Border collies can be good service dogs as long as they’re paired with the right handler. The breed is typically smart, friendly, and dedicated to work. If you’re in need of a helper, a border collie service dog may be a perfect choice. Keep reading to learn more about the breed and what makes them a good support animal.
Let’s dig in.
What Is a Border Collie?
A border collie is an extremely affectionate dog breed that’s good with children and other dogs. Developed in the United Kingdom, the breed was refined as a working dog to herd sheep and other livestock. These dogs are highly intelligent and work-driven. They are known for having relatively high energy and can be very playful.
Because border collies are highly adaptable, trainable, and do well with strangers, they can make great service dogs. They also need a lot of mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. A constant job such as service work can be a very productive outlet for them.
What Does the Border Collie Breed Look Like?
Border collies have wavy, medium-length coats that require average grooming. They shed an average amount. And they come in various colors, including black, gold, black, and white. They can also be merle or piebald, which increases their likelihood of having blue eyes.
Measuring about 18 inches to 22 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 30 to 45 pounds, border collies have a medium to large build. Not only are these dogs athletic and energetic, but they’re also very smart.
While the border collie is recognized by kennel clubs and shown for conformation, many border collie handlers reject the idea of breeding for appearance. Their take is appearance standards have nothing to do with the dog’s ability to perform the job they were originally bred for. Breeding for appearance rather than working traits can result in losing their herding skills.
What Is the Border Collie’s Personality?
Border collies tend to have affectionate and adaptable personalities. Because of their high intelligence, they’re easily trainable. They’re also agile and obedient.
Because of their herding background, most border collies have natural herding instincts that can be seen in the home. They can “round up” family members or other pets, preferring to have them all together to keep and eye on and protect the flock more easily.
This background has also made them very sensitive to body language, able to pick up on and feed off slight changes in handler signals. They are also very quick to pick up on environmental cues and can be very quick to react to sudden movements, particularly those of small mammals!
Border collie puppies have a lot of energy. But due to their intelligence and obedience, it shouldn’t take long to train them with the proper techniques and re-enforcement.
Is a Border Collie Good as a Service Dog?
With any service dog, it’s important to match the dog’s personality and drive to the particular job.
The traits that make border collies great pets, like trainability, adaptability, obedience, and intelligence, can also make them great service dogs. Border collies can excel at learning tasks like picking stuff up off the floor, opening cabinets, drawers, and doors, pulling wheelchairs, and alerting people to seizures or other medical emergencies.
In addition to these qualities, their medium build makes border collie service dogs ideal for escorting their charge through stores, mass transit, and more.
They develop deep bonds with their owners and remain loyal, fearless, and friendly. They also have a fairly long lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
One specific trait that makes border collies great service dogs is their protective nature. Since they come from a line of breeds that herd and protect sheep, they have an innate sense that helps them pick up on body language. When a border collie service dog senses that its handler is getting anxious, it will probably react positively to help the handler feel calm and secure.
However, not all border collies are cut out for service work. Additionally, some service dog applications may not be ideal for certain service border collies. For instance, a reactive border that feeds off its handler’s anxiety may not be the best service animal for a psychiatric application. A high-work-ethic dog may also not do well sitting in meetings all day with their handler.
Service dog trainers frequently need to work with a border collie for weeks or months to determine if they are a good candidate for service work, as with any dog.
How Does a Border Collie Become a Service Dog?
Border collies need a job. They aren’t going to just lay around the house. This feature makes border collie service dogs one of the best options. Even border collie mixes can have what it takes; they don’t need to be purebred.
To become a service dog, any breed has to go through training. Once it has undergone training and learned important tasks for about six months, it will have to pass a public access test. Then you can apply for a service dog certification.
What Duties Do Service Dogs Do?
Service dogs perform various tasks for individuals. They’re life-changing companions for people with disabilities, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), blindness, mental illness, and various physical limitations.
For example, a border collie service dog will get training to assist blind handlers or those with limited vision. They’ll alert handlers who are deaf or hard of hearing, pull a wheelchair, assist handlers during a seizure, and even alert handlers to allergens.
They’ll also provide physical support and assistance with balance and stability. Or help those with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
Where Can You Bring a Border Collie Service Dog?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website, a border collie service dog, or any service animal, is allowed in “all areas of public facilities and private businesses where members of the public, program participants, clients, customers, patrons, or invitees are allowed.”
If the service animal interferes with safety requirements, such as creating a sterile environment in a hospital room, it can be asked to leave. Another reason a business can request the removal of a service dog is if it’s not housebroken or out of control.
The ADA website also says businesses can’t ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation. They can’t require a service animal to wear a vest. But they can ask two questions that every handler must be able to answer: 1) Is this animal required because of a disability? and 2) What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?
Pro Tip: Most airlines allow service dogs to fly for free.
Are Border Collies Prone to Any Health Issues?
As long as you keep up with routine check-ups, there’s no reason to think your border collie won’t live a long, healthy life. Because they’re active and always perform some kind of job, border collies tend to stay healthier than other dogs that don’t have active lifestyles.
But border collies can be susceptible to hip dysplasia, a condition in which the ball of the hip joint doesn’t fit correctly into the hip joint socket. The rubbing of these two bones can cause inflammation, leading to arthritis.
Epilepsy is another condition that border collies may develop. This seizure disorder commonly starts around age two to five and sometimes requires anti-seizure medications. There’s no known reason why border collies are predisposed to epilepsy.
Finally, a genetic eye disease called Collie eye anomaly causes malformations of the eyes, resulting in vision defects or blindness. There’s usually detection right after birth.
Is a Border Collie Service Dog Worth It?
If you’re looking for a great service dog, consider the border collie. This breed will help you stay fit and healthy because of the attention and activity it requires. But a border collie service dog will also stay by your side no matter what, providing a constant companion that’s friendly yet protective.
Wouldn’t you want a border collie as a service dog if needed?
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