Bearded Collie: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A close-up of a Bearded Collie

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Affectionately referred to as "Beardies," Bearded Collies are highly energetic, intelligent working dogs that were originally bred to herd sheep in Scotland. Today, they make excellent family or show dogs—as long as the family or trainer can keep up with their Bearded Collie's high energy levels and exercise needs.

Bearded Collies are fairly slow to mature and often won't reach their adult size until they're two to three years old—but don't let their smaller stature fool you. They're athletic, muscular dogs that require extensive exercise, like many breeds of working dogs. Although a Bearded Collie may be comfortable in an apartment, they're better suited for a single-family home with a large yard to run around. Additionally, families with busy schedules or those who are away from the house often might not be best for a Bearded Collie—they need a lot of attention to thrive.

Recognized by their long, thick, shaggy coats that form a beard at the muzzle, Bearded Collies can come in a variety of colors. You may see older Bearded Collies with white markings, but the breed is never born with them. Rather, white markings develop overtime, due to a gene that causes Bearded Collies' coats to fade. Because they have long, thick, shaggy coats, routine grooming and maintenance is a must.

Although they were originally bred as working dogs in cold, harsh climates, Bearded Collies' exercise and grooming needs make them fairly high maintenance—especially for first-time dog owners. The breed, however, is extremely intelligent, loving, and loyal, and is known for its kid- and pet-friendliness, making them a great choice for families.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding Group (AKC)

Size: Medium-sized, measuring 21 to 22 inches from the shoulder (male) or 20 to 21 inches from the shoulder (female) and weighing between 45 and 55 pounds.

Coat and colors: Straight, coarse, and shaggy coat that comes in black, blue, brown, or fawn. Many Bearded Collies carry a gene that causes their coat color to as they age, resulting in faded coat colors or the development of white or silver markings.

Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Bearded Collie

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Moderate to High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Moderate
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Bearded Collie

Although the Bearded Collie is one of the oldest dog breeds in Europe, their name as changed over time; they've also been known as the Highland Collie or the Mountain Collie. Because farmers have bred herding dogs for centuries, the exact origin of the Bearded Collie is unknown, but it's believed they first originated in Scotland during the 1500s. Shaggy, long-haired working dogs were depicted in two pieces of artwork from the 1770s, which are considered the first visual depictions of the Bearded Collie.

Today's Bearded Collies were developed by G.O. Willison, who began breeding them for dog shows after World War II. She's also credited in helping develop the Bearded Collie Club in Britain, which propelled the breed to popularity around Europe.

Bearded Collies arrived in the United States sometime during the late 1950s, but the first litter of puppies wasn't born until 1967. In 1969, the Bearded Collie Club of America was formed, and the breed was accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1977.

Bearded Collie Care

Because Bearded Collies have long, thick, shaggy coats with a softer undercoat, they require weekly brushing with a bristle or pin brush. Routine maintenance will help prevent tangles and mats, and will keep your Beardie's coat shiny and healthy. If you discover a tangle or mat, first, spray it with a detangling spray and use your fingers to detangle. Once the tangle or mat has been mostly untangled, use a brush to smooth the hair. Trying to remove a tangle with a brush can worsen it, or harm your dog's coat and skin. You can expect to spend 30 minutes to an hour brushing your Bearded Collie each week.

Bearded Collies shed heavily for two to four weeks every year, so you'll probably want to increase the frequency of grooming during this time.

Examine your Bearded Collie's ears once a week to avoid infection or other issues. If you find dirt or debris in your dog's ears, gently remove it with an ear cleaning solution and a clean cotton pad. Avoid cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate, inner-ear structures. If your Beardie's ears are excessively dirty, red, inflamed, or smell funny, contact your vet immediately.

As previously mentioned, Bearded Collies are extremely intelligent, high energy dogs, making ongoing obedience training a must. Bearded Collies can have minds of their own—and can be extremely stubborn—but starting obedience training during puppyhood can help. Because Bearded Collies are extremely intelligent, it's important to keep training interesting. Try incorporating food rewards or playtime to keep your Beardie engaged.

Beardies' high energy levels make them ideal for active households with large, outdoor spaces for running or playing fetch. Bearded Collies are excellent with children—and can make perfect playmates for high-energy kids—but it's important to teach young kids how to approach and handle a dog. Like any breed, kids shouldn't be left unsupervised with a dog.

Common Health Problems

Bearded Collies are generally healthy dogs, but may be susceptible to certain health conditions. There's no guarantee your Beardie will—or won't—develop the below health issues, but it's important to be aware of them should symptoms arise.

Some health conditions that can affect Bearded Collies include:

  • Hip dysplasia: This inheritable condition is characterized by joint weakness, stiffness, and pain. Although it's largely hereditary, hip dysplasia can also be caused by rapid growth or injury.
  • Hypothyroidism: Obesity, lethargy, and irregular heat cycles may signal hypothyroidism, a condition that affects the thyroid gland and its hormone production. It is possible to treat hypothyroidism with daily medications.
  • Allergies: Many dogs experience allergies to certain foods, products, like dog shampoo or flea treatments, or environmental allergens, like dust or pollen. If your dog experience symptoms like itchy eyes or mouth, coughing, sneezing, or excessive drooling, your veterinarian can test for allergies.

Diet and Nutrition

Your dog's diet depends largely on his or her age, activity levels, and metabolism, but generally, you can expect to feed your Bearded Collie one and a half to two cups of high-quality, high-protein dog food each day.

Like all dog breeds, Bearded Collies can become obese if they're overfed and under exercised. If you're not sure how much to feed your Bearded Collie, talk to your veterinarian about the diet that's right for your dog. And remember: Take it easy on the treats.

Pros

  • Highly intelligent, loyal and loving

  • Kid- and pet-friendly

  • Low shedding, except for two weeks once per year

Cons

  • High energy with high exercise requirements

  • Not suitable for apartment living

  • Requires frequent grooming

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bearded Collie

If you want to adopt a Bearded Collie, check your local animal shelter or look for a Bearded Collie rescue organization in your state. If a Bearded Collie isn't available, they may be able to recommend another shelter or rescue organization with dogs available for adoption.

If you choose to buy a Bearded Collie from a breeder, be sure to do your research. Ask your breeder lots of questions like "Where are the dogs kept?" and "How many litters do you produce at a time?" to ensure they're a reputable, ethical breeder. If possible, visit the breeder's home or breeding facility and ask to meet the parents of your Bearded Collie's litter.

A dirty facility, unhealthy dogs, or highly discounted puppies are major red flags for a backyard breeder. Be diligent and ask your breeder lots of questions to ensure they're raising dogs ethically.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Bearded Collies are extremely intelligent, loyal, and loving dogs that are ideal for active families with large yards. Because they have high grooming and exercise needs, Beardies may not be right for first-time dog owners or families with very busy schedules. As always, be sure to do your research before adding any new pet to your household.

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