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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Rough Collie
Average Cost to keep/care for a Rough Collie
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Rough Collie is one of the most striking dogs when it comes to looks. They boast long, heavy, luxurious coats. They have an intelligent, elegant look about them which are just some of the reasons why the breed has found its way into the hearts and homes of people all over the world. Made famous in the book and film "Lassie Come Home", this beautiful dog was originally bred as working dog and boasts being among the most intelligent dogs on the planet. Today, the Rough Collie is a popular choice as companion dogs and family pets thanks to their kind, calm and loyal natures.
The actual origins of the Rough Collie remain a bit of a mystery although what is known is that people who lived in the highlands and uplands had herding dogs that looked after their livestock for them. These dogs could work in challenging conditions and able to show a turn of speed when needed. They were also capable of working on their own when herding and guarding large flocks.
There are some people who believe that Rough Collies could be descendants of an ancient breed the Romans bought with them when they invaded England in 50 BC and of breeds that were native to Scotland in times long past. It is thought these handsome dogs were named after a breed of sheep called Collis they worked that were bred in Scotland's lowlands. One of the biggest fans of the Rough Collie was Queen Victoria who was so impressed with the breed, she took her dogs to Windsor Castle after staying at Balmoral Estate.
The breed was once known as the Scottish Sheepdog with the first dogs being exhibited at the Birmingham Dog Society Show where they were an immediate hit. After this Rough Collies became a sought-after breed. The Kennel Club kept records of the breed that shows they are the foundation breed for "Show Collies" and that all the Rough Collies in the world can trace their ancestry to one single dog that was owned by the founder of the Kennel Club, Mr. Sewallis Evelyn Shirley.
By the late 1800's, the breed found its way over to America where they became a popular choice as companions and family pets there too. Rough Collies became known the world over after a film was made of the 1940's book "Lassie Come Home" and they have remained one of the most popular dogs from then onwards both as pets and working dogs.
Today, the Rough Collie is one of the most recognisable breeds in the world and has consistently remained a popular choice as a companion and family pet as well as always being a huge success in the showring.
Height at the withers: Males 55.8 - 66 cm, Females 50.8 - 61 cm
Average weight: Males 20 - 34 kg, Females 15.8 - 29 kg
The Rough Collie is a very beautiful looking dog and one that boasts having a tremendous amount of dignity and elegance. Their heads are nicely in proportion with their bodies, being finely chiseled and wedge-shaped which adds to a dog's graceful appearance. They have flat skulls and well rounded, blunt muzzles which taper smoothly from a dog's ears to the tip of their black noses. Their under jaw is clean cut and strong and their eyes are medium in size being set rather obliquely on a dog's face. Eyes are almond shaped and a dark brown colour. Rough Collies always have a kind, intelligent and thoughtful look about their eyes. Merle coated collies can have blue or blue flecked eyes whether it's one or both.
They have small ears which are nicely placed on a dog's head, not too close together, yet not too far apart either. Dogs hold their ears back when relaxed, but they bring them forward when excited or alert with the top part of their ears falling naturally forward. The Rough Collie has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Necks are powerful and a good length being well arched and muscular. Their shoulders are sloping and nicely angled with dogs having muscular and straight front legs that show a moderate amount of bone.
The Rough Collie is slightly longer in the body than they are tall. They boast firm backs that gently rise over a dog's loins. Their ribs are well sprung and chests are quite broad and deep. Back legs are strong with muscular thighs showing a lot of sinew on the lower part of the leg. Their feet are oval shaped with well-padded soles and nicely arched, tight toes. However, a dog's back feet are a little less arched than their front ones. Tails are long which dogs carry low when resting, but higher when excited or alert and moving.
When it comes to their coat, the Rough Collie boasts having a very thick, straight and coarse to the touch outer coat with a much softer and very close undercoat. The hair around a dog's neck is profuse forming a distinctive mane with dogs having smooth faces and ears. Their front legs are nicely feathered and lower back legs are profusely feathered although below the hock joint, the hair is smooth. Tails are profusely feathered. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Rough Collie moves, they do so with purpose and soundness with their front feet staying nicely close together. When seen from the side, they have a very smooth action with plenty of drive coming from their hindquarters and effortlessly covering a lot of ground 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 Rough Collie is an extremely well-balanced and even-tempered dog which is why they have consistently remained one of the most popular family pets and companions with people the world over. They are also extremely intelligent and well-mannered, loving nothing more than to be in a family environment and included in everything that goes on around them. Rough Collies form strong ties with their owners and as such they do not like being left on their own for any length of time. They are best suited to families where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out. When they are left on their own, they often develop separation anxiety which sees dogs becoming neurotic and stressed out. They can also become destructive around the home and start barking excessively which can turn into a real problem.
It's important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation must include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it should be consistent throughout a dog's life so they understand what is expected of them. A Rough Collie is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
They like to herd things and this includes the herding the kids which they do so by nipping at their heels which is a working trait that's deeply embedded in their psyche and one that needs to be gently curbed when Rough Collies are still young and before it becomes a real issue.
Rough Collies are a great choice for first time owners because they are so intelligent and eager to please which in short, means in the right hands and environment, they are very easy to train. However, because they are high maintenance on the grooming front, anyone wishing to share their homes with one of these handsome, graceful dogs would need to have the time to dedicate to grooming their canine companion which ideally should be every single day.
Although Rough Collies are very social by nature and generally get on well with animals and pets they already know, the need to herd is a trait that is deeply embedded in a dog's psyche. As such, Collies will chase any animal they spot in the distance whenever they get the chance. The good news is that because they are so intelligent, Rough Collies can be taught not to go off chasing animals whenever they can. With this said, it's best to keep them on a lead when walking anywhere near livestock or wild animals to be on the safe side.
Rough Collies have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are highly intelligent and quickly learn what pleases an owner. They also like to play interactive games and thoroughly enjoy the attention they are given when being trained for things like obedience and agility.
Rough Collies are better suited to living with people who have secure back gardens they can roam in whenever possible so they can really express themselves, bearing in mind that the fencing must be very secure to keep a dog in.
Rough Collies form very strong ties with their families and are never 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 as well as barking incessantly to get attention.
Some Rough Collies 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, bearing in mind that they are sensitive dogs by nature. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings.
Most Collies like 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 Rough 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. It is also essential for their coats to be thoroughly dried off to prevent any skin issues flaring up.
Collies are protective by nature and therefore they are good watchdogs although rarely would they go about their job aggressively, preferring to keep their distance and bark to alert their owners that something they don’t like is going on around them.
The Rough Collie is a smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good ones. Their training should start early with puppies being taught the basics and boundaries as soon as they arrive in their new homes. Their training also must be consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what owners expect of them. Rough Collies are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things.
They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact when they are competing with their handlers. The key to successfully training a Rough Collie is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions shorter which helps dogs stay more focused on what it’s being asked of them, bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored and Rough Collies are highly intelligent dogs.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick-witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved.
Rough Collie puppies are very cute and it is very easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. However, Collies are also exceptionally smart and are quick to learn bad habits and behaviours. As such, owners must start out as they mean to go on which means laying down rules and ground rules right from the word go so that a puppy understands what an owner expects of them. It also helps establish a pecking order and who is the alpha dog in a household. The first commands a Collie should be taught are as follows:
The Rough Collie has remained one of the most popular family pets for good reason. They thrive in a home environment and seem to have an affinity with children of all ages and they enjoy playing games with them. However, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could result in a small child being knocked over, albeit by accident.
When well socialised from a young enough age, the Rough Collie generally gets on with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, they would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care should be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets they don’t already know, just to be on the safe side.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Rough Collie is between 14 and 16 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Rough Collie is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these handsome and good-natured dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Rough Collie 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:
10 -12 weeks old, bearing in mind that a puppy would not have full protection straight away, but would be fully protected 2 weeks after they have had their second vaccination
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 Rough Collies gain 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.
Some Rough Collies are prone to suffering from 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 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:
As of January 1st, 2013, it is no longer possible to register puppies that are born to two merle parent dogs because of the health issues associated with the merle gene, namely hearing disorders and impaired vision.
Rough Collies can produce Smooth Collie puppies in their litters and there is an option to register them as such through the Kennel Club with the relevant documentation included in the application.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following schemes and tests and the Kennel Club strongly recommends that all other breeders follow suit:
As with any other breed, Rough Collies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Rough Collie puppies like all 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 Rough Collie puppies, bearing in mind that all Collies are very sensitive by nature. 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, Rough 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 fully up to date.
Older Collies 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 Rough Collie in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking 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 Rough Collies 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 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.
The Rough Collie boasts having a long, luxurious and profuse double coat that consists of a straight and thick top coat and a much softer, dense undercoat. They are high maintenance in the grooming department and ideally need to be brushed daily to prevent any knots and tangles from forming in their coats, paying attention to the feathering on a dog's tail and legs as well as their back-ends. They also need to be professionally groomed anything from 2 to 3 times a year which makes keeping their coats looking good that much easier in between visits to a grooming parlour.
They shed quite profusely throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Rough Collie is an energetic, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need anything from 60 to 80-minutes exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only in a safe environment. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Rough Collie would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Rough Collie puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Rough Collie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy 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 upsets 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 it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
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 Rough Collie 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 13 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Rough Collie must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Rough Collie can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Rough Collie, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Rough Collie in northern England would be £21.78 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £42.98 a month (quote as of February 201817). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Rough Collie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Rough Collie would be between £70 to £100 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 healthy, well-bred Kennel Club registered Rough Collie puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Rough Collies have consistently remained a popular breed both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Rough Collies there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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