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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? Rough Collies make excellent family pets, but they aren't a perfect match for just any family! Read on to discover a Rough Collie's exercise requirements, grooming needs, personality traits, and more!

Janet Wall

Last Updated: August 17, 2021 | 9 min read

Collies

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.

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.

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

History

Four Happy Dogs Sitting in Grass
Rough Collies gained popularity in the US thanks to the TV 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 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.

Temperament

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

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 everyone is their friend. They will snuggle up with anyone who is 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 to be herded. That includes your kids, other dogs, chickens, etc. This can be remedied with proper training, though.

These fluffy pups are loving, smart, and loyal. They are known to almost never be aggressive, nor are they shy around strangers. However, they are vocal and will alert you if someone steps into 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, as well as 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 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 your Rough Collie does, this breed is not suitable 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.

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.

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.

Training

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

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.

Health

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 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 and discomfort. Unfortunately, once a dog has suffered an episode of bloat, it’s highly likely that he will suffer another.

Nutrition

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

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.

Grooming

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

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.

It is also important to mind a Rough Collie’s teeth. They are prone to periodontal disease, so brushing them several times a week to ward off tartar and plaque-causing bacteria is ideal to keep them in good health.

You should also trim your Rough Collie’s nails at least once or twice a month 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.

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, 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 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 & 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. 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.

As Family 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!

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!

Leave a Comment

28 Comments

Lilia

September 5, 2021 at 11:31 pm

Where can I buy a lassie/collie?

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Apiffany Gaither Billings

September 9, 2021 at 1:13 pm

There is a collie breeder directory at: https://colliechatter.com/us-collie-breeder-directory/.

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Jeff

July 23, 2021 at 12:58 am

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!

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Kelly Wilson

July 26, 2021 at 4:23 pm

Thanks for stopping by to share your experience with the breed, Jeff! We love Collies too!

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Catherine Anderson

July 17, 2021 at 3:45 am

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!

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Kelly Wilson

July 19, 2021 at 7:45 pm

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!

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Susan

June 25, 2021 at 2:06 pm

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?

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Kelly Wilson

June 28, 2021 at 3:20 pm

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!

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Diana Paskins

April 29, 2021 at 6:15 am

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!

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Kelly Wilson

May 3, 2021 at 2:20 pm

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

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Alison

October 28, 2020 at 4:06 am

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?

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Kelly Wilson

October 29, 2020 at 3:37 am

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.

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Ruby

October 25, 2020 at 2:18 pm

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.

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Kelly Wilson

October 25, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Enjoy Ruby! We love Collies and think you will too!

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Rose

August 3, 2020 at 9:19 pm

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.

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Kelly Wilson

August 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm

Sounds like a great dog Rosie, thanks for commenting!

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Carol Laughlin

May 7, 2020 at 10:06 pm

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.

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Kelly Wilson

May 8, 2020 at 4:20 am

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!

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Becky

April 4, 2020 at 5:06 pm

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.

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Kelly Wilson

April 5, 2020 at 3:21 pm

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!

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Jacqueline Burton

January 13, 2020 at 1:54 am

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.

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Kelly Wilson

January 13, 2020 at 3:46 am

Sounds like a great dog Jacqueline, thanks for stopping by to comment!

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Stephanie

December 5, 2019 at 5:22 pm

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.

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Kelly Wilson

December 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Sounds like a great dog, thanks for the comment Stephanie!

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Sue Botha

September 11, 2019 at 10:35 am

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!

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Kelly Wilson

September 12, 2019 at 2:46 am

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!

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Shannon

August 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm

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?

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Kelly Wilson

August 14, 2019 at 3:39 pm

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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