Posts Tagged ‘border collie’

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

Border Collies can make excellent service dogs for the right type of handler.

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.

Piper is a hardworking 7-year-old Border Collie who has a very interesting job. He’s assigned at the runway in Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan and he makes sure that the airplanes can take off safely by keeping birds and other creatures at bay.

The airport’s perimeters is known to have geese, ducks, owls and foxes lurking in its runways and the situation can potentially cause damage to the planes. Worse, their presence can lead to accidents that should’ve been prevented, and that’s where Piper’s duties come in.

Piper is tasked to shoo-away the creatures, regularly patrol the runway and keep the lurking wildlife off the perimeters. It was his owner, Brian Edwards, who assigned him to the job. Edwards works as a supervisor at the airport, but he’s been Piper’s master since 2012.

Edwards discovered that Piper loves playing outdoors, particularly when it involves obstacle races. So, recognizing the dog’s skills, he started training the Border Collie. However, the process had some challenges in the beginning, especially since Piper had to get used to the sound of the airplanes.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons


“Most of the training revolved around off leash control, making sure he would listen to me no matter what,” Edwards told KTVU. “Chasing birds comes pretty natural to this guy, so we didn’t have to work on that as much as the obedience.”

“We train for the worst possible scenario, knowing we’re going to perform our best,” said Edwards.

Now, one year into the job, and Piper, who turns eight in April, still trains with Edwards when they’re not at work. His master and handler notes that Piper is great at his jobs because, Border Collies are natural herders.

Watch a video of Piper in action below:

A video posted by K-9 Piper (@airportk9) on Feb 15, 2016 at 5:53pm PST