Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lassie was average - for a Collie

Ask anyone who lives with a Collie and they will agree - Lassie was pretty average - for a Collie.  Collies in general, Rough or Smooth, are lovely companions, devoted to their families, willing to go anywhere and do almost anything with you.

Lassie and Timmy

Fortunately, most families do not have children like little Timmy, who every week could be counted on to find a new way to test Lassie's devotion and willingness to, yet once again, get an adult to come to Timmy's aid. Collies, developed as herding dogs, are usually content to transfer their loyalty to shepherding and protecting a flock of sheep, to a child or children. So if you have a small or large flock of children, a Collie will help you watch over them.

Mahagony Sable and White Rough Collie puppy

While Collie puppies are so adorable they practically hurt your eyes, this is a great breed to consider adopting as young adults, mature dogs, and seniors. Like really good wine and stinky cheese, Collies just get better with age.

I would argue that a Collie's training also improves with age. Unlike some breeds that are quick to pick up everything and also fall all over themselves to please people (okay, I am thinking of Retrievers here) Collies remind me of C students. They're willing to do the work, they may take a little longer to remember it than the A students, they are just as willing to leave class early and don't generally feel cheated out of their education if you let them play longer and work a little less - but over time what they learn sticks with them and can be counted on as a solid base of knowledge.

Jenny smiling; she is a Mahogany Sable and White Rough Collie

I adopted Jenny through a Collie rescue contact. Jenny had spent the first two years of her life as a show dog, a life she was not thrilled with. She came from a kennel where there were a number of same-age, same-gender Collies and the breeder didn't have time to campaign them all. Shortly after I adopted Jenny the breeder regretted her decision and would have taken Jenny back (I think she wanted me to consider a trade) - but I had been quick to spay Jenny. Thus Jenny was spared the life of a breeding kennel Collie, getting out younger than most potential breeding Collies do. I would however, just as happily adopt her today, now that she is age seven or eight, as I did back then (I never did get her papers, so I don't know her actual birthdate/year.)

Blue Merle, Tri-color, Sable and White Rough Collie puppies

Jenny has won over a number of people who were not previously Collie people; sometimes people just see hair and don't realize the great package that is inside the furry body.
Like most Collies, Jenny is gentle, reasonably obedient, a sweet soul who wants to get along with everyone and is willing to tolerate all other life forms. She likes children, herds cats, and provides warning when something is seriously out of place; she was the only animal I live with who bothered to wake me up when the neighbor's house caught on fire one night.

Smooth Tri-Colored Collie

Aside from being a fine looking canine, Collies do well as family members with all kinds of families. They can be calm with elderly and very small children. They can be active joggers, walkers, or agility dogs. They also look good sitting on the seat in your car, truck, or mini-van. They'll fit in a Mini-Cooper or look right at home in a Cadillac. A Collie can dress up any car, or make anyone look a little more rugged and willing to head into the outdoors.

Blue Merle Smooth Collie

Blue Merle Rough Collie

Collies will love everyone in the family. If you enjoy brushing then get a rough collie; enjoy less brushing,  then the same great temperament, and range of colors, are available in the smooth variety.

Ruby - the amazing Collie mix
 Collies are so great in fact, that even when they're mixed in with other breeds - like my friend Ruby - you still get a fantastic dog. If you prefer your Collies with a little something else mixed in, just check out Petfinder for your next potential family member. Ruby was adopted from a shelter.

Shelters, purebred rescues, private citizens rehoming -- all possible ways to locate your own wonderful Collie.

When I was growing up my childhood companion was adopted from a farm, a Collie-Border Collie mix. Champ always looked out for me (when he wasn't out patrolling the large route he had to make every morning) and he was a very patient listener. I could even cry into his fur, hug him around the neck, or complain about school - he was steadfast in his affection and support.

Tri-Colored Rough Collie
 Collies like to walk, they need some brushing, they don't shed any more than a Labrador in my opinion (actually, Jenny sheds less than Lil her little Lab sister), they will help with any herding chores you may have, and they will look good while doing so.

Jenny - again :-)

One does have to be a little more careful with the meds they are given - for example, many have an inherited predisposition to being poisoned by certain wormers/heartworm preventions - however there are alternatives available in the same locations you buy other heartworm prevention. (Check out MRD1 online - multiple drug resistance.) You can now have your Collie tested for MRD1.

Smooth Sable Collie

Finally, a little trivia for you.
Lassie, in TV and film, was always played by boys. The producers and trainers preferred the larger, fuller roughed male collies for theatrical purposes.
No wonder they always barked their heads off when anyone asked, "What is it girl?!"

As always, I welcome other people's stories about life with Collies, wonderful Collies they've met, favorite Lassie TV moment, pictures....

If you need assistance posting pictures, forward them to me at

TV's Lassie, little Timmy and parents

Favorite Lassie Spoof from Glossynews
"Upset: Lassie Leaves Timmy Down the Well"

From Glossynews Oct. 2010

"Through an interpreter (the Dog Whisperer), Lassie has informed local police the she has no plans to tell them which well Timmy is stuck in. The famous collie, who has saved the boy from multiple wells, caves, fires, storms, lions, wolves, bears, snakes, wells, collapsing buildings, and several other life threatening situations, has said that she has had enough."

Of course, this is only a spoof - Lassie never stopped saving Timmy.
Talk about patient, forgiving, and persistent.


  1. Hi Christy: Wow, sounds like quite a group of breeds.... It is amazing to see the smooth collies' torsos - you have to assume that they are more or less the same as the rough, but all that beautiful long fur makes them look so different.

    If there isn't a book out there about the history of the evolution of breed popularity, say, in the United States, there should be... As we've discussed before, collies used to be one of the quintessential family breeds in the US, but not anymore, they are a bit rare these days.

    I wonder why? At least in rural communities they've been eclipsed by retrievers and retriever mixes. My guesses would be: 1) shorter coat - although retrievers (at least labs) shed copiously, their coat doesn't tangle as easily; 2) popularity of retrievers for hunting which is much more popular than herding; and 3) herding breeds' tendencies to be a bit nippy - not in every breed or dog and certainly something that can be trained away.

    But it seems like a lot of Americans expect their dogs to born trained, in which case, nipping small children is unlikely to lead to continued breed popularity... Any thoughts? Kathy

  2. Hi Kathy,

    There is an observable difference that celebrity and popular media make on the popularity of breeds.

    When Rin Tin Tin was on TV, German Shepherds enjoyed their greatest popularity. When Lassie was on TV and in movies, Collies were in the top ten. When the President's family got a Protuguese Water Dog the breed shot up in popularity (based on number of new registrations) by 59%.
    For over a decade though Collies have held steady hovering between 36-38 (ranked out of 167 breeds registered with the AKC in 2010.)

    The Sporting Group in general in the U.S. has been the most popular Group since the 1940s. This Group includes Retrievers, Pointers, Spaniels, Setters, Hounds. The Lab has been the number one breed in the country for over 20 years.

    The Sporting Group is slightly on the decline, while the Toy Group has been slowly growing in popularity for the last three decades. I think this is due both to lifestyle changes in the U.S. and celebrity.

    When a breed becomes common, they become more common contributers to the mix-breed dogs. If one checks Petfinder - which lists dogs available for adoption - Labs and Lab mixes are the most commonly avaialble breed, over ten thousand dogs ahead of the nearest competition - Pit Bull mixes. Chihuahuas are a few thousand behind Pits.

    Unfortunatly, popularity is never a good thing for a breed. Popularity attracts people interested in cashing in on the breed flavor of the moment. While it easy to find a Lab or Lab mix, finding a Lab that has been well bred, whose parents have been through the appropriate medical testing and who are being bred for a reason other than $ - that's a lot harder.

    I would argue it is a good thing for the Collie that they are less common than they used to be - this makes it a little easier to find people breeding Collies because they love and care about the breed, rather than wanting to make quick $ from them. There are still Collies out there needing rehoming - purebreds and mixes. Adoption - an awesome option!

  3. Hi: Thanks - that makes sense that media coverage is a major factor. I think, probably unfortunately, that Jack Russells got very popular with Frasier. Few people realized that they require a lot of patience and training. At the Marquette dog show last weekend there were so many toys/small breeds and it seemed like there were not nearly as many larger breeds. Some of this had to be when I was there, but I don't think that was all of it, Kathy

  4. That's it exactly Kathy - people see a cute dog and they don't stop to think how carefully trained that dog is, or how much effort that trainiing took etc.

    Other examples of breeds that have been 'hurt' by popularity:

    101 Dalmations - Dalmation popularity temporarily explodes every time this movie is released

    Big Red - Irish Setters

    Beethoven and follow ups - Saint Bernards

    Marley and Me - Yellow Labs

    Marmaduke - Great Danes

    Beverly Hills Chihuahua - 3rd most common breed in shelters now are Chihuahuas

    And then there was Call of The Wild, which had people from Florida to California buying sled dogs.

  5. Collies - my favorite! I have a Bearded Collie now. Was very close to an English Shepherd type dog when growing up. They are also known as Farm Collies. Not very common, but often used on small farms to watch over animals and do herding. They are also superb with children.

  6. Cate, thanks so much for taking time to comment. I think more people need to hear about how wonderful the Bearded Collie is - and the English Shepherd is another underappreciated, not well known breed. If you have time please tell us a little more about what you like about each of these breeds.

    You might also want to comment on the post
    from January 23, 2012 http://savedbydogs.com/2012/01/kinds-of-collies-big-or-little.html which is about the Kinds of Collies...if you could would like to share a little about the wonderful qualities of your Beardie.

    I confess, I left the English Shepherd out of that post because I didn't want to confuse people with Shepherds/Collies - but I think that is a topic I should talk about in the future and I sure hope you share some of your experience with the dog you grew up with!

    Thanks again for stopping by!

  7. Cate, thanks so much for inspiring a blog about the shepherding Collies - Feb. 5, 2012, "Shepherding Collies, a Collie by Another Name."

  8. My rough collie, Maggie, is a sable and white large female. She was my son's constant companion when he was little and now that he is 14 and she is 10 she has become my granddaughter's best buddy. When my granddaughter naps she sits guard by her bed and even keeps the active 20 mo. old from trying to climb on furniture. One day my son left the front door open and my granddaughter "took off" for the door. Maggie shot in front of her and alerted me with her more serious bark. With this wonderful dog I feel that I have a set of eyes in the back of my head at all times. She's devoted and loving - I would highly recommend this breed to anyone with children.

    1. Maggie sounds wonderful! If you'd like to share a picture I'd love to see her - cmoslund@gmail.com

      I think Collies are great dogs for families - of course, my first dog was a farm collie and I'm sure that didn't affect my opinion at all :-)

  9. I have two rough collies that are certified therapy dogs. We work with children who have reading issues. They are wonderful. Very calm, quiet and let the children lay all over them. One is a rescue that is less than 6 months after adoption has his CGC and certification as a therapy dog. Could not imagine any other breed. Have had collies over 20 years.

    1. What a great job for Collies - they are well suited to it!