As much as I think the Scotch Collie is just about the most perfect dog that God ever made, the truth is that they’re not for everyone. In fact, for some people, the Scotch Collie may very well be the worst dog ever. Let’s unpack this nightmare.
1) All. That. Hair. Let’s be real: Collies got some hair – even the Scotch with his practical coat. If you have any sort of aversion to hair on your clothes, on your food, in your mouth, or on the everything, this is not the breed for you. Save yourself. Turn back now. This Means You! Even though their main shed is in the fall and spring, they do shed some every day. Hair grows, hair dies, hair falls out, hair becomes a condiment. Or decor. Or a sweater if you’re handy with a spinning wheel (for reals). But, dear Lassie fans, if you’re contemplating this dog, even for a second, wrap your head around the hair, because if you do get a Scotch Collie, their hair will be wrapped around you.
might be will. be. barking. And probably more than you bargained for. If you have any sort of sensory issues with your ears, or hypersensitivity to repetitive sound, or don’t like your head ringing from your inner ear all the way into your cerebral cortex, this may not be the breed for you. The Collie’s voice is one of his primary tools in his toolbox that he uses to move stock and alert to threats. When they’re guarding, they see everything, and they scold it with vigor until it’s gone. Which may be sooner. Or later. Or, according to my mom, never…
3) Teacup Collies. Yeah, ain’t no such thing. Collies are big dogs because they had to be. Their size was needed for the demanding task of moving less-than-compliant large stock, for covering large distances efficiently, and for sturdiness in the field. The Collie is the Fabio of the dog world – pretty to look at, but a brick wall underneath. He’s a powerful dog that’s bred to move sheep all day long, a task that requires a ton of energy, which comes from a lot of oxygen, which comes from big lungs, which don’t fit inside little dogs. Scotch Collies live in all sorts of settings, including apartments, but if you live in a small home, seriously consider if their size would fit with your space, or if you are willing to make accomodations to make it easier on everyone.
4) “LASSIEEE!” If you’re not comfortable with meeting strangers, the Scotch Collie may not be the dog for you. Because everywhere you go together, you will get a ton of attention. You’ll be minding your own business and then all of the sudden hear the gasp, followed by “LASSIE!!!” And then you’ll immediately be surrounded by your dog’s brand new best friends with a barrage of questions:
Is that a Collie?
Where did you get him?
Can I pet him?
Does he shed?
Do you have to brush him every day?
Of course, you could always try to pre-empt the barrage by wearing a t-shirt that displays a handy answer key to the Top 5 questions that everybody wants to know about Collies. Protip: font must be large enough to see from a distance. ; )
Collies, especially Old-Time Scotch Collies attract a lot of attention and will set you smack in the middle of the limelight. If the thought of that causes you to break out in a sweat just thinking about it, this is absolutely your worst dog ever.
5) “Let’s go, sheep! No, wait – kids! Let’s go, kids!” Collies are known for their gentle herding of children, and it’s what drives people maybe the most crazy. They have been bred for this task for hundreds of years; it’s literally in their bones, and it brings them great joy. It’s doubtful that you will ever change his mind about herding kids and cats, and the best you can do is to train him to obey your direction not to. But you will probably not convince him to daydream of moving your children from the front yard into the back, away from the road.
6) Health & Genetics. Scotch Collies are generally pretty healthy dogs, but they’re not magical, and they don’t come with a special force field. We have to be aware of various health issues that can either crop up or rise out of genetic predisposition. Detox issues (lethal in some cases), blindness, fatal conditions, progressive paralysis, and more. It can be a swamp trying to stay ahead of it as a breeder, expensive and emotional for owners, and painful for the dogs. MDR1 requires a certain level of understanding and lifelong vigilance to keep dogs healthy and safe. If you’re not up for that, herding and wind breeds may not be a great choice. Many OTSC breeders are actively breeding up and away from this insidious mutation, but these things take time, and as breeders, we have to be very careful with every single step that we take in our programs. Oftentimes, when we work to breed something out, other things can show up; our task is to breed up and away from disease, while not bringing in other problems in the trade-off.
7) Patience is still a virtue. And for anyone seeking a Scotch Collie, yours will be stretched to new limits, which can be especially challenging in a world where we have access to anything and everything rightnow. OTSC are not at all common, so getting one into your life will take work and a lot of patience. More than you could possibly imagine. You have to be willing to put in the work to understand your need for the dog, and what you want in a breeder. Even two breeders who are like minded in everything will have subtle and important differences in their programs. Contract or no? Health testing or not? Shipping or pick up only? There are so many things to consider! And then when you find the breeder you want to work with, you’ll probably have some form of an interview or be put on a waiting list. Scotch Collie fan club is growing by leaps and bounds, but even so, they are still quite rare, so anyone seeking to own this fine dog will need to learn how to exercise utmost patience. You’ll be lucky to find a dog in your time zone, let alone the same month you start looking. If you’re looking for a one-click timeline, this is most definitely the wrong breed for you. Patience is a discipline, and it will pay off for you if you stick to your goals, but if you want it now, good luck to you!
8) They’re smarter than we are. Some people bristle at that idea, but for over a hundred years, plenty of highly intelligent people have learned to trust their dogs. Their brilliance is a rarity that seeps over into intuition and wisdom, and too bad for the one who ignores his Scotch Collie. That level of intelligence can also bring some challenges. Some people may feel like they always have to be one step ahead of their dog, or that they have to fill up his day with jobs to do. Neither one is true. The OTSC is a very smart animal, and when paired with his desire to partner with his people and his biddability, he’s a fine dog to live with. But if you tend to be more Type A and are seeking the traditional dog/master relationship vs. a partnership with your dog, this breed may well drive you nuts. You aren’t going to change him; please don’t try.
If you’re reading through this article and find yourself thinking, “But this is exactly what I’m looking for,” it might be worth exploring. To learn more, please see our Breed Information page or visit the Old-Time Scotch Collie Association website. You can also download our free Puppy Search Tool to help guide your search. It’s available in both black and white or, if you’re like me and you want more pretty things in your life, it’s also available in color.
8・Patience. line, and