Do Border Collies Make Good Service Dogs?
When choosing a service dog, whether it be for physical or psychiatric disability, it has to be “need over breed.”
Let’s face it, you may love the Chihuahua breed, but when it comes to aiding you with specific tasks, this little guy may not be up for the job.
Do Border Collies make good service dogs?
In this post, we will explore this popular herding dog to see how it may measure up in providing services to those with disabilities.
General Traits of the Border Collie
The Border Collie was developed to control sheep in the hilly border country between Scotland and England. These canines are known for their steely stare, intelligence, and determination (among other qualities) that makes them excellent herders.
This breed has unlimited energy, stamina, and a strong work ethic. They are also ranked exceptional in intelligence which makes the Border Collie highly trainable.
That’s great when it comes to herding a flock, but what about for service for those that have a disability?
Fast Facts About the Border Collie
- Height – Up to 22 inches at the shoulder
- Weight – 30 to 45 pounds
- Lifespan – 12 to 15 years
The Border Collie as a Service Dog
The Border Collie is not a couch potato. This is a breed that needs a job. Providing service for a person with a disability is a job, but is it enough to keep the Border Collie active both mentally and physically?
Owners of this breed state that it can be mentally and physically exhausting, even exasperating, trying to keep up with a Border Collie. This dog is a herding animal, which means it has an overwhelming urge to gather a flock. That flock could be sheep, children, cats, squirrels, or anything that moves, including cars. Along with this instinct comes the urge to nip, nudge, and bark. These traits cannot be trained out of him. Instead, it must be directed.
Service dogs must be well behaved. They cannot, bark, nip, growl, or touch anyone around them, except their handler. Training a Border Collie to be a service animal requires patience and determination.
The positive aspects of training a Border Collie to be a service dog are that they are smart and capable animals. Border Collies can be trained to provide many complex tasks such as picking up dropped items, opening doors, and alerting their handlers.
Border Collie Protectiveness and Herding Trait
Another of the innate traits of the Border Collie is the protectiveness trait. Border Collies are sensitive and, according to those who train these dogs, they have an uncanny ability to understand what you’re going to ask of them before you ask it.
Herding breeds have developed a sense that allows them to pick up on even the most subtle changes in body language. When this happens, the breed reacts accordingly to keep the sheep in line.
Although this is a fabulous trait for a job protecting a flock, it may not always work when it comes to humans.
Now let’s translate this trait to a human that has a psychiatric disability such as PTSD or a phobia. When the Border Collie senses his handler becoming anxious over a situation, sound, or particular person, the dog will react. This reaction (as instinct) can be both good and bad, depending on the type of training and the particular dog’s temperament.
As a service dog, your canine companion will be expected to “get along” with everyone they encounter. Being overly protective not only endangers the general public, but the Department of Justice has specific wording stating that dogs who act in an “aggressive” manner cannot be service dogs. This is not based on breed, but it is something to consider when choosing a Border Collie as a service dog.
Adopt a Border Collie
Border Collies and Service Dog Work
The Border Collie is a highly trainable, intelligent, and sensitive animal. Using it as a service dog may be a challenge for an inexperienced dog owner. It’s not that the Border Collie isn’t capable of the task, it’s that their powerful drive to herd and be overprotective that can be a problem for an inexperienced service dog handler.
Of course, not every dog is exactly the same. If you need a service dog, then find one that has the right temperament, physical stature, and capabilities necessary for your life.
Remember, fill your need over the breed.