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Rough Collie Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More

Are you looking to add a Rough Collie to your family, but aren't sure what to expect? Collies make excellent family pets, but they aren't a perfect match for just any family. Read on to discover the Rough Collie's temperament, exercise requirements, grooming needs, personality traits, and more.


Last Updated: November 17, 2023 | 10 min read


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If you’re looking for inspiration for a perfect family dog, the Rough Collie could be just the breed you’re looking for. A member of the herding group, the Rough Collie ranks at number 39 in the American Kennel Club’s 2022 chart of most popular dog breeds.

The Rough Collie breed first found international fame in the famous 1950s movie, “Lassie Come Home.” The Rough Collie has a long, luxuriant coat and majestic bearing. Another type of Collie is the Smooth Collie, which has a shorter, flatter coat.

In this article, we will focus on the Rough Collie, often called simply the Collie. We take a look at the breed’s history, health, and personality. Read on to discover whether one of these beautiful dogs will make a good family pet for you.

Rough Collie Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight50-70 Pounds
    • height iconHeight22-26 Inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan10-14 Years
    • color iconColorsWhite, Sable & White, Tri-Color, and Blue Merle
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

Rough Collie Breed History

Four Happy Dogs Sitting in Grass
Rough Collies gained popularity in the U.S. thanks to the T.V. show Lassie.

The Rough Collie originates from the Scottish Highlands, where he was used for herding cattle and sheep.

In the 1860s, Queen Victoria discovered the Rough Collie while visiting Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The royal seal of approval immediately caused demand for the breed to boom. By 1877, Collies were being shown at the Westminster Kennel Club show, where wealthy dog lovers, including J.P. Morgan, took them up.

In 1886, the American Kennel Club came into being, and the Collie Club of America became the second parent association to join the AKC.

From 1954 to 1973, the Rough Collie saw a massive worldwide increase in popularity, thanks to the T.V. show Lassie, which aired at that time.

Modern Rough Collies are not generally used for traditional herding duties. However, they are popular as assistance dogs, aiding people with disabilities. These active dogs also enjoy a new career as family pets and sporting dogs, including agility and obedience.


Happy Dog With Long Fur Sitting on a Bridge
Known to be incredible family pets, Rough Collies are energetic, loyal, friendly, and intelligent. 

The Rough Collie temperament is one every dog owner hopes for. This breed adores children, and they typically bond very closely with all the members of their human family. They are excellent companions for children with disabilities, such as autism. As a breed, these dogs are very affectionate, thinking everyone is their friend. They will snuggle up with anyone willing.

On the downside, the Rough Collie is a herding breed, and they can nip at heels, which could frighten small children and won’t go down well with the family cat, either.

Also, as far as a Rough Collie is concerned, anything that moves is fair game for herding. That includes your kids, other dogs, chickens, etc. This can be remedied with proper training, though.

These fluffy pups are loving, intelligent, and loyal. They are rarely aggressive, nor are they shy around strangers. However, they are vocal and will alert you if someone enters their territory. For this reason, they make great watchdogs in the family home.

Size & Appearance

Two Happy Dogs Sitting in a Yard
Rough Collies have a unique appearance that makes them highly recognizable.

Collies are medium-sized dogs, standing from 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighing in at around 50 to 70 pounds. Their thin frames are covered in thick, long coats, which make them look heavier than they actually are.

An angular head, elongated muzzle, almond-shaped eyes, and long, lush coat make the Rough Collie highly recognizable. They have a wispy appearance that comes from these long and pointy features and their long fur that flows behind them when they run.

Their long muzzles lack a stop, so they have a flat, wedge, or “dished” face. Their ears stand erect, but the tips fold over adorably from the top.

Coat & Colors

Handsome White and Brown Dog Sits on a Window Sill
A long, fluffy coat is one of the Rough Collie’s most iconic features.

Rough Collies come in several color combinations: White, Sable & White, Tri-Color, and Blue Merle. A white Collie has a sable and white head but an entirely white body.

Rough Collies are double-coated. These pups shed year-round and “blow” their coats twice yearly in the spring and fall. That means massive shedding all over your place. Because of the amount of shedding your Rough Collie does, this breed is unsuitable for a home with allergy sufferers.

Exercise & Living Conditions

Handsome Dog With Yellow Disc in Its Mouth
Rough Collies are usually pretty active dogs that require regular exercise.

Generally, a Rough Collie should have two half-hour walks daily, including plenty of running and aerobic exercise. It would be best if you tried to include playtime, including games of fetch that will give your Rough Collie a chance to enjoy his innate instinct to herd.

Note that a bored Collie who doesn’t get enough exercise can be prone to barking and indulging in destructive behavior.

Although a Rough Collie has a double coat and would be warm enough living outside, these dogs are so clingy that an isolated Collie can certainly suffer from separation anxiety. That can lead to incessant barking and destructive behavior despite the gentleness of the Rough Collie’s temperament. Consider crate training if you must leave your Collie home alone and have experienced destructive behavior. A Rough Collie should live indoors with you and your family. These are not “outside only” pups. Outside time is necessary, but not for long periods or overnight.


Brown and White Dog Lying on the Ground
It is essential to start training your Rough Collie at a very young age.

Rough Collies are very clever and quick to learn. As soon as your puppy is old enough and has completed his course of vaccinations, take your pup to special puppy classes for general socialization and basic training. Through the Rough Collie temperament is agreeable and eager to please, every dog must have basic training to learn proper behavior around other people and animals.

Keep your training methods consistent and reward-based. Collies love the attention they receive when performing simple tricks or competing in agility or herding competitions.


Senior Brown and White Dog Panting
Though a Rough Collie can live a long life up to 14 years, there are some genetic health concerns to be aware of.

The average Rough Collie’s lifespan is between 10 and 14 years. Unfortunately, the breed is prone to a large list of health problems, including drug sensitivities, progressive retinal atrophy, collie eye anomaly, epilepsy, and bloat.

Drug Sensitivities

Rough Collies often have multiple drug sensitivity issues. Some of these issues are the result of a mutation in the multi-drug resistance gene, MDR1. That means dogs with this mutation can suffer potentially fatal reactions to several common drugs, including ivermectin and loperamide.

Always have your puppy checked by your vet for these conditions. A simple cheek swab is all required to give you peace of mind.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is a condition that causes the progressive wasting of the photoreceptor cells in the dog’s eyes. The disease causes the dog’s eyesight to deteriorate over time, ultimately resulting in blindness gradually.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie eye anomaly is the term for a range of eye conditions that range from minor to severe. These conditions are usually present at birth and can present in puppies as young as five to eight weeks of age. When buying a Rough Collie puppy, always check to ensure the breeder has had the pup screened for eye problems and can provide you with a certificate to prove it.


Bloat, or gastric torsion, is a condition where the stomach fills with air, potentially twisting in on itself and cutting off the blood flow. Owners must be aware that canine bloat can strike suddenly and is invariably fatal if not detected and treated immediately. Some signs of bloat include drooling, pacing, pale gums, lip licking, dry heaving, and general signs of pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, once a dog has suffered an episode of bloat, he will likely suffer another.

Owners may want to consider a pet insurance policy for this breed. Look into this when your pup is young, as pre-existing conditions are not covered. It is better to set a policy up before any major health issues happen, especially knowing that Collies are prone to so many health issues. Pet insurance can help cover costs in an emergency, but a policy must already be in place, and some companies offer Wellness plans that assist with regular care.


Brown and White Dog Chewing on Raw Hide
Because Rough Collies are prone to bloat, feeding them a few small meals a day is preferable.

Rough Collies do best on high-quality dog food that’s meat-based, preferably with no grain content. Many respected collie breeders and experts on the breed feel that collies should not be fed a diet that contains soy or corn.

Because of the Rough Collie’s risk of bloat, two or more small meals per day are preferable, rather than one large meal. It’s also been shown that adding a small amount of meat to the food can reduce the risk of bloat. You may want to consider fresh dog food options like The Farmer’s Dog, which offers human-grade meals delivered to your door. Other notable options include Spot & Tango, which makes fresh and freeze-dried dog food.


Gorgeous Brown and White Dog at a Lake
The long, luscious coat of a Rough Collie needs frequent brushing.

A Rough Collie needs grooming two to three times a week to keep the coat in good condition and prevent it from matting. The undercoat needs brushing out more often during the dog’s twice-yearly coat-blowing periods.

Note that spayed female Rough Collies have one big shed annually. If not spayed, females shed around three months after their heat cycle and will require more grooming at this time. Male Rough Collies shed most around their birthday and need more brushing then.

It is also essential to brush your dog’s teeth. They are prone to periodontal disease, so brushing them several times weekly to ward off tartar and plaque-causing bacteria is ideal for keeping them healthy. Periodontal disease affects most dogs by the age of three years, so keeping their teeth clean must be a priority.

Trimming or grinding your Rough Collie’s nails at least once or twice a month would be best to prevent injury. Long nails in dogs can cause arthritis and other health conditions in our canine companions.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Two Small Puppies
Expect to spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 on a purebred Rough Collie puppy.

An excellent place to begin your search for a Rough Collie puppy is the Collie Club of America website.

Look for Collie breeders who subscribe to the Club’s code of ethics, which forbids the sale of puppies through pet stores. You could also check out the directory of breeders on the collie breed page of the AKC website.

The current price of a well-bred rough Collie puppy is around $1,200 to about $1,500.

Be very wary if you’re offered a puppy for a cheap price. It’s highly likely that the puppy has come from a so-called puppy mill.

Puppy mills are commercial enterprises that exist solely to produce vast amounts of puppies quickly and cheaply. To keep costs down, the breeding animals and puppies are not screened for the eye conditions Rough Collies are prone to. Also, puppies are typically not vaccinated or wormed, and many succumb to entirely preventable diseases soon after arriving at their new homes.

You should note that many backstreet pet stores get their puppies cheaply from puppy mills. Try to avoid these. Stick to local shelters and reputable breeders if you can. Backyard or home breeders may be an option, but make sure to ask lots of questions and ask for health screenings and treatment records.

Rescues & Shelters

Cute Fluffy Puppy Lounging Outdoors
There are rescue organizations out there that help rehome Rough Collies.

If you like the idea of offering a forever home to an unwanted Rough Collie from a shelter or rescue center, you might want to check out the Collie Club of America’s rescue network.

If you’re unsure whether a Rough Collie would settle well in your home, some shelters will allow you to take a dog home with you on a trial basis. This ensures that if the arrangement doesn’t work out, you can return the dog to the shelter, which will then find a more suitable home for him.

As Family Pets

Is a Rough Collie the perfect canine companion for your family?

Let’s recheck the main characteristics of the breed:

  • Rough Collies are medium-sized dogs that need somewhere with lots of space.
  • Because of their propensity for excessive barking, an apartment or place where you have very close neighbors would not be the best arrangement.
  • Rough Collies shed continually and have two significant coat-blowing periods every year. If you have allergy sufferers in your home, this is not the breed for you.
  • Because they are double-coated and molt continually, you’ll need to have plenty of time for brushing your rough Collie, ideally two or three times each week.
  • The Rough Collie’s temperament is highly affectionate. They are dogs who love to be around children and their human family members.
  • A Rough Collie’s lifespan is between 10 and 14 years.
  • When socialized from a young age, Rough Collies will interact well with other family pets.
  • As the Rough Collie is a herding dog, these pups will enjoy herding anything in the family that moves, including you, your kids, and the family cat.
  • If a medium-sized dog is too big for you, especially with this much fur, you can look at a border collie or border collie mix like the Borador. Another great breed to compare the border collie with is the Australian shepherd, which is a herding dog and is smaller than a Rough Collie.
  • You’ll need to be prepared to spend lots of time exercising your Rough Collie, as these dogs were bred to work all day and are not couch potatoes.
  • You can’t keep a Rough Collie outside in a kennel. These dogs are much too family-oriented for that. A lonely Collie will occupy his time by barking incessantly and could become destructive also.

So, if you have an active household with kids, other pets, and no allergy sufferers, the Rough Collie could be a good match for you. You’ll need to be an enthusiastic groomer, too, to cope with all the shedding that your new canine companion will do.

Final Thoughts

If your perfect pet is an affectionate, family dog that loves kids, a Rough Collie may be the ideal match for you. You should note that the breed doesn’t take kindly to being left alone for long periods, and barking can be a problem for your neighbors if you live in a small community.

Rough Collies need lots of exercise, so you’ll need to enjoy walking. Also, Rough Collies shed profusely, meaning that you’ll need to devote a lot of time to grooming your dog.

So, if you want a loving, loyal, intelligent, trainable family pet, look no further than the magnificent Rough Collie.

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  1. Sharon Blackburn

    I grew up with a kennel full of Rough Collies, and truly adore them. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have been able to have had four beautiful tricolor rough collies over the course of our fifty-two year long marriage. They have been and remain a joy to live with. They are delightful, highly sensitive and loving. I hope that you enjoy your future collies as much as my husband and I have enjoyed ours!

  2. I have had collies my hole life almost eighty years. They are the smartest dog ever. We have one now that is the smartest yet. My husband had lung cancer in 2016 and had surgery on both lungs. When he was recovering we got Buddy from rescued puppies. Best thing we ever did. He walked my husband every day. He learned everything with just showing one or two times. We have 23 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren and he loves them all. Last year he killed 4 snakes while we were walking Loves getting brushed, playing with his toys or just laying on front porch when we are sitting out. He comes to front door every day at 4 to go on his afternoon walk knows when it’s time to go to his pen for the night. He just makes my heart smile. Life is better when have a dog

  3. I was six years old when we got our first rough coat collies a sable and a tricolor Tina and Fritz I’m 63 years old and I’m looking at my sweet girl right now (sable rough coat) my grandkids name her Lassie I’ve had one German Shepard a wonderful companion but could never beat my previous collies I’ve loved my 7 sweetheart’s

  4. Deborah Davis

    I just got a collie from a tennessee breeder one parent is a MDR1 carrier and the other parent is collie eye carrier, this is my first collie pup not sure what to make of that and if i need to get my dog tested.

  5. Martine Vanackere

    Helo from Belgium! I have 2 rough collies aged 3 y., they are sisters, same age, same nest. They are my 3rd and 4th rough collie. I adore this breed and although I have also had 2 shelties, I have a preference for this breed. They are always together and they are so linked one to the other. There is no competition because I treat them by entrance order in the house. Rilinne came first, followed by her sister Loanne 2 weeks later. So Rilinne is always number 1 for food, treats, leaches, cuddles etc…, followed by her sister. I walk them 3 hours a day, some 10 km and they just love the forests over here. They run off the lead, great people, kids and horses. Always enthousiastic! Very sociable both, but not always very obedient! Colleys are stuburn. Although they hide it, they have a very strong character and 2 sisters, that is something together! But I would definitely do it over again 👍

  6. Our sable collie is 1 year old.
    She is an amazing dog. My husband (who did not want a dog) spoils her the most with freshly cooked meaty treats.
    Unlike information on the website she doesn’t need much grooming. A brush and nails trim once a week is sufficient. Honestly she is less messy than a golden, who shed all the time. Exercise is also not a problem. She is very patient and amazing with kids.

  7. We have had 3 collies and they have been absolutely perfect, so loyal, smart, and loving. We just have adored each one of them. I can’t put into words how much we love them. We always have exercised them a couple of times a day and taught them so many tricks, so smart. Best pet ever!

  8. Catherine Anderson

    I absolutely love my almost six-month-old rough merle collie! My only real concern is she still is mouthing me a lot but not clamping down and breaking the skin, like she’s saying “this is what I’ve got.”

    I’m sure the more chew toys I offer and consistency will be the key as I don’t want to be harsh at all in her training. Is there any tip or advice that anyone knows of? I know leaving during playtime will help too. It just seems constant, and my family is not overjoyed!

    1. Hi Catherine! Make sure to give it time. It took our last puppy at least a year to grow out of nipping behavior. Continue being consistent, and when all the puppy teeth are gone, you should see it subside. It’s quite common with most pups up through 9-12 months of age. Good luck with your pup!

  9. A 3 year old collie came into our lives 2 months ago & has stolen my heart! She’s the sweetest dog! She is in need of a good grooming, but doesn’t like being bathed or brushed. I’m thinking of taking her to a professional groomer and was wondering if there are any hints/tips I can use to make the experience less traumatic for her?

    1. Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping by. Have you considered having a mobile groomer come to you? We’ve done that with our pups and it definitely makes them less anxious than going somewhere. If you do plan to take your Collie in somewhere, try going in as the first appointment, and stay with your pup while she’s getting groomed. You can also put some peanut butter on a toy and keep it near her so she associates it with a positive experience. Good luck!

  10. My Rough Collie is soon to be fifteen years old. We adore her and to us she is perfect. She is slowing down and enjoys longer sits in the garden, whilst taking stock of all that surrounds her. We have had other Rough Collies over the years and each dog has been a large part of our family. She still enjoys her walks in the woods and of course her dinners!

    1. Kelly Wilson

      Sounds like an amazing dog Diana! Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with the breed!

  11. We have a 10-year old tri-colour who has started to show signs of hip problems, stiff when getting up, slowing up on walks etc. She is in great health otherwise. Is this a common problem with rough collies? Any suggestions in easing her pain?

    1. Hi Alison, have you tried any chewable supplements? We’ve had some success using hip & joint soft chews daily as a supplement with our pups.

  12. I’m getting a Tricolour rough collie we saw Him and his siblings yesterday and I nearly died with the overwhelming sensation of cuteness!!! We are naming him Max and Love Him soooo much! He is 7 weeks old, and in three weeks we get to take him home. I’m counting down the days❤️. Ruby (age 11) Brighton England.

  13. My puppy is 8months sable and white and his name is Willow. He loves children and loves a cuddle, he nips my heels when walking, and gets on well with our two cats. He is good with other dogs, but don’t leave any food near him! He also likes running around garden with underwear and socks.

  14. Carol Laughlin

    Hello, 6 months ago we adopted a Rough Collie. He is now 15 months old and I have noticed that he is often picked on by other dogs. He is very social and non-aggressive and is neutered. For instance, we walked on one of the river trails this morning and twice someone passed us with a dog about the same size, and both dogs growled and pulled at their leashes to attack our dog.

    He had no inter-action with these dogs, but it has happened often. Coalie is the typical clown that this breed is famous for and thinks everyone is his friend. We lost our Golden last Sept. and he had such a presence that if a dog was misbehaving, one small growl from Koby was all it took to diffuse the situation, but Coalie isn’t like that. Any suggestion would be helpful.

    1. Kelly Wilson

      Hi Carol – unfortunately this happens with dogs who are typically both submissive and higher energy. It happened to our female mastiff consistently. She’s happy, very submissive and loves all dogs and people. The best thing you can do is slow introductions, and make sure that when you are out taking a walk, you keep your pup’s focus on you. Some alpha males won’t tolerate other excitable males, even if they are incredibly sweet dogs.

      I would start with slow introductions off-leash, but also only go to dog parks and social outings when there’s limited interaction to keep your pup safe. Also keep in mind that when dogs meet for the first time while leashed, that’s a very vulnerable place for them to be. It might not be your lovable pup at all, but just bad luck with other dogs. Hope this helps!

  15. My husband and I are planning on getting a rough collie puppy and also getting a dachshund puppy at the same time. Do you see this as a bad idea? My hopes are they would grow up together and get along well.

    1. Hi Becky, this is generally fine, but we always recommend getting puppies that are different genders so that there’s less inter-gender competition. Good luck!

  16. Jacqueline Burton

    We have a rough Collie he is eighteen months old. We love him he loves us too. He never gets enough of us always by our side. We walk him just not sure it’s enough. He refuses to go out back without us even though it is safe fenced in he want leave us. He really is the sweetest dog ever.

  17. I have a retired rough coat collie that I adopted from my parents ranch in Arizona named Reno. When I adopted him I didn’t know if he would adjust to city life at our home but need less to say these dogs are great. My granddaughter, Chloe, lives with me and he is her best buddy. They go for walks and do everything together. He loves to be groomed and hang out with everyone in our family, but Chloe is his favorite person in the world. He loves to join in when people are talking and tells you what he is thinking. Reno is very affectionate and loves to say hi to all my neighbors. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior dog. This breed is truly the best for family and especially children.

  18. I would be interested in knowing if there is a slight temperament difference in the colours of roughs, as an equestrian we find that bay horses are more even tempered, blacks are unpredictable and chestnuts all have slight screws loose, we still love them all!

    1. Hi Sue! From what we’ve seen there’s no difference in temperament between the coat colors. There’s more of a difference when it comes to looking at the parents of the pup, and comparing their traits rather than to coat color. Hope this helps!

  19. My rough collie only has half of bearing around his neck, only on one side. Half a scarf around his neck, he is 3 months, is there any chance he’ll grow n full scarf?

    1. Hi Shannon! Part of the beauty of this breed is their coats can change as they grow. While we can’t say that your pup’s scarf will grow in full, there’s always a chance! Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

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