By the way I always talk about Maisie and everything she does, it would seem that she is the perfect service dog and companion. However, she does have her flaws (as do we all)!
I think her main problem is due to her breeding. Her background is mostly herding and guardian breeds, with some hunters thrown in. But as would be expected, she is always on alert when we are out and about, keeping an eye out for any potential trouble, any problems she needs to solve, any predator around, or whatever else may threaten her charge (me). As a result, keeping her focus entirely on me is difficult when we aren’t at home. No, it is impossible.
One of my most-often used phrases with her is “look at me”, and she always does. Well, always when we’re at home. Out and about, she glances at me but continues with her constant scanning of everything around us. While I’m sure – fairly sure, anyway – that there’s an awareness of what I’m doing also, what may be “out there” is her priority. Even the highest value treats won’t turn her head if she is in “watch mode”.
And if she sees something – look out! Because she will be off like a shot to neutralize any danger and NOTHING stops her! Everything else ceases to exist, including me, my treats, my commands, or anything else.
This has caused a potentially dangerous situation. Back when I could still walk well I was taking her around the campground where we were staying. She was doing a “walk easy” (walking at my left side) when an unleashed dog rushed at us from the right. Her response was immediate, and so was mine: as she ran in front of me toward the little dog, I landed heavily on the concrete, her leash around my legs, before I even realized it was happening. It took several men to lift me, as my spine, hips, and other joints don’t allow me to lift myself at all from the ground. I was bruised and scraped but nothing broken…that time.
On my scwalker she walks nicely along next to me but if she perceived a threat I have no doubt she’d pull me down. The only other time I fell on my scwalker I broke both my radius and ulna in my left arm, dislocating them at the wrist. Falling off – or with – my scwalker isn’t something I ever want to repeat.
How to resolve this? I don’t know. Because as much as I trust her to act in my best interest at home, both inside and out, I don’t think I can ever trust her to watch out for me in the same ways when we’re out and about. I am not confident in my ability to train that into her at this stage of the game, but also, training against such strong instinctive behavior isn’t something that I would be able to accomplish, I am certain.
So Maisie will likely always be a home-service-dog, which is where she is mostly needed anyway, and I will have to give up my vision of having her able to see me through obstacles or offer any kind of assistance to me anywhere else. Given that we ARE at home 95% of the time, this isn’t the worst thing I know. But it is, I have to admit, a little bit disappointing…