A few months ago I started walking one of my favorite clients, a truly special and gorgeous German Shepherd by the name of Baby Bear. Baby Bear spent the first year and a half of his life in the country and had been recently transplanted to New York City. We were working on desensitizing him to bikes, skateboards, kids, and runners. You name it – Baby reacted to it. He was highly anxious, wouldn’t eat consistently, and suffered frequent spouts of diarrhea.
One morning on the second week of working together Bear stopped short, squatted in the middle of the sidewalk of second avenue and let out a giant gush of explosive, liquefied stool. Before he was finished a woman came up to me and began to berate me, demanding that I clean up the mess.
This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I often find myself walking a dog, minding my dogs business when some lunatic comes up to me demanding that I clean up after my dog and HOW DARE my dog relieve itself on the sidewalk. I don’t mind that these individuals want a clean sidewalk. I do mind that they come charging onto my scene before the dog has finished and accuse me of not cleaning up after my dog before I can even pull out a bag.
Usually I am polite and show the sidewalk police my stash of bags. In this instance, however, I was furious. Poor Baby Bear was obviously not feeling well – that much was clear to anyone. I really laid into this woman. I told her not to accuse people of not picking up after their dog until they see said individual walk away from a mess and told her that she was rude and insensitive as my poor dog was clearly unwell.
I understand this woman’s frustration. She was sick of seeing feces strewn about her upper class neighborhood. I support those who follow after dog owners who don’t pick up after their dogs. But for crying out loud… please do so AFTER the owner doesn’t pick up the poop, not before the dog is even done going to the bathroom! And to dog owners in every urban city… don’t forget your bags and please curb your dog.
What does it mean to curb your dog? The signs are everywhere in New York… on trees, near flowers, and posted on the sides of well to do buildings. Yet many dogs I walk stop mid-walk, mid-sidewalk to do their business. In fact, my own puppy does this! Now that he has better bladder control I’ve started to curb train him. This means that I carry him outside past his preferred spot mid-sidewalk and place him on the street next to the curb. I body block him so he can’t come back onto the sidewalk and then treat him when he eliminates on the asphalt.
Why didn’t I do this from day one? I should have. My largest challenge being a doggy mommy has been to battle against my over protective nature. When Grayson first became mine I was so happy to have him and even more scared to loose him. I didn’t want him to think that walking into the street was an okay thing to do. I figured that he would naturally begin to move towards signs and mailboxes when he started lifting his leg. Now that he’s 5 ½ months and hasn’t lifted his leg once I’m beginning to think he never will. My little boy was neutered at 4 or 5 weeks by the organization that rescued him and as such hasn’t shown any male inclination to mark. So… into the street we go.
There are ways to keep your dog safe while curb training him, of course. Take your dog between two parked cars whenever possible and keep the leash short. Give jackpot treats when he/she eliminates very close to the curb and smaller less exciting treats or no treats if Fido ventures further from the curb. Always use your best judgment. If you live on a very busy street, teach Fido to eliminate on the sidewalk but as close to the street as possible. Pick one spot and always take him to the same spot. On walks ignore mid-sidewalk eliminations and treat curbed eliminations. Soon you’ll have a dog that pulls you to the side to eliminate and anything you can’t pick up yourself won’t be visible to passersby and will be swept by the street cleaning trucks.