What is a Beardie?
A Beardie is a winsome, funny, loving, sometimes silly, sometimes pouty, adorable, curious, persistent creature, in short, close to human. As puppies, they’re much like two-year-old children. They try out their independence, test their “parents,” and are so cute they’re difficult to correct. This is the time good parents must force down the chuckle, give firm, but gentle discipline and then go in the other room to laugh ’til they cry.
Beardies aren’t for everybody. No breed is. You have to be willing to tolerate — if not enjoy — brushing long hair, wet beards in your lap, and muddy pawprints in the wrong places at the wrong time. And you HAVE to like bounce. If you don’t, please continue looking.
The Bearded Collie, affectionately called the Beardie, was developed in Scotland as a herding dog. Its ancestors likely included herding dogs from the European continent, such as the Poland Lowland Sheepdog (Polski Owzcarek Nizinny) and the Komondor, blended with the sheep herding dogs of the British Isles. It was developed as an independent worker, able to make decisions concerning the welfare and safety of their charges without depending on the shepherd who might be miles away. Flocks in Scotland intermingled freely, yet one Beardie never brought home a wrong sheep during his many years of work. The Beardie is still used as a shepherd’s helpmate in Scotland, and in the U.S.
G.O. Willison brought the breed to recognition by The Kennel Club of Great Britain in 1959. Since then, they’ve wended their way into hearts and homes world-wide. Following recognition by AKC in 1977, they have remained about midway in AKC registration statistics. Beardies are rarely half-way about anything, but breeders are happy the breed is middle-of-the-road when it comes to popularity. Most Beardie breeders take great care in breeding, raising and placing their puppies. Although a well-kept secret from the general population, they’re popular with those who know, with owners often loving two or three or ten!
The Bearded Collie is a medium-sized dog with long, shaggy hair. Its body is longer than tall, starting with a kissy tongue and ending with a constantly wagging tail. As an adult, Beardies may be black (from black to slate), blue (from steel blue, to silver), brown (from dark or milk chocolate to gingery red), or fawn (cinnamon to champagne), usually with white markings to a greater or lesser degree.
Every breed has a Standard, a word picture of the perfect dog. The Breed Standard depicts the characteristics that make this breed different from every other, in other words, the breed type. For instance, a Beardie should not be confused with the Border Collie or the Old English Sheepdog.
The Standard for the Bearded Collie covers the ideal size, coat, color, gait, temperament and structure, right down to the shape of the feet and the tail carriage! To obtain a copy, contact the AKC or the Beardie Parent Club, the Bearded Collie Club of America.
Beardies are usually active, outgoing, bouncy, affectionate creatures. Within the normal range of temperament, they range from low-key, sweet and laid back to rowdy and bold. Each owner should decide what will fit best with their lifestyle and inform the breeder prior to purchase, so the Perfect Pup can be matched with their family.
The breed interacts well with other animals, particularly if raised with them. Breeders often receive pictures of Beardies playing with tiny Chihuahuas or BIG Wolfhounds … or even enjoying a “cat” nap with a kitten. Some tend to be a mite bossy about possessions and hoard all the toys in their den. Being herding dogs, they will yield to a chase if tempted.
All dogs need grooming, training, exercise, nutritious food, access to water and shelter, veterinary care and LOVE. If you plan to skimp on any of these, please don’t get a Beardie. In fact, please don’t get a dog! To bond with your Beardie and have it become a valued member of the family, the Beardie needs to live in your home with you.
Some dogs need to have their nails trimmed weekly; others do fine with once a month clips. Beardies are long-coated dogs, and to keep their charming, winsome appearance, need regular grooming. Once the puppy vaccinations are completed, schedule an annual examination with the veterinarian. Be attuned to your Beardie’s body and behavior to note anything unusual that calls for medical treatment. Some Beardies have reactions to monthly heartworm preventative. Because of this, many breeders advise giving a daily pill. Discuss this with your dog’s veterinarian.
Why is it called a Collie? It doesn’t look like a Collie!
Collie is a Scottish word for dogs that herd sheep, hence the Border Collie, the Rough (Lassie-type) or Smooth Collie and the Bearded Collie. This may have come from the Coaley or black-faced sheep in Scotland.
Are they good family dogs?
Beardies are people-oriented dogs. They NEED to be with their family. If left alone for long periods, they are liable to become frustrated and provide their own entertainment — not always one that makes the owner happy.
Beardies are vigorous, bouncy dogs, and like to jump up to look you in the eyes or kiss your nose. This fits in well with many families. Others, particularly those with toddlers, non-doggy visitors, elderly or physically challenged people, prefer to train their Beardie to sit and shake instead of jumping on people to greet them. Some Beardies have a high herding instinct and nip at ankles or eye-level bottoms, trying to bunch their “flock.” Like kids, some are more rowdy than others. When you talk to a breeder, express your wishes for activity level. Undesirable traits should be “nipped” in the bud and the baby Beardie trained from infancy, with its energies channeled into proper behavior.
Because they love people, Beardies make good therapy dogs, comforting, entertaining and snuggling up to patients and residents. Owners take pride in their dogs making a good impression by being clean, spiffy and well-behaved during therapy visits.
Are they barkers?
Although they are not yappy nor continuous barkers, certain things will set off their “alarm” system. They’re great doorbells, announcing all visitors with joy. They bark when excited: when you first rise in the morning, when family returns home, while playing. Like any dog, they may bark when bored.
Do they shed?
Groomed properly, they shed minimally. Most of the dead hair will be removed by the comb and brush. The worst shed is when they lose their puppy coat, usually between nine months and eighteen months. This lasts for approximately two to three months. During this period, they often lose their cuddly appearance and look scraggly and ragged, losing hair from the top to the bottom, or from the front to the rear.
How often do I have to groom?
Start early to introduce your Beardie to his life-time hair care. Baby Beardies can be groomed in one minute. The idea is to acclimate the pup to be still for longer periods of time until they can spend an hour quietly accepting brushing and combing.
Most owners do a thorough grooming at least once a week. (During the puppy shed, it’s wise to increase to two or three times a week.) Lay the Beardie on its side and mist with water or anti-tangle spray. Brush the hair up with a bristle or pin brush. Then brush the hair back down a few inches at a time (called line brushing). Any mats that develop can be worked out with anti-tangle spray and your fingers or a mat rake. A comb should go easily through the hair when finished. Ask the breeder for a demonstration on an adult. When mature, Beardies usually require about one-half to one hour for grooming.
Are they smart?
Yes, but Beardies were bred to be independent thinkers. Sometimes they’ll decide what THEY want is better than what you want. For instance, staying in the back yard is more interesting than coming inside. Or playing in a mud puddle is more fun than staying on dry ground. The trick in training Beardies is to convince them it’s something THEY want to do. And that takes an owner that’s smarter than they are — not always easy!
When it comes to housebreaking, they’re individuals, just like children. Some train easily; others take longer. Bladder capacity, not brains, is what determines this. If the owners are well-trained to be aware of signals and to watch the clock, the Beardie is more easily housebroken!
Are they playful?
Oh, yes! Name it, they’ll do it — jog, swim, wrestle, do tricks, join in football games, play catch or Frisbee.
Do they need a lot of exercise?
Beardies like their owners, stay physically fit with exercise. This can be accomplished by playing ball, taking brisk walks, free run in a fenced area (with interaction, not alone) or a training session. Beardies are not “hyper” dogs, but are happy to join their owners in any activity. They’re more content when they are able to run and play.
How about health problems?
Overall, Beardies are a sturdy breed that enjoys good health. The BCCA health survey has shown, however, problems do occur within the breed, although not in high percentages.. These include allergies, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, auto-immune disease and some eye problems. Our dogs can suffer the same problems most breeds — and their masters — do. Ask the breeder about health certifications. Parents should be healthy and OFA certified free of hip dysplasia.
How long do they live?
The life expectancy ranges from 12-14 years on an average. It is not unusual, however, for a Beardie to extend that lifespan. Beardies often seem to stay young until their very elder years, many still being active at the age of twelve. Longevity of lines should be one of the questions to ask breeders.
Is one color better than another?
Nope! Black is the dominant color and, thus, more Beardies are black. Browns, blues and fawns are just as attractive and boast the same Beardie personality. Noses and eyes blend with the coat. Most Beardies carry the fading factor and turn lighter as adults. During their teenage months (about 9-20 months), they usually become very light, darkening again as they mature. Judges should not prefer one color over another. Almost all Beardies have some white, usually on the muzzle, a blaze, forechest, front legs, rear feet and hocks, and tip of tail.
Although they cannot be shown, mostly white Beardies (in a Pinto pattern) are beautiful and do not have the health problems associated with some other white breeds. One of the appealing aspects of the breed is its rainbow of coats and its ever-changing colors. The personality is much more important than the color!
What is the difference between show and pet quality?
The differences are often so subtle that it takes an expert to tell. A pet might have too much white, a crooked tooth or carry its tail too high. He or she could have less than ideal angulation. Pets might lack the charisma or attitude desired of a show dog. Or it could just be that the breeder had four show puppies, with only three show homes. As long as your Beardie has a tongue to kiss with, a tail to wag and four feet to bounce on, show faults are of little consequence to the pet buyer. Like a rose is always a flower, but a flower is not always a rose… a show dog should always be a pet, but not every pet should be a show dog.
What is showing all about?
If you intend to show, buy the best you can. Make sure the pedigree boasts many Champions (Ch), particularly the parents and grandparents. A show guarantee should cover serious faults as well as health defects. Most Beardies are shown by their owners, although some people prefer to hire a professional handler. Seek advice from your puppy’s breeder.
Puppies that are classified as pets or companions can compete in obedience, herding, tracking or agility. And all Beardies and their owners reap benefits from attending training classes. Obedience can produce good house manners or be the foundation of an obedience career from Companion Dog (CD) to Obedience Trial Champion (OTCh).
Many Beardies show natural herding instinct. Others need to be introduced to stock several times before the light gleams. When the Beardie turns on, they are fascinating to watch … doing naturally what their ancestors were bred to do generations before. If an owner wishes to continue in competition, titles from HIC (the BCCA’s Herding Instinct Certified honorary title which a Beardie receives when he passes an instinct test) and HT (the AKC Herding Tested title) to H.Ch (the AKC’s Herding Champion title) can be earned.
A few owners track with their Beardies, although it can be hard on long coats since tracks might be laid through the brush. This can be more than competition from Tracking Dog (TD) to Champion Tracker (CT); it can actually save a person’s life through Search and Rescue in disasters or when people are lost.
Agility is an AKC performance event. Beardies were made for agility and easily compete for titles from Novice Agility (NA) to Master Agility Excellent (MX).
All of these start with training class. If you decide not to compete when you’ve graduated, you’ll still have enjoyed bonding with your Beardie, as well as having a trained dog.
Should I get a puppy or an adult?
Both have their advantages. All puppies are cute — and Beardies are particularly adorable. Pups can be trained in the manner owners wish. Nevertheless, adults are often housebroken, done with teething and have good house manners. If you have a demanding schedule, an adult may fit into the household more quickly than an infant puppy.
Which is better — male or female?
Rather than picking a sex (or a color), choose the personality to suit you. Males are just as affectionate as females, and bitches are just as playful as dogs. If neutered or spayed, as pets should be, neither shows the annoying hormonal surges of an intact dog.
What about spaying or neutering?
All responsible breeders require their pets to be spayed or neutered. We feel no one should breed Beardies unless they are serious students of the breed, willing to do genetic testing, and to stand behind their guarantees. They should be willing to prove the quality of the dog in the show ring under expert evaluation — because only the very best should be bred. Research has shown that an altered animal is also healthier, eliminating reproductive infections and tumors, particularly in old age.
Juvenile alteration can be performed as young as eight weeks of age. Many veterinarians, however, perform the surgery when the dog is between six and nine months of age.
Where can I get a rescue Beardie?
The BCCA was one of the first breed clubs to organize a rescue service. The National Coordinator may be contracted through the BCCA, address below. Rescues might be strays, abandoned Beardies, shelter surrenders or those rescued from neglect or abuse. Beardies are evaluated as to mental and physical soundness. BCCA Rescue takes the Beardie to a veterinarian, where the dog is thoroughly examined, spayed or neutered, and treated if necessary. BCCA Rescue is funded by the BCCA and private donations.
Almost all needy Beardies adapt to their new homes as soon as they realize love, shelter and food are theirs for the asking! Sometimes people are concerned about past history having an adverse effect on temperament. While being evaluated, individual idiosyncrasies are noted so that the Beardie can be matched to the perfect home. Not all rescues are victims of abuse. Some are the sad result of divorce, death or incapacitated owners.
Where do I find breeders?
Most Beardie breeders are responsible people who want to find good homes for them. Several are online with the Beardie list. They may also be contacted through the Bearded Collie Club of America’s Corresponding Secretary.
Dog shows are a good place to meet breeders. If exhibitors don’t have litters, they’ll be likely to put you in contact with someone who does. No responsible breeder will sell to a pet shop or a broker. A breeder will give you lifetime support and knowledgeable advice. The pet shop only wants to sell you supplies!
Good breeders are concerned about the future welfare of their puppies. Ask to see the dam (mother) of the litter. Would you take her home? If so, the puppy will probably be a good pet. Breeders extensively interview prospective buyers, asking questions about fencing, training, prior pets and more. They’ll supply a pedigree, registration application, guarantee and medical records, as well as information about the breed and their dogs. A sales contract will protect the rights of buyer(s), seller(s) and the Beardie.
What is the Number One warning about the breed?
They’re like peanuts. You can’t stop with just one.
© Chris Walkowicz