While it’s true that just simply having a dog around can work wonders for your physical and mental health, some dogs are better suited to being emotional support and service animals than others.
For example, breeds like dachshunds and Chihuahuas are just too strong willed to do anything other than what they want—a trait that can be tamped down with training, but never fully erased.
Border Collies, on the other hand, are known for their obedience and friendliness, so does this mean they make great service dogs?
Read on to know where Border Collies rank on the list of service dogs!
Before we delve into how suited Border Collies are to being service dogs, let’s take a look at what being a service dog entails.
According to the US Department of Justice, a service dog refers to individually trained dogs that are trained with the intent to perform tasks or do work for people with physical or mental impairments.
To further narrow down this vague definition (let’s face it—we could be defining just about any dog with this!), the term “service dog” was fleshed out in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 1990.
The ADA adds to the earlier definition by describing the nature of the tasks done by service dogs, including pulling wheelchairs, guiding blind people, alerting deaf people, reminding owners to take prescribed medication, protecting and seeking help for someone having a seizure, and calming owners with PTSD or anxiety, among others.
Simply put, service dogs assist people with mental or physical disabilities by performing tasks and providing emotional solace, resulting in a better quality of life for the owner.
It is for this reason that service dogs are treated as “working dogs” and allowed to enter most public spaces with their owner, where other pets wouldn’t be allowed.
Dogs become service dogs only after going through rigorous training and certification as per the ADA.
While you can train your own collie to perform the range of tasks that service dogs do, training from a service dog trainer will achieve the best results, and ADA certification will get your collie officially recognized as a service dog.
Also Read: Do Border Collies Like To Swim?
There are different types of service dogs. Here’s a brief overview of the two main types:
- Service Dogs: Service dogs are mainly intended to assist people with physical impairments.
They can be hearing dogs (assisting deaf handlers), guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs (helping blind handlers navigate through life), medical alert dogs (alerting owners of medical emergencies), and mobility assistance dogs (helping impaired handlers perform physical tasks that are otherwise impaired by mobility issues).
- Psychiatric Service Dogs: These dogs are specifically trained to assist those with mental illnesses and disorders.
While they have all the rights that other service dogs do, their training is more specialized, helping them perform tasks such as protecting their owner from disturbances, finding them a quiet spot, providing comforting nuzzles, and so on.
Many people confuse psychiatric service dogs with emotional support dogs. Though both are highly similar, the former is professionally trained and certified, unlike the latter.
Psychiatric dogs will be allowed into public places, a privilege emotional support dogs will not enjoy due to their lack of training and certification.
Service dogs need to have the following characteristics:
- They need to be able to focus on tasks without getting easily distracted.
- They need to be comfortable around humans.
- They need to have a calm temperament.
- There should be an eagerness to please.
- They should have good memory and recall skills.
- They should be physically able to support their owners (balance, support, etc.) should they need it.
- They need to be easy to train.
Considering this, let’s look at what characteristics of Border Collies make them suited to being service dogs.
Border Collies are often counted among the most intelligent dog breeds in the world, if not “the” most intelligent dog breed (as named in Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs”).
Border Collies demonstrate their intelligence by being fast learners, highly trainable, and highly observant. A Border Collie can master a new verbal command five times faster than other breeds and will easily observe and remember hand gestures, signals, and body language.
They can also easily memorize scents and objects, which helps them easily locate objects, even if they are hidden.
Probably stemming from their “working dog” heritage, Border Collies possess insane reserves of energy which helps them accomplish a range of tasks without tiring.
The best part is that a cheery disposition and an eagerness to please accompany these energy levels—you’ll rarely find a Border Collie refusing to do what you ask.
Additionally, their energy is highly infectious, instantly lightening your mood.
Border Collies are lovable, affectionate, caring dogs that love people. They adore their owners and being around them, and even do well with strangers they don’t deem a threat.
They may not be lap dogs, but they’re definitely up for occasional cuddles (and perennial play time, which they love because it’s a combination of their owner’s presence and physical activities!).
Since they love their owners so much, Border Collies are extremely loyal animals. Even if they’re friendly to other animals and humans, a threatening human or animal presence can instantly get their hackles up.
Border Collies’ loyalty means that they may go to any lengths to protect their owners’ lives and their intelligence means that they always find the best possible way to do so.
This ties in with our previous point—Border Collies can instantly get protective of their owners at the slightest threat, even if they’re generally easy-going dogs.
A protective instinct has been bred into these dogs, as their work required them to protect their flocks, owners, the house, and the family.
This, along with their friendly nature, makes them especially great around kids, provided proper socialization has also taken place (their protective instinct can turn out to be counterproductive, resulting in harm and injury unless these dogs learn to harness their protective instincts).
As mentioned earlier, Border Collies were bred to be workhorses, meant to spend long hours herding sheep and livestock. This has instilled in the breed an affinity for staying active and a strong work ethic.
These dogs will work hard at any task you give them, and what’s more, they’ll happily work hard—Border Collies treat tasks and jobs as fun and play and find contentment and fulfillment in completing designated tasks, even if rewards don’t follow (though, of course, rewards will get you more enthusiastic responses!).
Two subtle qualities that herding dogs need are sensitivity and observational skills.
Flocks are big on herd mentality. Additionally, herd behavior may change if the animals sense danger.
Border Collies are great at detecting changes, even if they are subtle, thanks to their inbred sensitivity, intuition, and observational powers.
Not only are they sensitive to flocks but they’re also sensitive to their human’s emotional fluctuations and body language, which lets them easily detect when things are off.
For example, a Border Collie can detect even subtle changes in a human’s physical state that could be indicative of an impending panic or anxiety attack and respond to this by getting help or providing comforting touches/nuzzles.
Of course, proper training is necessary for the breed’s inherent sensitivity to reach such levels of efficiency.
In addition to the above skills, Border Collies have shown themselves to be highly efficient at performing tasks such as picking up and retrieving objects, opening doors (if adapted to the dog’s limits), and alerting people of danger.
Note that Border Collies that display aggression, steal food, bark and whine continuously, and get easily distracted are improperly trained service dogs.
Also Read: Are Border Collies Good Guard Dogs?
Though any dog can be a service dog if it has the right characteristics and undergoes the right training, Border Collies are, by far, the most reliable and overall the best option for service dogs.
If you or anyone you know requires a service dog, the process of getting one is usually straightforward. Most organizations offering service dogs will require you to complete an assessment, consult their therapist (who will verify that your need is genuine), and then match you to the right service dog.