Is a Beardie for Me?

This article appears courtesy of BeaCon, http://www.beaconforhealth.org.

Determining the Proper 'Fit' for Your family...
Is this the dog for my family????

This is the first question an educated buyer must ask. Have you looked at other breeds? There are many breeds to choose from. You've seen these medium sized, beautiful dogs with the flowing coats. Moving like fluid; effortless in motion. You're impressed, naturally. You think you want one. This is understandable. But... is this really a dog for you? Please take the time to give it proper thought. This breed is not for everyone; no breed is. An educated buyer is much better prepared to deal with the puppy of their choice.

The mature, sedate Bearded Collie which you have seen did not just materialize suddenly. It grew to the stature and bearing you see today out of a cuddly ball of fluff, which at 8-12 weeks of age is most charming. The journey from puppyhood to adulthood includes a great distance, and considerable time and effort by the owner.

Here are some things that may not have crossed your mind when considering a Bearded Collie. We have tried to list common breed traits. There are, of course, exceptions...

  • Are you physically able to handle a herding dog? These dogs have boundless energy. This characteristic, coupled with an independent nature and herding instincts, generate a definite need for basic obedience training utilizing the latest in positive reinforcement training techniques. Although basically gentle, they are very strong. Throughout the many phases of puppyhood and adolescence these dogs can be a real challenge.
  • Can you truly afford a Bearded Collie? The initial purchase price of a pup only scratches the surface of your financial responsibilities throughout the life of a Beardie. Quality supplies such as bowls, collars, leads, grooming tools, and food will substantially increase the cost of this pup. Routine veterinary care (shots, spay/neuter, etc.) and professional grooming are not inexpensive.
  • Does the thought of a regular grooming/brushing regimen along with dog hair around the house bother you? If so, forget the Beardie. While with regular brushing they are not much different than any other coated breed, they do matt and shed occasionally. Most responsible Beardie pet owners spend a minimum of 1 to 2 hours per week grooming and brushing their Beardie. Frankly, if you groom the dog regularly most of the hair ends up in the brush. But you should be aware of the potential for hair around the house.
  • Do you have room for a Beardie? They are a medium breed who need room — indoors and outdoors. Remember, they are herding dogs by nature, so they like to get up and go... and they bark when roaming and romping in their domain. You can severely strain a good relationship with neighbors by allowing a bored, barking Beardie to drive them nuts.
  • Do you have a fenced yard — 6-foot board all the way around is preferable — to keep your Beardie safe and to prevent wandering? A Beardie must neither be tied continuously nor allowed to run loose. If given the opportunity, they have been known to dart — and rarely find their way home by themselves.
  • Do you have the proper amount of time available for a Beardie? A Beardie needs love and attention on a daily basis. Can you and your family provide this, or do all family members work? Beardies are by nature a very inquisitive dog. This trait, combined with their intelligence, can make for a very creative dog. To those of us who love Beardies, these traits are quite engaging. But to someone who is unaware of them, they can be a nuisance. A lonesome Beardie is a guaranteed bored dog, and bored dogs can become noisy, creative and destructive.

These are some things to think about. If you find you've answered them honestly and still want a Beardie, here are some suggestions on how to choose your dog:

Choosing the Breeder

  1. First, choose a reputable breeder. Choose someone who is happy to answer all of your questions. A reputable breeder may ask you many questions about your facilities and ability to properly care for a pup. This scenario is preferred over the pet store or a casual "backyard" or "hobby" breeder. Lists of breeders are available from regional Beardie clubs and from the national club. While membership in a breed club does not automatically guarantee respectability, most responsible breeders belong to their regional and/or national Bearded Collie Club. Members of the Bearded Collie Club of America, as well as many regional Beardie clubs, are bound by guidelines and a Code of Ethics that outlines the proper care and treatment of dogs and relationships among members. Ask to see copies of these documents. They outline what you have a right to expect as a buyer.
  2. Never purchase a pup as a gift for someone else. Only the new prospective owner should make a decision which will affect a dog for its entire life. Choosing a lifelong companion is a very personal process. The best intentions in the world do not overshadow the safety and well being of an animal... Avoid the purchase of a pup during any holiday season. In particular, Christmas seems to be a time of year when many folks begin to think of obtaining a puppy. And February and March seem to be the "after-effect" of months of Christmas impulse buying. Many shelters and rescue organizations see a dramatic rise in the number of dogs coming in during the spring. This increase typically stems from untrained, unmanageable, and now unwanted December puppy gifts... Many responsible breeders won't even place a dog into a new home during a holiday season. There is too much activity and potential stress in the home. The family is not conforming to their normal regular schedule, and often has little time to dedicate to a new pup. This is not conducive to a good foundation for a well rounded and happy dog.
  3. Visit a local breeder's facilities. If looking for a puppy, you should be able to at least meet the pup's mother. Ask about a breeder-buyer contract which explains what is expected of you, the buyer, and of the breeder. A responsible breeder will be there for you with advice for the life of your pup. Your pup should come from registered parents, who have proof of freedom from hip dysplasia, should have a pedigree from the breeder, a health record showing when and what had been given in the way of inoculations and medication, and care and feeding instructions. Request a copy of the OFA or GDC certificate that shows the parents are both free of hip dysplasia. In addition, it is even better if the grandparents and great grandparents are also certified dysplasia free. Make sure the surroundings are clean and that the puppy is healthy. Look for a happy, outgoing pup, never a shy one. The pup should feel rounded and firm, not emaciated. There should be no discharge from the eyes or nose and the pup should stand on strong legs and good feet, not feet that are flat or splayed.
  4. What about papers? If you are buying a pup that the breeder claims is "show quality", you should receive the AKC registration application ("blue slip") at the time of sale. If you are buying a dog for companionship or for herding work, you should receive either the AKC Limited Registration certificate for that pup or a signed agreement that the registration will be furnished when the dog is neutered. The breeder should also supply you with a pedigree on the pup and information of inoculations and medications the pup has received.
  5. If you're investigating obtaining a puppy, it should be at least 8 weeks old; 9 to 12 weeks of age is a good time for it to leave its litter. But don't overlook an older pup. Simply ensure that it is outgoing, happy to see people and in good health. Many responsible breeders are concerned that their pups go to excellent homes and are willing to keep a pup longer until that home comes along.

Questions to ask a breeder:

  1. Do you have a minimum of 4 generations of Hip Certs behind your foundation stock? (Penn-Hip, OFA, or GDC)
  2. Do you provide thyroid panels on the dogs/pups?
  3. Do you provide CERF testing?
  4. Do you have Stud and Bitch pre-breeding exams performed by a Vet?
  5. Do you perform spay/neuters or require limited registration prior to placement in non-show homes?
  6. Do you perform early and often socialization on your pups?
  7. Do you begin a program of some crate and potty training with the pups?
  8. At what age do you place the dogs?
  9. Do you provide written instructions and guidelines for me to follow?
  10. Do you provide at least one week's worth of food with the pup?
  11. Do you provide at least one toy or personal item with the pup, to help it adjust to my facilities better?
  12. Do you recommend a Beardie knowledgeable Vet in my area to me?
  13. Do you recommend Beardie specific literature, books, and websites for me to utilize?
  14. Are you available to the buyers for advice and guidance at all times, for the entire life of the pup?
  15. Do you provide a written health guarantee which clearly outlines that a refund or replacement dog of equivalent quality will be made available to the seller if any defect due to genetics/heredity is found in the dog? A typical contract would account for this for a period of 3 - 5 years, depending upon the breed and the breeder. This is a long enough period for most genetic defects to show up. (And Please note that by the time you find something like this out about the pup, it is typically after you have bonded with them, and already love them deeply. To replace the pup is not always an easy choice for a new owner to make...)

Asking these questions will help you form an idea of how the breeder will interact with you in the future. The only "correct" answers to the above questions are those which make you feel comfortable in the relationship between yourself and the breeder.

Additional Options

What about buying a mature dog? Many breeders have older dogs which they will place in pet homes. Retired champions and returned adults both occasionally end up in a breeder's kennel. In addition, every Beardie Club has a Rescue Service with older Beardies looking for loving homes. These dogs are usually housebroken and their good and bad points are already known. Understanding any possible bad traits gives one a baseline from which to begin a regimen of "retraining". Although one might have to "untrain" undesirable behaviors in a rescue Beardie, the dogs will typically give back tenfold in love any energy you put into this "untraining" activity. Adult Beardies typically adjust readily to a new home. Such a dog may be just what you want, providing companionship at once, allowing you to skip the puppy and adolescent growth states.

The choice of a male or female? This is a personal choice. The male is larger, and may carry more coat, but they both show the same affection for their family. The bitch, unless spayed, will come into season every six months; the first season is usually around a year of age. Bitches are inclined to be a bit more boisterous, which is not typical of most breeds. Generally, the male is more boisterous. The decision as to which sex is yours to make. Only you know your situation best.

What about spaying and neutering? If the animal is to be a companion, and not for breeding, have it spayed or neutered. All dogs not intended for showing and breeding should be neutered. This does not make a Beardie fat or lazy and does not interfere with its natural personality. It does ensure freedom from several kinds of cancer. In addition, spayed or neutered Beardies are easier to manage as pets.

Beardies combine great intelligence with a deep devotion to their herd or family. Beardies have a natural-born instinct to herd. This instinct is tied to an energy drive which should be channeled properly through obedience training and/or other positive activities. Beginning at an early age, Beardies need gentle guidance and direction. They need to understand what is expected of them. Once they understand this, they become happy, fulfilled canines. While trustworthy, affectionate and gentle, they can quickly become out of control if allowed to govern their family, flock or territory.

Adapted from a publication of the Great Pyrenees Club of America, rev. 1992 ("Is This The Breed For You?")

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this page are only those of Scott Cook. These opinions are based upon a 29 year relationship with canines, and enhanced by some excellent advice from mentors in several breeds. They are in no way intended to be presented as definitive. You should seek facts and additional opinions of many in order to develop your own opinions.