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Assistance Dog Breeds: About Smooth and Rough Collies

Assistance Dog Breeds: About Smooth and Rough Collies

The most famous collie—and arguably the most famous dog—is known for helping out humans, though not in any realistic assistance dog sort of way. She was Lassie, a rough collie exhibiting one of the classic colorations and patterns in the breed.

Rough collies are the more common variety, though there are also smooth collies. They are the same breed—sometimes also referred to as Scottish collies—just with two different types of coat (more on the difference below). Though not as often trained as service dogs as comparably sized Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds, collies can be a great pick for a hearing or guide dog, alert dog for people with certain medical conditions, or other types of assistance dog.

Of course, many personal factors come into play when deciding on the best breed to partner with. Exactly what sort of help you need is a major consideration, as are the space in your home and yard, how much regular care and exercise you’re able to provide, and what sort of canine personality you prefer. Below is some general information about smooth and rough collies to offer some insights into whether this dog breed might be a suitable match for you. 

Why Collies Make Good Assistance Dogs 

Collies are genuine working dogs, with a long, distinguished history as born-and-bred herders. They have a dependable work ethic, with the smarts, determination, obedience, and stamina to learn tasks and see them through. They also reliably remain alert and attentive to their jobs and loved ones.

While this is an active breed that definitely needs daily exercise, its needs in this regard aren’t quite as extensive as the retrievers more often seen as assistance dogs, and they appreciate some quiet time. But like retrievers, collies have the size and strength to provide steadying support, fetch and carry sizable items, and otherwise perform physically demanding tasks.

As with any herding dog, collies have a protective streak that isn’t always desirable in an assistance dog, as it can cause problems in public settings. However, collies are known to take a more thoughtful approach than many other breeds, with a tendency to take a little time to evaluate whether there’s really a threat. This is a beneficial characteristic in a dog that frequently has to be around strangers.

Smooth and Rough Collie Physical Characteristics 

Collies have a distinct look of intelligence and sensitivity. This large breed stands around two feet tall, the dogs are a little longer than they are tall, and on average they weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 60 pounds. Their broad chest depicts their strength, while their sloped shoulders capture their speed, grace, and agility.

Smooth and rough collies both have a chest mane and soft, thick undercoats and dense overcoats; the rough collie is the long-haired variety, the smooth collie is the short-haired variety. A number of coat colors and patterns are seen, but sable, blue merle, sable merle, and tricolor are the more common. 

Collie Temperament 

This breed is moderately active with plenty of affection for its loved ones. Collies tend to be tolerant but a bit aloof around strangers, including children and other animals, which can be useful in an assistance dog that must remain well-behaved and focused on its partner and responsibilities in public. They aren’t emotionally needy by dog standards, but of course require regular attention and displays of affection and appreciation.

Some collies are fairly vocal, which is a useful trait in guide and medical alert dogs. The breed is noted for sometimes being stubborn, so individuals that don’t quite fit this mold are sought for training as assistance dogs. 

Smooth and Rough Collie Care and Health 

A generally healthy breed, collies can live 12 or more years with proper nutrition and care. Eye problems are seen disproportionately in collies, and as with other large breeds, joint problems like arthritis and hip or elbow dysplasia are concerns with aging.

These dogs need a good deal of physical and mental stimulation throughout the day, but they also want down time and exhibit independence. They are somewhat sensitive to the heat and sunlight, and their snouts are prone to sunburns. Smooth collies are slightly lower maintenance with their coat care regimen than rough collies, but both should be brushed at least a few times per week; rough collies benefit from daily brushings to prevent tangles and matting. 

Recommended Reading 

If you need more guidance to figure out which breed might be best for your assistance dog needs, click over to this article about considerations when choosing a breed. Also, read about the breeds most commonly used as assistance dogs.


Assistance Dogs International: Dog Breeds & Behavior

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners: Finding a Suitable Candidate for Assistance Dog Work

American Kennel Club: The Collie

Dogster: Collie Dogs

Animal Planet: Collie Guide

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