Collie Temperament – What Made Lassie So Smart?

A Rough Collie The Collie temperament, highlighted in the movie, “Lassie”, and detailed below, is quite unique, and is part reason why the Collie is such a great family dog.

A little History

But first a little history before we explore the Collie Temperament. The Collie is believed to have originated in Scotland in the late 1800s, and its primary role at the time was shepherding.

A number of breeds originated from the Collie, some like the Border Collie, continue to share the name; others include the Australian Cattle Dog and about a dozen others.

To be clear in this article, any reference to Collie should be taken to mean either the Rough Collie or the Smooth Collie  — the only significant difference between the two is their fur.

Physical Characteristics

The Collie is a medium-sized dog weighing in at around 50-60 pounds, with a shoulder height of about 24 inches.

Intelligent and Trainable

Collies are highly intelligent and very trainable. House training is generally easy. If you are into agility and obedience training, you will find your Collie extremely responsive.

Their intelligence, however, means that the training regime has to be varied and fun. This is not a mindless dog that’s going to be satisfied with repetitive tasks.

The Collie’s intelligence also demands regular doses of mental stimulation. If his home is a farmhouse bordering forests, daily walks on different paths are probably going to be enough.

However, a Collie who has his home in a typical suburb will require a little more effort on your part. Click on, “Ten Fun Ways to Mentally Stimulate Your Dog” to get some good ideas.

Sensitive and Responsive

The Collie could well be the most sensitive breed on the planet. Along with their sensitivity, is their desire to please, which is probably why they do very well at dog shows.

But, the Collie temperament also allows it to quickly pick up on human tensions in the home. And all too often, such tensions manifest in physical ailments.

Some owners have noticed their Collie’s digestive systems going awry following a dust up between family members. Other owners caution that negative feedback to a Collie — angry words, for instance — could put him in low spirits for days.

Shy, Clingy

Possibly because of the sensitive Collie temperament, a Collie can easily turn out to be shy of strangers and excessively reliant on your family’s company.

Socialization during the various key points in his first year is, therefore, particularly important. Since part of the socialization occurs under the breeder’s care, make sure that you delve into his breeder’s history.

Additionally, it isn’t a bad idea to investigate the personality of the parents since genetics certainly has a significant role in temperament.
Smooth Collie


Even if the shepherding instinct is somewhat dormant in a modern day Collie, it will come to the fore from time to time. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that it often comes along with the tendency to nip.

It is imperative that your Collie is taught “bite inhibition” as a puppy.

Moderately Active

Surprisingly for a herding breed, the Collie seems to do fine with just moderate exercise. A daily 30-60 minute walk with some degree of variety thrown in appears to satisfy most dogs. Add in a little intensity on the weekend and most Collies are in a happy place.

Warning: Some Drugs Are Deadly

No discussion about the Collie would be complete without highlighting the fact that the majority — about 60 percent as per some reports — of Collies are missing both copies of the MDR1 gene.

This makes them vulnerable to a number of conditions, the most important being their inability to deal with certain day-to-day drugs. To be clear, these drugs can kill them!

Most veterinarians are likely to be fully aware of this, but it does no harm to confirm.

A test has been commercialized in recent times; you could set your mind at rest by getting your Collie tested. Some testing companies even issue certificates along with a list of drugs to be avoided.

There is a move to breed this defect out of Collies, but such a process is necessarily a slow and painstaking one, requiring a lot of coordination and cooperation. Some estimates suggests that it would take a minimum of 30 years to implement.

Other Similar Breeds

If you are uncertain about the Collie, there are number of other medium-sized breeds that could suit you. These include

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