By Kathy Diamond Davis
Author and Trainer
Poop! Cleaning Up After Your Dog
Prior to adopting a dog, most people don't give much thought to the task of poop cleanup. Once the dog has joined the family and the need becomes apparent, some people tend to avoid cleaning up. This can lead to problems.
Reasons to Pick Up
Dog waste contaminates the ground and becomes a means of passing intestinal parasites and infections to dogs and people. Your own dog can be repeatedly reinfested by parasites in this way. Picking up the feces prevents a great deal of the contamination, especially if diarrhea is not involved. Cleanup can reduce veterinary expenses and might even save on human doctor bills.
Because of contamination as well as smell and mess, dog waste is highly offensive to many people in the community. It often becomes a reason to ban dogs from areas. Of course the dogs can't clean up after themselves, so this is a people problem rather than a dog problem. It's easy to enact "no dogs allowed" rules, and then the people who clean up suffer right along with the ones who don't.
If happiness for you is being able to have your dog live with you in an apartment or condominium, be conscientious about cleaning up. Dog waste damages landscaping, offends other tenants, and costs money to landlords and homeowners associations. In markets where there are plenty of tenants available to rent the property, landlords tend to eliminate dogs to get rid of these problems. It pays to not only clean up after your own dog, but others, too, whenever the poop is especially conspicuous.
Neighborhood disputes over dog poop can escalate into real misery. In some localities it is illegal to allow your dog to relieve on someone else's property unless you have that person's permission. The very existence of such laws is an indication of how seriously people take the cleanup issue!
If you've ever tried to have a pleasant outdoor meal next door to a yard contaminated with foul-smelling dog feces, you have some idea of how quality of life can be affected by cleanup neglect. If you've found your lawn mower stinking up the tool shed because of dog feces on the mower blades after mowing your own yard where someone else's dog deposited poop, you surely weren't pleased.
Keeping the yard clean keeps the dog cleaner, since the dog won't be stepping or playing in the mess on relief trips outside. A clean yard also gives both people and dogs a lot more exercise space.
Ways and Means
Various tools are available for picking up dog waste. Some people use a shovel, and may bury the waste in the yard. If you want to dispose of the waste outdoors, a septic or other sewage disposal system may do a better job of handling potentially infectious material.
Scooper tools can make the job easier. These are usually lighter in weight than a shovel and more customized for the pickup task. You can tote along a bucket or bag to save steps.
A simple plastic bag slipped over your hand like a glove makes an efficient and completely clean pickup tool. A latex glove is also useful. A wide variety of bags will work, making this one way to recycle. Simply pick up the poop, turn the bag inside out to enclose it, tie the top, and deposit it in a legal container. This system works well on outings as well as at home.
If bending is difficult for you, a long-handled scooper tool may be your better choice. Some of these are designed to work with disposable bags. There are quite a few different tools designed for picking up poop.
In many communities, you can hire a service to pick up dog poop from your yard on a regular schedule. If there's not a service near you and you're an enterprising person, it could make a great business for you.
You can make pickup easier with how you manage your dog. Though you need to always be ready to pick up on outings and walks, many dogs will learn to relieve themselves at home before and after walks if consistently given the chance. That saves you having to carry it home.
Keeping the elimination to certain areas can help the dog be more social on outings, too. Some dogs will defend territory they have marked by urinating and defecating. Getting your dog to do this at home instead of on your walk can have a positive effect on the dog's attitude toward other dogs and people on walks.
If your outings are long and the dog needs to eliminate before you get back home, you may be able to teach your dog to eliminate on cue. Dogs vary in how their bodies work for elimination. Some will be so stimulated by exercise that they simply must move their bowels on every walk. This is just the way they are made, not a training issue.
There's no place so isolated that you can be sure dog poop would not put some animal at risk of catching something from your dog, or some person or animal at risk of stepping in the mess. Picking up is just part of having a dog. If everyone would do it, there would be far fewer objections to dogs living and traveling in human communities.
Be proud to be seen picking up dog poop. It may seem silly at first, but people who see you do this will know any mess left behind is NOT from your dog. Picking up shows pride in your community, in yourself, and in your dog. You set a great example for others, and you help create a brighter future for dogs and their people.
Date Published: 3/6/2004 12:38:00 PM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 03/06/2004
Kathy Diamond Davis is the author of the book Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others. Should the training articles available here or elsewhere not be effective, contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians not specializing in behavior can eliminate medical causes of behavior problems. If no medical cause is found, your veterinarian can refer you to a colleague who specializes in behavior or a local behaviorist.