Suggestions for Breeder/Trainer for Multi-purpose SD
I'm looking for suggestions on reputable breeders/trainers for my next service dog (My current one is an owner-trained lab-shepherd mix rescue; and yes, I know I got exceptionally lucky with her.) My SD will probably be able to continue assisting me for another 4 years before she'll need to retire. The reason I'm asking so early is I'm looking for a very special dog, and I've been told sometimes wait lists can take years. Temperament and drive are the most important things to me, although I am partial to short/medium coated shepherds, instead of the fluffier long-haired shepherds I've seen on occasion (both in terms of ease of grooming and suitable climate, since I live in the Southern US).
These are the tasks I would need my dog to preform:
Mobility assistance: Help me with balance issues, retrieve dropped objects, be comfortable on escalators/moving walkways & public transit (including rock solid 'tuck' and 'under' commands), stop & sit stays or down stays by my side if I've fallen and can't get up immediately, and alerts/whines if I'm unconscious to alert passersby without aggressive display; no shyness or reactivity towards my cane.
PTSD Assistance: on command and/or by instinct if I'm getting into a bad head space, position body to block others from coming into contact with me without aggressive display, lead me out of a crowd to a quiet area if I'm panicking or disassociating, lay head/paws on lap or give me a 'hug' to help ground me if I start having an episode, "watch my back"--watch and observe what's happening behind me, even if it means walking backwards. Be content to be a canine teddy bear until I level out.
Supplemental sight: Stops and watches before going into a street, then crosses promptly; helps me navigate around obstacles and in crowds; finds specific named objects when commanded. Understands command 'follow' to mean follow the person I designated until released (very useful in restaurants, airports, and other areas where someone want me to follow them & I can't really see them).
I would *like* my dog to be able to:
Bluff: On my command and ONLY my command, bark ferociously to warn off an individual I deem a threat, even if they're not behaving in an overtly aggressive manner-- without leaving my side. Search --on command, search house and bark if an intruder is found. I'm not particularly keen on bite work or advanced protection work given the immense amount of time we will be operating as an animal handler team in crowds & families with literally 1000's of strangers around us every week; I simply want an effective deterrent if the situation calls for it. If those two skills would compromise the dog's ability to safely function as non-reactive service dog, then I don't need them.
Ideally, I'd like the dog to alert when my blood sugar drops or a migraine is coming.
Dog must be at ease in crowds, with small children, & other animals of all sizes. Dog must also display zero reactivity beyond pricked ears and alertness to loud noises (explosions, gunfire, fireworks, atmospheric effects, sounds of human argument, ect...) I live in the Orlando, FL area, work from home, and regularly visit the theme parks there at least twice a week. It's my way of trying to keep myself exposed to social situations and people in an environment that's safe & somewhat controlled--there's a LOT of unusual sights, smells, sounds, and I need my dog to remain focused & on task, aloof, & non-reactive if someone decides to pet it or hug it without asking me 1st. Public transit (buses, trains) and ride shares are my primary means of transportation, and I also fly & cruise a couple of times a year.
For the right dog, I am willing to travel across the nation or even abroad; I'm willing to visit the area to observe the animal, and stay in the area to undergo animal/ handler team orientation. I would prefer an animal that was already trained--I will continue reinforcing OB, SD tasks, & social graces, ect...throughout our time together, but my health and physical condition is at the point now that when my current SD retires, I'll need a dog that is already ready and willing to work to replace her.
When we're not working, I'd like a dog that has an 'off' switch and is content to cuddle and relax. I have lots of toys and tugs, a pool in my backyard to swim & retrieve in, and plenty to keep him/her mentally & physically stimulated when we're not out and about--but it's nice just to be able to to curl up on the couch and laze around for a bit with my furry best friend.