Service dog: GSD vs Collie? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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Service dog: GSD vs Collie?

In the next year, I'm going to be getting a new puppy who will be trained as my new service dog for my mobility needs. My current dog has had to retire, and was just diagnosed with the beginnings stages of dementia due to his old age. I've had a service dog next to me for 20yrs and got my first when I was 9, and this will be my 4th dog I will be having trained.

The breeder I got my current dog from has retired, and is no longer breeding dogs. So I've had to consider a new breed, and have narrowed down my new breed prospects as either rough collie or german shepherd. I have experience with both breeds working with them on friends farms and by training them, but have never owned either- my husband however is a german shepherd fanboy.

I do have a collie breeder in line who is excellent, but not a german shepherd breeder in my area that produces good dogs- Iowa is a bit of a wasteland for well bred dogs.

I am considering getting a shepherd instead of a collie as I know they are more of a one person dog, highly trainable, and I have some concern that a collie will be too people friendly and seek out others attentions, which I can tell you is not good for a service animal. My current dog is a redbone, and they are totally one person dogs and he gives zero concern for anyone else but me LOL and wont listen to commands given by anyone but myself. I had a golden and a lab that both failed their training due to being too people friendly; a more reserved dog is actually better for service work.

Am I being overly anxious that a collie would be an attention seeking nutcase like the golden and lab I was going to have trained? The collies I worked with were fairly friendly dogs even to strangers. Even though they were very focused when working- they were not in a public situation with lots of people to tempt them.

Also, my concern is, do you think a shepherd would be too high risk for developing health issues compared to a collie. I'm sure many of you could recommend some good breeders in or near Southeast Iowa. My husbands shepherds all had health issues ranging from seizures, chronic UTI's, to hip dysplasia.
I know I'm probably rambling (it's a curse), so maybe some owners on here could give me some assistance with my concerns.

Sidenote: I have a doctors prescription for my service animal, and a trainer who does the work for me. I just have to find my own dog, this reduces the cost I have to pay. The socialization however will be my job, and I live in a great city for that.
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 06:56 PM
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There just aren't a ton of breeders producing German Shepherds that work in this capacity. I'm not totally sure I'd recommend a first time GSD owner to get one as a service dog prospect, either. It seems to work better if a person has a fair amount of GSD experience

Sure GSDs are less indiscriminately friendly and social but they have a whole different set of challenges working in this capacity.

Statistically speaking, labs and goldens are being used more widely, there are more breeders producing quality dogs that are doing the job and the breeder can look at their lines and say this pairing produced this many functioning service dogs etc, than there are GSDs. Friendly, social dogs can absolutely be taught to mind their own business and work.
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 06:59 PM
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As for health-- you can absolutely find a shepherd who is pretty healthy. You'd want to choose a breeder whose dogs have extensive health testing and hopefully a pedigree with a decent amount of health testing on several generations of dogs behind them
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 07:06 PM
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I've had both collies and GSD, 2 of each over the years. I would tend to agree with you on the friendliness to strangers.

Each of the collies, from different litters, were friendly to everyone, not as much a one person's dog as my GSD's.

My GSD's were both like my shadow, always wanting to be by my side or nearby watching me. Not so with the collies.

My GSD's were pleasant to other people socially but my last one wouldn't even take a treat from a stranger.

Sorry I can't recommend a breeder as both of mine have been rescues. My last GSD lived to be 16 and was never sick

except near the end as she was getting elderly.
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 07:18 PM
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There is a service collie breeder in Oregon: google Kings Valley Collies. I don't find Collies too people friendly. They are aloof. I think it is the Borzoi blood in them. They are very sweet, , calm, easy going and non-aggressive unless well-challenged
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-03-2018, 11:36 PM
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To be honest, if you find a collie with the right temperament, it would be fine. The coat can be lots of work though. Of course this depends on what you are using the therapy dog for. I have noticed the Seeing Eye Institute in NJ isn't using gsd anymore. Just labs and Golden's.
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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-04-2018, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Thecowboysgirl View Post
There just aren't a ton of breeders producing German Shepherds that work in this capacity. I'm not totally sure I'd recommend a first time GSD owner to get one as a service dog prospect, either. It seems to work better if a person has a fair amount of GSD experience

Sure GSDs are less indiscriminately friendly and social but they have a whole different set of challenges working in this capacity.

Statistically speaking, labs and goldens are being used more widely, there are more breeders producing quality dogs that are doing the job and the breeder can look at their lines and say this pairing produced this many functioning service dogs etc, than there are GSDs. Friendly, social dogs can absolutely be taught to mind their own business and work.
I absolutely do not use goldens and labs. I've had terrible experiences, and they all came from very excellent breeders. I work only with dogs that are not indiscriminately friendly towards people. It's easier to socialize them properly than to train them not to be a mindless attention seeker.
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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-04-2018, 12:58 AM
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Honestly it is personal preference in my opinion. Of course every breed has its challenges, but that does not mean it makes dog training harder. The science is the same. GSD's need more extensive socialization (exposure) to the world due to the protective nature of the breed. It needs to learn that people/dogs are safe and my owner makes good things happen when I see these people or dogs. Temperament/health history is the most important for a good start, but socialization makes or breaks a service dog. If I had to go GSD vs Collie vs Lab- I would go with GSD any day even if it may be slightly more challanging that includes more socialization than a collie or a lab. However, I do have a good grasp on dog training and behavior now so that might not be true for the average person. For a dog to even be ready and bomb-proof would be at about 3 years old. I wouldn't even start focusing on task training till after 18 months to truly start alerting tasks reliably. Need to have a good foundation to start with. This is my two cents.

Last edited by Casey Johnson; 10-04-2018 at 01:01 AM.
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-04-2018, 12:59 AM Thread Starter
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I do have a breeder in mind who says she does have some service dogs on the ground. The grooming isn't an issue for me, my husband is taking care of it for me. I just want to make sure I choose the right breed, you can imagine why LOL
My husband is a shepherd fan, so of course he's bias. LOL
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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 10-04-2018, 01:21 AM
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Will a collie meet the requirements for the mobility ratio? I have a 5 month old mobility/medical alert SDIT and he is totally aloof to people, but loves to socialize when Off duty. Love that about shepherds.
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