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Nick Ridley, Animal Photography
The Beardie is boisterous and ebullient, silly but smart. He loves people, but daily grooming requirements and a sometimes stubborn temperament are just a couple of factors you should be aware of. He’s a medium-size dog with a long, shaggy coat that comes in black, blue, brown, or fawn, usually with white markings.
Beardie puppies are born dark, and it’s not always clear what color they will be when they grow up. The coat lightens as they mature and then starts to darken again when they are 12 to 18 months old. The coat may not reach its final color until the dog is four years or older.
Beardies, as they’re known by people who love them, are famous for their patented “Beardie bounce.” They’ve been described as having Michael Jordan hang time. But beneath their shaggy cuteness and sweet nature lies an independent, athletic dog with a high energy level and an inquiring mind. Like all dogs, Beardies are individuals and come in a range of temperaments, from low-key to lively. Whatever their temperament, all Beardies like to give kisses, and all Beardies have waggy tails.
The Beardie is a devoted and intelligent family member. As befits his heritage as a herding dog, he has a loud bark and is an excellent watchdog, but he is by no means a guard dog. The Beardie is a good friend to children, but he may be too rambunctious in the presence of small children. He is a better choice for families with older children who can stand up to his bouncy nature.
Purchase a Beardie puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Beardie by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This should be fun for both of you. The Beardie loves being the center of attention.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Beardie puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size, because he’ll soon reach his mature weight of 45 to 55 pounds. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, and be patient. The Beardie can be independent and stubborn, but he learns quickly and will respond to kind, firm, consistent training. Being smart and athletic, he does well in such dog sports as agility, herding, obedience and rally.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Chaining a Beardie out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior. A Beardie should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them.
The Bearded Collie is a Scottish breed and descends from Highland Collies and the Polish Owczarek Nizinny. A Polish dog? How did that happen? The story goes that a Polish ship picking up a cargo of sheep in Scotland in 1514 traded three PONs for a ram and a ewe. The Polish dogs were crossed with the local Collies, and voila! The Bearded Collie. Well, it probably took a little selective breeding, too.
Besides herding, the dogs helped to drive flocks to market in the 17th and 18th centuries. They did their work with little fanfare and not much is known about them until 1912 when a standard was written for the breed. It wasn’t until much later that a Beardie was exhibited at dog shows in England, with a bitch becoming the breed’s first champion in 1959. Interest in the breed grew after that, and the dogs became popular in the United States and Canada.
The Bearded Collie Club of America was founded in 1969, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1976. The Beardie ranks 112th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Active, outgoing and affectionate, the Beardie is a wonderful family dog. He is hardy and energetic, with the intelligence and agility that are characteristic of a herding breed. A Beardie is usually never shy or aggressive but is, rather, a sensible and stable personality. That is, when he’s not being a clown.
Typically, Beardies are sociable and lively, although some can be laidback. Be sure to talk to the breeder about what kind of temperament you are looking for in a dog. She can help you pick a puppy that displays the personality best suited to your family.
Beardies are very friendly with other family pets, especially if raised with them. They are also great with older children, but toddlers can be overrun by a Beardie’s natural energy.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
The Beardie’s natural instincts give him a love for herding and chasing, so good training is necessary to make sure he doesn’t display these behaviors inappropriately.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Bearded Collies have some health conditions that can be a concern. They include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye diseases, autoimmune thyroiditis, a skin condition called pemphigus foliaceous and Addison’s disease. Not every Bearded Collie will get all or even any of these conditions, but knowing about them beforehand will help you in your search for a breeder.
The Bearded Collie Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Bearded Collie to achieve CHIC certification, he must have a hip evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), an OFA clearance for autoimmune thyroiditis and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. An OFA clearance for elbow dysplasia is optional.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Beardie at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The glory of the Bearded Collie is his coat. The most difficult part of caring for a Beardie is also his coat. Expect to half an hour to an hour weekly grooming it. Brushing and combing with a pin brush or slicker brush and stainless steel comb will keep his double coat tangle-free. Mist the coat with water or anti-tangle spray before brushing so you don’t damage the hair. It’s a good idea to have the breeder show you how to brush the coat of an adult dog. Bathe your Beardie every six to eight weeks or more often, particularly if (or when) his furry hindquarters become soiled with feces.
Along with time devoted to coat care, be prepared for dirt, mud and debris tracked in on the dog’s furry feet. A light trim may lessen the mess a bit and gives the feet a neat appearance.
If you groom him regularly, the Beardie shouldn’t shed much, but he goes through a heavier shed each year that lasts two to four weeks. They also shed heavily during a two- to three-month period when their puppy coat is coming out and their adult coat is coming in. Grooming a puppy takes very little time at all, but you want to start early so he can become accustomed to sitting still while you work on his coat.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once a month. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Bearded Collie and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Bearded Collie Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the BCCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Bearded Collie puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Bearded Collie might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Bearded Collie in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Bearded Collies available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Bearded Collie. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Bearded Collies love all Bearded Collies. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Bearded Collie Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Bearded Collie rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Bearded Collie home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Bearded Collie, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Bearded Collie to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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