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How To Breed Rough Collies

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Monday 5 April 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
how to breed rough collies
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As a Rough Collie lover, you might be wondering how to breed Rough Collies. Rough Collies are prized for their intelligence, ease of training, and the stunning outer coat that gives them their name. Above all, Collies display devotion to their families and are known for their love of children.

Breeding Rough Collies is no easy task. While rewarding in the end, breeding dogs involves lots of research, preparation, and dedication. Ready to learn more about working with this unique dog breed? Read on with us to find out more.

Things to Know Before Breeding Rough Collies

Wondering how to breed Rough Collies? Before beginning your breeding project, you must fully understand the breed’s history, the breed standard, and the ideal temperament of the breed. It is also essential to have a good understanding of the breed’s health issues so that they can be avoided. Without all of this knowledge, you cannot responsibly breed the ideal Rough Collie.

Origin and History

The Rough Collie was bred for herding sheep in Scotland and Wales, where the Romans may have originally brought it. While the original Scottish variety was larger, stronger, and more aggressive for herding highland sheep, the Welsh variety was smaller, more nimble, and also herded goats. Apart from this, the breed’s development history is largely unknown.

Over time, a distinctive sheepherding dog that was recognizable as the Collie emerged. The name “Collie” may have developed due to the name of a stain of black-faced sheep known as “Colleys.” These Collie dogs gained popularity in England after being shown at an English dog show as “Scotch Sheep-Dogs” in 1860. Collies became recognized by the AKC in 1885, just one year after the club was formed, making the breed one of the first in the AKC.

Today, the Rough Collie is no longer used for sheep herding as often as it once was. Instead, Rough Collies are bred for companionship and dog shows, and their herding instinct is not specifically selected for by most breeders. Some herding lines do exist today, however. Today’s herding Collies must be sound in body and mind with greater courage than the average pet Rough Collie. They also require early training. Some modern Collies even excel in search and rescue work.


Collies are popular dogs. In 2018, the Collie was 38th in the AKC’S Most Popular Dog Breeds List. It ranked 40th in 2017, 37th in 2016, 36th in 2015, and 36th in 2014. This places the Collie in a similar position to the Basset Hound, the Maltese, and the Weimaraner. Despite ranking below plenty of more popular dog breeds, the Collie is no stranger to the spotlight. Many Rough Collies have found roles on TV, especially the iconic Lassie line of Collies. Other notable Rough Collies include Ch. Laund Loyalty of Bellhaven, the youngest dog to ever win the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and Reveille, the mascot of Texas A&M University.


The Rough Collie is a lithe, active dog that stands naturally straight and firm. Its deep and moderately wide chest gives an impression of strength and grace. No part of the Collie is out of proportion. Timidity, viciousness, and lack of balance impair the Collie’s character. When breeding Rough Collies, you must have a keen awareness of this standard and aim to replicate it.

rough collie appearance
The Rough Collie appearance gives an impression of strength and grace.


A Rough Collie’s size and weight varies between breed standards. According to the AKC breed standard, male Rough Collies stand at 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder. Females, on the other hand, stand at 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder. The male Rough Collie weighs 60 to 75 lbs, while females weigh 50 to 65 lbs. The UK breed standard calls for the Rough Collie to be smaller than their US counterparts.


The Collie’s head is light and gives an impression of alertness. It should also bear a general resemblance to a lean wedge, smooth in outline and in proportion. From the side, the head tapers gradually and smoothly without being flared or snipy. The end of the muzzle is blunt but not square, with a strong underjaw and a scissors bite. The eyebrows are slightly prominent. The Collie’s eyes are almond-shaped, medium in size, and dark in color. The eyes are clear and bright, expressing intelligence. In color, the eyes may be either dark brown or blue depending on if the dog is merle or not.


A Rough Collie’s body is firm and muscular and held in good proportion. The ribs are well-rounded, the shoulders slope, and the chest is moderately deep. The back is level, supported by powerful hips. Similarly, the forelegs are muscular and straight. The hind limbs are less fleshy but more muscular at the thighs, with well-bent hocks and stifle. A Collie’s feet are oval-like in shape with tough pads. If all of these requirements are met, the Collie’s gait is sound. A Collie should not move with a choppy or rolling gait.


The Rough Collie’s well-fitting coat is its crowning glory. The long hair is abundant except for on the head and legs. As its name suggests, the Rough Collie’s outer coat is harsh to the touch. A soft, open outer coat is not acceptable. The undercoat, however, may be sort and furry. Some feathering is common on the forelimbs. Next, there are four recognized coat colors. These are “Sable and White”, “Blue Merle“, “Tri-color”, and “White.” There is no preference for any of these.


Rough Collies are very loyal, eager to learn, and bond well with their families. They are very rarely aggressive and are excellent with children. Because they lack aggression, Rough Collies usually do not go beyond barking and providing visual deterrents when defending their family. Like other herding dogs, Rough Collies can be vocal, but some are more easily trained not to bark. It is not common for Rough Collies to be nervous, but they still require early socialization to prevent shyness. As gentle dogs, Rough Collies respond best to a gentle trainer rather than an assertive one. Overall, this breed is prized for its loyalty, trainability, and gentle nature.

Rough Collie vs Smooth Collie

The main difference between the Rough Collie and the Smooth Collie is their coat length. While the Rough Collie has a long, harsh outer coat that hides the undercoat, the Smooth Collie has a short outer coat with guard hairs measuring one to two inches long. Anecdotally, owners of both Collie varieties state that Rough Collies are more mellow than their Smooth counterparts. Smooth Collies tend to be more athletic and energetic, and may even retain more of their working instincts than Rough Collies. However, each dog is an individual, and it is entirely possible to get a mellow Smooth Collie and an energetic Rough Collie.

Health Concerns When Breeding Rough Collies

While Rough Collies are generally healthy dogs, some health conditions do occur in the breed from time to time. These include Collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, and canine cyclic neutropenia. For more information and to support the Collie’s health, consider joining the Collie Health Foundation. This foundation awards grants to research in Gray Collie Syndrome and a variety of eye diseases that affect the breed.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a congenital eye disease of some specific dog breeds with no treatment. CEA frequency is highest in Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs and lowest in Border Collies and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. According to the OFA, 11.2% of Collies have CEA, while 34.7% are carriers. It is caused by improper development of the eyes, the extent of which varies from dog to dog. The most common sign of CEA is an undeveloped choroid, which appears as a pale spot in the eye, and a coloboma, or hole, in the optic disc. In more severe cases, CEA leads to retinal detachment and hemorrhage of the eye. Blindness can occur as a result.

Unfortunately, CEA is not reversible and treatment focuses on minimizing its effects. Surgery may help to prevent or attach a detached retina. Because this disease is genetic, it is helpful to carry out genetic testing for the disease before breeding two Collies.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a congenital disease that causes gradual blindness in dogs. The symptoms of PRA include a cloudy eye, cataracts, a greenish tinge to the eye under light, bumping into furniture, and reluctance to go out in the dark. A diagnosis of PRA is made by looking at the back of your dog’s eye using an ophthalmoscope to look for signs of degeneration. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA, and the end result is total blindness within a span of 1 or 2 years. Dogs with PRA should not breed as the disease can be passed on to offspring. You may consider genetic testing to identify if your Collies carry PRA.

progressive retinal atrophy-in-collies
There is no cure for PRA.

Canine Cyclic Neutropenia

Cyclic Neutropenia (CN), also known as Gray Collie Syndrome, is a fatal stem cell disorder. Puppies with this disorder appear visibly lighter than their littermates. This disease affects the neutrophils of the puppy, and every 10-12 days, the puppy loses more neutrophils. The puppy experiences fever, joint pains, diarrhea, and bleeding episodes. Even with veterinary care, most dogs with CN pass away before they are 3 years old. Because this disease is a recessive mutation, it’s important to genetically test your Collies for CN before breeding them. According to the OFA, 4.5 – 16.4% of Collies carry the gene for CN or Gray Collie Syndrome.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is the malformation of the hip joint. It is well known that HD has both a genetic and environmental component to it, but its mode of inheritance is still not completely understood. Symptoms of HD include stiffness, exercise intolerance, difficulty rising, and an abnormal gait. Some dogs will protect their hip region during bathing or grooming due to the pain and discomfort. HD is common in several dog breeds, but there is good news for the Rough Collie – the incidence of HD in this breed is 2.8% according to the OFA, which is relatively low.

How To Breed Rough Collies

Breeding Rough Collies is a full-time endeavor that requires a lot of breed knowledge, connections to others in the breed circle, and responsibility on your part. You must also take measures to choose a suitable stud and dam so that the breed retains its integrity and to prevent congenital health problems.

Choosing Suitable Parents

Ensuring that you breed from healthy dogs with good temperaments is a vital part of your breeding program. First, ensure that your prospective stud and dam are both clear of diseases that occur in the breed. These include Collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, and canine cyclic neutropenia, all of which can be genetically tested for. Your stud and dam should also register with their respective kennel clubs, for example, the AKC or the KC. You may also consider Collies from breeders who register their dogs with the Collie Club of America, as their code of ethics helps to regulate breeders. Finally, make sure that the temperament of the dam and stud are both sound. If possible, you should meet the dam and the stud to ensure that both dogs are not aggressive or anxious, as these traits may cause your puppies to have a predisposition to similar traits.

Litter Size

Rough Collies have an average litter size of 4 to 6 puppies. The number of puppies depends on the size, age, and health of the dam, as well as her fertility. The fertility and sperm quality of the sire will also play a role in litter size. The older your dam, the smaller her litter is likely to be. Dams bred from two to five years old usually have larger litters. Regardless of the dam’s age, however, her first two litters will probably be smaller than those that follow.

While 4 to 6 puppies serves as a rough guide, always check the number of placentas after your puppies are born. Retained placenta can cause fever, weight loss, and green discharge in your dam. Similarly, monitor the dam’s behavior closely through the birthing process. If you are unsure of how many puppies your dam has left to deliver, her behavior should be a good indicator. After the birth of the last puppy, the dam should relax and begin caring for her puppies.

Birthing Issues

Rough Collies infrequently have problems giving birth as well as during pregnancy. One study cites that the C-section rate of Rough Collies is around 5.9%. While this means that dystocia is not common in the breed, it is still a possibility that any breeder should be prepared for. The warning signs that your dog is experiencing dystocia include weak straining for more than two hours, greater than four hours, and strong contractions for longer than 30 minutes, without the delivery of any puppies. Green discharge can also indicate dystocia in a Rough Collie. If your dam shows signs of birthing issues, get her to an emergency vet right away for advice.

birthing issues in rough collies
C-section rate of Rough Collies is around 5.9%.

How to Find Clientele

The best way to find clientele is to build relationships with people linked to your breed. Make sure to reach out to people who are well known in your breed circle for advice and to introduce yourself. You should also consider registering your dogs with your respective kennel club and breed clubs to let buyers know that you are a reputable breeder.

Breeders must promote their kennel both online and offline to be successful. You may promote your kennel on Facebook, on message boards, and even create your own kennel website. Your own website is essential, as clientele will investigate your name to check how reputable you are before contacting you. Offline, it’s important to attend breed events and shows wherever possible.


The price of a Rough Collie varies widely depending on the bloodline and characteristics of your litter. Generally speaking, the minimum price for an AKC registered Rough Collie puppy is $800. Fully health-tested puppies with superior bloodlines and breed club registration can cost as much as $2,500.

Breeding Rough Collies – FAQ

Still wondering how to breed Rough Collies? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details. If in doubt about breeding Rough Collies, be sure to ask your vet and reputable breeders for advice.

How many puppies do Rough Collies have?

Rough Collies have, on average, 4 to 6 puppies in a litter. This is similar to other herding breeds, for example, the Border Collie has an average of 4 to 8 puppies in one litter. Generally speaking, the size of a dam’s litter depends on her age, size, health, and fertility. The stud’s sperm quality and fertility also play a major role in litter size. For the best results, make sure that you breed from proven sires and healthy dams.

Are Rough Collies easy to train?

Rough Collies are highly trainable but also sensitive. Being loving, calm, and smart, Rough Collies do not respond well to a harsh trainer. They much prefer a gentle and forgiving trainer who will not shout or use punishments. Raising your voice and using punishments will only cause your Rough Collie to become timid and less likely to work with you.

For the best results, we recommend positive reward-based training to teach your Rough Collie. In short, this means rewarding the behavior that you want to see more of. You can do this with treats or without treats, depending on if your dog is food-motivated or not. Reward-based training is a great way for your Rough Collie to learn. Not only is training with rewards fun, but it helps to build a positive bond between you and your pooch. Furthermore, owners who train using rewards appear to report fewer behavioral problems with their dogs. Lastly, reward-based training helps to build your dog’s confidence and encourages your dog to think for themselves. This is especially important for the Rough Collie, who has an independent streak.

Is a Rough Collie a good family dog?

Rough Collies are excellent family dogs with deep loyalty and a nurturing personality. This breed is very family-oriented and loves to play with children. If these dogs get enough exercise, they will happily relax indoors with the rest of their family. Rough Collies also make ideal companions for a single person and will bond closely with them. At the same time, this breed is also known for its independent streak. It is better to work with this than against it. Your Rough Collie will appreciate the time to run around in a fenced area to burn off their energy and to gain some independence.

How long do Rough Collies live?

Rough Collies have an average lifespan of 14 to 16 years. The Rough Collie is a generally healthy breed with few physical health problems, meaning that you and your beloved Collie will spend many years together. But, keep in mind that your dog’s lifespan depends on a combination of factors including regular veterinary care, exercise, genetic diversity, and responsible weight maintenance. To ensure that your Rough Collie gets the most out of their long lifespan, make sure to feed them a high-quality diet, and to exercise them every day.

Are male or female Rough Collies better?

Male and female Rough Collies make equally good family pets. There is very little difference in temperament and working ability between the sexes. Physically, male Rough Collies are larger and may carry a fuller coat, while the females are smaller and may take less time to groom. The choice between the two sexes is often simply down to a matter of personal preference, and anecdotal evidence from breeders suggests that both sexes are about equal. The same applies to other dog breeds. Even though there are some behavioral and physiological differences between the sexes, their sex does not play a significant role in the dog’s suitability as a family pet.

Breeding Rough Collies is a rewarding process. This breed is highly valued for its devotion to its family and its sheep herding prowess. Without a doubt, the Rough Collie is a unique breed that continues to bring joy to every family home.

One comment on “How To Breed Rough Collies”

  1. Robert Townshend

    I have read all your information and found it very helpful, i have a rough collie bitch and would like to breed her when she is 2yrs old, could you tell me how much does it cost for a stud dog,or do they take a puppy,i would have all her check’s done to make sure she is as fit and carrier free of anything as far as possible,if she is found to have something of carrier i would not breed her but have her spayed.
    Many Thanks.

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