THE Collie Dog.—The common belief that the collie is treacherous, is a calumny upon probably the most valuable and sagacious, mild-tempered and patient, servant of the sheep-farmer. It is quite true that a collie which has been brought up in the wilds may be shy and refuse to be patted or even touched by a stranger, but this is merely the result of training and surroundings upon a highly-strung nervous disposition. Dogs that are well treated are usually extremely sensitive, and seem to be as much discomfited by a moral rebuke—an unkind look, word, or action of his master—as most animals would be by physical chastisement. This indicates an amount of sympathy and good fellowship between the dog and his master, which is quite unattainable in the relationship which exists between man and such a noble and serviceable animal even as the horse.
The mental powers of a collie dog also develop under kind treatment, associated with firm and consistent management and control, such as is necessary in training a dog to work so that he will obey his master’s call, and understand and act in obedience to his master’s sign or gesture. When near at hand the word and look of the master form the chief means of guidance, but at a distance the whistle and motion can alone be relied upon. The period of life at which a dog is most susceptible of learning is when it is between six and twelve months old. A dog which is descended from working parents is usually more easily trained than one which is sprung from a fancy show- yard strain which has not been accustomed to work. It is a question not yet determined how much this may be due to want of training in successive generations, or to the persistent in-breeding which is carried on among the best show-dogs. Though in-breeding is useful in preserving a show-yard type, it undoubtedly tends to spoil the temper and disposition for training and for work. Good show-yard quality is, nevertheless, not incompatible with first-rate working performances. There is no reason why attention should not be paid to both important characteristics, or why they should not be combined in one and the same animal; but to be successful in this effort, it would probably be necessary to insist upon greater posterior cranial development in the show – dog than is at present the fashion.
In describing the external form or figure of the collie dog, it may be said, generally, that the points nearly correspond to those of a hunting horse. The shoulders should be oblique; the withers narrow or sharp; the hind quarters long; the chest deep to give abundance of lung-room, but not wide, else the animal cannot gallop; the back broad, well-coupled, and muscular; the ribs well sprung; and the belly not too much tucked up like that of a greyhound.
The shape and pose of the ears and the tail are regarded with special importance. Prick-ears, giving the head a foxy appearance, are as objectionable as hanging or lop- ears. The ears should stand up while the dog is on the alert, and the tips should incline slightly forward, forming hollows to catch the sound similar to the hand of an aged person put up while listening, in the familiar manner which calls for no description. The tail should not be too short, or set on too low on the hind quarters. It should not be carried gaily, but should droop—not, however, lower than the hocks—the point turning slightly up, without the animal being cock-tailed or swirl-tailed; and in the case of the rough collie, it should be covered by a good flag all the way to the tip. A close under-coat of fur extending over the body is of great importance in a working collie, as although the straight hard outer hair, which acts as an outer covering of thatch, may get wet in stormy weather, the under fur keeps the skin warm and dry even when the dog is exposed for hours on the hill-side. Blackand-tan dogs, especially of the darker shades, are frequently defective in the under-coat, owing to there being a stain in the blood from the so-called Gordon setters of comparatively recent times. The coat of the rough collie should not part along the back line while dry, and, if parted while wet, the second coat should still obscure the skin.
The hair on the forelegs is smooth and short in front, but it lengthens into a long silky fringe or feather down the back of the leg all the way to the pastern. The hind- legs are free from fringes, and they ought to be set on straight—not cow-hocked, ” five o’clock ” or V-shaped—else the stifle joints project and the power of motion is weakened. To be “hare-footed” or long-footed is objectionable. Dogs ought to stand on their toes or be ” cat- footed.” The collie-claw, or dew-claws, on the hind feet (parts strongly developed in the St Bernard, being in that breed frequently double), should be cut off with a pair of scissors at an early age in the case of dogs which are intended to work. If not removed they are liable to be torn when snow covers the ground and becomes slightly crusted on the top, as is the case when frost occurs after a mock-thaw; the toes of the dog sink, and the claws come in contact with the ragged edges of the broken snow-crust.
The dew-claw seems to be the remains of a natural and no doubt useful appendage, which existed in the common ancestors of some of our most distinct breeds of dogs, as the claws in question have been known to appear in puppies which were first crosses between a clawless spaniel and clawless English terrier, the ancestors of both breeds having been clawless for many generations.
The following descriptive points have been extracted from the Rules of the Northern and Midland Sheep-dog Club:
Type of Rough Collie.
Head.—Should be in proportion to dog’s size. Skull moderately wide between the ears, and flat, tapering to the end of the muzzle, which ought to be of a fair length, but not too snipey, with only a slight stop.
Teeth.—Strong and white. The top jaw fitting nicely over the lower; and where much over or at all under-shot, it should count against the dog.
Eyes.-—Of almond shape, set obliquely in the head, and the shade consistent with the colour of the dog. A full or staring eye is very objectionable.
Ears.—Small, and when the dog’s attention is attracted, carried semi-erect ; but when in repose it is natural for them to be laid back on the ruff.
Neck.—Long and well arched, and shoulders muscular and sloping.
Back.—Rather long, strong, and straight, the loin slightly arched, and the chest fairly deep, but not too wide.
Forelegs.—Straight and muscular, with a fair amount of bone. The hindlegs should be rather wide apart, with stifle well bent, forming sicklehocks.
Feet.—Compact, knuckles well sprung, claws strong and close together ; pads cannot be too hard.
Coat.—Should consist of a long straight outer coat, as hard as possible, with a dense growth of under-coat. The hair on thighs and tail should be as abundant as possible, but short and smooth on head and ears and below the hocks. A long frill and handsome mane, finishing with cape on the shoulders, is very characteristic of the breed.
Symmetry.—The dog should be of fair length on the leg, and his movements active and graceful.
Height.—Dogs, 22 to 24 inches; bitches, 20 to 22 inches.
Tail.—Of medium length ; and when the dog is standing quietly should be slightly raised, but more so when excited.
Type of Smooth Collie.—The smooth collie should be the same in every particular as the rough collie, excepting the coat, which should be short, hard, and dense.
Type of Natural Bobtail Rough Collie.—The natural bobtail rough collie is the same in every particular as the rough collie, with the exception of a natural bobtail.
Type of Natural Bobtail Smooth Collie.—The natural bobtail smooth collie is the same in every particular as the smooth collie, with the exception of a natural bobtail.
Note.—In all cases of bobtails, a docked tail will disqualify.