Collies don’t generally make good guard dogs due to their low aggression, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t protective.
Collies are very protective of their owners and their home, although they are not usually physically aggressive. Collies’ uniquely high prey drive combined with their cooperativeness and lack of aggression make them a very friendly, loyal, and fiercely protective breed. Collies get easily attached to their humans, and sometimes they can even be too protective, putting their herding instincts to good use by herding their family in to one place.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the protective instincts and behaviors of collies and how it might look in different situations.
Are Collies Protective of their Owners?
Collies are not aggressive, so it’s not obvious that they would be protective of their owners, but collies are very loyal and protective dogs in their own way.
Collies are very protective of their owners, although their protection often manifests in other ways other than outward aggression.
Will my collie protect me?
If you’re ever talking to a stranger your collie doesn’t know, you might notice your collie will be by your side, keeping a very close eye on them until they are trusted.
Similar non-aggressive protective behaviors include intensely staring down any perceived foes and putting themselves between you and any danger.
Although collies are generally non-aggressive, they definitely try their best to protect you in their own way. If they are pushed to their limit they may also bear their teeth or bite to defend you.
Collies’ Protective Instincts
Collies are quite unique in the world of dogs, since they have an extremely high chase and prey drive, but are also non-aggressive and very cooperative with humans.
Collies have been trained over hundreds of years to work cooperatively with farmers, so they are very used to working with people and are not usually aggressive.
Although collies tend not to actually be aggressive, they can still be loud and will do their best to protect their family.
Here are some of the ways your collie might show their protective instincts:
If you’ve ever seen your collie staring intently at another dog, animal, or person… it’s probably because they don’t recognize it and feel threatened by it.
All collies share the same intense stare and protective/herding instincts.
In the animal kingdom, eye contact can be seen as a threat, so collies use intense eye contact to maintain control of whatever situation they are in.
Snarling / Showing Teeth
Collies are usually very friendly dogs, so it’s unusual for them to bear their teeth unless they are pushed to their limit.
If you’re in a situation where your collie is snarling and bearing their teeth, something (or someone) is making them feel threatened so it’s important to take notice of it.
Although collies are even less likely to bite than they are to bear their teeth, every animal has a defensive instinct and will defend themselves if backed in to a corner. If your collie is bearing their teeth, something is really upsetting them and you should be careful.
Putting themselves between you and danger
Ever tried talking to a fellow dog walker when out with your collie?
Chances are you’ve seen them bounding up to you and pushing their way between you and the other dog, or the other person.
This type of behavior may also be driven by jealousy, but is more likely just your collie making sure you are safe in their own way.
Collies are notoriously loud dogs. Their barking comes from their working heritage, where barking was the only way to get the farmer’s attention, and a method of herding a particularly unruly flock of sheep.
Collies would bark at unknown situations to alert the farmer to foxes, wolves, or other predators and this behavior has carried on to the collies of today.
Collies are very observant, and may notice subtle changes in their environment that even we don’t pick up on. Changes in the environment can make them feel uneasy and may lead them to bark at something you find mundane, like the postman making a delivery or a strange looking shadow on the wall.
Chasing is a collie’s forté.
Collies are masters at chasing down moving targets, which is why they love chasing after balls so much, it gives them a chance to exercise their primal instincts.
If your collie spots something they don’t like the look of, like a bird, squirrel, cat, fox, or deer… they may chase them away.
Although this behavior is sometimes undesirable, especially with cats and other neighborhood pets, it is an instinctual part of their behavior and can be difficult to train out of them.
It’s unusual for a collie to bite another living thing, aside from a few friendly or playful nips here and there.
For a collie to bite another creature in anger, they would have to be forced in to a situation where they felt there was no other way to defend themselves or their owners.
Collies are extremely friendly dogs, and are far more likely to display one of the other protective behaviors here than to actually bite, but they will if they have to.
Why are Collies so protective?
Collies are protective because of their proud heritage as working sheepdogs. The most useful dogs have been selectively bred for hundreds of years to help farmers look after their farms and livestock.
Sheepdogs of all kinds, but especially collies are very cooperative with humans. They see themselves as part of the family and form a very strong bond with their owner.
Collies take a long time to trust people, but once they accept them they are loyal for life. Once a collie knows you have their back and they can trust you, they will never leave your side and feel obligated to defend you like they would in the wild.
Another reason for collies’ protective behavior is that working collies are often tasked with protecting sheep, chickens, and other livestock from foxes and other predators and this behavior exists in modern collies too.
While they lack the aggression to fight, they are very loud and would alert the farmer if something didn’t seem right.
How to deal with overprotective collies
While we often think of protective behaviors as a good thing—especially when it comes to protecting their owners—overprotective behaviors can be unwanted and can take some training to remove.
How to deal with Collies overprotective of food
Collies are generally not food-driven, so they aren’t as likely to be overprotective when it comes to food as some other breeds.
If your collie is being overprotective of their food, it may be because they fear someone or something is going to take it away from them.
The best cure for this is to spend time near your collie (in the same room) while they are eating, but to completely ignore them and let them eat in peace, so that they learn you’re not a threat and have no interest in eating their dog food.
If your collie doesn’t eat their meal immediately, it’s perfectly normal and if possible you should leave their meal for them so that they can return to it once they are hungry.
How to deal with Collies overprotective of people
While this can be endearing at first, this type of overprotective behavior can become an irritation if left unchecked.
If no one can get within 20 yards of you without setting your collie on a tirade of barking and growling, there’s something wrong there and you need some training.
This type of behavior is often caused by inadequate socialization with humans while your collie was young. Thankfully it can be fixed with training.
Positive reinforcement of good behavior generally works best for collies, so try combining a “no” or “down” command with a treat for behaving when this happens.
Introduce your collie to as many people as possible to get them used to other people being around.
How to deal with Collies overprotective of your home
Most collies will be more protective towards strangers or unknown situations while on their home territory.
This is hardwired into your collie to defend their territory from strangers or new situations,
How to deal with Collies overprotective of toys
Collies love nothing more than spending time with their favorite human playing tug of war or fetch with their toys. It’s unusual for collies to be overly protective of their toys, but it may happen in certain circumstances depending on your home environment and how your collie was raised.
Generally, overprotective behavior of food or toys happens when your collie thinks you’re going to take the toys away from them.
Over time, and with lots of love and care, your collie will learn you only want their toys to play with them and no one’s going to take them away.
In cases where you need to take a toy away, don’t make a big deal about it and always leave your collie something to occupy themselves with so that they don’t associate you with losing their favorite toys.
Can Collies Protect Children?
Collies are sometimes a bit wary of children. Who can blame them really?
That being said, once a collie accepts a child into their family, a collie will be the most loyal dog any child could ask for.
Collies are intelligent dogs and will protect children by alerting them to danger or scaring off anyone or anything they see as a threat. They are unlikely to bite or use outright aggression like some more aggressive breeds, but they will protect their human in their own way.
Collies have strong herding instincts and will never stray too far from their family and try to keep everyone together where they can keep an eye on them.
Do Collies Protect each other?
All dogs are descended from wolves, even those ridiculous inbred breeds like pugs and french bulldogs.
In dangerous situations, collies’ lupine instincts will kick in and they will protect themselves, other collies, and other dogs from predators, just like a wolf would protect their pack.
Can Collies protect other animals?
Can Collies Protect Livestock?
Collies have a strong history of protecting livestock, their high intelligence means they can really be put to use for several different tasks on a farm, herding one day and protecting the next.
Can Collies Protect Chickens?
Collies can protect chickens and other poultry from foxes, cats, or other predators. Collies are more useful as a watch dog, alerting you to any danger and scaring off any predators rather than physically defending the chickens.
Read more about collies and chickens in my collies and chickens guide article.
Can Collies Protect Sheep?
Collies can’t only protect sheep, its what they were born to do.
Collies can protect sheep from small predators by alerting the farmer to any danger, and by using their amazon herding ability to keep the sheep under control and stop them wandering off.
Can Collies Protect Cattle?
Collies are not usually used to protect cattle such as cows, because cows lack the flocking behavior found in sheep, ducks, and some other animals which means they are not as easy to herd by dog, and a collie would be no match for any predator which could take on a cow.
Instead, collies are more often used as a general watchdog around the farm, alerting the farmer to anything unusual.
Can Collies Protect Ducks?
Collies are excellent watchdogs, protecting ducks, chickens, and other poultry from small predators like cats and foxes.
Collies have a special affinity for protecting ducks since ducks have a very strong flocking behavior, and are often used to train young collies basic herding commands.
Collies are so great with ducks there are even competition for duck-herding by sheepdog. Check out my article on Collies and Ducks for more info.
Are Collies Good Protection Dogs?
Although collies do protect you in their own way, they are not aggressive and could not defend you physically against an attacker like some other more aggressive breeds could.
There is a reason law enforcement all use German Shepherds and not collies.
Although collies aren’t great at physically protecting you, they are great dogs for alerting you to any danger. Their highly attuned senses can detect subtle changes to their environment that humans might miss.
Collies also make excellent watch dogs, they are second to none in the barking department and will sound the alarm if they think something is amiss.
Are all types of Collies Protective?
Are Border Collies Protective?
Border collies are very protective of their owners.
Although they aren’t aggressive, they protect you in other ways, by putting themselves between you and any danger, by alerting you to anything unusual, and by staying close by at all times.
Are Rough Collies Protective?
Rough collies are some of the most cooperative and friendly dog breeds in the world.
Even more accustomed to humans than their border collie cousins, rough collies will protect their family with their highly tuned instincts, alerting them to any danger and helping them avoid any potentially dangerous situations.
If you’re ever in doubt about how protective a rough collie can be, just remember… Lassie was a rough collie.
Are Smooth Collies Protective?
Smooth coated collies sometimes aren’t as instantly recognizable as a collie as a Border Collie or a Rough Collie, but don’t be fooled.
Smooth collies are full collies, and share the same protective and herding instincts as Border Collies and Rough Collies.
Smooth coated collies will protect their owners and their family, preferring to use their intelligence to alert you to any danger rather than outright aggression.