We all want to do the best thing for our dogs. There is a lot of mixed advice out there, and we just have to sift through it and make choices based on our own circumstances, and do the best we can. It is important to do the research, though, and not just do what’s convenient. Some of our dog care decisions can literally mean life or death for our dogs. Following are my recommendations (which are just that) based on my experiences with my own dogs, reading, and interacting with other collie breeders.
Q. What is the best age to pick up our puppy?
A. Nine weeks or later. Collies are slow maturing, and may not have good bladder control until that age. Also, they are very social dogs and learn much from being in the company of their mother, their mother’s “pack”, and their siblings. Taken too early, your puppy could frustrate you with “accidents”, inadvertent biting, and other quirks that are completely preventable if simply left with mom a week or two longer. As for bonding, collies bond very easily with humans, even into adulthood, as long as they have been treated kindly.
Q. Do you have a spay/neuter contract? At what age should we spay or neuter our puppy?
A. Many breeders enforce a spay/neuter contract to protect themselves from people breeding animals they deem unsuitable for breeding, and to discourage people from purchasing puppies to make profit centers out of them rather than beloved pets. We sell our companion animals on AKC Limited Registration, which just means offspring of that animal cannot be registered, and feel this protects our kennel name. We require new owners to sign a contract stating that they will not transfer their dog to a third party without our knowlege and consent, and never to transfer their collie into shelter or rescue, but return the dog to us if for any reason they can’t keep it. So much for the breeder’s interests; there are medical questions about spay/neuter that are compelling.
As I mentioned, collies are slow to mature. Males are not fully mature until they are three; females just a little earlier. As a large breed, this means their skeleton is not “finished” until this age. Spay/neuter deprives an animal of its sex hormones, which play a delicate balance in all the functions of the body. If you de-sex a young dog, it will never grow normally after that, and you can’t undo the damage. Therefore I encourage owners to refrain from this operation until at least two years of age, or after two heat cycles in the female. Yes, there is a little inconvenience dealing with a discharge when the female is in heat, but it is only noticable for a week or so and a pair of britches with a pad in it is all you need when she is indoors. Bitches are only fertile for 4-6 days during the cycle, so guarding her virtue is not a three week proposition. As far as “irresponsible accidental breedings”, it is not that big a problem. If you do not allow your dog to run loose, and you do not keep a female in heat housed with an intact male (of any breed or size), you will not have an accidental litter. Males may never need to be neutered at all, if you never let them run loose – which is just common sense anyway.
One option for the females is OSS (Ovary Sparing Spay). This keeps hormones in balance but the uterus is removed, so even though she will still have heat cycles, there is no discharge and she can’t get pregnant. Only select vets perform this surgery and it is more expensive than a routine spay, but there are many advantages.
As a side note, grooming the neutered collie becomes a little more difficult, especially in full-coated males. The undercoat becomes more “cottony” and matts more easily. And a collie shouldn’t be shaved, unless for medical reasons. Spayed female collies often experience urinary incontinence when they get older, but there are medications to help with that. Spaying alleviates the risk of their developing Pyometra, a uterine infection that can be fatal and sometimes has no symptoms (closed pyo). Older Collie females are prone to developing pyometra, so spaying (even OSS) alleviates that risk. Intact males can develop testicular cancer, but the risk is generally low. The takeaway is this: do not de-sex your puppy at a young age, no matter what your vet tells you. Collies are not oversexed or a breed that likes to wander, and they are slow to mature. Just don’t do it as a matter of course;
consider the reasons and make an educated and compassionate decision.
Q. What should we feed our puppy?
A. We wean our puppies on Bil-Jac Large Breed Puppy kibble, moistened with canned puppy food or hot water. You should buy food before picking up the puppy. I also give them frozen RAW bones to chew. Pig feet, cow kneecaps, cross-sliced shank bones, all good. The Bil-Jac kibble can be fed up to a year of age, however….
That’s the convenient answer. What is the optimum nutrition for your dog?
Personally, I feed raw dog food I make myself. This takes some commitment and I know it’s not for everybody. I do it for the following reasons:
a. I am in complete control of what they are eating, so if there are ever any allergies or reactions to the food it’s easy to isolate. I can also examine each ingredient myself and toss anything suspect, and it’s all human-grade.
b. I never have to fear my dogs becoming a statistic in a dog food recall, of which there have been many.
c. I don’t have to have my dogs’ teeth professionally cleaned every year. I only do it rarely.
d. They maintain optimum weight and great muscle tone without trying.
e. Their fur is always shiny and healthy.
f. If I have correctly balanced the amount of bone to meat & organs, poops are small, hard and usually odorless (hooray!)
I started on this conviction because I read that ingredients in dog food are not regulated, so technically a manufacturer could use the bloody sawdust swept up from a slaughterhouse floor in their kibble and call it “crude protein”. Ycch!! The vitamin and mineral supplements that must be added to dry dog food to make up for the lack of nutrition in dry overheated low quality ingredients – even in dog food “made in the USA” – are almost universally sourced from China and India, where the standards are apallingly low.
I used to be a purist about this but I have moderated my approach over time. I do mix some kibble in with the raw food because I noticed my pregnant girls had bigger healthier puppies if she had carbohydrates in her diet. A pro handler also confirmed this, saying coats are better if the dogs get some kibble. However I firmly believe that feeding dry kibble in the dog’s dish as his only diet is asking for chronic disease, kidney damage, and all kind of vet bills you don’t want.
If you are interested in feeding or supplementing with raw I can help answer some of your questions and will show you how I do it. You can easily order balanced raw meals from a number of suppliers online. The Farmers Dog is a good prepackaged frozen food that is not prohibitively expensive.
Q. What about immunizations (vaccines)?
A. Another controversial topic! Many years ago, I lost a puppy on her second round of vaccinations because she had a reaction, and that is not an experience I ever care to repeat. The main disease our puppies may be exposed to is parvo, and it is usually fatal, so I think this warrants vaccination. The article states that it may not be effective until 12 weeks of age, but since we send our puppies to their new homes around 10 weeks, I will vaccinate for Parvo shortly before they leave (around 8-9 weeks). If the mother of the puppies was up to date on her vaccines and in great health, which she is, they should have received potent immunities from her. It is up to you as the new owner to research this topic and find a vet you trust to administer the minimum vaccinations to keep your dog protected and not exposed to dangerous side-effects. Rabies vaccinations are mandated by law, so this is not optional (choose the three-year vaccine over the one-year . ) After your puppy’s initial rabies shot, which you should put off until 6 months, choose the three year Rabies vaccine rather than the one year. Vaccination requirements also depend on how much public exposure your dog has. If you go to dog-parks, that exposure is very high. I would caution you however that Leptospirosis vaccines can cause seizures or even trigger lifelong auto-immune disease, and the risk of contracting it is low (in our area, as of this writing.) Bordatella is very limited in its usefulness; pass on it unless you have to have it for boarding etc.
Herding dogs, which includes collies, have an inherited condition called MultiDrug Sensitivity, or MDR-1.
I have listed the problem drugs on the next page. A lot of the problems are caused by a heartworm drug called Ivermectin, which should never be given to a collie. For heartworm protection, Sentinel or Interceptor is recommended.
Additionally, I always make sure when seeing a new vet that they are aware of this. If your collie has to undergo anesthesia for any reason, speak with the vet first and advise them to use the least amount of drugs necessary and dial back on pre-anesthesia drugging (see Acepromazine and Butorphanol, next page.). Collies can remain “logey” for longer after anesthesia too. (Another reason I love raw feeding – so I don’t need to anesthetize my collies once a year to have their teeth cleaned!)
LIST OF DRUGS THAT CAUSE SENSITIVITY TO DOGS WITH MDR1 MUTATION
DO NOT use these drugs in dogs with the MDR1 Gene Defect
Ivermectine substances “Anti parasites”: (Diapec®, Ecomectin®, Equimax®, Eqvalan®, Ivomec®, Noromectin®, Paramectin®, Qualimec®, Sumex®, Virbamec®)
Doramectine substances “Anti parasites”: (Dectomax® ) Loperamide substances “ant diarrheal “: (Imodium®) Moxidectine substances “Anti Parasites” (Cydectin®, Equest®) (Flagyl )
Use only under close control of veterinarian
Cytostatics “Chemotherapy”: (Vinblastine, Vincristine, Doxorubicine, Paclitaxel, Docetaxel, Methotrexat, Vincristine)
Immunosuppressive: (Cyclosporine A)
Heart glycosides: (Digoxine, Methyldigoxine) Opioids: (Morphium)
Antiarrhythmics: (Verapamil, Diltiazem, Chinidine)
Antiemetics (Ondansetron, Domperidon, Metoclopramide ) Antibiotics (Sparfloxacin, Grepafloxacin, Erythromycin) Antihistamin (Ebastin)
Acepromazine (tranquilizer and pre-anesthetic agent) * Butorphanol “analgesic and pre-anesthetic agent” *
Other drugs: Etoposide, Mitoxantrone, Ondansetron, Paclitaxel, Rifampicin
Can be used only in the permitted application form and dose: Selamectin (Stronghold®), Milbemax® and