When anyone describes a Bearded Collie, the adjective most often used is enthusiastic! That word, along with hardy, exuberant, active, energetic, bright, reliable, and trustworthy should give you the beginnings of a picture of this well-loved breed. The Bearded Collie, known affectionately as the Beardie, is the ultimate shaggy dog. The name Bearded Collie comes from the hair that hangs down from the chin and forms a beard.
The Beardie’s enthusiasm is displayed in his bouncy nature. It’s said that Beardies working in thick undergrowth in Scotland would bounce up to see where the sheep were and that when confronted by stubborn sheep they bark and bounce in front of it to get it to move. Whatever the case, Bearded Collies bounce along through life with a constantly wagging tail and an upbeat, clownish attitude.
Nonetheless, they’re not the breed for everyone. Beardies are highly intelligent, active and resourceful. It takes a smart and energetic person to keep up with them. People who live with Beardies must enjoy brushing long hair and be willing to deal with a beard of hair that drips water after every drink and hairy feet that track in mud and debris after every venture outdoors. Bearded Collies are sociable and will demand to be included in all family activities, indoors or out. A bored Beardie will put his considerable intelligence and energy into causing trouble.
Bearded Collies are excellent with children; their high energy level makes them active playmates who will spend hours running and playing. They are rambunctious, however, and young children should always be supervised when interacting with any breed of dog to prevent injury to both.
Beardies are outgoing, affectionate dogs, but they can have a stubborn and independent streak from a heritage that required them to make their own decisions while herding sheep. Obedience training is a must if you are going to establish order and discipline in your dog’s life. Make learning fun, and teach them with positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, play, and praise. Bearded Collies do not learn under abusive or harsh conditions. Begin training early and you will obtain excellent results.
Because of their herding heritage, Beardies are alert and make good watchdogs, barking to let you know that someone has arrived. They’ll also bark to tell you that they’re happy or excited or that they’re bored or alone and would like some attention. Teach them to control their barking when they’re young, or you’ll have a nuisance barker on your hands.
Beardies will include other animals in their family “flock” if introduced to them properly, preferably when young. Being herding dogs, they’re always open for a game of chase the cat if the cat wants to play, and sometimes even when it doesn’t! They are not dog-aggressive and will play happily with other dogs from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.
If you’re looking to add a little Beardie bounce into your life and you believe after meeting some Beardies and breeders that this is the breed for you, then you can look forward to having an active, lively companion for 12 to 14 years. A Bearded Collie is always ready for whatever is up next, whether that is competing in the show ring or in obedience or agility trials, herding sheep as an occupation or for herding trials, chasing Frisbees in the backyard, playing with the kids, or hanging with the family. A Bearded Collie is ready to do it all.
- Beardies don’t like to be confined and may become nuisance barkers if frequently left alone.
- Beardies require about an hour of exercise daily in a fenced area where they can run.
- Beardies can be headstrong, so obedience training is a must. Start early!
- Bearded Collies will bark to let you know people are approaching, but they are not guard dogs of any kind.
- A bored Beardie is an excellent escape artist!
- The Bearded Collie coat requires weekly brushing, more during their annual shedding season.
- Some Beardies can react to monthly heartworm preventive. Discuss this with your veterinarian to decide whether a daily preventive is a better choice.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Bearded Collie is one of the oldest breeds in Britain. Sometimes called the Highland Collie, the Mountain Collie, or the Hairy Mou’ed Collie, shaggy herding dogs of this type existed for centuries as helpmeets to farmers. Farmers bred for working ability and didn’t keep records, so how the Beardie came to be is unknown, but it’s believed that a Polish merchant visiting Scotland in the 1500s traded a pair of Polish Lowland Sheepdogs for other commodities. Those dogs were probably crossed with local sheepdogs to develop what became the Bearded Collie.
The earliest visual portrayals of Bearded Collie-type dogs are in a portrait painted by Gainsborough in 1771, and in a Reynolds portrait from 1772. A description of the breed was published in 1818 in an edition of Live Stock Journal. Bearded Collies were popular working and show dogs at the end of the Victorian era, but they had no breed club and no official standard (a written description of how the breed should look and act). The breed was kept alive by shepherds who valued their working abilities and continued to use them as working sheepdogs.
The development of the modern Bearded Collie is credited to G.O. Willison, who began breeding Beardies for the show ring after World War II. She was instrumental in forming the Bearded Collie Club in Britain in 1955. In 1959 the Kennel Club granted rights to show for Challenge Certificates and Championships. The breed gained in popularity after that.
Bearded Collies first came to the United States in the late 1950s, but none of those dogs were bred. The first litter was born in the U.S. in 1967. By 1969 the Beardie had enough people interested in him that they were able to form the Bearded Collie Club of America. The breed was admitted into the American Kennel Club’s Working Group on February 1, 1977. It moved to the Herding Group when that group was established in January 1983. Today the Bearded Collie ranks 104th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC.
A Bearded Collie male stands 21 to 22 inches at the shoulder; females 20 to 21 inches at the shoulder. Weight ranges from 45 to 55 pounds.
A Beardie is smart, resourceful, and confident. His bouncy, bubbly personality makes him fun to be with, but when it comes to training he can be an independent thinker who likes to have his own way. He’s a boisterous playmate for children and has a sense of humor that makes him a joy to be around.
When choosing a Beardie puppy, remember that temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner.
Temperament varies in individual dogs. Some Beardies are sweet and quiet, while others are loud and enthusiastic. Tell the breeder what you’re looking for in a dog, and she can help you choose the puppy that will fit your personality and lifestyle.
Always meet at least one of the parents (usually the mother is the one who’s available) to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Bearded Collies are generally healthy, but like all breeds of dogs, they’re prone to certain diseases and conditions. Not all Beardies will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re buying or living with a Beardie.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. Allergies to certain foods are identified and treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet until the culprit is discovered. Contact allergies are caused by a reaction to something that touches the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals. They are treated by identifying and removing the cause of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The appropriate medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog’s fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog’s life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
- Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM): Persistent Pupillary Membranes are strands of tissue in the eye, remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the lenses of the eyes before birth. They normally disappear by the time a puppy is 4 or 5 weeks old, but sometimes they persist. The strands can stretch from iris to iris, iris to lens, or cornea to iris, and sometimes they are found in the anterior (front) chamber of the eye. For many dogs, the strands do not cause any problems and generally they break down by 8 weeks of age. If the strands do not break down, they can lead to cataracts or cause corneal opacities. Eye drops prescribed by your veterinarian can help break them down.
The Beardie is an indoor/outdoor dog. He needs to live inside with his people with access to a yard or fenced acreage where he can run. He’s not suited to apartment life. Beardies enjoy being with their people, whether they’re indoors or outdoors. They’ll be satisfied with a couple of half-hour walks or play sessions with a ball daily.
Obedience training is a must if you are going to establish order and discipline in your dog’s life. Make learning fun, and teach them with positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, play, and praise. Bearded Collies do not learn under abusive or harsh conditions. Begin training early and you will obtain excellent results. To ensure that he doesn’t accidentally knock over a toddler or older person, teach him to sit for attention.
Recommended daily amount: 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality dog food a day, divided into two meals. Puppies eat 3 to 4 cups daily.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.Keep your Beardie in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Beardie, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
To protect him from Scottish weather extremes, the Beardie has a flat, harsh, strong and shaggy outer coat and a soft, furry undercoat. The coat falls naturally to either side without need of a part. Long hair on the cheeks, lower lips, and under the chin forms the beard for which he is known.
All Bearded Collies are born black, blue, brown, or fawn, with or without white markings. Some carry a fading gene, and as they mature, the coat lightens, darkening again slightly after one year of age. A puppy born black may become any shade of gray from black to slate to silver. The dogs that are born brown will lighten from chocolate to sandy, and the blues and fawns show shades from dark to light. Dogs without the fading gene stay the color they were when they were born. The white only occurs as a blaze on the face, on the head, on the tip of the tail, on the chest, legs, feet, and around the neck. Tan markings occasionally appear on the eyebrows, inside the ears, on the cheeks, under the root of the tail and on the legs where the white joins the main color.
The Beardie’s long double coat requires weekly brushing with a bristle or pin brush to remove tangles and mats and reduce shedding. Mist the coat with a conditioning spray before brushing to reduce static and keep the hairs from breaking. If you run across any mats or tangles, spray them with some anti-tangle spray and work them out with your fingers until you can run a comb through the hair smoothly. Completely brushing the coat takes half an hour to an hour each week. Bathing can be done as needed.
As your Beardie puppy matures from 9 to 18 months of age, his soft puppy coat will start to come out. Brush him two or three times a week to help remove it and prevent mats. Once his adult coat has come in, brushing him weekly will be plenty.
Beardies shed heavily once a year for two to four weeks, and you’ll probably want to brush more frequently during this time to keep the level of loose hair under control.
Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Beardie’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Nails should be trimmed regularly to keep them short. Your Beardie’s nails may need to be trimmed weekly or only monthly; each dog is different. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the dog’s feet in good condition and keep your legs from getting scratched when your bouncy Beardie enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.
Begin accustoming your Beardie to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
Full of bounce, humor, and energy, Beardies are excellent playmates for kids. Of course, it’s important to teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Beardies get along well with other dogs and cats if they’re introduced to them early, although they can be possessive of their toys. “Mine, all mine” is their motto. They always enjoy a game of chase, so they do best with cats that stand their ground rather than turn tail and run.
Beardies are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Other Beardies end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. Contact the rescue organization for more information about available dogs and adoption requirements.