Amazing Maisie: Intelligent Disobedience? Or Just Intelligence?

I have often wondered how intelligent disobedience is taught. Because I don’t use Maisie away from home yet I haven’t really looked into it much. But today she ignored a command of mine so that she could follow a different, previous command. Here is what went down:

During the day my “spot” is at the top corner of our bed, where I support my spine with a pile of pillows and lean against the back wall/cabinet to my right; that’s my corner. During the night Pete puts the excess pillows on the floor on his side of the bed. In the morning I ask Maisie for whichever of the 2 “stored” pillows I want (red for my back, white on my lap for my “desk”).

Today I asked for my white pillow, which was on top of the pile, and she of course brought it to me. Then I asked for the red pillow but unbeknownst to me it was on the bottom of the pile, beneath 2 of Pete’s pillows. She stood on the bed looking down at the pile but didn’t apparently see my red one, so she got on the floor and stuffed her head around the corner – between the bed frame and the hamper in the corner – to look at the pile from a different perspective. Then she jumped back up on the bed, reached down and picked up the top pillow which I asked her to hand to me – this is where she ignored me so I just watched to see what she was doing – and she set it on the bed next to her. Then she reached down and grabbed Pete’s other pillow and set it carefully atop the first one on the bed. Finally she leaned WAY down to grab my red pillow and, tail wagging triumphantly, brought it to me.

I am not sure if this is an example of intelligent disobedience or not? But I DO know that one thing that makes her such a perfect dog for service work is that she is a problem solver. There have been many – MANY – occasions where she needed to mentally determine steps to take in order to complete a command. So many, in fact, that I consider it typical. I don’t have to walk her through steps, just tell her what I need and let her figure out how to do it.

I’m thinking in this case she had, after looking at the situation from both above and at floor level, decided on her plan of attack; when I asked her to give me Pete’s pillow she was in the midst of following my first directive and so disobeyed the second to accomplish the first. That’s my assessment anyway.

What do you think? For those with service dog experience, is this an example of something I can build on to teach intelligent disobedience? I do – as mentioned previously – plan to start working with her in public. I don’t have as many “good days” where I have that ability as I used to but the fact that she thinks and problem solves is a good sign I believe. Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “Amazing Maisie: Intelligent Disobedience? Or Just Intelligence?

  1. She is very intelligent. Whatever goal you ask of her, given time to assess the situation, she carries out the plan in her head to completion … even if more than one step is involved. She’d make a good Customs dog too.

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