Are Rough Collies Aggressive by Nature?

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Rough Collies, the eye-catching, popular breed known for their luxurious coats and natural intelligence, have been popularized by the famous canine TV star, Lassie. In fact, long-haired Collies are often simply referred to as “Lassie dogs.” However, Collies’ vocal breed tendencies can lead people to ask: are Rough Collies aggressive by nature?

In this article, we’ll explore the temperament of Rough and Smooth Collies, discuss factors affecting their behavior, and debunk the myth regarding any inherent aggression. 

We’ll address other misconceptions about the breed and provide tips to avoid ending up with a potentially aggressive dog. By the end, you should have a better understanding of Collies and their true disposition.

*Note: Rough Collies are long-haired Collies, while Smooth Collies are short-haired Collies. In the US, they are considered the same breed, since both versions can be born in the same litter. Any reference in this article to Rough Collies also applies to Smooth Collies.

Table of Contents

Understanding Rough Collie temperament

Collies are gentle, empathetic, and loyal. The famous fictional story “Lassie Come Home” even has some basis in real life. Decades before the first “Lassie” book and movie were released, an American farm Collie called Bobbie traveled over 2,000 miles – crossing the Rocky Mountains in the dead of winter – to return to his family in Silverton, Oregon. The saga of Silverton Bobbie made international headlines, and he became known as “Bobbie the Wonder Dog.”

Part of Collies’ devotion to their people goes back to their history as herding dogs. Collies were bred to work closely with humans, making them excellent companions for families and individuals alike. 

Due to their high intelligence, they learn quickly and are relatively easy to train – when treated with respect and consideration. These sensitive dogs possess an innate ability to pick up on the emotions and feelings of their owners.

Collies are generally friendly, social creatures who enjoy the company of humans and other animals. Their herding instincts may make them protective of their families – a positive trait when it comes to guarding and looking out for potential dangers. However, a protective nature should not be mistaken for aggression.

two rough collies running and playing

Factors affecting Rough Collie behavior

Some factors which can affect a Collie’s behavior are in the control of the owner, while others are not. Things like genetics, early socialization, training, environment, and health all have to be considered.


Though Collies are not inherently aggressive, some dogs may be more predisposed to undesirable reactive or aggressive behavior due to their genetics. 

It’s important to research reputable breeders when looking to adopt a Rough or Smooth Collie. A responsible breeder will prioritize temperament and health in their breeding program.

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Early Socialization

Proper socialization is crucial to shaping your Collie’s behavior and is most effective when done early and often. Exposing puppies to a variety of people, animals, and situations during the critical developmental period of their lives helps prevent fear and aggression. 

Puppy socialization classes are an excellent way for owners to ensure their Collies are well-socialized and less likely to display reactive or aggressive behaviors.


Naturally, training and daily exercise is important to prevent and address bad behavior in dogs. Like any breed, Collies require consistent and positive reinforcement-based training methods to learn appropriate behaviors and boundaries. 

Collies perform best when persuaded, not pushed. Heavy-handed, harsh training methods can lead to fear and aggression in dogs. Collies are no exception to this rule, though more often than not they will respond with fear and a tendency to “shut down.”

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Environment can significantly impact canine behavior. Like people, dogs need to feel safe and secure. Collies raised in a loving, stable home environment are highly unlikely to exhibit aggressive behaviors. 

However, any dog subjected to stress, abuse, or neglect may develop fear and aggression as a coping mechanism. To summarize Alice Rostkowski of the Houston Collie Rescue: if you’re mean enough to a dog for long enough, even a nice dog like a Collie can be turned mean.


Health issues can also play a role in a dog’s behavior. Pain or discomfort caused by medical conditions may lead to irritability and aggression. 

Remember, dogs can have “invisible” internal issues just like humans. Brain tumors, for instance, have been known to cause canine aggression. 

Regular veterinary care, including routine check-ups and vaccinations, is essential to prevent issues and ensure your Collie’s health and well-being.

show collie getting a treat

Are Rough Collies aggressive?

Now that we’ve discussed influential factors of canine behavior, let’s address the original question:

Are Rough Collies aggressive? The answer is no. Collies are not inherently aggressive dogs. They are usually gentle, affectionate, and wonderful companions.

But it is the responsibility of pet parents to provide their Collie with the appropriate care and training to help them become well-adjusted, well-mannered dogs.

Are Rough Collies prone to biting?

Now that we have a better understanding of Collie behavior and temperament, let’s tackle the question head-on: Are Collies prone to biting? The simple answer is no, because Collies are not aggressive dogs, biting is not a common trait in this breed.

However, like any dog breed, individual Collies may develop biting behavior due to various factors, such as lack of proper training, fear, or frustration. It’s essential to understand that biting behavior in Collies or any other breed is not a result of the breed itself but rather a consequence of external factors and individual experiences.

Misconceptions about Collie aggression

One incorrect assumption is that herding breeds like Rough Collies are more prone to aggression due to their protective nature. Though Collies can be vocal watchdogs, this should not be mistaken for aggression. 

A Collie will want to sound the alarm, not defend the castle. Don’t expect your Collie to attack someone even if they break into your home! The saying “Collies will defend people – not property” really sums them up.

Another misconception is that Rough Collies may be aggressive towards children. Sometimes a herding breed’s instincts lead a minority of them to playfully nip (though not hard enough to harm!) or “herd” running children

This natural behavior is not an act of aggression. Young Collies especially can be the “fun police” when attempting to contain rowdy children and keep their “flock” calm, safe, and together. 

If children stray from the protection zone, they often try to bring them back – not always a bad thing. You can help teach your Collie that herding children is not an appropriate play behavior by redirecting them to a more acceptable interaction.

*As outlined in this article, a poll of 365 Collie owners reported around 20% of their Collies – mostly all young dogs – were inclined to herd rowdy children.

Safety measures when introducing a Collie to children and other pets

It’s always important to take precautions, just in case. To ensure the safety of children and other pets when introducing a Collie to your household, follow these guidelines:

Supervise interactions

Always supervise interactions between your Collie, children, and other pets, especially in the beginning. Being nearby provides you the opportunity to step in quickly if necessary. 

Teach proper behavior

Educate children on how to interact with dogs safely and respectfully, and train your Collie to behave appropriately around them.

Provide separate spaces

Give your Collie and other pets their separate spaces where they can retreat to when they need time alone. Crates and playpens work especially well.

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Collies are not an aggressive breed. It’s essential to understand the various factors that can influence a Collie’s behavior and take the necessary steps to ensure they are well-socialized, well-trained, and provided with the appropriate care.

Be sure to take the appropriate precautions, especially in the beginning, when introducing your Rough Collie to young children, cats, and other pets.

By doing so, you will set up your Rough or Smooth Collies for a lifetime of success as loving and well-mannered family pets.

*This article was written with the help of Chatsonic.

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