Kinds of Collies: Big or Little, Something for Most Everyone

Collies come in at least three sizes and even more varieties, with each variety having unique personality traits that make it different from the other types of collies. I suspect that there is a type of Collie out there for most dog lovers.

The largest of the Collies are the Smooth Collie and the Rough Collie.

What is interesting to me is that while both varieties can occur in the same litter, some trainers actually claim that the Smooth is calmer and more trainable. Truth or fiction?

I tend to put this claim in the same column as the claims that some Labradors have different traits based on their colors. While some people will swear this is true, my experience is that when a litter of puppies share the exact same parents you will find the same variation of personality traits possible in any of the colors.

There are individual variations that you will find in any sibling group; with enough exposure to enough members of the breed one can eventually observe the same traits can be found in all the color/coat varieties. Some individuals are more trainable, more attentive, quieter, etc.

The big Collies are what I would call of average trainability; as I’ve said before they remind me of C students. They have a good work ethic, they may take a little longer to learn but once they learn they have a high degree of reliability with what they’ve learned. For example, my Jenny took over  year to predictably come when called (she was adopted as an adult and hadn’t been treated well.) Now however, she has a very reliable recall and will usually listen even when something really interesting is happening, like another dog is approaching.

If you want a highly trainable, medium sized dog, the Collie family offers two rather different choices.
Arguably one of the most trainable of all dogs is the Border Collie.

The Border Collie is a high energy, high drive dog. Smart, easily bored. They are happiest when they have some kind of job to do.

Although the black and white variety are the best known, Border Collies do come in other colors, including red and white and merle. These are great dogs for competitive sports and obdience

They love to work, they learn quickly, and they seem to have an almost limitless ability to pick up new tasks.

There is another type of Collie thoguh that is of smaller build, very trainable, with a much more relaxed personality.

The Bearded Collie looks a little like a small version of an Old English Sheepdog.

The Beardie is more relaxed and easier going than the Border Collie. Not as quick as the Border but quicker than the Rough Collie, the Beardie can learn pretty much anything you want to train them for. They’re popular as visitation and therapy dogs,and do well with family members of all sizes and ages.

Unlike the Border Collie which can be nippy at the heels of running small children (under the impression that they need tending like sheep) the Berdie can play with children without being too mouthy.

While it is more common to find Border Collies who are still working sheep, it is less common to find still working Beardies – however – they do excell at the work; they just have a different style of herding than the Border Collie.

One of the sweetest dogs I ever lived with was a Beardie mix whom I called Ewok. He was a gentle, sweet natured boy who never barked – he’d make a little yowling sound on rare occasions but most of the time he just quietly observed. He got along with everyone. I always suspected because of type of double coat that he had, and his yowl, that Ewok had just a little Malamute in him. He looked a lot like the Beardie pictured below, just a little darker, a little hairier – as hard as that might be to imagine.


The smallest of the Collie family is the Shetland Sheepdog. I’ve heard the Sheltie called the little Lassie, and the miniature Collie.

Technically the Sheltie did not descend from the Collie, rather both the Rough Collie and Sheltie share a common ancestor in an earlier Scottish Collie. 

Despite their similarity in appearance to their larger cousins, the Sheltie is usually a slightly more high strung dog — possibly because they’ve been bred away from their herding origin in the States in favor of bench shows. Most Collies will settle down a bit if they have a job to do.

Although they may be sensitive natured dogs, in ever other way the Sheltie is a hardy little dog. They make excellent watch dogs, are tidy house pets, get along with children and are fairly trainable. They’re also very handsome wee dogs.

Shelties are becoming more popular as therapy dogs, visitation dogs, and agility/obdience dogs. In these roles all their best qualities are called on and they prove just what a well rounded breed they are when trained properly and given a purpose.

If you fancy Collies but want a smaller package, the Shetland Sheepdog is certainly worth considering.

So there you have it, a range of Collies in a range of trainability levels and a spectrum of colors and sizes. Having lived with at least one member of each of these varieties, I can tell you that while there are some individual differences there are a few things they have in common: Loyalty, lovable, pleasing personalities, and lots of good looks, with a willingness to get along with a family and try their best to meet expectations. What dog lover doesn’t appreciate those traits?

Ruby – Collie mix

P.S. 01-06-12

Since Cate was good enough to send us information about a Beardie breeder who is working to keep the breed true to its origin as a working dog I had to check out the site; I found a wonderful picture that I am sharing here…

These are Brambledale Bearded Collies – and what a lovely group they are too!

Thanks Cate for bringing this kennel to my attention.

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