Very Gentle, Smart and Loyal, The Collie is a Child's Best Friend
The Collie might have gotten famous thanks to the Lassie movies and television series, but that's actually just one type of Collie. Known as the rough Collie or long-haired Collie, the "Lassie"-type Collie is a kind of herding dog that originally came from Scotland and Wales.
There's also the Smooth Collie, which is also a herding dog. Other than having a short coat, it is the same type of dog as the Rough Collie. Many breed organizations consider the Rough and Smooth Collies to be different versions of the same breed.
The Collie has been around for a long time. Although documented as a herding dog, it also serves as an excellent family pet with a gentle temperament, high intelligence, and loyal and protective nature.
According to speculation, the Collies are descendants of Shepherd dogs that were brought to Scotland and Wales. Collies were bred for their nimble ability to herd sheep in the Highlands. The original Scottish variety of Rough and Smooth Collie were large and aggressive, while the Welsh variety was smaller and more agile. In addition to herding sheep, these dogs also herded goats.
When the dogs were brought to the Birmingham market, they were interbred with sheepdogs there, resulting in both long- and short-haired modern Collie varieties. Early Collie puppies were ultimately interbred with the Russian wolfhound, it is believed, which has given the modern Rough Collie its "noble" head. Queen Victoria ultimately acquired a Rough Collie after falling in love with one she had seen at Balmoral Castle, ultimately making the dogs quite popular.
Continued breeding changed the dogs' appearance, in that today's Collie puppies are much shorter in the UK, as compared with the standard size in the US which remains unchanged at between 24 and 26 inches tall.
In 1881, the Collie Club in England was formed, and in 1886, the Collie Club of America was formed. These remain two of the oldest breed-specific clubs in the world.
Today, the Collie is a member of the AKC's Herding Group and is ranked 35th in overall popularity.
Lean, strong, and quite a large dog, the Collie has an elegant, wedge-shaped head, and a muzzle that tapers down to a black nose. Eyes are usually brown, although they can also be blue. Depending on the type of Collie puppies – whether Smooth or Rough Collies, they grow to have hair that is lush and thick: the Smooth Collie has a smooth coat while the Rough Collie has a thick, coarse coat.
Colors can be tricolor (as with the classic "Lassie" Collie, with varying shades of black, brown and white), brown and white, or black and white. These dogs usually stand 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder.
Collies are extremely intelligent dogs. They are working dogs, and love to be trained for a function that keeps them occupied. Even with its high intelligence, however, this dog’s temperament remains very calm and gentle, with no nervousness or aggression displayed. You will need to socialize your dog from puppyhood so that it will obey you as pack leader, but this very bright, loyal pet is naturally predisposed to positive behavior and consistent compliance with your expectations. As long as you provide proper structure and act as the authority, your Collie will be a perfect addition to your family defining it as the ideal family pet. It's no mistake that the Collie was chosen as the perfect example of a child's best friend in the Lassie movies or television series, because these loving, loyal, incredibly smart dogs bond fiercely with their humans and are very protective.
Your Collie may be very vocal, and although it will generally be very obedient, you may have difficulty restraining its tendency to bark. Depending on your pet's personality, it may be driven by instinct to "herd," which can be displayed by nipping at the heels of your children or an anxiety about the behavior of other pets in your household, for instance. This deviation can be remedied with adequate mental and physical stimulation to quell this deeply ingrained breeding trait. Other collies may be calmer and more adaptable to a less active lifestyle. However, this dog absolutely loves children, though, and can be trained to be very gentle around even rambunctious little ones. That said, because your pet is so gentle and agreeable, you should train your children as well to be gentle with their new member of the family.
Most Collies are even accepting of other dogs and pets, although some Collies perform best if they are the only dog in the family.
Given the Collie’s many winning qualities, it can adapt well even to apartment living, although this dog loves to work and be very active. If you make sure that your pet gets enough exercise on a daily basis, with at least a daily walk, the added inclusion of plenty of "training" exercises will utilize its vast intelligence to an optimal level. If you can, take your dog to an off-leash park or some wide open space that's safe and let it, so that these instincts are addressed.
Regardless of the type of environment in which you keep your pet, you must be willing to be as loyal a companion to your dog as it is to you. This need for human companionship means your dog will not be happy if left alone. Despite its hardy, sturdy appearance, and protective coat, the Collie cannot tolerate living outside exposed to the elements.
As a breed, the Collie is generally quite a sturdy, hardy dog, although it can be prone to something called Collie Eye Anomaly, which is a genetic disease that causes the eye to develop improperly and may cause blindness. It can also fall victim to progressive retinal atrophy, which is usually an infrequent event, but can cause progressive vision loss and ultimately, blindness.
As with other large dogs, Collies can also be subject to bloat, which is a painful twisting of the stomach that can be fatal if not treated immediately. To prevent this, you should feed your pet small meals and restrict vigorous exercise right before or after a meal.
Finally, Collies can be predisposed to epilepsy in some cases, which can usually be managed, if not completely eliminated, with medication.
Fortunately, this wonderful, loving, perceptive and extremely faithful family pet can have a long life expectancy provided regular veterinary care is part of your regimen and you are vigilant about potential serious conditions like bloat. Average life expectancy for Rough and Smooth Collies is about 14 to 16 years.
Regardless of type of coat, Collies should be brushed thoroughly. When the Collie's dense undercoat is being shed, you'll need to brush more often. Smooth Collies have shorter coats of about an inch, which you can brush just every two weeks, although the longhaired varieties are prone to matting. If necessary, these mats will need to be cut out. Bathing and dry shampooing may be necessary on occasion, as well. The Rough Collie will shed very heavily twice yearly. The Smooth Collie will shed more consistently throughout the year but to a lesser degree.