A born herding dog, Collies are known for their alert, intense gaze that developed to help them spot and wrangle wandering sheep. They are intelligent, playful, and are usually gentle with children. The breed's long-coated variety with the distinctive mane is the most common and familiar, but Collies come in a short-coated variety as well. Their heads are graceful and tapered to the nose, and they have ears that break forward at the top. Collies are athletic, medium-build dogs who are agile and swift. Their innate protectiveness, intuition, and loyalty inspired the fictional dog of the novel Lassie Come Home who, in turn, inspired the popular 1950s TV series "Lassie."
The more common 'Rough' Collie has a double coat with a straight, coarse outer coat that is abundant over most of her body, including on the mane around her face. The 'Smooth' Collie is also double-coated, but her outer coat is short. Coat colors include white, sable and white, blue merle, and tri-color, which is mostly black with white markings and tan areas on the head and legs.
Average Height: 22-26 inches
Average Weight: 50-75 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Collie is an agile, athletic dog. Her muscular, medium-sized physique is capable of gathering speed fast and enduring long days spent herding sheep. Her wedge-shaped head has a noble profile, and her almond eyes are watchful and bright.
Collies, along with their close cousins, Border Collies, hail from the Scottish highlands, lowlands, and northern England. For centuries, their ancestors were herding dogs who guarded sheep and cattle in pastures and guided them to market. Long kept solely as working dogs, pedigreed Collies didn't gain popularity until the 1800s. With breeding, Collies became larger and their features became more refined. By the late 1800s, the breed would be recognizable as today's modern Collie. The American version of the Collie is primarily the same, save for a slightly larger build.
AKC Breed Category
Collies are smart, enthusiastic dogs. They are highly attuned to their owners and always seem at the ready for a game of fetch, canine sports training, or a long walk. Though devoted and eager to please, they are also known to have a stubborn quality at times. Intolerant of being alone, they are likely to become nuisance barkers or develop destructive habits if left alone excessively.
Are Collies Good with Kids? Collies are loving and gently protective of children, but they should always be supervised around kids. Owners often share stories about how their Collie will 'herd' a toddler back to the family if they stray too far.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Collies Good with Other Pets? When Collies are well socialized from an early age, they are generally welcoming, respectful, and playful with other dogs, as well as cats. They can be standoffish with animals they don't know but, given time, will usually tolerate their presence.
Collies are protective of their 'flock,' which at home means their family. They will bark loudly to alert their owners when people they don't recognize approach the house.
Are Collies Good Guard Dogs? Collies are attentive watchdogs, who will let the household know when people are coming to the door or just walking past.
The Collie is a highly energetic breed. With enough exercise throughout the day, they will settle down and enjoy quiet time with their families at home.
- Daily brushing and drying with an absorbent dog towel are important for Collies to prevent tangles.
- Prone to excessive barking when left alone.
- They are sensitive to harsh reprimands.
- They require abundant exercise.
- They can react to certain medications.
Though they have hearty coats, Collies should live indoors with their people. They will leave plenty of hair in their wake, though daily grooming will make cleanup easier. Both the 'Rough' and 'Smooth' varieties shed abundantly throughout the year, but the long-haired, 'Rough' Collie also blows—fully sheds—her undercoat twice a year.
Collies enjoy romping around playing games with their people or going for long walks. Their rugged, double coats are made to protect them during long days spent herding. However, when training or playtime is over and their owners head indoors, they'll be right on their heels.
Collies need about an hour of daily exercise to keep them fit and to avoid behavior problems that can arise from excess energy. Two long walks and a game of catch in the yard will keep them in top condition.
Bred to remain vigilant and active on the job as herders, Collies have the stamina and attention span for prolonged play or training.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: A healthy Collie will enjoy a mile or two run by your side at a moderate pace.
- Hiking Miles: Hiking is more the Collie's speed than running. As long as breaks are built into the trek, they will gladly hike with you for three to four miles.
Collies require about two to three cups of quality dry dog food each day, split between two meals. The amount will vary depending on the size, weight, and age of your dog. Talk with your veterinarian about an optimal diet plan.
This is not a breed who adjust well to alone time. Collies are known to develop nuisance barking if they are left on their own for too long. Crate training your Collie will help her feel comfortable when left home for short stretches. If you are going to be out of the house for long days, it's best to put her in a doggie daycare where she gets exercise and engagement.
Health and Grooming
Rough Collies should be brushed regularly to prevent knots and matting, while the Smooth variety can be brushed every few days. Brush your Rough Collie every day when she is 'blowing' her undercoat, which happens twice a year. Smooth Collies shed consistently throughout the year, rather than blowing their coat. Both varieties need a bath about once a month, unless they get messy in the yard. Trim your Collie's nails every few weeks and gently clean their ears with a mild cleanser every week to prevent wax buildup, which can lead to infection.
Common Health Issues
Collies may be prone to breed-specific health concerns and sensitivities, including:
- Collie eye anomaly
- Skin disorders
- Nasal solar dermatitis (Collie nose)
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Hip dysplasia
- Drug sensitivities to common medications and flea and tick products.
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Collie by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Fast learners, Collies will ace Obedience Training 101 in no time. They are also quick to house train.
Athletic and fleet of paw, Collies are enthusiastic participants in agility training and a variety of dog sports.
Sporting Dog Training
Collies enjoy doing what they were originally bred for. If you've got backyard chickens or goats, you can train your dog to herd them, or you can seek out formal herd dog training classes.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Collies.
No. Collies shed abundantly and, as a result, leave pet dander around your home. Dander is the cause of most pet-related allergies.
Collies are not born swimmers. You may have a Collie who enjoys a short dip, but generally this breed doesn't love the water. Always supervise your dog around pools and bodies of water.