Borzois were initially bred to hunt wolves, sighting them across fields and chasing them down at top speeds. This seems like a far cry from work as a service dog, but some Borzois do well with this type of work too!
If you’re looking for a service dog yourself, there are some things about Borzois to keep in mind. They have a strong prey drive, need lots of exercise, and are large. Since Borzois were bred to hunt independently, they aren’t the best listeners and may be inattentive, especially if they’re distracted by prey.
However, Borzois are also sensitive, empathetic dogs. They’re known for matching their owner’s moods and picking up on the energy in the home. This can make Borzoi good service dogs for mental health conditions like anxiety and PTSD, so long as their hunting instincts don’t get in the way of their work.
Borzois also make good emotional support animals.
In this article, we’ll talk all about Borzois as service dogs. Can it work, how, and when?
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Do Borzois Make Good Service Dogs?
Borzois don’t typically make good service dogs. Looking into the breed’s history, they’ve been selectively bred as independent hunting dogs for hundreds of years.
This can make Borzois difficult to train, with some tasks being impossible—for instance, you can’t completely train out most dogs’ prey drive or chasing instinct.
Out in public, a Borzoi is likely to sight prey and focus on it, ready to chase. Even if you can train your Borzoi not to pull you off your feet after a squirrel, they may cease paying attention to you.
Many people who use service dogs need their dogs focused on them, whether it’s for help navigating or watching for symptoms of a mental or physical illness.
Borzois are also bred for independence. While they love being around their families, they aren’t necessarily hanging on your every word. A Labrador, for instance, is much more eager to please—which is why they’re so often used as service dogs.
Lastly, Borzois are a giant breed. This makes it more challenging to navigate the world with a Borzoi by your side—something many disabled people already struggle with.
One caveat to all of this is that Borzois (and other sighthounds) are extremely empathetic. They seem to pick up on the mood around them easily and respond in kind. Therefore, they can be great emotional support dogs.
Additionally, you will need to be sure that the person who is going to get the service dog is not allergic to dogs, as borzoi are not hypoallergenic.
However, you’re still stuck facing all of the hurdles above in this case. Not all Borzois will do great with emotional support work.
See also: What are Borzois Used For?
Do Borzois Make Good Anxiety Service Dogs?
One of the most popular uses of Borzois as service dogs is to support people with anxiety and PTSD.
Operation Wolfhound offers dogs and training to veterans for this purpose—a service worth $45,000, which they provide for free.
They say that Borzois benefit veterans because they are large, protective dogs who aren’t aggressive. The organization carefully screens dogs to ensure they lack health problems that may be detrimental to a veteran’s mental health.
They rely on their dogs being empathetic, with less focus on obedience. The dogs help lessen the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
Borzois as Emotional Support in Hospitals
Borzois are also used successfully as emotional support for people who are hospitalized. They can visit the hospital and offer comfort to patients.
An untrained dog is likely to be stand-offish with strangers, but well-socialized Borzois are sometimes suited to this work. An outgoing personality helps as well!
Of course, a Borzoi in this situation must also be predictable and well-trained. They can’t be sprinting through hospital hallways or jumping on frail patients!
Do Borzois Make Good Emotional Support Dogs?
While Borzois are often difficult to train as service dogs, they make fantastic emotional support dogs. You may be wondering, however: what’s the difference?
Service Dog versus Emotional Support Dog
Service dogs receive lots of formal training. They perform tasks to aid their handlers and lessen the symptoms of an illness. For instance, a seeing-eye dog will help to guide the blind, and a service dog for anxiety may remind their handler to take their medication and calm them down during a panic attack.
Emotional support dogs may receive training, but it’s typically much less formal. These dogs help their owners to feel better and may also lessen symptoms of a mental illness—but not by performing specific tasks in the way a service dog would.
Service dogs have more protected rights under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Emotional support dogs must be prescribed by a mental health professional who has diagnosed the person being aided by the dog.
Are Borzois Hard to Train?
Yes. Borzois are known for their independent thinking, and they don’t always obey commands if they think they know better!
One situation where you can expect this to happen is when a Borzoi sights prey of any sort—whether it be a squirrel, stray cat, or piece of garbage blowing down the sidewalk. Borzoi are sighthounds (sometimes called gazehounds) and they are bred for favor their vision over their other senses. Any sudden movements can put them into hunting mode.
Recall is extremely difficult to train, and many dogs will never go against their hunting instincts.
Every dog is individual, and some Borzois have a lower prey drive than others—but usually, you can expect them to be very ambitious hunters.
Borzois cannot be off-leash in unenclosed spaces, and they must live in a house with a large, fenced yard. These dogs love to sprint around the yard, then come inside and nap on the couch!
Although they aren’t hyperactive, they do need plenty of daily exercise and time to run outdoors. Fencing must be high so that they cannot jump over.
If you do plan to train a Borzoi service dog, use positive reinforcement techniques and keep your expectations realistic. The right dog might get there in time, while some Borzois simply aren’t suited for the job. They’re still great pups deserving of a good home and respectful upbringing!