All About Rough Collies: Breed Information, Traits, Temperament & More

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, currently ranks at number 38 in the American Kennel Club’s chart.

The rough collie is the breed that first found international fame in the famous 1950s movie, “Lassie Come Home.” The rough collie has a long, luxuriant coat and majestic bearing. Also, there’s another type of collie, the smooth collie, which has a shorter, flatter coat.

These pups are also well-known for their fondness for their human family, including kids. The rough collie is loyal, smart, and easy to train, and these dogs are also very affectionate, sensitive, and gentle.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the rough collie. We take a look at the rough collie’s history, health, and personality, and we find out whether one of these beautiful dogs would make a good family pet for you.

History

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 during a vacation to 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 they were taken up by wealthy dog lovers, including J.P. Morgan.

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 can be found working as assistance dogs, aiding people with disabilities.

However, these active dogs enjoy a new career as family pets and sporting dogs in disciplines, including agility and obedience.

Personality & Character

Rough collies adore children, and they typically bond very closely with all the members of their human family. Collies, as a breed, are very affectionate, thinking that everyone is their friend.

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 to be herded. That includes your kids, other dogs, chickens, etc.

Health

The average lifespan for a rough collie is between 10 and 14 years.

However, unfortunately, the rough collie is prone to a large list of health problems, including drug sensitivities, progressive retinal atrophy, collie eye anomaly, epilepsy and bloat.

Drug sensitivities: Collies can be affected by multiple drug sensitivity issues. Some of these issues are the result of a mutation in the multi-drug resistance gene, MDR1. That means that 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 that’s required to give you peace of mind. Check out this article for more useful information.

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 used to describe a whole host of eye conditions that range from minor to severe. These conditions are usually present at birth and can be detected in puppies as young as five to eight weeks of age. When buying a rough collie puppy, always check to make sure that the breeder has had the pup screened for eye problems and can provide you with a certificate to prove it.

Bloat:  Bloat, or gastric torsion, is a condition where the stomach fills with air, potentially twisting on itself and cutting off the blood flow. 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 & discomfort. Unfortunately, once a dog has suffered an episode of bloat, it’s highly likely that he will suffer another.

Exercise

Although every dog is different, rough collies are usually pretty active dogs that require regular exercise.

As a general rule, a rough collie should have two half-hour walks every day that includes plenty of running and aerobic exercise. You should try to include playtime too, 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.

Training

Rough collies are very clever and quick to learn. As soon as your rough collie puppy is old enough and has completed his course of vaccinations, take your pup to special puppy classes for general socialization and basic training.

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.

Size & Living Conditions

Collies are medium-sized dogs, standing from 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weighing in at around 50 to 70 pounds.

Can a rough collie live outside?

Although a rough collie has a double coat and would be warm enough living outside, these dogs are so family oriented that an isolated collie would certainly suffer from separation anxiety. That would lead to incessant barking and destructive behavior.

A rough collie should be kept indoors with you and your family.

Nutrition

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 feeds per day are recommended, rather than one large feed. It’s also been shown that the addition of a small amount of meat to the food can reduce the risk of bloat.

Coat and Grooming

Rough collies come in several color combinations which include 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 that your rough collie does, this breed is not suitable for a home with allergy sufferers.

How often should rough collies be groomed?

Rough collies need 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.

Rough Collies as Pets

So, would a Rough collie make the perfect canine companion for your family?

Let’s recheck the main points:

  • Rough collies are medium sized dogs that do 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 major 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.
  • Rough collies are highly affectionate dogs who love to be around children and their human family members.
  • 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 rough 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!

Buying a Puppy

A good place to begin your search for a rough collie puppy is the website of the Collie Club of America.

Look for collie breeders who subscribe to the Club’s code of ethics that 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.

Rough Collie Puppy Costs

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.

Avoiding Puppy Mills

You must never buy a puppy from a 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 to which rough collies are prone. 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 lots of backstreet pet stores get their puppies cheaply from puppy mills.

Rescues

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. If the arrangement doesn’t work out, you can return the dog to the shelter who will then find a more suitable home for him.

All About Collies From Our Readers

Below are some excerpts of readers that wrote to the founder of LoveYourDog, Janet Wall in the past about their Collies.  We wanted to keep the integrity of this page, since so much heart and soul was put into these thoughts by the kids that provided them!

“Nikki is a 1 year old collie. She is very playful and doesn’t bark. She’s very friendly and is the best! My mom got her for my birthday because I’ve asked her for a dog for 3 years. I got her from a pound.” Tasha, age 13, Wisconsin USA

“I have a blue merle puppy! I got him yesterday. He is a full collie and is so cute. My cat was scared of him at first but now I think that she knows that he would not hurt a fly!!! Right now he is sleeping on my lap. His name is Teddy!” Victoria, age 13, Western Australia

“My collie is the best herding dog (and pet) in the world! Her name is Lassie. She is 11 months old.” Charklene, age 13, Texas

“I have one Collie. And two other dogs. My Collie is a full breed Collie. Her name is Daisy. She likes to play fetch and soccer. I recently have to get a new soccer ball because she popped it. She likes to play chase. The Collie is tan and white. She is a very pretty dog.

She likes to get squirted with the water hose. She will bark at it when I turn the water on and she will run back and forth until she gets squirted. Then she tries to bite the water – it is funny. She is a cool, funny dog. I was outside in the front yard playing fetch one day and a car stopped and asked how we got our dog to do that. We told him that we trained her.” Leigh, age 15, Texas USA

“I have two Collies at home, their names are Nikki and Angel. Nikki is 2 years old and Angel is 11 months. They are both very energetic, but Nikki is the more lazy one. Angel is O.K., but she also loves to chase all types of things. She is one active pup!” Abby, age 13, New Jersey USA

“I have one Collie. His name is Rusty. Rusty is a sable Collie, he likes to play ball and learn new tricks. His birthday is May 1.” Loretta, age 15, Indiana USA

“My Collies are a blue merle and a tricolor. The tricolor is very energetic and the blue merle is a lazy lay who is funny. :)” Alex, age 14, Ontario Canada

“I have a white-factored sable female that is going be a show dog. We hope to put a CH. (Championship) on her this year.” Jesse, age 17, Michigan USA

“His name is Quincy and he is one year old. We got him for Christmas last year from Grandpa and Grandma. They have a Collie, too. His name is Charlie. Quincy likes to play fetch and play with kids. My mom and dad say he thinks he’s a kid himself.” Freddy, age 6, Michigan USA

“Once I fell in a water rushing river with a very bad current. I was going to drown. Then my golden Collie, Friskey, came running and saved me and we didn’t train him to do any thing like that. We were all stunned. So my mom and I took him to a doctor and they said he was psychic. And now he’s a life saver.” Sarah, Age 14 Michigan USA

“My dog’s name is Laxess. She’s a Collie. She is tan and white. She has a white star on her forehead. She is three years old and is trained excellent. I love her. I don’t know what I’ll do when she dies. She is going to Michigan state finals! So see ya there!” Katie, Age 13 Michigan USA

“Hi, I have two dogs. One is a Collie named Cory and the other is a Bull Terrier named Delta. Cory is nine years old. We have had Cory since she was three. She is so sweet. I was around six when we got her. Her breeder had her up for adoption. We wanted her! When we came over, there was this evil boy! He was around my age and he kept throwing sand in my eyes. It really hurt! He also threw books at Cory. So in a way we saved her. These are the best two dogs ever! PS I am getting a Sheltie puppy very son! Wish me luck, I will need it!” Kelsey, Age 10 New York USA

“I have two sled dogs. I was 5th out of 9 in my first sled dog race. My dogs ran really well that day. I was happy with my dogs, but I was the laugh of the race. One of my dogs is a Collie cross, and everyone called him Lassie! He may not be a “normal” sled dog, but he is my best friend. He has pulled 600 pounds at a weight pull! My other dog is an Alaskan Husky.” Melanie, Age 15 Minnesota USA

“There was a dog named Maggie. She was a Collie. She had brown, tan, white, and black fur. Everyday she would go to the tennis court and play tennis. Her master was Mary. She always slept with Mary. One day she did not eat her meal. There was something wrong. She went to the swimming pool. She saw someone drowning. She jumped into the pool and saved a young girl. Maggie was a hero!” Eilis, Age 9 Michigan USA

“My Collie is named Clancey and he is the best Collie ever. He keeps us from playing in the street by pinching our heels and he catches all our balls, hockey pucks and other toys. He sleeps with us in our beds and eats breakfast when we do. He also walks us to the bus stop and meets us there when we come home. Clancey is the best friend of my whole family.” Sarah, Age 13 New Jersey USA

“I live in Louisiana with my dad and sisters, but we spend each summer with my mom and stepdad in Pennsylvania. They have four Collies (the big ones) and I love them all! My favorite thing to do with Rascal (dad) is wrestle. He turns his head when you call him the “Great Googly-Moogly”. He loves to play tug with his rope toy and will fetch it for hours.

Weebles (son) is a snuggler. He is the biggest, but he doesn’t know it. Daisy Mae (daughter) talks all the time even when we are trying to watch TV. She loves to bring in sticks and rocks…my mom doesn’t like that. Pippie (mom) is the most spoiled of all. She gets to go into parts of the house that are off limits to the rest of them. She gets mad if any of the others disturb her while she is laying down with my stepdad (she thinks he belongs only to her). She loves pizza and anything else with tomato sauce. She puts on quite a dramatic act if you don’t share your pizza with her. She often steals things off the counter and has taught Weebles to do the same.

Weebles and Daisy are only eight months old. There were eight puppies all together, but my mom said the other six all got really good homes. Mom says we need a bigger house. It gets very crowded in the summer with four big dogs and four big kids…I am the youngest. My stepdad says that we all cost too much, but he spoils us anyway. I love my summers with my mom and stepdad and the four mischievous Collies from the “Long-nose pack”.” Josh, Age 12 Louisiana and Pennsylvania USA

“Solo (Collie cross), my dog, is really old now and we rescued her from the Battersea Dogs Home, but our favorite thing that we do together (when she’s not asleep, that is) I get my hoop and some dog biscuits and she loves jumping though my hoop.” Clare, Age 12 England

“Having two dogs in the house is the best it can be. A mutt and the Collie in my house are the best of friends. They have opened their world to me. For them to be so kind I am doing the best to be kind to them. I send my love to Merlin and Katie from me the Tippy who loves you.” Tippy, age 13 Wisconsin USA

Some Famous Collies

  • Lassie, star of the classic TV shows and movies
  • Lad of Sunnybank, famous series of books by Albert Payson Terhune
  • Prudence, Prince, white Collies owned by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge
  • Ruby Rough, sable Collie owned by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge
  • Bessie, owned by actor Chuck Norris
  • Cheyenne, owned by Jim Reeves, country singer
  • Laddie, from The Simpsons TV show
  • Reveille, official mascot of the Texas A&M University
  • Pal, trained by Rudd Weatherwax, and played the original Lassie

Final Thoughts

If your perfect pet is an affectionate, family dog that loves kids, a rough collie could be the ideal match for you. However, 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!