Collie

Lauren Jones, VMD
Written by:
Published: September 26, 2022
Collie

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The Collie is a lovable, intelligent, and loyal dog that makes a great family pet. Queen Victoria is credited with the breed’s original popularity in the 1860s, as Collies were originally used as herding dogs in Scotland and England. In more recent years, the book Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight and subsequent TV shows and movies have made the Collie better known as an all-American family dog. Today, the Collie ranks within the top 50 most popular dog breeds, ranked by the American Kennel Club.

The Collie is a medium to large breed dog, weighing 50-75 pounds and standing about 2 feet high at the shoulder. As members of the herding group, Collies are fast, athletic, and easy to train. They thrive on the companionship of humans—especially children.

Caring for Collies

Collies are known for their intelligence, protective tendencies, and responsive nature. They thrive on bonding with their humans and often excel at obedience, agility, and herding work.  They typically live 10-14 years with appropriate care.

Collies are affectionate with humans, especially children, and are good with other animals. They do, however, have a high energy level and require at least an hour of outdoor exercise daily to stay mentally and physically fit. They tend to calm down and enjoy time with the family indoors as well. They are equal parts herding champion and couch potato!

Collies have a medium to long length coat that comes in many color varieties, including mixes of black, brown, tan, and white. Collies have a double coat that requires routine brushing, bathing, and the occasional professional grooming appointment.

A Collie’s head is long and tapers at the nose, giving a wedge-shaped appearance. Their eyes are almond-shaped, and their ears are tulip-shaped—standing mostly erect with the tip drooping down. They are a generally healthy breed, although some diseases are more prevalent and of importance to potential pet parents.

Collie Health Issues

Collies are typically healthy and hardy dogs. They are prone to diseases that affect all large dogs—such as bloat or hip dysplasia—as well as a few diseases they are genetically predisposed to.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie Eye Anomaly is an inherited eye disease some Collies are born with. A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist can diagnose it at 5-6 weeks of age. This disease affects the deep structures of the eye and may lead to blindness, usually before age 2. There is no treatment, but genetic testing should be performed on any Collie used for breeding purposes.

MDR1 (Multi-Drug Resistance) Mutation

MDR1 (Multi-Drug Resistance) Mutation is a genetic condition that affects the way Collies process certain drugs. Any dog can have this mutation, but it occurs much more frequently in herding breeds like Collies. When dogs have this mutation, veterinarians can adjust doses or avoid certain medications to prevent adverse reactions.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the retina and may lead to blindness. Clinical signs are typically apparent in Collies as young as 6 weeks. Genetic testing is recommended for all breeders.

Dermatomyositis

Dermatomyositis is an uncommon inflammatory disease that affects the skin and muscles. It typically causes hair loss, crusting, redness, and scaling before 6 months of age. The skin is usually affected first, followed by muscle issues. Treatment varies based on the severity. Affected dogs may require lifelong medications.

While collie eye anomaly, MDR1 mutation, PRA, and dermatomyositis are the most common health issues in Collies, they are also at increased risk of other diseases, including:

  • Degenerative myelopathy

  • Skin disorders

    • Ulcerative dermatosis

    • Bullous pemphigoid

  • Patent ductus arteriosus (congenital heart defect)

  • Lupus erythematosus

  • Deafness

  • Epilepsy

  • Blood disorders

    • Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA)

    • Canine cyclic hematopoiesis

  • Eye disorders

What to Feed a Collie

Collies typically do well on a diet of large-breed dry dog food from pet food companies such as  Hill’s, Purina Pro Plan , and Royal Canin. These companies have extensive research and development departments, employ board-certified veterinary nutritionists, and base their diets in science. All of these factors provide proper nutrition, which promotes healthy dogs. 

The science of nutrition plays a crucial role with canine athletes. Collies, especially those involved in agility, herding, or other high-energy sports, may benefit from extra omega fatty acids to help promote learning, decision-making, and memory. These diets also have appropriate protein levels to support healthy muscles.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides dietary information and recommendations on proper nutrition for dogs. Pet diets should carry the AAFCO seal of approval, which indicates it has been formulated to provide proper vitamins, minerals, and nutritional content.

How to Feed a Collie

Most Collies do well eating two meals a day, typically at breakfast and dinner time. Canine diets are often labeled for puppy, adult, or senior life stages. Your veterinarian can help determine when to transition your pet from one diet to the next, based on their age and overall health. Some diets are advertised for “all life stages,” which may not always be the most appropriate choice for your Collie, so always talk with your veterinarian first.

Some Collies may be over-enthusiastic at feeding time, causing them to rush their meal and not fully chew their kibble. This behavior can lead to stomach upset and other serious stomach conditions, like bloat. If your Collie tends to eat meals too fast, you may want to purchase a slow-feed bowl to slow them down.

How Much You Should Feed a Collie

Always refer to the food bag and your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount to feed your Collie, depending on their weight. Your veterinarian will also take into account your Collie’s activity level, age, and pre-existing conditions when making a recommendation on caloric intake.

Review the bag’s guidelines and nutritional value (how many calories or kcals are in each cup) to make the best decision. For example, a 60-pound dog typically needs 1,000-1,200 calories a day, but this may vary dramatically when you factor in energy levels. Couch potatoes may require less than 1,000 calories, while canine athletes may need over 2,000 calories per day.

Nutritional Tips for Collies

Always chat with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement to make sure it is appropriate for your pet. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help keep the skin and coat soft, shiny, and healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids also promote a strong heart, immune system, brain, and vision.

Supplements containing glucosamine, like Cosequin or Dasuquin, can help keep your Collie’s joints healthy.

Behavior & Training Tips for Collies

Collie Personality and Temperament

Collies are well-known for their herding capabilities. They are high-energy if outdoors and working, but will relax once back inside. Due to their high intelligence and energy needs, Collies could potentially become destructive and vocal if they don’t have enough mental and physical stimulation. They may even bark excessively if they are left alone for long periods of time. Collies are best suited to have physical activity and mental stimulation for at least an hour a day. They do well with agility classes, obedience training, herding, or as therapy dogs.

Collies typically don’t like to dig, but they do like to explore outdoors with and without their humans. Collies are not commonly known as aggressive dogs, although they may nip at ankles and heels when excited—this may be reminiscent of their herding days. It is important to train your Collie not to nip at people, even during play.

Collie Behavior

Collies are loyal and affectionate, with few negative behavioral traits. They rarely show issues of anxiety or fear and have well-rounded personalities. They are family-oriented and will bond with the entire family.

They may become protective of their family around strangers or other animals, but they don’t often growl or bite. Typically, a Collie will alert their humans by barking with intensity. Collies can also be independent and curious, so caution must be used when letting them off leash. Always make sure your Collie is in a fenced area or otherwise contained to prevent injury or loss.

Collie Training

Collies are notoriously easy to train but can quickly become bored. They thrive off consistent methods of training—positive reinforcement is typically the best training approach for Collies. While the method should remain consistent, training activities should involve new and creative ways to challenge your Collie. This may mean rotating training exercises, toys, and locations.

As with most other dogs, Collies require training from an early age. Puppy socialization is crucial for proper emotional development and intelligence. Start training your Collie when they are young and continue their entire life. They love to learn and are eager to please their humans.

Fun Activities for Collies

Collies are great all-around dogs for many fun events and activities that you can share you’re your pet. They are athletic, fast, responsive and excel at:

  • Herding

  • Obedience

  • Agility

  • Therapy

  • Long walks and jogs

  • Frisbee

  • For training, your Collie may enjoy:

    • Hide and seek with items (toys, treats)

    • Hide and seek with humans

    • Tug-of-war

    • Fetch

    • Homemade puzzles

    • “Busy” treats

    • “Touch” or clicker training

Collie Grooming Guide

There are two variations of Collies: long-hair, rough coat, and a shorter-haired variety sometimes called smooth coat. Collies require at least weekly brushing and monthly bathing. They are a mid-level shedding breed and will blow their undercoat twice a year. They require extra grooming during blow-outs and may do best with a professional groomer during these times.

Skin Care

Unless they have a specific medical condition, Collies don't require any special skin and coat care other than routine brushing and bathing. Their fur rarely mats, and general over-the-counter shampoos work fine. Conditioner may also be applied to smooth and soften the coat. They also need nail trimming about every other week, depending on wear.

Coat Care

The Collie’s coat doesn’t often mat but does need frequent brushing. The coat will most often mat behind the ears and elbows, if at all. Daily brushing is recommended to keep it healthy and clean, while also giving you the opportunity to look for any ticks, fleas, lumps, bumps, or cuts.

Collies will shed their second coat, the undercoat, about twice a year. Their coat requires extra care during this time to remove the extensive fur. Often, a professional groomer is needed to help bathe your pet and strip the second coat.

Eye Care

Once a Collie is cleared of genetic eye issues, they rarely have problems with their eyes. Occasionally, the eyelids may roll inward inappropriately, a condition called entropion. Entropion can cause secondary issues that require veterinary treatment and ultimately surgery to correct. Collies may also have common aging changes, such as cataracts or lens issues, that may also require treatment.

Ear Care

Collies’ ears require routine cleaning, usually at the same time as baths. Some individuals may produce more wax and debris and need more frequent cleaning. Always look in your dog’s ear canals during routine grooming. Collies are susceptible to ear infections and allergies, but no more than other breeds. Contact your veterinarian if your Collie has excessive discharge, a bad smell, redness, or itching in one or both of their ears.

Considerations for Pet Parents

A Collie can be a terrific addition to many families—but it is important to do your homework before bringing a pet home. Researching and visiting various breeders is a great first step to get to know the breed. Performance events, dog shows, and breeder’s homes are great places to interact and watch the breed at work and play.

Collies have a lot of energy, so a potential family must make the commitment to provide enough mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. While Collies do have a desire and need for physical activity, they also love to spend time on the couch with their family. Collies form strong bonds with family members and do not do well by themselves for long periods of time. Households that would have to leave a Collie alone for 8 or more hours a day may not provide an ideal environment.

Ideal pet parents should have adequate time to devote to training, puppy socialization, enrichment, mental stimulation, and bonding. Collies are extremely smart and require constant, consistent, and creative ways to train them.

Potential pet parents can expect a moderate amount of shedding and grooming requirements for Collies. They have minimum needs to care for their nails, skin, and fur in addition to their veterinary care of vaccines and preventatives. As they get older, they will most likely require professional dental cleanings performed by veterinarians to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Owning any dog is a privilege and a responsibility, and the Collie is no exception. In return for proper care, training, and commitment, Collies provide lifelong love and affection to their family.

Collie FAQs

Is a Collie a good family dog?

Collies are fantastic family pets with a natural affinity for children. However, all Collies need proper training when they are young so they can become well-rounded and emotionally stable adult dogs.

Are Collies smart dogs?

Collies are exceptionally smart. They are easy to train and eagerly learn tricks and other positive behaviors.

How much do Collies cost?

The price of a well-bred Collie varies by location and breeder. The best way to determine the general cost for a Collie is to start talking to breeders and owners at shows or events. Rescue Collies may be an alternative that costs less, but they may come with health or behavioral issues. Often, however, Collies are placed for adoption through no fault of their own and can lead wonderful, normal lives once they find a forever home.

What are Collies known for?

Collies are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and herding capabilities.

Do Collies like to swim?

Collies are more adept on land, as herding animals, but some individuals may like to swim more than others. Always monitor your pet around bodies of water.

References

  1. Hill’s Pet. Rough Collie Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits.

  2. Canine Inherited Disorders Database Collie (rough and smooth).

  3. The Canine Health Information Center Collie.

  4. American Kennel Club. Collie.

  5. Rawlings, Annette. Collie Club of America.

Featured Image: iStock.com/yanjf


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