Sage and Bailey just turned 7 months old this month and already they have a considerable amount of travel under their collars. We spent 2 nights in Suffolk Va. for a dog show a couple of weeks ago and more recently we spent 3 days in Philadelphia where I was giving a workshop. This was the first time they actually got to stay overnight in the big city, which for two farm raised pups was quite an adventure.
I was careful in traveling up to Pennsylvania to frequent the rest stops with nice grassy areas for dogs so the pups arrived in the city “empty”. This pre-planning allowed me time to settle into our nice suite, set up crates, and fix the pups dinner before I got some myself. Eventually though I knew I would have to take them for a walk and hope that I could find a grassy spot for them to do their ‘business” on. Besides my trepidation about finding grass in the city, I also had never really worked the two of them together before. I had always been in a situation where I either could take them one at a time or Sam was around to take one or the other. I really was not sure if they would be able to focus on the task at hand with the other present to distract them.
Both pups handled the elevator ride and automatic doors at the hotel very well, once out on the streets though I began to see a different side to Bailey. Normally he walks quietly by my side without any strain on the lead, he stays focused on me and doesn’t seem to worry much about where he is going, rather he acts content to be the follower. Now with his sister around and all of us in a strange new city, Bailey took on the role of protector and to an extent leader. It was interesting to watch as Sage fell into place by my left side in perfect heel position and Bailey assumed the outside position just slightly in front of her and a bit in front of me as if to provide a buffer to any passersby. He was not trying to get away but clearly assumed this was the proper spot for the big brother to be.
I caught Sage looking at all the doors as we clipped along Walnut Street at a brisk pace. She had previously been working with me on learning to wait politely by the door and be asked before going through it, so the drill must still have been on her mind. I could imagine her counting all those doors and being thankful I was not asking her to practice the door exercise here. Both Bailey and Sage relished the smells wafting from the scores of restaurants that made visiting Philly one of my favorite places. When we got to a small grill several blocks from the hotel, both dogs abruptly turned their heads into the wind to get a deeper smell of what to me, seemed like some sort of roasted beef dish.
Bailey asked pleadingly with his eyes, “Can we go in there Debby and sample some of that great smelling food?”
“No I don’t think so Bailey, we need to find a spot for you two to relieve yourselves now.”
There just was not grassy place to be found. But I did find on a quiet side street, a space between two parked cars. I stopped and gave my cue word for them to get busy with the task at hand. Bailey sniffed around briefly, apparently could not hold things any longer and urinated against the curb. Then without hesitation he left me a pile to pick up. Boys are easy this way, as they seem much less inhibited to “go” wherever you tell them. Sage on the other hand was typical of the girls, much more fussy about finding the right spot. Bailey did his best to encourage his sister but she just did not feel this was the right spot. At this point I was getting a mild case of frostbite, as the wind and cold was much bitterer in the city then on the farm. So we started walking again, hoping to find a spot that would entice Sage to go. At home she was always very quick when I took her out, even when we have traveled to places she was not familiar with, she was very quick to respond to my cue to eliminate; Philadelphia was a different story.
By now I had seen more of Philadelphia on foot then I cared to mention; I could no longer feel my fingers or toes. I think Bailey was getting a little tired too and had figured out that we were not going in until Sister Sage did something. He did all he could to encourage her too. Finally I found a small splash of dirt, stopped, held Bailey up short, and told Sage she best get busy or else! Persistence paid off nicely and after disposing of the doggy bags we were able to get back to our suite and warm up. The lesson here is you can never spend too much time teaching your puppy good elimination practices. Even if you have a fenced yard you turn them out in for that purpose, take the time to teach your puppy that you must also do this act on a leash, under all circumstances and not always where there is grass. It takes time and patience. If I had gone in before she has eliminated one of two things would have happened, either she would have messed in the suite or I would have had to bundle up and go out again and get cold all over just for her. I want the elimination to be on my terms so I choose to stick it out and teach her that we do things when and where asked.
This is another case of sticking to your rules. Rules are only good if you consistently use them and in the same way each time. Dogs will test you constantly to see if you really mean what you say, just like other members of your own species will. I am sure Sage was testing me, my message was clear though; we do not go back inside for the night until everyone has done their business. I had no further problems with Sage the rest of our stay. In fact, the pups really seemed to enjoy the frequent walks around the city streets, riding the elevator that announced in a loud voice each of the floors and especially making the automatic doors open. Throughout the entire trip Bailey seemed to be looking out for his sister Sage; it was clear he adores her and was relishing the chance to spend time together again. At home we separate them so as not to make them too dependent on each other, eventually they will have to live apart so we try to make that transition easier by giving them time apart. I don’t think any amount of time though, or any amount of miles will ever break the bond between these two siblings; Bailey’s brotherly love is too strong.