Your Collie's Living Arrangements
So have you thought about where your collie is going to sleep yet? How about where he will spend his free time? Will there be a safe place to leave her when you're not there to watch what she gets into?
Well now it's time.
If I haven't already said this I'll say it now. Collies are incredibly social creatures. Most collies would forgo a romp alone in the woods just to lie in bored repose five feet away while their companion tends the garden. Don't get me wrong, most collies love a good woodland run, but it's not as much fun without someone to share it with.
Your well bonded collie will want to be with you as much as possible so give in and let him! But there are some things you may have to take into consideration. Here is one point in which I will take a stand. Your collie will be at his best if you keep him indoors with the family rather than left on a chain outside 24-7. If you want a dog to guard your junk yard and be alone than DO NOT GET A COLLIE! A collie will be miserable left alone outside with little human contact. Kept in a situation like that, a collie is more likely to open the gate for a thief just to get some attention. But the well bonded, family adored and respected indoor collie will happily bark at the approach of strangers if this is what you want from him. The collie made a part of the family will have a natural desire to watch over and if all else fails even protect those he loves so let him in! Collies left alone will all to easily develop bad habits for lack of anything else to do. They will bark for hours, chew constantly, shred pillows, destroy flower gardens and often let themselves out for a walk around the neighborhood when there is nothing better to do and no stimulation from their people.
When you bring home a new collie puppy or new older collie, it might be a wise idea to consider having a crate available since it can not be predicted how any dog will act the first time you leave it alone. This can be an especially helpful tool for puppies. If a crate is used much the same way as a child's playpen, then your puppy should not have a problem being left in it. He will view it as his own little den and safe zone or a quiet place to grab a nap away from the kids. I know some people who have actually used regular playpens for puppies, but they usually don't hold up as well as a crate.
The crate should be large enough for your collie to stand up straight, turn around and lie down comfortably. If you have a puppy, try buying a crate to fit the average adult size and then block off the excess areas so you're not roped into buying two and three crates before your collie is completely past chewing, potty training and any behavioral issues that may take time to conquer. A crate can keep your puppy (and your furniture!) safe from all those little undesirable habits that a puppy can pick up just when you're not there to see and stop.
If you're home and can keep him with you, than by all means please do. But if the puppy is loose and you have to go to the bathroom and he's doesn't do well alone yet, then crate him. Its only for a few minutes but those few minutes could be his last if you're not there to keep him from trouble. The crate can be in the kitchen or family room or wherever your puppy seems to do the best when he's confined and have a few safe and appropriate chew toys available for him to occupy himself with. If you have a puppy who likes to chew or is still teething, then toss an old blanket or towel cut to fit the crate in rather than a thirty dollar pet bed he may destroy in one hour. If he begins to chew on the blanket or towel then remove it. We don't want him to choke on a piece or chew a hole in it that could catch a toe and cut off the circulation of blood.
If you are getting an older dog that is already house trained or has a known history of doing poorly in a crate, than try using a baby gate or two and confine him in an easy to clean safe area like the kitchen or bathroom without rugs. You can put down a bed for him or her, a couple of safe appropriate chew toys (and play toys if he's past that chewing stage) and maybe a bowl of water. Just as with the crate, anytime you need to leave him alone put him in his area casually. Its perfectly all right to give the dog a treat when you put him or her in their area so they don't view it as some sort of prison.
If you plan on leaving your dog in a crate especially for extended periods of time with no one home, it might be worth considering removing your dog's collar so there is no chance of it becoming entangled in the mesh should he do a lot of moving around or rubbing along the wires. Your collie can be quickly taught to wait for it to be put back on before he is allowed to run out. (The wait command will be introduced in a few weeks in "Your Collie's Manners".) For more help on crate training see Téa's Crate Training Page.
Nighttime depends a lot on your preferences. Many people want their collie to stay in the kitchen so they make it a habit to put the dog in that area for bedtime. Some dogs have the run of the kitchen, others may be crated. That is your choice. Other people like to have their collies in their room for a number of reasons. Some people like the sense of security they get from having a dog in the room with them. Some people like to keep their puppy close in case it has to go outside in the middle of the night. And still others believe that keeping their puppy or dog in the room will help promote a sense of pack oneness and be there to comfort a whiney pup.
Sometimes people crate the puppy while in the bedroom, sometimes they tether them with a short line to keep them from wandering into trouble. And some people just let them free as long as the bedroom door is shut. In any case, remember to make sure your young or new collie has something to do in case he wakes up in the middle of the night. An appropriate chew toy or "lovey" to cuddle with may be just enough to keep them from being an annoying pest.
As a matter of example, my mom crated me only when she wasn't home, confined me to the kitchen when she was home but couldn't watch me, and allowed me free run at night in the bedroom. I had a big sister to learn from so this was an ideal arrangement for us. I watched her and copied what she did so I learned quickly that at night we slept. But it wasn't until after I was a year that I could stand being outside of my crate without mom for a full eight hours. I had a small problem with a very mild separation anxiety that caused me to chew the last things she touched before she left the house. Eventually this went away as I grew older and more confident in myself and in my mom.
If you have a collie that happens to enjoy being outside alone occasionally, there are some basic things that must be supplied to keep your collie happy, safe and neighbor liked. A fenced in yard would be ideal for the collie who likes a little alone time to explore and just be a dog, unfortunately this isn't a perfect world. I do not recommend leaving your collie alone in an unfenced area for even a moment. Even with training and electric collars its just a bit too tempting to chase a fleeing rabbit and before they know it they're outside of the yard.
If you don't have a fenced yard and you know that your collie likes to explore, then try an aerial dog run. Aerial is better than a chain on the ground for several reasons. First, it is nearly impossible for a dog on an aerial run to become entangled in the line that attaches to their collar (unless the line is too long). If the cable is stretched between two walls than there are no poles to get stuck around. The area should be clear of any bushes, partial fences, steps, decks and railings... in short, anything that could conceivably catch a cable or chain attached to the aerial line and the dog. I suggest using a coated cable with special bounce back springs on either end to attach to the dog rather than ordinary chain link. The smooth coated texture is a bit more friendly to dog fur, less likely to catch on something than a chain and the bounce back springs help reduce the shock of a strong dog's sudden lunges.
Remember too that just because your dog is safely restrained in your yard without a fence, it does not mean that other dogs will not wander in. Some of these dogs may not be dog friendly or even healthy and leaving your collie unattended in such a situation could lead to fights or sickness.
If the other suggestions just aren't feasible but you need to have someplace outside to put your collie for an hour or so, try a fenced dog run. But be warned. A fence less than 6 feet high can be scaled by many collies with ease and a dirt or gravel floor will not only dirty the dog's coat fiercely but will give the digging collie a challenge he will quickly master if he is bored enough. Some collies will bark maddeningly if the area is too small to do anything more than a walk.
If you decide to put up an outdoor run than consider first your collie. If he is a jumper who needs running room than keep the run on the short side so he can't quite get the momentum necessary to clear the fence. If your collie is the kind who will scale or climb up the fence than try putting in a two foot overhang that goes over the inside of the run so even if the dog can scale to the top of the fence, gravity will not let him hang upside down to get past the overhang. And then of course you can just completely fence the entire top of the run. If you have a collie who likes to move than make sure his run is more long than wide so he can actually stretch his legs a little. If you have a digger try a concrete floor or an extra thick layer of gravel. If you can't put in cement and a layer of stone won't stop your digger, you can fence the bottom of the run making sure to sink it so it doesn't come into direct contact with your collie's paws unless he digs through the dirt or gravel you put down. If this run is for an older dog who does not chew on sticks or other wooded objects you can try a heavy layer of natural, UN-dyed wood chips. I do not recommend wood chips with chewers, teething puppies or young dog's in general. It is to easy for them to choke on a piece or become sick from chewing and swallowing this type of material.
Whether you have a fenced in yard, an outside kennel run or are tethering your collie, he must be provided with some type of shaded area in which to lay during the heat of a summer afternoon or just to escape the steady glare of the sun on a cloudless winter day. Even though your collie may have a nice thick coat let him have an area in which to escape a windy day or stay a little warmer on a cold day that he may want to spend outside. A good, durable outdoor doghouse with the door turned away from or protected in some way from the regular direction of the wind can give him a great deal of protection, especially if he should get caught in the rain by accident.
Provide water for him so he is not as tempted to drink dirty water from the bottom of a rusty can, tire well or hole in the ground. Give him safe chewing toys and play toys in which to relieve his boredom and keep his potty area clean and clear to reduce the chance of a puppy eating his waste or spreading any sickness. It also wouldn't hurt to make sure that your collie's play area is not within easy view of public walkways and streets. If he is constantly bothered by passersby he may be tempted to bark at them and even chase after them as best as he can from behind his fence. Besides this, it might allow some unscrupulous, nasty thief to know when your dog is not in the house and therefore be open to robbery.
And finally a note about collars and decks. There has been a lot of publicity in the dog world for several years regarding horrific collar caused accidents. I am very sorry for the loss of all of those poor dogs as most if not all were dear beloved friends, but I think that some of these accidents are not so much the fault of the collars as it is the unsupervised leaving of dogs in unsafe circumstances or with potentially life threatening habits. Here are few things to consider if you do leave your dog outside alone.
Choke chains (metal or nylon), pinch or prong collars, check chokes, martingales (greyhound collars) or any collar with hanging tags or rings that can turn sideways:
Most average wooden decks are built with between 3/16ths and half an inch gaps between the floor boards. If a dog lays down on these decks it is very easy for a ring or tag of any of these collars to slip down into the crack and turn so it cannot be pulled out. Many dogs have choked to death and in some rare cases have broken their necks in their struggle for freedom.
Many people will often tether their dog while it is on an open porch, deck with railing, or simply to close to a fence. Dogs will attempt to jump these fences, railings and half walls without enough line to reach the ground on the other side and so end up either breaking their necks or hanging themselves most gruesomely. What's worse is that many of these poor things don't die instantly.
Dogs with a history of digging will often dig a hole under a fence in which the bottom of the fence actually makes up the top of the escape tunnel. Very nearly any collar can get caught on the bottom of the fence and if the collar isn't just big enough to slip out of, a dog can be strangled or even starve to death if he is stuck somewhere where he cannot be found.
Do I really need to go on?
Choke chains and pinch collars are training devices only and should NEVER be left on a dog as daily wear or ID collars. These collars have the potential to kill anywhere when left on an unsupervised dog, even in the home. Check chokes and martingale collars may open up a little but the ring and chain on the check choke and the ring on the martingale can be caught on fences or things that stick out. ID tags can get caught in a space as small as a 16th of an inch and the S-hooks given out by most vets and municipalities are very strong. If you must use hanging tags don't use the S-hooks. Keep all of the dog's tags on one very small, light ring that will break apart with enough struggling. With rough collies or any heavy haired breed of dog, we have the advantage of being able to wear light ID collars that can be fairly well hidden and protected by our thick fur. But for those that have regular collars for ID, try these alternatives to hanging tags and identification.
1. Use a Velcro attached ID pouch to hold tags in.
2. Use a collar with your pet's name and phone # sewn on.
3. Use a riveted name plate on your dog's collar.
And finally, remember, the average dog's collar should sit about midway down the neck with just enough room between the neck and collar to fit one or two fingers. (This may not apply to dogs with extra-wide back skulls ie. American Pit Bull Terrier, Rottwieler, mastiff type dogs...) In most cases, this will give your dog just enough room to slip out of his collar should he get caught on something. If the dog tries to get out of his collar when walking on a leash you can tighten and UN-tighten the collar for every walk or use a martingale just for walking so he can't slip out and away during a leash walk.
There is a new collar on the market that will come undone if your dog should become stuck by it on something... a sort of safety collar like cats wear but for dogs. The dog can be walked by the collar without fear of breaking the collar by attaching your leash to two D-rings on either side of the break away clip. If I can get their permission, I will try to get a picture of it up and maybe even a link to their page.
3/9/02 The link was approved! Thank you Tenney Mudge!
- Chinook Breakaway Safety Collars -
These pictures were made available courtesy of Tenney Mudge, creator/owner of Chinook Breakaway Safety Collars. To read the story behind their creation please visit their official site. Be warned... you may need tissues!
Chinook Breakaway Safety Collars are now owned by Premier Pet Products.
The collar's new name is "Keepsafe Breakaway Collar" and it can be found at Premier's site for it at