The Collie is a medium to large herding dog that comes in two varieties: the Rough Collie familiarized by the Lassie TV series, and the Smooth (short-haired) Collie. American Rough and Smooth Collies are distinct varieties; though they are routinely crossed together in the US, their puppies are either Rough or Smooth, not somewhere in the middle. Collie colors include sable & white, tricolor, blue merle, sable merle, and white. All colors except white display the classic Collie pattern of a white collar, white chest and underside, white paws and tip of the tail. White Collies have typical coloration on their head, and may have body spots of color as well.
Collie puppies weigh in at around 12-18 lbs by the time you bring one home from the breeder. In the Rough variety, the fur continues to grow into a fluffy “puppy coat” until the dog is over a year of age. Our females experience their first heat cycle at anywhere from 8 -14 months, and shed 2-3 months after a cycle. Males usually shed once a year, around their birthday.
Collies’ skeletal system is not fully mature until the growth plates close, after 2 years of age. For this reason we ask our puppy families to refrain from de-sexing their Collie female until after her second heat cycle. The males do not need to be neutered at all unless there is an intact female in the home, or annoying sex-related behaviors such as marking in the house. If you do neuter a male, it is best to leave him intact until after his third birthday. Note: de-sexing a Collie is likely to cause changes in the dog’s coat which may make it harder to manage. This is most noticeable in males. The undercoat does not moult completely, making it thicker and more prone to matting. See my article Controversial Topics for more in-depth information.
Their herding instinct is fairly strong, which causes them to display “gathering” behaviors, even toward humans. It can be amusing, like the time our first Collie circled a group of our toddler grandchildren as they entered their playhouse, and then he laid across the door! “Penned ‘em!” Herding dogs are bred to lower their prey drive and elevate nurturing instincts, in order to tend stock rather than attack them. This shows up in your Collie as a willingness to befriend other pets in the house, and a particular protectiveness toward small children.
Some herding-inspired behaviors, though, like heel-nipping, are not desirable and need to be discouraged the moment they appear. Since the Collie is extremely sensitive to human emotions, discipline needs to be firm but gentle. Shouting at, or striking, a Collie needs never be done to get the point across. Collies have an intense desire to please their humans, and while not “one man dogs”, they are extremely loyal.
All puppies are rambunctious and playful, but Collies are not known to be crazy, rowdy, rough or uncontrollable. For this reason they are ideal companions for families with little ones, and older people. They are not used as guard dogs, in that they are non-aggressive, but they do have keen hearing and a “big dog bark” that scares away intruders.