Collie dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Lassie is perhaps the most famous Collie in the world. Her heroic actions and dedication to her owner captivated viewers and readers around the world. The character of Lassie was created by Eric Knight and helped introduce the Collie breed to the mainstream and gained so much popularity, the rough Collies are to this day sometimes lovingly referred to as Lassies. Quite the celebrity, the beloved Lassie received her own star on the Hollywood walk of fame.

But Lassie wasn’t the first celebrity Collie. Queen Victoria was also known for her love for the Collie breed and brought a few of the Collies to England, where their reputation sky rocketed under her sponsorship.

Aside from their devotion and gentle nature, Collies are also known for their strong herding instincts, and were mostly used as herders and cattle guards, before being bred for pets and show dogs. From homesteads and farms in Scotland to worldwide fame, the Collie breed continues to be one of the most popular breeds in the world.

The Collies could still be found on farms, but more and more of them can be found in cities and homes, being pampered and spoiled as beloved house pets.

Breed Characteristics

Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog breed group:Working dogs
Height:1 foot, 10 inches to 2 feet, 2 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:48-70 lb
Life span:10-14 years

The Collie breed is believed to be originated in Scotland, but since then, gained popularity all across the world, especially in Australia and Northern America.

The Collie is a medium sized dog, with a thick and dense outer coat and undercoat that makes them tolerable to both hot and cold weather, and favorable for work on a farm. Working dogs such as the Border Collie are known for their stamina and motivation, and when in excellent physical shape can run all day without tiring even on rough or steep terrain.

Collies are a very active and very agile breed and will do well in agility classes, obedience competitions, herding events, and any other type of dog sport. They do as well in the city as in the country as long as they are given regular exercise and mental stimulation, as a bored Collie is an excessive barker.

This sweet-tempered breed loves their family and will do very well in a home with children and other pets. Very family oriented, they shouldn’t be kept away from their family for long durations of time as this devoted breed does best when they are part of the pack. A lonely Collie, that is kept outside around the clock, will develop a barking habit and a destructive behavior due to boredom and loneliness.

The Collies are very easy to train because of their intelligence and something of a sixth sense when it comes to their owners wants and needs. The Collie will do very well with a firm, calm, confident, and consistent owner and respond very well to verbal corrections, positive reinforcement and are highly treat motivated.

As all dogs, the Collie puppies need to be well-socialized from a tender age to avoid a timid adult dog.

Without proper and consistent owner, they can become single minded and stubborn to the point of obsessiveness.

Main Highlights
  • Born with strong herding instincts, the Collie puppies might try to herd humans, and as adorable as it is to watch them try, they should be taught not to.
  • Their overwhelming popularity left the Collie breed vulnerable to irresponsible breeders, which in turn created serious health and temperament problems in some Collies. Before buying or adopting, please make sure the Collie has been checked extensively by a vet.
  • The elegant and graceful Collie is known to occasionally be blessed with a mild stubborn streak.
  • The Collies make very good assistance dogs, therapy and guide dogs, as well as search and rescue dogs due to their intelligent, gentle and protective nature.
  • The unique tulip shaped ear of the Collie, makes them extremely sensitive to sound. Their keen hearing is one of the many qualities of the Collie that makes them an excellent livestock and herd guardian.
Breed History

Not many details are known about the breed’s history but it is thought that the Collie breed originated in Scotland and northern England, where they mainly served as working dogs for herding livestock and cattle, water rescue, as well as flock guards.

Some historians suggest that the Collie breed was brought to the British Isles by the Roman vanquishers as early as 50 BC, roughly two thousand years ago.

The Collies were first brought to the United States in 1879 by the first settlers to be used as working dogs on farms and homesteads in the first colonies. The breed has been gaining popularity ever since as loyal companions, excellent working dogs as well as gentle and beloved family pets, according to the AKC, the Collie ranks as the 37th most popular dog breed in the world.


Weighting at 48-70 lb., the Collie is a medium sized dog, generally lightly built, although some working breeds have a more stocky build. The Collies usually stand at 1 foot, 10 inches to 2 feet, 2 inches tall at the shoulder.

Personality and Character

From first glance, the Collies are the picture of elegance and grace. Their faces feature the pointed snout and intelligent eyes. Their ears also have an interesting shape, being 3/4 erect and the remaining 1/4 tipping over. Interestingly, this particular shape, with a cupped base, provides a remarkable sensitivity to sounds. The sharp hearing is key to the sheep herding and livestock guardian Collie.

Their loving and sensitive nature makes the Collies one of the most popular family pets. They are a very versatile breed, well suited for work as well as family life.

As with most dog breeds, proper socialization from tender age is key to having a well-rounded adult dog. They do well on a farm, where their natural herding instincts will make them a great working dog. The Border Collie especially will need to be busy and be given a job. Most of the other Collies will fit well with an active lifestyle family. With proper exercise, daily walks and yard play, the Collies will do well in a city as well.

Very intelligent and active, the Collies are definitely not a lazy breed and will need to have constant mental challenge and plenty of physical activity to remain in their top form. Highly faithful and playful, they make great companions to children, and are more suited to be a watchdog rather than a guard dog.

They are not aggressive by nature; quite on the contrary, Collies are very docile and protective and are great with other pets and animals as well.

The Collies don’t like to be left by themselves for long periods of time on a consistent basis. They will become lonely and bored, which in turn can lead to excessive barking. As a very family oriented breed, they need to be around their family and included in the pack’s activities, being left to their own devices can often lead to chewing and various other destructive behavior patterns.

Health and Potential Problems

The Collie is generally a very healthy and sturdy breed. However due to increasing popularity, the Collie has been exposed to irresponsible breeding with an alarming disregard for temperament and health. Most health issues that manifest in Collies are:

  • Allergies — quite common among many dog breeds and is usually treated with medication, dietary modification, and environmental adjustments. Many Collies are especially sensitive to Ivermectin, which is a drug used to treat parasites.
  • Hip Dysplasia- another common issue among dogs, it is a disorder that causes an abnormal formation of the hip socket, and in most cases will cause discomfort and lameness.
  • Dermatomyositis- an inherited autoimmune disorder that causes lesions and muscle issues.
  • Nasal Solar Dermatitis- disorder that causes the skin of the nose to peel and ooze, a painful condition that is usually managed by limiting exposure to sun and application of sun screen when necessary.
  • Collie eye anomaly- this condition has no known treatment, and in some cases may lead to blindness.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy — another disorder targeting the eyes and leads to a gradual deterioration of the retina. Being highly adaptive, most dogs affected by this disorder adopt well to a limited or complete vision loss.
  • Collie Granuloma — an additional disorder targeting the eyes and causes damage to the cornea.
  • Grey Collie Syndrome — it is a genetic stem cell disorder but for a puppy to be affected, both parents must be carries. Unfortunately, affected puppies almost never live past 6 months.
  • Gastric Torsion — it is a condition that can strike out of the blue and causes the stomach to twist on itself, cutting off blood circulation and requires an immediate vet intervention. Because the unset of the condition is so sudden and can lead to death within hours without surgical treatment, owners should be vigilant and watch for any signs of distress and pain such as restlessness, drooling, pacing, trying to throw up without anything coming up.

Some Collies are also prone to a genetic mutation within the multi-drug resistance gene, MDR1, which causes them to be extra sensitive to numerous types of drugs, antibiotics, steroids, as well as opioids.

To avoid any health complications, make sure to adopt or buy from a register responsible breeder, who has love and respect for the Collie breed, and who is aware of possible health issues stemming from irresponsible breeding. Prior to adoption also make sure the puppy or the dog have been checked by a vet.

With proper nutrition and plenty of exercise, as well as regular vet visits, your loyal companion will remain by your side for many years to come.

Care Features

As with most dogs, proper puppy socialization is very important for a well-rounded adult dog, the puppy should be exposed to many different scenarios from a very tender age. Make sure to introduce your puppy to different environments, people and children as well as different pets and animals. The puppies are born with natural herding instincts and will try to herd everything and everyone, make sure to train them not to.

The Collies are a very sensitive breed and will pick up on any negative emotions. They will do very well with a calm and confident pack leader who is consistent with their training. It is possible for a Collie to become depressed in a home where tension and stress levels are high, or, when spoken to and trained harshly, can become timid and skittish as well.

Collies respond very well to positive reinforcement and verbal correction as well as treats in their training routine.

To help the intelligent breed reach their full potential they will need plenty of play and mental challenge. It will be a good idea to enrol them in local agility classes, as they will find the constant learning and new situations a welcomed challenge to their development. Another way to encourage the Collie in their learning, and developing their natural senses would be dog puzzles or games where they must find a hidden treasure. Dog puzzles are readily available in most pet stores.

When left to their own devices for long, they will develop a barking habit, simply avoidable when they are involved and welcomed to participate in their family’s activities.

Feeding Schedule

The Collies are not very fussy eaters. They will require about 2-3 cups of high quality dry dog food a day, divided into 2-3 meals, depending on their activity level, size, and age.

With proper meat based protein, grain, fillers and carbohydrates free diet, your Collie will be bright eyed and bushy tailed every day, with a shiny coat and a healthy disposition.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Long-hair Collies usually have a luscious straight outer coat and a very dense undercoat that needs to be brushed at least twice a week to avoid mats and tangles. The short hair Collie requires a little less maintenance with their short and flat outer-coat, and dense undercoat, and should be brushed 3-4 times a month.

The long-hair Collie sheds heavily twice a year on average while the smooth Collie is an average shedder. Some owners prefer to use grooming services with the long-hair Collies due to the intensive upkeep of their long and beautiful mane.

Colour may vary from breed to breed but many have a distinctive white pattern over their shoulders. Most common colours are black, tan, white, red, tricolour and sable. Tricolour is usually more common with slight variations depending on the breed.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

All Collie breeds have proven to be highly sensitive, gentle, and well suited family pets. They are not aggressive by nature and will make a good watchdog. Known as the gentle guardian, the Collie will display strong affection and protectiveness toward the children of the family. Although sometimes timid of strangers, the Collie displays the same tenderness and protectiveness with kids they are not familiar with.

Their playful and protective nature makes them a strong candidate for the perfect family pet.

The same gentleness is very often displayed towards other pets in the household, as well as animals in general. This loving breed has been known to babysit baby ducks, calves, lambs and any other critters in need of attention and protection.

As with any pet, play time between children and animals should always be supervised by an adult. Children need to be taught the proper etiquette of treating animals with the respect and the space they deserve. Any tail or ear pulling should be discouraged immediately.

Whether you are looking for a working dog that can keep up with your cattle and livestock and put them in their place when need be, or a loyal companion to join you on your morning run, the Collie will be there for you. Perhaps you’re looking for that perfect dog your kids want so much. Or maybe you are looking for a best friend to share your life with.

This versatile, sweet, kind, and fun-loving breed is everything you could ask for in a dog and more. Collies have much love and affection to give, and their playful antics will sure make you laugh for days on end.

They don’t require many resources but before adopting a dog you should be ready to give your time freely as Collies thrive on positive attention from their owner and love nothing more than to participate in life with their family. Please keep in mind to adopt or buy your Collie from a reputable breeder or shelter to avoid any health or temperament problems.

With healthy nutrition, daily walks, plenty of play, love and regular vet visit, it is guaranteed your life would be enriched by the ever loving, gentle, tender, intelligent and sweet Collie for years to come.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.