The character of Lassie, a heroic Rough Collie created by author Eric Knight in the 1940s, captured the hearts and imaginations of millions through books, movies, and television shows.

Lassie’s adventures showcased the breed’s intelligence, loyalty, and courage, endearing Collies to audiences around the world. This fictional character played a significant role in elevating the breed’s popularity in the mid-20th century.

Today, Collies continue to be beloved companions and family pets, known for their gentle nature, striking appearance, and unwavering devotion. While they may no longer be as common on the herding fields, their inherent instincts and abilities still shine in various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, obedience, herding trials, and rally.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Collie dog breed in the United States is the Collie Club of America (CCA). Established in 1886, it is one of the oldest breed-specific clubs in the country.

The CCA is dedicated to promoting and preserving the unique qualities of the Collie breed through education, events, and advocacy. You can learn more about the Collie Club of America by visiting their official website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Collie’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

rough collie puppy sitting at a park
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Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Collie, preparation is essential. Begin by researching the breed’s temperament, exercise needs, and grooming requirements to ensure they are a good fit for your lifestyle. If possible, spend time with Collies to familiarize yourself with their personality and traits.

Rescuing a Collie from a shelter or breed-specific rescue organization is a rewarding option, as you provide a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Collie Club of America (CCA) can help connect you with reputable Collie rescue organizations.

Before bringing your Collie home, prepare a comfortable space with a crate or bed, toys, food, and water bowls. Ensure your home is dog-proofed and safe for your new companion. Finally, schedule a veterinary check-up to establish a baseline for your Collie’s health and discuss vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and any potential breed-specific health concerns.

FAQs

Are Collies good family dogs?

Yes, Collies make excellent family dogs due to their gentle, loyal, and affectionate nature. They are known to get along well with children and other pets, making them a great addition to households of all sizes.

Are Collies the smartest dog breed?

While Collies are not considered the absolute smartest dog breed, they are undoubtedly one of the most intelligent breeds. Their keen problem-solving skills, adaptability, and desire to please make them highly trainable and responsive to commands.

Are Collies calm dogs?

Collies are generally calm and well-mannered when provided with proper training, exercise, and mental stimulation. However, they are an energetic breed and require regular physical activity to maintain their overall well-being.

Are Collies expensive?

The cost of acquiring a Collie varies depending on factors such as breeder reputation, location, and lineage. Purchasing a Collie puppy from a reputable breeder can range from $800 to $2,500. Additionally, consider the ongoing costs of food, grooming, veterinary care, and other expenses associated with dog ownership.

How much exercise do Collies need?

Collies require regular exercise to maintain their health and happiness. Aim for at least 1 to 2 hours of daily physical activity, such as walks, playtime, or participation in dog sports like agility or herding trials.

Do Collies require a lot of grooming?

Collies have a double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it clean and free of tangles. Rough Collies need more frequent brushing, around 2-3 times per week, while Smooth Collies can be brushed weekly. Regular grooming helps reduce shedding and keeps the coat healthy.

Are Collies hypoallergenic?

No, Collies are not hypoallergenic. They have a double coat and shed seasonally, which may not be suitable for individuals with pet allergies. If you have allergies, consider researching hypoallergenic breeds to find a more suitable companion.

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