Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Observing the Observers

I find it interesting to watch people who are watching Laveau working. People seem to love to interpret her various movements and facial expressions. Most of the time they are wrong about what she is doing, but it's interesting none the less.

One of the main emotions people say Laveau displays frequently is fearfulness. If she backs me away from a car, people are more apt to assume she is afraid, not that she's protecting me from a large vehicle I can neither see nor hear. The same reaction is seen when Laveau approaches steps or uneven surfaces. She will stop, put her body in front of me, and then advance with caution if I cue her. Once again this is seen as fearful. People tend not to realize that she is being very careful with me because I have terrible balance, and have been known-- on more than one occasion-- to just randomly fall over and then not be able to get up without a huge production.

I frequently wonder why so many people have this assumption of "fear" on the dog's part? Is it because that is what they are used to from their pet dogs? Does Laveau really look fearful. Or are people just not used to seeing a dog take control of a situation and make a deliberate decision?
Laveau is very sensitive, and does not like it when I fall, so has learned to be very cautious and careful, and to not listen too me without a keen observation of the environment, because for me, the world is not holding still and I am clueless as to which end is up. But she is not "afraid" of cars, nor steps in and of themselves.

I think it would be very interesting to let a sighted/hearing person with normal balance take her for a walk on leash, and see what she does. Mister Pawpower has worked her several times and once she figured out Mister Pawpower wasn't such a stumbling klutz with crappy balance, she was not nearly so protective and watchful with him. Not that she is unsafe, but I would say that the level of watchfulness Laveau displays with me is abnormally high for most guide dogs. However when she is with him, she's pretty average in watchfulness.

I'm very thankful that Laveau is so watchful. she is never allowed to retire!


  1. She didn't look fearful to me, but she did look *fast* and alert when she got between you and the little bus at the grocery store.

    We should trade dogs for walking, heh. Although we'd have to figure out how to stop Sid from running you into things. But I always wonder, when I ask him to find a door, how much is him actually remembering where the door was, and how much is him cueing off my body language. It's very hard for me, as a sighted person, to pretend I don't see the door.

  2. I think you're right in saying that people aren't used to seeing dogs take charge. Most dog training manuals/classes teach owners not to let the dog be in control. With us, and especially you, it's much different. I'm deaf in one ear and can't see at all whereas Mr. K has some light perception and excellent hearing and I definitely need my dog to take charge more than he does. I can agree with you when you say sighted people interpret your dog's movements incorrectly because they do the same with Glacier's.