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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Bearded Collie
Average Cost to keep/care for a Bearded Collie
Breed Specific Buying Advice
Affectionately called the "Beardie”, the Bearded Collie has remained a popular choice of family pet all thanks to their kind and lovable natures. However, Bearded Collies were originally bred to be hardy, robust working dogs and over the years they were known by quite a few different names which includes the Highland Collie and Old Welsh Grey Sheepdog to name but two of them. They are alert, intelligent and highly adaptable dogs that thrive on being around people loving nothing more than being in a family environment and involved in everything that goes on around them.
Happy dogs by nature, Beardies are just at home in a working environment as they are in the home. They are keen yet calm and like nothing better than to join in any activity whether at work or play and rarely do these dogs show any sort of aggressive behaviour. Beardies are also great around children and soon become valued members of a family although playtime can get a bit boisterous.
There are Scottish records of dogs that resemble the Beardie dating back to the 16th Century. These dogs were highly prized both in Scotland and in the north of England for their herding skills and were called Mountain Collies or Highland Collies. It is thought that dogs left behind by invading armies were bred to native herding dogs that were around in Scotland over 500 years ago and this produced a very similar looking dog to the Beardie Collie we know today and that the breed shares an ancestry with other breeds with "shaggy" coats, namely the Briard and the Pyrenean Shepherd Dog to name but two.
Beardies were bred to work with all types of stock and were tasked to find livestock found in mountainous regions and herd them back to the lowlands. Although highly prized working dogs, Beardies fell out of favour at the beginning of the 20th Century, a time when Border Collies were the preferred choice of herding dogs with many farmers and herdsmen.
Breed numbers fell dangerously low at the end of World War II when Bearded Collies almost vanished altogether. Thankfully a breed enthusiast by the name of Mrs. Williamson got a female Beardie from Scotland and a male from Devon in 1944 and she started a breeding programme at her Bothkennar kennels which saved the breed from extinction. The Kennel Club awarded Bearded Collies full recognition in 1959.
It was only at the end of the 20th Century when a Beardie won Best in Show in 1989 at Crufts Dog Show that the breed once again hit the headlines and gained popularity with people both in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Today, these loyal and intelligent dogs are still among a firm favourite at dog shows, as working dogs and family pets the world over thanks to their lovely shaggy coats and kind personalities.
Height at the withers: Males 53–56 cm, Females 51–56 cm
Average Weight: Males18–27 kg, Females 18–27 kg
Beardies are lean and athletic looking dogs with females being slightly longer than their male counterparts. They boast an intelligent if not quizzical expression which adds to their overall endearing looks. These dogs are well proportioned with a flat, broad skull and strong muzzle. Their noses are square and large being black in colour although lighter coated dogs have lighter coloured noses which is perfectly acceptable as a breed standard.
A Beardie, as previously mentioned has a quizzical, soft and loving expression which is enhanced by the fact their eyes are set far apart and are large. They boast arched eyebrows which adds to their endearing looks. Their ears are well proportioned in relation to their heads which they lift when excited or alert, but which droop down when dogs are at rest and relaxed.
The Bearded Collie has a strong jaw line with a perfect scissor bite. Their necks are moderately long and muscular which dogs hold ever so slightly arched. Their forequarters are strong with sloping, well laid-back shoulders. A Beardies front legs are well boned, straight and covered in long, shaggy hair. They boast long, level backs with well sprung rib cages and a deep chest which allows plenty of room for their heart and lungs.
Hindquarters are powerful, well-muscled with dogs having well developed second thighs. Back legs are strong and powerful and a Beardies feet are oval shaped with well cushioned pads, arched toes that are covered in hair. Their tails are set low and straight which dogs carry low, but with a little upward curve at the tip which is evident even when dogs are at rest. Their tails are covered in hair right to the tip.1
When it comes to their coat, Beardies boast a double coat with a furry and soft undercoat and a coarser and very shaggy outer coat. Dogs can have a slight wave in their coats which is allowable as a breed standard. Their coats are long and should not be trimmed at all. The hair on their face is slightly longer on each side of the bridge of their noses and gets longer from their cheeks and under a dog's chin which forms their lovely beard. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
Dogs typically have white markings on their faces, tip of their tails and on their chests, legs and feet with some Beardies having a white collar too. Dogs can have a little tan in their eyebrows, on the inside of their ears and on their cheeks as well as under their tails and legs which is acceptable as a breed standard.
When a Bearded Collie moves, they do so with a smooth, supple action covering a lot of ground with very little effort when they do.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
The Bearded Collie is a self-confident and alert dog that adapts well into a home environment. Bred to be working dogs, they love to be kept busy both mentally and physically enjoying nothing more than joining in any interactive games. They rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour or nervousness and are highly prized as working dogs thanks to their calm and intelligent natures.
Beardies have a ton of energy and therefore would not be the best choice for anyone who leads a more sedentary life. These dogs like to be out and about with their owners because they love human company. If left on their own for any length of time, a Beardie would soon get very bored which could result in them developing a few unwanted and destructive behaviours which includes excessive barking. With this said, barking is in their nature because it is one of the ways the breed was taught to work livestock, so some barking is to be expected especially when these dogs play any interactive games.
Bearded Collies are very intelligent and in the right hands they are highly trainable. However, they need to be handled and trained correctly using positive reinforcement rather than any heavy handed or harsh methods which would end up confusing a Beardie and this could result in them growing up to be shy and timid characters.
Beardies excel at agility and obedience because they just love to please and thoroughly enjoy this sort of partnership with their owners. They are boisterous by nature and although not always that predictable, sharing a home with a Beardie is always very entertaining. One thing bearing in mind is that females tend to be a little more headstrong than their male counterparts and that both need to know their place in the pack or a Beardie might just show a more dominant side to their natures.
Bearded Collies are not the best choice for first time owners because they can be stubborn and wilful which makes training them a lot more challenging. As such, they are better suited to people who know how to get the best out of a Beardie, bearing in mind they are very intelligent and would get the better of anyone who was not familiar with their specific needs.
Although Beardies are very social by nature, they love nothing more than to chase anything that moves. Care should always be taken as to where and when a dog can run off the lead more especially if there are wild animals or livestock around.
Beardies have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, a Beardie quickly learns how to get what they want from their owners. Their herding instinct is deeply embedded in a dog's psyche and as previously mentioned they will chase anything that moves. Beardies are also excel at many canine sports and love the one to one attention they are given when training and competing.
Beardies are highly adaptable dogs and providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in, they easily fit into most lifestyles. However, they are better suited to households with secure back gardens that a dog can safely roam around whenever possible to their heart’s content.
Bearded Collies form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained and could lead to a dog barking incessantly as a way of showing how unhappy they are about a situation.
Some Beardies like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings, but rarely would a Beardie show any aggressive behaviour while going about their task.
Most Beardies love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Bearded Collie off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Bearded Collies are natural watchdogs and protecting their owners and property is something that is deeply embedded in their psyche. However, as previously mentioned rarely would a Beardie show any aggression, preferring to keep their distance and bark as a way of alerting an owner that something they don't like is going on in their environment.
Bearded Collies are intelligent, but they have an independent streak in them. As such their training should be left up to people who are familiar with the breed similar types of dog. But this is not the only reason why these dogs benefit from being handled and trained by experts because they also boast being sensitive dogs by nature and do not respond well to any sort of rough or harsh handling either as puppies or as adult dogs. This type of handling could result in dogs being timid and insecure around people.
With this said, Bearded Collies respond well to positive reinforcement training and gentle, fair yet firm handling. On the upside, these dogs are always eager and willing to please which, in short, means in the right hands a Bearded Collie can be trained to be an obedient dog and one that truly enjoys being around people.
Beardie puppies are very cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. However, Beardies are smart and quick off the mark when it comes learning new things which means picking up bad habits can happen all too fast. As such, new owners should start out as they mean to go on by laying ground rules down so that a puppy learns what is expected of them and what behaviours are acceptable and which are not. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Beardies are known to be good around children of all ages and like nothing better than to join in any games. However, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on "playtime" which can get a bit boisterous at times. As such, any interaction between the kids and a dog should be supervised to make sure no one gets scared or hurt.
Bearded Collies are also generally good around other dogs, animals and family pets although any introductions need to be done carefully so that things remain nice and calm otherwise a Beardies instinct to herd might take over and get the better of them which usually ends in a dog chasing another animal because they try to run away.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Bearded Collie is between 12 - 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
However, like so many other pure breeds, the Bearded Collie is known to suffer from a few hereditary and congenital health disorders which are worth knowing about if you are planning to share your home with one of these fun-loving and affectionate dogs. The conditions the breed is more prone to suffer from include the following:
Although it has now been established that many auto-immune diseases that affect the breed and others, the more of inheritance remains unknown. As such, for the moment there are no DNA tests available for the Bearded Collie to check whether they are at risk of developing an auto-immune disease. With this said, any Beardie that suffers from a condition should be spayed or neutered and not used for breeding purposes and inbreeding should be avoided too.
Because of their shaggy coats, Bearded Collies can also suffer from skin issues which is why it's so important to set up a regular grooming routine and to thoroughly dry a dog's coat off if they get wet, paying special attention to their feet and ears. Leaving a dog's coat moist provides the perfect environment for bacteria to take hold and thrive.
Beardie puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old,
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Beardies weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Beardies are known to suffer from skin issues and allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Bearded Collie breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for the Bearded Collie.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following tests on their dogs:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders use the following schemes on their dogs:
As with any other breed, Beardies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, Bearded Collies need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Beardie puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Beardie puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Bearded Collie puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Beardies need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Bearded Collie in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Beardies need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Bearded Collies don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Bearded Collies are high maintenance in the grooming department all thanks to their long and flowing coats. If not frequently brushed, their coats quickly become tangled and matted which means daily brushing is essential to keep things tidy and knot-free. Daily brushing also keeps a dog's skin in good condition and it strengthens the bond formed between dog and owner.
Beardies are very messy eaters all thanks to the long hair around their faces so it's important to make sure the area around their mouths is kept clean paying special attention to a dog's beard and chin.
Puppies need to be taught early that grooming is a nice experience and this includes having their paws and nails touched so they look forward to the one-to-one attention they are given when being brushed.
Beardies also benefit from being professionally groomed 2 to 3 times a year so their coats can be expertly hand stripped which makes it easier to keep them looking good in between. Like other breeds, the Beardie tends to shed the most hair during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is needed to keep on top of things.
Bearded Collies are high energy dogs and therefore they need to be given a lot of daily exercise. However, they are also extremely intelligent dogs and as such, they need to be given a tremendous amount of mental stimulation too or they quickly get bored and this could lead to them becoming unruly and difficult characters to handle.
As such two good walks a day are essential and as much outside time in a secure garden is ideal for these dogs. In short, they are not the best choice of pets for people who spend most of the day out of the house, but they are the ideal choice for people who work from home and who have a large secure garden for their dogs to play in.
Bearded Collies are not known to be fussy or finicky about their food, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. If you get a Bearded Collie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule for your new pet and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of food to a puppy to avoid any tummy or digestive upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upset and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.
Older dogs need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages and any health issues a dog may be suffering from. As previously mentioned, Beardies are messy eaters all thanks to the amount of hair they have around their muzzles. Food collects in the hair and if left it soon builds up, gets smelly and eventually if not cleaned, could lead to a nasty skin infection taking hold which can be very hard to clear up.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Beardie puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 12 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Bearded Collie must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Beardie can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Bearded Collie, you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £400 to over £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Bearded Collie in northern England would be £22.13 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £42.56 a month (quote as of January 2018). When insurance companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and breed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Beardie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Beardie would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Bearded Collie puppy.