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This one should go without saying and yet, it still needs to be said.

Pick up after your dog!!!

black lab dog on a leash standing in the street ready to go on a walk
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See this guy… he’s cute and he likes long walks. He would also like to remind you to be a mannerly, conscientious dog owner and clean up any messes.

As you may remember, I love dogs and I spend a lot of time walking them.  In the many miles that I cover each week, I sadly come across piles left by dog owners who haven’t had the decency to clean up after their precious pups.  Surveys have shown that 40% of pet owners do not pick up their dogs’ poop.  (40%! That’s almost half!!) The excuses are many and yet none of them are valid.  No one – not even another dog owner – wants to deal with your dog’s ugly, smelly poop.  Bad manners aside, you are hurting the environment more than you think when you refuse to scoop the poop.

Return to Civility book #299 - Pick up your dog's messes even if no one saw it happen.
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No one likes to clean up dog messes so please don’t leave yours for someone else to deal with. Not cool!


Want to know how?  Read on to find out…


But other animals are pooping here too…

What’s the difference between dog poop and poop from wild animals?

One argument for leaving the poop out in the forest or along a hiking trail is that other animals – the wild animals that live in that environment – are already pooping there.  The difference is that wild animals are eating food from their environment, extracting the nutrients that they need to live, then returning the rest of what they ate back into the original ecosystem.  Dogs on the other hand are eating very nutrient-dense foods produced by the dog food industry.  The waste that they then leave behind when their owners don’t pick it up is foreign to the environment and the higher nutrient density acts as a fertilizer, throwing things out of balance both on land and in water runoff.


This sign says it all... cleaning up after your dog is important for the environment and it's also a social and lawful responsibility. So use your best dog manners and scoop the poop!
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This sign says it all… cleaning up after your dog is important for the environment and it’s also a social and lawful responsibility.


What about uncollected poop in urban environments?

If we’re not interfering with the wildnerness by leaving poop behind on our daily walk through the neighborhood, then what’s the problem?

The problem is that dog poop contains millions of bacteria and parasites.  According to the EPA, a single gram of pet waste contains an average of 23 million fecal coliform bacteria plus numerous other bad bugs such as hook worms, giardia, salmonella, and more.  Poop that is left on the ground will decompose and is often washed into the watershed when it rains.

“If you think picking up dog poop is unpleasant, try swimming in it.”

– found in a Clean Water Campaign educational brochure

A water quality survey done at a local creek in my county found that 42% of the controllable fecal waste bacteria was from dogs.

In addition to the pathogens, the dense nutrients also found in dog feces can lead to algae bloom and promote weed growth.

Sign that says please be respectful and asks for no dog poop to be left in this yard.
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The signs may change but the message doesn’t… clean it up!


Environmental effect of dog poop left uncollected

Okay, so it’s not nuclear waste or any other epic environmental disaster, but 10 million annual cumulative pounds of poop is nothing to sneeze at.   Not only does it pollute rivers and streams, but the bacteria from dog feces can also get into the air we breathe.  There are a few options of how to responsibly manage your dog’s waste but just leaving the poop where the dog dropped it isn’t one of them.

Remember – this applies to your yard too.  Uncollected pet waste in the backyard negatively affects the environment just as much as the pile you may have left in the neighbor’s bushes on your walk yesterday.


Another sign in a yard instructing people to clean up after their dogs.
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No matter how you say it, the message stays the same. Clean up after your dogs!!!


Proper Disposal Options

The most common way to take care of dog poop is to pick it up in a plastic bag and throw it away.  This solves the problem of introducing pathogens or unwelcome nutrients to the area but creates a second problem in the excess use of plastic.  Despite the plastic issue, it is still better than leaving the poop along the way.  Using biodegradable bags might seem like a good idea, but it’s actually worse for the environment to have the pathogen-filled poop in the landfill unprotected, which is what happens after the bag decomposes.

The EPA recommends throwing it away in a bag or flushing it down the toilet.  The sewage treatment plants can process the waste but the increased load this puts on the system could be a problem.

Commercial composting of the dog poop is ultimately the best solution.  Dog feces contain high amounts of nutrients that make excellent fertilizer.  By processing it in a commercial facility, we can be assured that the high temperatures used would kill the bacteria and other pathogens also found in dog poop.  Home composting does not kill the germs because the temperature is too low.  Unfortunately this best solution requires buy-in and investment by industry as well as pet owners and is not widely available.

If you are hiking in the woods and find yourself without a bag, the best thing to do is bury the poop, just like you would for your own back-country waste.  Bury it in a six- to eight-inch deep hole, at least 200 feet from any water source.


So do us ALL a favor and Scoop the Poop!!!


Spread the word…

This sign says it all... cleaning up after your dog is important for the environment and it's also a social and lawful responsibility. So use your best dog manners and scoop the poop!
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Pin it and spread the word to those 40% of dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs. This is important!


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Read more about it…  

Dog Poo, An Environment Tragedy – The Atlantic

It’s Time to Talk About Dog Poop – Outside Magazine

The Poop Problem – Live Science


Scoop the Poop! via @behindeveryday
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One Comment

  1. As a cat mama who must scoop the poop and urine balls twice a day at home the call to dog walkers to do the same is no different especially as they are on property of other owners or common space. Would they leave it on their own lawns? Doubt it. I love this post.

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