Unofficial Version by an Owner (below on this page)
The Shaggy Dog Movie - special comments
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An Unofficial Bearded Collie Description by a Beardie Owner
Most official descriptions of the Bearded Collie are concerned with physical appearance, temperament and Category for competition. A good place to look for this type of description is the official FAQ, AKC or Bearded Collie associations. Or as found on the page linked above.
This description is a more basic version which describes the Beardie in common terms. Terms that a prospective pet owner or curious layman will understand.
First of all, the most common description that I have heard and use myself for the Bearded Collie is "Bouncing Beardie Baby." This describes the general nature of the breed. I personally put in a couple months of research on various dog breeds before seeking out and adopting a Beardie. The description of the breed I set out to find was:
Among the very common breeds, my search using this description often turned up the golden retriever. The exception was that the Golden retriever was a bit on the larger side (unless you pick a female). It also turned up the Sheltie and the Keeshund. Finally I was introduced to the Bearded Collie (and I had never heard of this breed).
I found out that the Bearded Collie was used as a herding dog. It was no relation to the common Collie, which is actually a "Rough Collie." It happens that Collie is a term for sheep in Great Britain. These dogs are totally different breeds. The only background on the history of the breed I will provide here is that they are from Britain, and have been known to exist there as working sheep dogs for over three centuries. They had once been known as Highland Collie and Mountain Collie. Their numbers were very low after W.W.II, as farmers had trouble getting enough feed. Their popularity is now growing. They are not considered rare, yet they are not very common either. You may have to wait several months on a breeder's waiting list (no impulsive buying here).
Before moving on to the topic you came to this page for, I would like to add another comment on another breed. The movie "Babe" came out right about this time. In this movie there was a pig who was adopted by a "Border Collie." Again, a totally different breed. I, of course, wondered why nobody recommended this breed. Searching the Internet, I found that the Border Collie was a very intelligent breed and won obedience and herding competitions. So I went back to a couple knowledgeable people and asked about the breed. The answer I received was that the energy level of a Border Collie was very high. If a dog was to be used as a pet, not a working dog, then a Border Collie was not recommended. Unless, of course, I had a few acres of land and maybe a few sheep to keep the dog happy.
I was beginning to understand. I must select a dog that meets my lifestyle. There are degrees of definition of each attribute. I decided I must find out more about the Bearded Collie, and joined the BeardieList (back then the BDL or Beardies-l). This is a very good idea for anyone interested in the Bearded Collie. I found dozens of people, many who had written books on the breed, who would answer my questions. So ask I did, and here is what I found:
*First of all, I had some serious discussions about intelligence with various authorities and breeders. I found that even the most intelligent dog should be taken to obedience school. In fact, it is more important - an untrained intelligent dog will find some way to use his brain (and you probably won't like it).
**Second, I wanted a dog that was good with strangers (no more biting). The breeder we eventually adopted our Beardie from said, "yes but Beardies are watch dogs, they'll watch the burglar come in and they'll watch the burglar go." Well, I asked for it. But guess what? If you don't train your Beardie he could easily nip the postman - he will surely jump up on visitors.
Most Beardies have the attributes I described, but many have been known to be "barkers," for example. I have found that they don't generally run away, and actually have the tendency to stay close to the house. But, I have heard of several Beardies who have just left home and never returned (one a champion). So, there is no general rule, just the tendency. In fact - most Beardie owners feel that you should not only have a fence, but that the fence should be at least 6 feet tall! Many Beardies can easily jump a 4 foot chain link fence, others climb fences. If they are not altered (spay/neuter) - they may leave to find dogs of the opposite sex.
Beardies are playful, they like games such as ball or Frisbee (one is a champion Frisbee catcher), they want constant attention. Don't get a Beardie if you can't spend the better part of the day with them. They are not the kind of dog you leave home alone for very long. They want to go on walks, or play for hours. They are great company for children or even older people who want a constant companion.
Beardies like to play tricks on their owners. Like I said, they have a high energy level. I have heard dozens of stories of the antics of Beardies Some like to get a personal article of clothing (your underwear for example) and take it outside to show the neighbors. They have been known to watch people pack up boxes , later when Mom and Dad are in bed, the Beardie unpacks the boxes. Beardies have found ways to open doors, drawers, boxes, whatever is hiding the object they want. They are resourceful and intelligent.
I have never met or had a discussion with anyone who doesn't like their Beardie. There have been cases where Beardies have been taken back to the breeder. The breeders generally insist that the Beardie be returned (anytime) if you are going to give up your dog. Beardie Breeders are an important part of your ownership of this breed. They will help you with any problems you may have. They are very protective of the breed (it is common that you sign a no breeding contract). They care about the future of the breed. Most breed their Beardies for temperament first, and then hope that they get an exceptional beauty among the litter.
Beardies are very agile. They have been known to leap over six foot high fences. They run with a gliding movement and are able to make the sharp turns and quick stops required of the sheepdog. (OK - sometimes they bounce all over the yard or roll in the leaves)
I will quote the AKC in a small way. "The Bearded Collie is a devoted and intelligent member of the family. He is stable and self confident, showing no signs of shyness or aggression. This is a natural and unspoiled breed."
How long do they live? Beardies can live to be in excess of 17 years, but the average seems to be somewhere between 13 and 15 years. This is a big commitment. Older people should consider this before getting a puppy - maybe consider a rescue or rehome (rehome is a dog that needs a new home - sometimes from breeders who have retired show dogs, sometimes due to a death in the family, etc.) Just think - this life span is double that of many larger breeds. And, Beardies can be very playful into their senior years.
No dog breed is without concerns. Beardie Collies sometime have hip dysplasia. The occurrence is less than with large breeds - but can affect a few percent of the breed (usually thought to be under 7%) . You would be surprised about the occurrence of hip dysplasia with other breeds. Almost all medium to large breeds have some percentage.
Beardies can get Addisons Disease (much higher occurrence than in most other breeds), or Auto Immune problems - fortunately if you select a good breeder you will usually avoid such problems. But - nature still prevails, as with all animals, and it can happen to anyone.
Some Beardies have sensitive stomachs or allergies. The may not be able to eat all the various foods sold at the pet stores. Choose a good brand of food - or make them their own natural diet. Dry (kibble) foods should be a major part of their diet. Ask your breeder! If you have a problem with a particular food - keep in mind that it may only be the meat used and slowly change over to a different meat (i.e.. Beef to chicken). Do not change food frequently.
Temperament seems to be related to breeding. By nature, Bearded Collies have a very sweet temperament. Once again, be careful with who you purchase your Beardie from. I don't believe males and females have a widely different temperament - I have heard that said. Beardies seem to be individuals.
Many Beardies are very sensitive to loud noise (vacuum cleaners, etc.) Likely this is because they have exceptional hearing. We have seen some with extreme cases of fear. Being around fireworks can ruin your Beardie - after the experience they may hide or even run away at the first loud noise.
Did I say you need to groom a Beardie often (as much as an hour a week)? If I did, then I don't mind repeating it. This is a serious consideration. You either groom them (and I mean you have to learn to be a good groomer), or take them every couple of weeks to the groomer at the cost of $45-$70 depending on where you live and how often you have them groomed (if you take them full of matts it is going to cost you more), or have them clipped (which does not always prevent matting). If you are not prepared to do this - then do not get a Beardie.
I have found that the Beardie accepts love and provides it in return. They are full of hugs and kisses. They need attention, An owner should enjoy providing attention and lots of grooming. They are the definition of "mans best friend."
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(c) Glenn D. Short 1996-2001 all rights reserved
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Bearded Collie home page is http://beardie.net/hobo/